Tractate Peah, Chapter 3
[If a farmer] stooked2 [some] sheaves in a field in which sheaves have been [laid out in a] mixed [fashion],3 and forgot one [of the sheaves, then this sheaf] is not [considered to be] Shikcha (forgotten sheaves), until he stooks all of the [other sheaves] around it.4
מסכת פאה פרק ג
שָׂדֶה שֶׁעֹמָרֶיה מְעוֹרבבִין וְעִימֵּר וְשָׁכַח אֶחַד מֵהֶן אֵין שִׁכְחָה עַד שֶׁיְּעַמֵּר את כָּל סְבִיבָיו.
The Tosefta states a new law regarding Shikcha. It is not related to any Mishna.
For the description of the stooking process see above Tosefta Peah 3:5, note 2. The most important thing to remember in this Tosefta is that the purpose of making stooks is to prevent the wheat that is lying in the field to absorb rain water and allow it to dry well.
Even though I translated the word עִימֵּר (Imer) as “stooked” it can also mean “stacked” as well, since literally it means “processing sheaves” without any specific indication of how that is done, as was already indicated above in Tosefta Peah 3:5. Therefore this Tosefta does not imply in any way that the farmers in the Land of Israel always stooked the sheaves even if they were not concerned about rain wetting their wheat. It is very possible that the Tosefta is describing a case where the farmer randomly tossed around the sheaves, because he was not planning on stooking them, but rather was stacking them right after binding sheaves.
The reason I have chosen to translate Imer here as “stooked” and not as “stacked” is because usually when the Tosefta means “stacked” it would say Imer Lagadish (literally: processed bundles to a stack), as it said in Tosefta Peah 3:5. Imer by itself without any other word following it generally means “stooked”. As I will describe in the next note either translation is possible here, since the farmer could still randomly toss his sheaves even though he plans on stooking them later in a case where he was not concerned for efficiency or if he did not have many workers doing dedicated tasks.
When the sheaves are laid out in the field, before they are stooked there are two ways to lay them out. They can either be randomly tossed around or they can be carefully lined up in row with all sheaves in each row pointing in one direction. Either way may be advantageous to the farmers depending on how many people are working in the field and who is doing what. If there are only a few farmers working in the field and the same person has to bind the gavels (untied bundles) of grain into sheaves and then take those sheaves and stook them into stooks it probably makes no difference how he lays out the sheaves on the ground, since he has to go back to every sheaf and pick it up anyway. Also, if the harvest is taking place in a climate where it may not rain at all during the harvest, such as in the Land of Israel, the farmers may choose to skip the stooking process altogether and just throw the sheaves around the field from where they would be directly brought to the stack. If that is the case then it is not really necessary to line up the sheaves neatly on the field. However, if there are many farmers working in the field simultaneously and all of them have different tasks, such as some of them are reaping the wheat, others are walking behind them and bind the sheaves, and others are walking behind those that are binding sheaves and stook them into stooks, then it is more efficient for the binders to line up the sheaves carefully in lines so that the stookers who are following directly behind them can pick the sheaves up faster and stook them in a more efficient manner. A land owner who is concerned about the amount of wheat his workers harvest in a day will be probably more interested in such a more efficient system of harvesting.
It should be noted that it is clear from the Tosefta that in the Land of Israel there were different practices with regard to stooking. Some farmers stooked their wheat and others did not, and just left the sheaves lying in the field until they were stacked. This means that some were willing to take the risk that their wheat might get wet from a rare sporadic rain and others did not wish to take such a risk. I suppose that it all depended on the size of the field, how many workers were harvesting it simultaneously and if the landlord was concerned about the efficiency of his wheat production or not.
Wheat Bundles in Hinganghat, Maharashtra, India, on April 17, 2008. Photo: Rudra C. Notice that these bundles are positioned randomly without any order or direction. Some sheaves are laid horizontally, while others are laid vertically. This is what the Tosefta is referring to by “a field in which sheaves have been laid in a mixed fashion.”
Farmers cutting wheat bundles near Hinganghat, Maharashtra, India on April 17, 2008. Photo Rudra C. Notice that the farmers are not really concerned about positioning the sheaves carefully on the field. They seem to toss them around however they want. Maharashtra region of India has almost no rainfall in April which is a few months before the Monsoon season. So the farmers probably do not care to stook their sheaves since they are not concerned about rain. Therefore they do not need to carefully line up the sheaves to make for more efficient stooking.
Wheat Sheaves in a field, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, June 2004. Photo: Curt Weinhold. Notice the small sheaves in the background all over the field are actually carefully laid out in rows, and each sheaf is pointing in the same direction. This is an example of the field where the sheaves are ordered. Also, notice that there are stooks around the edges of the field. Since the farmers are stooking the sheaves it is more efficient for them to line them up carefully than randomly tossing them around. Since in Pennsylvania it rains a lot during the summer it makes a lot of sense for the Amish farmers to stook their wheat.
Since the sheaves are not carefully lined up it is not obvious when the farmer really forgot the sheaf or not. If one sheaf was forgotten from a row of lined up sheaves then the poor who are collecting Shikcha from the field can clearly see that the farmer skipped over this sheaf, which make it obviously forgotten. However, fi the sheaves are randomly tossed around then it is not obvious that a sheaf has been forgotten. May be the farmer simply did not get to picking it up yet. Therefore the poor have to make sure that in such a field all sheaves are gone from that particular area before they can pick any of them up. The bottom line is that in order for a sheaf to be considered Shikcha it has to clearly appear forgotten without any possibility of a doubt. As long as there is such a doubt then this sheaf is not considered Shikcha and the poor are forbidden from taking it.