January 19, 2011

Grain Patch Prep

Last week, snow. This week, rain. It's hard to believe that earlier this month we actually had some beautifully sunny, though chilly, weather. We took advantage of it too, to start on a new outdoor project.

One of our 2011 goals, is to start growing more of our own grain. Now that we have both fields fenced for the goats, we can work toward preparing to do that.

Detail from master plan. Click to enlarge.

The ultimate goal is pasture rotation, with both fields being planted in a good quality mix that can be used for both grazing and hay. One summer the goats can graze one pasture, while we harvest hay from the other. The next year we can switch. A grain patch will enable us to grow our own corn and wheat at least, hopefully more.

Our neighbor is going to plow the patch for us, but first we needed to clear the ground for plowing.

This shot was taken a couple months ago. Note the stand
of  6 - 7 foot pine trees in the field just behind fence.

Piles of pine boughs being trimmed down by the goats
The area we need to prepare is just beyond the fence in the above photo. Those pine trees were just knee high when we 1st tilled the big garden in 2009. They needed to be removed before the ground can be plowed. We've had quite a bit of rain, so the ground was easy digging.

Of course we had help. Goats are great at that. In some ways they're just like cats; they want to see what you're doing by standing right in front of you. Fortunately they are easily distracted by something interesting to eat. Having ignored the pine trees all summer, they relished the cut branches as a tasty snack.

Looking toward the back from the front corner

This is a shot from the far corner of the garden, looking over the gate at the ground to be plowed. House and outbuildings are on the left, a neighbor is to our right. It's amazing to look at now, because last summer it was so overgrown. This is the same field we had the new leachfield put in (on the left, behind the house and outbuildings). Unfortunately we couldn't do much to improve it at the time, because we had nowhere else to put the goats.

Next summer we should have a corn patch, good Lord willin' and the creeks don't rise. The goal is to grow enough for our own use (cornmeal) and the chickens. How much we will actually need, I don't know. This first planting will be something of an experiment in that regard. I have five pounds of Truckers Favorite seed corn, purchased in 2009. We weren't able to get a place prepared for it last year, so it's been stored in the refridgerator. My plan is to interplant pole beans and pumpkins with the corn. In the fall we can follow with wheat. My little patch of experimental wheat will give us an idea of how much we need to plant of that.

Growing our own grains has been one of our food self-sufficiency goals from the start, and it's nice to see it starting to materialize. I know we will probably have problems or make mistakes, but we'll learn as we go.  Experience, after all, is the best teacher.

Grain Patch Prep © January 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/


Lynda said...

I'm so happy to see you're able to get in the field: yeah! I just ordered my flint corn, pasture mix, and soft white wheat (first for me). I'm doing an experimental patch, too. I have a friend's son that grows hard red and white wheat in the Northern most part of the state. By the way your beets look terrific...do you grow mangles for livestock feed? They also break up hard packed soil.

The Apple Pie Gal said...

I wish we had more room to do this! We were just talking about it the other night too.

Looking forward to you meeting your goals and sharing that with us. It's very exciting!

Flower said...

Growing your own grain is a great plan! You will learn so much and each year you plant there will be a harvest..one way or the other!
Love the goats!! They are favorites on our farm!!

Theresa said...

Are you going to replant any of those lovely thriving pines?
The goats can drive you nuts when you have to work outside. They love to bother Gene, jump into his truck bed and make a right pain of themselves. I like to watch the antics from the house window i I can, if I go out then I'm usually asked to lock them up. The horses too are fascinated when we work on the fence or the shelter. Nick specially likes to remove tools from the back bed and the tool box. On more than one occasion I have heard some pretty hot cursing when he's tipped the socket and wrench set over. Good job on the grain patch planning!

Nina said...

Certainly looks like an interesting experiment. Have you figured out how much grain should be produced per acre in your area, worked out how much you'd need for your own use and figured out what sort of land allotment you'd need to use for it? That could be very useful info. It would be interesting to see if small scale grain growing is a useful prospect. We see acres of grain being grown here and the thought of it being done on a small scale is intriguing.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

You are so well organized. I love how you have charts and maps of what your doing. It must be great for reference and looking back at past years.

