June 6, 2011

Wheat Harvest

On the 3rd of June, our pancake patch looked like this.....


We'd been keeping a close eye on it ever since it started to turn brown. According to Homegrown Whole Grains, wheat is ready to harvest when the berries were no longer soft and doughy when chewed, but hard and crunchy. In the ideal wheat world, this would have happened all at the same time. In our real world though, some was ready, some still too green, and some seed heads had already shattered (or had been eaten by birds). Most of it was perfect, so we decided to harvest.

It's a small, experimental patch, about 200 square feet, so we discussed various ways to harvest it. In the end, Dan took his scythe to it ...


The going was quick, but without a grain cradle, the cut wheat fell every which-away. A cradle is a scythe type tool which not only cuts, but enables the stalks to fall to the ground in an orderly fashion. Unlike cutting without it...


In the meanwhile I gathered it by armfuls and loaded it into the wheelbarrow....


We then dumped it unceremoniously onto our screened-in front porch. There, it will dry out further, until all the heads are brown and dry. Then we'll set about to thresh and winnow it.


It was a small plot, so I was able to gather up every last stalk with a head on it. The ancient Hebrews had a law that stated the gleanings were to be left for the poor. That way there was no waste, no heavy taxation to support welfare, and the less fortunate maintained the dignity of being somewhat able to provide for themselves. I thought about that as I worked.

My only lament is that I didn't weigh the amount of seed I planted. I was thinking in terms of dimensions, but I'm discovering that weight amounts of seed are so much easier to work with. The plan is to follow our field corn crop with a large planting of winter wheat. We don't have dates and timing figured out perfectly yet, but we will with experience.

Other things we'll have to work out for a larger planting are harvest and storage. A grain cradle certainly seems in order if we do it by hand. Field drying can work if the wheat can formed into sheaves and shocks. Threshing our current small amount will be relatively simple, but a quarter to half an acre will take more work.  The other issue will be storage. Wheat can be eaten by us, the goats, and the chickens, so I doubt we can grow too much of it.

Drying is supposed to be complete in about a week to ten days. In our humidity it may take longer. After that we'll thresh. More on that soon.


Wheat Harvest © June 2011 

37 comments:

HAZEL said...

How exciting. Congratulations!

Theresa said...

Gosh, hard to think of wheat ready to cut. We are just now getting temps barely in the 60's during the day. Spring/summer is coming late for us.

Tanya Highet said...

How much wheat are you expecting to get out of your harvest? Are you planning on hand-grinding it into flour or eating it as wheat berries? Am completely fascinated with what you're doing...growing grain really makes a family self-sufficient!

Richard said...

Contest on Amish Stories this week......My blog Amish Stories is having its first ever contest this week. The First prize winner will win 2 tickets to tour the farm where the 1985 move "Witness" staring Harrison Ford and Kelly Mcgillis was made in Strasburg,Pa . This farm is now Amish owned, and the family has given permission for folks to tour their farm. This may be the last time anyone will be able to walk and see the same things that Harrison Ford and the other actors saw during the making of "Witness". The Witness tour should last about 2.5 hours. In addition to the Witness farm tour tickets, 1st prize winner will also receive 2 tickets for Jacobs choice. There will also be a 2nd place prize, which will be 2 tickets for the Amish Homestead. Please go to My blog www.AmishStorys.com for contest details, and more information on the prizes. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon county.

Carolyn Renee said...

How very cool, and very interesting! DH was just talking to me about scraping up another little section of garden to plant some wheat here to see how well (or poorly) it grows.

Leigh said...

Hazel, thank you!

Theresa, good grief that's chilly for June. Wish I could trade you our highs in the 90s!

Tanya, hello and welcome. I have no idea of what to expect for the harvest. That's why we've labeled the patch "experimental", LOL Yes, I do hand grind all our whole wheat. My grain mill is set up in my pantry. I've eaten fresh boiled wheat berries in the past, but haven't done that in a long time. We plan to use the wheat for our own needs, as well as animal feed for the chickens and goats. That's a longer term goal, but we hope to plant about a half acre or more of wheat this fall.

Richard, sounds like a great contest. I'll be over to enter directly.

Carolyn Renee, go for it! It was actually very easy to grow and I understand it does well in most places. It is lovely to look at while it grows too.

Jane said...

