I have a post in my drafts folder entitled, "Growing Grain: What I've Learned So Far." It's a post I really should finish and share, even though I can't say we've got it all figured out. The biggest challenge has been the grass grains, i.e wheat, oats, and barley. They have been easy to grow, but not easy to process.
|April - this year's winter wheat heading up.|
By process I mean threshing and winnowing, also grinding some for flour. We've experimented a lot and come to the conclusion that for a two person homestead with one person having to work full time, the only thing for it is some sort of mechanized piece of equipment. Yes, it can be done by hand, but it's a lot of time and work. We don't mind the work, but time is what we're always short of.
Small scale farming equipment is not readily available in the US. Europe and especially Asia seem to be the places to get such equipment. When we do find something, it's always used and priced out of our range.
|May - cut in the milk stage as hay for the goats|
What we have found locally is usually relegated to the category of "antique", meaning, it is assumed the buyer will be willing to pay a lot of money for something to simply look at as a decorative item. That puts most of it out of our price range. Add the cost of correcting disrepair, and it isn't worth it. On top of that, I think it likely that both fuel and electricity will be in shorter supply in the future, and therefore more expensive. Consequently, I question the wisdom of purchasing equipment that may ultimately be useless. For some things, like grain and hay, Dan has his scythe, while I have my sickle mower. The sickle mower is gasoline powered, but as a work-smarter-not-harder tool it is a useful choice for now. The scythe is our low-tech backup.
|Walk behind sickle mower|
Fortunately, I have learned that we don't need as much grain as I originally thought we did. My original assumption was that we'd have to grow a lot in order to feed the goats, but I now know that grain isn't all that good for goats so we don't need bushels and bushels of it. Instead, we need high quality hay.
We had a hard time getting good hay this past winter. We cut and stored quite a bit of our own, but had to buy it as well. Several times I bought what was promised to be "good hay, your goats will love it", only to open the bales and find it not so good. Some of it the goats refused to eat, so it ended up being an extreme waste. Not only is it a waste of hay, but also a waste of the money to buy it and the time and fuel to go get it. Some of you may recall the triticale hay I bought and was offered for future trade for goat cheese. Well, only two of my eight goats would eat the entire thing including the stem. The rest only wanted to eat the grain heads off and refused to eat the stalks, meaning most of it was wasted. That plus driving distance put an end to my hopes in that.
As with most things on the homestead, it's a little here and a little there; it's small steps rather than big ones. And it's learning how to be content with those small steps. All I can say is, I'm in route.