Leigh said...

Lynda, good for you! That's great that you have someone close by who grows hard wheats. We have no one, sadly.

I bought a packet of mangle seeds last year but didn't get them into the ground. This year for sure. Besides growing our own grains, I am definitely working toward growing all of our own animal foods.

Diana, I say, give it a try. Even a small plot will give you something, as well as the experience as to how much you can actually grow and use. I agree, it is exciting!

Flower, we figure that's the only way to approach it. If we waited until we thought we had it all figured out, we'd never get started!

Goats are a hoot, aren't they. Of course, they're more amusing if they're snoopervising someone else's project!

Theresa, we talked about replanting, but there is just too much. The pines, which are common around here, had too developed of root systems and of the cedars, there were more than 100. Dan did heel in about a dozen cedars or so, to replant once the ground dries out a bit.

Nina, this year is an experiment to start to figure some of that out. To begin, we're relying pretty heavily on Gene Logsdon's Small-Scale Grain Raising. He has a chart on page 9, that tells us that it takes a plot 10 by 50 feet to grow about one bushel of corn. (Wheat needs a plot 10 by 109 feet). He also says a free ranged hen needs about half a bushel per year. For us, I'm not sure how much we need. One thing we're going to have to do, is to adapt our diet to what we can grow. We use primarily wheat for bread, but if the corn does well, we'll be eating more cornbread.

According to Gene Logsdon, small scale grain raising is very feasible. Actually more so than acres and acres which are producing commercially. These are the ones that have to rely on expensive, heavy equipment to get the job done. A gardener or homesteader, on the other hand, can do it either by hand or with smaller, less expensive equipment. Most of the commercial growers are heavily in debt, thinking "bigger is better." In fact, it makes more economic sense to do it on a smaller, slower scale.

Oh, Jane. Not so organized as one might think! We do map and graph things out. That helps us keep on track. So much is trial and error though, and we've been known to be heavy on the error side. :) Still, the journey will never begin if we don't take a first step.

Mr. H. said...

I think it is so neat that you are expanding to grow your own grains and corn like this...really neat. I think you will be surprised at how much corn you get off a small patch. Can't wait to see it all growing and learn more about your yields.

Mama Pea said...

I agree with Jane and am in awe of your record keeping. Especially when things don't work out as you had hoped/expected, it's very useful to have kept good notes.

As far as having failures or making errors, you can do all the reading and studying in the world but have to actually do and experience to know what works and what doesn't. So even if the outcome is less than you desired, you've learned a lot in the process. (Oh, yeah, and then there's good ol' Mother Nature who enters the picture with her "personality" each year!)

Anonymous said...

Growing your own grain sounds like such a huge undertaking! Like everyone else I will be interested in how it all comes along.

Laura said...

You should try to get your hands on "The Guide to Self-Sufficiency" by John Seymour (if you don't already have it. He sets out how much area you need for each crop (grains included) to feed you and your animals. There are examples for 1 acre and for 5.

My copy has been loved so well, I had to take it apart and put it into a 3-ring binder (it's almost 40 years old...). I would like to try the 1 acre plan, since I need the rest of the 5 acres for horses, etc., and there's only one of me to grow things for. I know I'll never be self-sufficient enough to grow food for the big livestock (horses, alpacas), but the chickens and the pea fowl, sure. I will also have to buy supplemental food for the turkeys that I raise for pre-Thanksgiving sale.

It's a good goal, and you're an inspiration!!

Benita said...

Step-by-step, you guys are making it all come together. I admire you.

City Sister said...

How exciting! We are looking through the seed catalogs and deciding on our corn...oh I can't wait...it is so much better when you do it yourself!

Leigh said...

Mr H, I'm hoping that's the case, about the yield that is. While we're waiting for the ground to dry out, I'm going to have a soil test done. I may use fertilizers this first year, but hope to be able to build up the soil for years to come

Mama Pea, well, if I don't write it down, then it doesn't get remembered! LOL. And you are so right about experience. In the end, that's the key. I love your description of Mother Nature too, she indeed does have a temperamental personality!

