15 October 2018

Word for the day: Stook

A stook, also referred to as a shock or stack, is an arrangement of sheaves of cut grain-stalks placed so as to keep the grain-heads off the ground while still in the field and prior to collection for threshing. Stooked grain sheaves are typically wheat, barley and oats.

The purpose of a stook [or 'stooking'] is to dry the unthreshed grain while protecting it from vermin until it is brought into long-term storage. The unthreshed grain also cures while in a stook. In England, sheaves were commonly stacked in stooks of twelve and may therefor refer to twelve sheaves.

In North America, a stook may also refer to a field stack of six, ten or fifteen small (70–90 lb (30–40 kg)), rectangular bales of hay or straw. These bales may be stacked and deposited by a "stooking machine" or "stooker" that is dragged, sled-like, behind the baler.
The Oxford Dictionaries website lists the etymology as Middle English.  When I was growing up in Minnesota, we would refer to these as "shocks," reserving the word "stack" for the larger haystacks.

Related: Sculpting with straw and Making hay while the sun shines (video).

Credit for the photo of a field in Devon: Paul McLoughlin, via a gallery of landscape photos at The Guardian.

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