Farm Equipment Fridays: Pressing Sweet Sorghum

FEF badge thumbnail(Miss the first part of the series?  Learn about harvesting sweet sorghum first!)

Now that the sorghum is harvested, we must press it to get the sugary juice out of the middle of the stalk.The inside of the sorghum stalks looks kind of pulpy, and tastes sweet if you chew on it (yes, I did).DSC_0230-1We want to press the stalks flat to squeeze all the sweet juice out of the pulpy middle.DSC_0352-1First we take the sorghum stalks off the trailer we loaded yesterdayDSC_0327-1And load them onto the sorting table.DSC_0395-1From there, the stalks are fed by hand into the tractor-driven press.  Most of the dry leaves pass through the press, but a lot of them also fall off the stalks before they get to the press.  By the end of the day, we were standing on a great cushion!DSC_0341-1The stalks go through the rollers on the pressDSC_0386-1And, well, they get pressed.  This press is a horizontal press, meaning the rollers are horizontal to the ground.  Most presses are usually vertical.

The stalks come out smushed flat on the other side DSC_0379-1 And the juice comes pouring out the spout in the middle.DSC_0376-1The squeezed stalks were taken away up a grain elevatorDSC_0333-1And into a really big pile.  Eventually, these squeezed sorghum stalks (say that three times fast!) will be composted and used back for fertilizer.  But squeezed sorghum stalks stick around for a while before they decompose.DSC_0355-1 Squeezed sorghum stalks.  Squeezed sorghum stalks.  Squeezed sorghum stalks.

Nevermind.

Anyway.  The juice from the squeezed sorghum stalks is pumped from the collection basin into the big tank on the back of the truck.  This tank holds 250 gallons.  By the end of the day, it was full!

Then we all went home and went to bed.  Only to get up and cook the juice into molasses the next day!

Instead of being driven by a tractor, presses used to be powered by horses.DSC_0378-1The stalks were fed into the vertical press by hand, as the horse walked around and around and turned the rollers.DSC_0373-1You just better be short enough so you don’t get hit in the head when the other side of the big stick comes around!  Same basic principle as what we did last month, except our horse power came from a tractor.  (These pictures are from Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair.  I believe the Pepsi cup in the second photo is an anachronism.  Oops.)

Oh, and here’s some proof that I actually helped with this part of the job, instead of just taking pictures.DSC_0311-1Buddy, on the other hand, wasn’t much help at all.  He was tired from all the harvesting yesterday, and hadn’t made it back from his sugar crash quite yet.  Poor Buddy.DSC_0309-1

Next week – the finale!

This episode starred:  Roy Boeglin, Cecil, me, and Buddy The Dog.

(Roy and Cecil can also be seen co-starring in the well saga.)

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