Your patch looks good. It really gives you a good idea how hard our ancestors had to work for every little bit of food. I am spoiled, we harvest with the combine. But it does make you realize that each loaf of bread should be worth about $100 :)

DebbieB said...

How very cool! I've been wondering how the wheat was doing. Love the idea of Dan scything it, as well as the tie-in to the Hebrew poor gleaning in the fields. You'll have a much closer tie to and greater gratitude for your "daily bread" now.

tami said...

You must be so excited Leigh!

Yo should consider having a "threshing" party once you get up to having that 1/2 + acre. I'll bet we'll ALL come down to help! Whoo Hoo!

Benita said...

Well, I have to admit, I find this really exciting. To eat home-baked bread made from home-gorwn wheat. That is pretty cool!

Marissa said...

Lucky you! I've been wanting to put in a grain patch for a few years now but simply have not gotten around to it. We did do buckwheat for the first time though. Hmmm...oughta do a blog post about that harvest as it's almost complete!

Kids and Canning Jars said...

I just love this whole pancake experiment. I cannot wait for the pancakes!!!!!
Melissa

Dr. Momi said...

Looking forward to everything you learn about growing your own "pancake patch" (I LOVE that name). Last year we hand harvested a small patch of oats for chicken feed. We left it right on the stalks, and just threw it all in bit by bit. It was food, entertainment, and bedding all in one. We hope to get a decent size patch going to feed them all winter.

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

Congrats on your exciting harvest!
N

Mama Pea said...

The old learning curve enters the picture again . . . but another step for you toward self-sufficiency. No matter how little you might get from this harvest, I think it's very exciting and you should enjoy it and give yourself tons of credit for doing it. Next time around will be even better!

Evelyn said...

The wheat looks fantastic! I love bread made from freshly ground wheat. And your pantry is lovely, tho it seems like alot to get through. Have you ever subbed chard for spinach?

Donna said...

That patch was so pretty and golden, how exciting to grow your own wheat. That must be one of the ultimates in self-sufficiency. I wonder how much you would need to take care of all your needs for a year? I'm sure you'll have a better idea after the threshing. :)

Geodyne said...

I know you didn't measure the grain you sowed, but I'm looking forward to seeing what your yield is. Are you planning to thresh it bit by bit? Threshing has always been the hardest part, in my mind.

Interesting that the wheat fell every which way. I'm sure I've seen reenactments where scything the wheat with someone following to collect and stack resulted in a fairly even fall of wheat - but perhaps it's easier in a larger patch than a smaller?

Leigh said...

Jane, how wonderful to have a combine! It is true though, that what it takes to produce food (especially good quality food) is priceless.

Debbie, thanks! That is definitely true. It also gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Not sure I can explain that, but it's all part of the thankfulness we have for what we're able to do.

Tami, what a fun idea. Work parties used to be common in the agrarian societies. That's community in the true sense of the word!

Benita, it is pretty exciting. I admit I'm anxious to give it a taste.

Marissa, oh yes, do blog about your buckwheat. I grew some last year, and gathered a bunch, mostly for seed. I love buckwheat flour though, and recently read that buckwheat can be fed to goats. So I need to plant it again!

Melissa, neither can I!

Dr Momi, I love the term too, but can't take credit for it. That goes to Gene Logsdon. Great tip about using it for chicken feed. That's one thing we plan to do with it when we grow our bigger plot next year.

Norma, thanks!

Mama Pea, that learning curve often seems to be a learning mountain, LOL. But what you say is so true. I am glad we started with a sample patch first, but am very excited about seeing what we can grow next year.

Evelyn, thank you! Yes, I use the chard for spinach often. My spinach has never done well because of our heat. Swiss chard was my go at non-spinach, spinach!

Donna, well, we've got the vegetables down, so grains are next. I admit I've been slow at getting through the 50 pound bag that I bought for consumption, but I tend to mix the WW with unbleached white. That will have to be changing.

Geodyne, this lot we can probably thresh all at once. One thing we're realizing, is that when we try to grow all our own grains (and hay) we have to have some place to store it! That's a challenge in itself and one we need to work on soon.

Sharon said...

I must admit this project has me excited. Hubby and I have talked about planting our own wheat someday, so it will be interesting to see it all works out. Hubby has been looking for a scythe.

BTW, I have awarded the Stylish Blogger Award to you. I know you've had it before, but I just couldn't help myself!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

So happy I found this blog. My husband and I will soon start this same journey. We're excited to have agood resource. Great blog

Leigh said...

