These Banks Peninsula workers are using flails to thresh cocksfoot grass seed, around 1900. A flail is a strong stick with a shorter stout stick attached by a couple of metal rings or a very short chain, which allows it to swing freely. The crop is laid out on the floor of a barn or, as in this case, on a piece of canvas. The workers beat it with the flail, forcing the seeds out of the seed heads. The straw is then taken away leaving the seeds. All crops were threshed in this manner before mechanised threshers were invented. The first threshing machines arrived in New Zealand in the 1850s.
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Reference: CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0057
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