May 25, 2012

Winter Wheat 2012

Winter wheat, ready to harvest

Last year I grew an experimental patch of wheat in our garden. This year we tried to grow about a quarter acre. While the experimental patch did very well, this year's was not without problems. The biggest of these was nitrogen deficiency. I blogged about that here, "Worried About Our Winter Wheat." It responded well to blood meal, but I didn't have enough. Growth was stunted and won't have a high protein content.

Another problem was several areas where it looked like something was spending the night. This didn't photograph well, but I had deer sized patches where the wheat was flattened to the ground. Was it deer? That's a possibility. I know too, that wheat is susceptible to lodging, which is where the stems bend over to ground level. I read that lodging in wheat is sometimes associated with excess nitrogen, which I don't think was the case here. What I do think is that part of it is due to the vetch that's grown in with it. That stuff climbs on top of it and weights it down. No matter the cause, it is near impossible to cut wheat that's lying down.

Dan scythes & I rake

We took a break from the kitchen last week to harvest about half our wheat. Dan scythed and I raked. Since we don't have a barn, storage ends up being on our front porch. The ground was still very wet from a previous rain, so we didn't use Dan's pickup to haul it. His next favorite method is to rake it onto a huge tarp....

Our method of hauling the wheat to the house

... and then we dragged it to the house. The fun part was wrestling it onto the front porch. That was an afternoon's work. Rain came again the next day, so the remaining harvest was put on hold. This will be the more challenging half anyway, since more of it has been knocked over.

I know I promised to write a threshing post last year, but confess that my experiments in threshing were not to my satisfaction. I will say the worry about the berries falling to the ground before harvest were largely unfounded. It's not that easy to get that stuff threshed! I'd really like to try Paul Wheaton's method, video here. Seems easy enough to construct, but there just haven't been enough hours in the day. Once the kitchen is done though, we plan to switch gears and wheat threshing will be near the top of the list. In the meantime, the chickens know exactly what to do with whole wheat heads, so there's been no loss, no waste, and less chicken feed to buy. Even if I've not made very many homegrown pancakes yet. :)

20 comments:

Natalie said...

Very interesting. I tried a little test patch one year in my city garden (1 square meter) but only got one handful of wheat stalks. This year I noticed that the "straw bales" I bought are actually full of wheat heads. I think I might let some of them grow instead of pulling out the "weeds" and see if maybe I can't try another test patch next year. Thanks for sharing...I love that top picture.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Hmmmm . . . lucky chickens. But I know soon you'll be able to enjoy some of those homegrown pancakes dripping with homegrown maple syrup . .. oh wait, that part may have to wait. Just keep on keeping on, you guys are doing great!

Sherri B. said...

We get those strange areas that look like something bedded down too. The fields surrounding us are just old pasture that has gone wild but they get real tall before the landowners mow. I have often wondered if it is indeed the deer, but they have the hillside and woods on the property too so why would they choose the wide open to sleep?

Have a very nice holiday weekend. xo

Nina said...

Chickens sure do know what to do with anything they consider edible and grains are like candy to them, from the way way love to gobble them up.
Flattened patches in Winter wheat? I've always thought that was weather, since you see more of it around here after a heavy rain or storm.

Renee Nefe said...

Please forgive my wheat ignorance here, but are the empty heads and stalks good for anything other than bedding for the animals? I would assume that even as bedding that could then be composted it is worth it. Perhaps this is the straw that mattresses were filled with in the past?

Mama Pea said...

Plus, once the chickens are done picking through it, you have straw for bedding or mulch! Even though you're not done yet, I'd say your experiment has been more positive than negative.

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." - Janet Kilburn Phillips

Lap Dog Knits said...

I love reading about your life.
so very different from anything I know about...

The kitchen - I'm loving watching the project all come together,

I'm still wishing I even owned a chicken - I heard one the other day while walking past a neighbors house a few blocks over...the next time I see anyone home I'm hoping they'll let me see them - I have a dream...you're living it, thanks for blogging so I can follow along

Leigh said...

Natalie, I should have done that with the oats from the oat straw mulch I once had. For some clumps, I cut it with my hand sickle to add to the hay pile!

Janice, yes, the homegrown maple syrup will have to wait, seeing as how we don't even have a sugar maple tree, LOL.

Sherri, some things are just curious, aren't they? :)

Nina, weather could be a factor, good point. That would probably effect the entire field I would imagine however.

Renee, well, maybe I should learn how to make straw hats. :-P With animals though, since we have to buy straw anyway, might as well count that as part of the wheat crop!

Mama Pea, thank you so much for the quote! It's perfect. And I agree, no matter what, the wheat was a good investment of time, ground, and seed.

Kyle, thanks! Does your town or city have ordinances about chickens? Some places let you keep up to three as "pets." Probably no rooster, but you don't need a rooster to get eggs!

Nina said...

Leigh,
It's amazing how much the flattened areas are very specific and not whole fields. I don't think I've ever seen a whole field flattened, just spots here and there. Looks like something was dropped down to sleep, then airlifted out again.. little patches of flattened area.

DebbieB said...

I'm eager to see how much wheat berries you end up with!

sista said...

I keep hearing a theme in your blogs. When the kitchen is done. Isn't that a drag? Mine is when the bathroom gets done. I am sick of the bathroom but when it is done it will be great. I have been watching your wheat blogs with interest though.

Leigh said...

Nina, it is odd. And the cat or dogs running around in there doesn't help. :) At least the flattened spots aren't in patterns. Then we'd have our very own mini crop circles!

Debbie, we may never know. :) Unless we can get it all threshed. A lot of home growers thresh as needed. It's a thing I'm curious about too though.

Sista, LOL. It's true though, and I think a wiser way to get started is to tend to the house first, and then start with the rest. We talked about it but time just seems too short. :)

Bridget said...

Interesting experiment...I wonder how much wheat you will get. So nice to have your own straw. So useful for bedding and mulch.

aleisethefunny said...

Whew! Looks like a lot of work! :) I thought about planting wheat in the unused protion of my yard but it is too swampy. Gonna have to plant rice instead! Hope you end up with a lot of wheat! :)

Leigh said...

Bridget, it will be useful no matter what we get! I think too, that at least we are putting the land to use, instead of letting it grow wild with weeds. :)

Aleise, it is a lot of work, which makes me wish we had proper equipment for the job. I'm sort of working on the premise that "something is better than nothing." Even if that something is knowledge and experience gained from less than perfect results!

Bernadine said...

What a great endeavor, to grow your own wheat! Next year will be even better! I'm such a novice vegetable gardener that growing wheat seems like a far off dream. I really enjoy your post and all the "do it yourself" accomplishments. Thanks for sharing.

Julene said...

You have a wheat crop and that is an accomplishment! The threshing will be rewarding and one day we will see that pancakes!
Your kitchen is coming along so well!
I admire all the hard work you have put into pulling it together! Wonderful!

chook said...

i've been loving your kitchen renovation series (as i try to figure out what to do with my own horribly outdated one). and yes, the chickens will certainly put that wheat to good use. it's like food+bedding in one swell foop!

Leigh said...

Bernadine, I certainly hope so. You know, we all start at the same place, the beginning. I only hope I'm learning from everything I've attempted so far.

Julene, thanks! On both counts. :)

Chook, " swell foop", love it! LOL. I took 2 years trying to figure out what to do with my kitchen. Finally it got so that I couldn't stand it anymore, so we knew it was time to dig in. :)

Thistle Cove Farm said...

What about growing beans when the wheat isn't in the ground? That puts in a lot of nitrogen.
And about word verification...same with me, so much spam so went to word verification.