Evelyn, it sounds that way to us too! Vegetables and even fruit seem so much easier. But actually, they are only a small part of our diet. Starches, particularly grains, and proteins (meat, milk, eggs) are a big part too. We figure to be truly food self-sufficient, we need to work on those parts of our diet too.

Laura, thank you for mentioning John Seymour's book! I just heard of it recently, but our county library doesn't have it, so I didn't think much of it at the time. I've checked on Amazon, and the price is reasonable. From your description, it sounds like a true must have.

Benita, that's it exactly. Step by step. We just have to keep reminding ourselves to be contented with the steps and not fret the big picture!

City Sister, you've got that right! There's nothing better than homegrown, homemade, home cultivated. :)

mySavioReigns said...

Looks fantastic! Good luck on growing the grain!

Geodyne said...

Leigh, let me second the recommendation for John Seymour's book. There's an older version and a more updated version, which included an increased section on vegetable growing. Either will work equally well for you. I bought a copy after reading an old 80s copy I found in a holiday cottage we let in Wales: I read it cover to cover that week! I based the planned crop rotations in my old allotment on his plans and have let his ideas adapt my approach to growing.

He wrote another book you two would love as well: "Forgotten Household Crafts". It's all about mending and making do. The man was a true self-sufficient liver.

Unknown said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Leigh said...

mySaviouReigns, thanks!, though actually I'm relying more on good providence. ;)

Geodyne, thank you for seconding Laura's recommendation. I did take a look on Amazon, but wasn't sure about the difference between the 1st and 2nd editions. Obviously not enough to matter!

Steve, thanks for the invitation. I'm on my way over to visit your blog.

Covnitkepr1 said...

I have added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit my blog and become a follower also.

Geodyne said...

Another thing to add: I remember having read somewhere once (can't remember whether it was John Seymour or Jackie French) that it takes about an acre of grain crops to feed a family of four, year round. I always figured that would more or less translate to two plus animals, and that's where I was headed with the small-patch grain trials I was doing.

It's also worth knowing that I was sowing 100g of wheat and barley to the square metre (1 oz/ 3 square feet) which gave good coverage.

The Todd Family said...

I can't wait to see how it turns out! I am enjoying following your blog. I can't wait until we can purchase our own acres and take the next step as well.

I have just started a blog and I would love for yout to come and give me advise...


Toyin O. said...

Nice lookin field, good luck with your goals.

Leigh said...

Thank you covnitkepr1! I'm on my way to visit your blog and follow you back.

Geodyne, that's the kind of practical information we've been wondering about. One nice thing about a corn/wheat rotation, is that the same ground can produce double the output as they're planted different times of year. Of course corn is a heavy feeder, so it is usually on a 5 year rotation for a given piece of ground. However Dick Raymond (Joy of Gardening), has worked an experimental patch in conjunction with his cooperative extension office, and has been growing corn alternating with beans, without fertilizer, for a number of years. The soil nitrogen remains good, so I'm thinking the 3 sisters will do well in our patch.

Homestead Family Journal, thank you! I love your goal and congrats on starting your blog. It's a wonderful tool for tracking one's own progress, as well as sharing with others. Plus, I get some of my best tips from readers!

Toyin, thank you!

Mama Pea said...

Dick Raymond! Omigosh! I think he has been absolutely THE biggest influence on my gardening know-how. His first book I have is copyrighted 1982 and I've spent many, many hours pouring over it and using it as a reference right up until today. Needless to say, the book nearly falls apart in my hands and I've been thinking of taking it to be spiral bound to preserve it.

Is he still living? From what you say, he's still gardening? My goodness, he must be getting up there in age. But we all know gardeners are notorious for living long lives!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, so delighted to find another Dick Raymond fan. He is the one that turned my DH on to gardening. His book is still one of the first I reach for. I'm not sure if he's still alive or not. If he is, we can both bet he's still gardening!