Cereal Cultivation
During the late 19th and early 20th century, the farming of cereals, especially wheat, in Messinia showed great rise and cereals, along with other Messinian products, became one of the main traded goods exported from the port of Kalamata. This fact is evidenced by the development of flourmill industriesall around the region of Messinia.
The traditional farming of cereals such us wheat, barley and oat by the farmer (plowman) starts in summer with the cleaningand natural fertilizing of the field with the use of organic (animal)or green manure in the past, and,in recent years, with chemical fertilizers. October is the month of preparation of the land for the sowing of the seeds, after the field has received enough rain. The plowing and sowing of the land continue during November, depending on the area. The sowing is finished by the 21st of November (Τhe Presentation of Virgin Mary in the Temple) in some places, while in others the fields are half-sown by this time; hence Virgin Mary took the name ‘the Middle-sower’. In order for the harvest to go well, farmers start sowing while making the sign of the cross and they sow, along with the seeds, pomegranate grains and seeds from the straw cross, which they have kept near the religious icon since the end of the previous harvest. In March or April, farmers start weeding, the laborious process of removing the weeds and other unwanted plants.
Τhe harvest of grains starts the first days of June; this month is called the ‘Reaper’. From the Neolithic times up until the beginning of the 20th century, harvesting was done with a sickle. Reapers would hold the stalks with one hand, while with the other they held the sickle and cut the stalks.Τhe volume of stalks someone could hold was called ‘herovolo’ (from the Greek words heri=hand and vallo=throw).Herovola (plural) would be placed the one on top of the other in bundles forming ‘thimonies’ or windrows, which are piles of dried grain stalks. When wheat, oat and barley were collected in windrows around the threshing floor, the procedure of threshing would start. The threshing floor was a smooth circular surface out from the settlement, usually paved, with a wooden pole in the center. Horses or oxen would then be walked round the pole, stomping the wheat stalks to separate the grain from the husks. Αfter threshing, winnowing (‘lichnisma’ ) took place, during which wheat was separated from the chaff. Various tools were used for the separation such as ‘dikouli’/’dichali’ (fork), wooden shovels, ‘dikrani’(pitchfork) and sieve. After that, the grain was sieved, put into bags and stored.
Wheat milling
Already since prehistoric times, the hand mill was the only method of milling grains. Later, watermills and windmills were invented for this purpose. In Greece there were two types of watermills.
1. The older Roman type, which had an upright outer wheel/waterwheel and,
2. The more recent eastern watermill,which had a horizontal inner wheel/waterwheel.
Most watermills in Messinia belonged to the second type. Their construction demanded an aquifer area and this is why they were located close to riverbeds, water springs and steep places with dense vegetation. Watermills can be still found in the Messinian or Outer Mani (Rintomo gorge, Kentro/Center, Nomitsi) as well as at the villages Filia and Dirachi.
Windmills operated using wind power. They were cylindrical structures, divided internally into three levels. Their operation unit was placed on the upper level. A wooden wheel/impeller with sails was the main characteristic of windmills. Unfortunately, there are no remnants of windmills today.