Sharon, thank you! I'm honored indeed. Regarding scythes, get a European style one. Dan got an American type scythe initially, but it just doesn’t work well, unless you’re about 5 feet tall. The ones on the market are apparently a replica, They’re all the same size and the handles are not adjustable. We decided to try the European style. They are custom made to the users height, and the handles are adjustable. He likes this one so much better. That’s our experience, but I hope you have others to talk to before you buy.

Donna, thank you and welcome! Growing wheat has been very rewarding so far, even with just a small patch like ours. Glad your planning to join the wheat growing club!

Doug at Thesimplefarm.com said...

My wifes dad is a retired wheat farmer and I showed him your post and he said "that's how we used to do it." I'd be interested in the follow up post to this. We have about 20 acres of grassland that I'm looking for something to do with. I don't want to buy equipment but would guess an acre or two would be an incredible amount of work to seed and harvest.

Thanks for inspiring me to at least consider trying this.

Geodyne said...

Storage as an issue is a recurring theme, isn't it?! It's amazing just how much stuff you need to live "the simple life".

Leigh said...

Doug, if my FIL was a retired wheat farmer, I'd be picking his brain! We plan to do about half an acre in the fall. Like you, we have no equipment, so it's just us. I hope you blog about your own wheat growing.

Geodyne, ain't that the truth, LOL Still, useful stuff is better than the meaningless stuff of consumerism. :)

Limette said...

Looks great. I still have to plant my hulless oats. Hopefully they'll get planted this season!

Leigh said...

Hulless oats?? Limette I would love to know all about that! I understand that the hulls of oats are very difficult to deal with. Of course I know you'll blog all about it. :)

Jenny Coe said...

Thnks for posting that! I plan to do a small wheat crop next yr.

Kaat said...

Okay, I'll admit it. I AM SO JEALOUS!
Whew, now that's out...
wonderful wonderful! I love it!

Leigh said...

Jenny, go for it! It's really not that hard, well, so far it hasn't been that hard. We'll see how threshing and winnowing goes.

Kaat, well, I'm jealous of your solar system, so we're even. LOL. But as you say, wonderful!

Scented Leaf said...

Wow, amazing.... This remembered my grandpa, who used to cut the hay with his old scythe... You need to relax after such a tiring day.

homeplaceearth said...

Leigh, if you haven't harvested your wheat yet, you might get some tips from my recent blog at http://homeplaceearth.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/grains-in-your-garden/
I've been growing grain in my garden for a long time and I'm always happy to see others doing it, too.

Leigh said...

Scented Leaf, that is so true, it is a good working kind of job. Dan harvested our hay with his scythe last year. This year it was the wheat. Who knows what's next!

Cindy, so nice to meet someone who has been growing wheat for awhile. We have yet to thresh and winnow, so your ideas on your blog were of great interest. Really like your foot threshing idea!

Andrew said...

Hi, I came across this in a google search. I am in southwest Virginia. Might not be too far from you. I wanted to get into raising wheat for my chickens. I've been trying to get a stand of barley for homemade beer going too. I'm good on drying things. I built a solar kiln per virginia tech's plans and I can do dry beans real well. I cut my barley with a hand scythe, but getting the seed separated from the seed head is driving me bonkers. How are you threshing? I'm about to try Rodale's plans for a home-scale thresher, but I feel like I'm missing the point somewhere. I tried doing it by hand do and after like three hours I had maybe a quart of barley.

Thanks! Love the blog!
Andrew

Leigh said...

Andrew thanks! I love that you're learning how to grow your own grains too. I would recommend getting Gene Logsdon's Small Scale Grain Raising. That's what we're going by. He discusses both wheat and barley (among other grains), all geared toward the small scale farmer or homesteader. He says barley is a tough one to thresh! Our wheat is not yet threshed, but we're going to follow his recommendation of folding it into a tarp and beating with lengths of old garden hose. Winnowing can be done with a couple of 5 gallon buckets and an electric fan. When we get to it, I'll blog about it!

Andrew said...

Ok, thanks, I'll look that book up. Yes, I did the fan with my vermont cranberry beans and an old fiberglass bathtub that was removed due to a crack. That part is working great. I end up with some nice clean beans. I've got a lot of blue tarps and old garden hoses, I'll definitely have to give that method a try!

Leigh said...

Would love to know how that goes for you. Andrew, you need a blog! :)