April 5, 2011

A Big Step Closer To Growing Our Own Grain

It didn't seem that it would ever be dry enough to do this. Last January, I showed you what we were doing in preparation to plant a patch of grain. Our neighbor agreed to turn the soil for us, but March so rainy that the ground has been pretty wet. At last, we've been able to get it tilled.

View from my kitchen window
Our plan is to plant corn, pole beans, and pumpkins here. The corn will be field corn, for feed and corn meal. In the fall, we'll follow this with winter wheat.

The chickens had a field day looking for worms and grubs.
(Yes, corny pun intended)

I can plant the corn the middle of this month, so this is was very timely.

To keep the goats out, we've set up cattle panels to create a corridor from the goat shed to the pasture.

Cattle panels make excellent temporary fencing.

They go from the fence to the pecan tree you see on the left...

It took 2 & 1/2, 16 foot cattle panels to do this.

.. and from the pecan tree to the pasture gate. The girls can go into the pasture, but no longer have access to this field. The chickens still do however (through the panel openings), so I need to add a layer of poultry netting to this before we get seed in the ground.

It's a temporary set-up, but it enables us to grow some grains without animal interference. The ideal set-up would have a fenced in area around the goat shed, with gates controlling which field they could access. At this point, that's just a mental note for the future. For now, we're going to see how much grain we can grow.

This fenced in area (labeled "field #1" below) is about an acre, and the grain (green area) will only take up part of that.

Detail from master plan. Click to enlarge.

The rest of it needs to be sown in a pasture mix, but I'm concerned it's getting on the wrong time of year to do that. We always have a long hot dry spell in the summer, which is not kind on newly planted things trying to establish their root systems. Pasture improvement is a topic I know nothing about however, so it's time for more research. I'll let you know what I find out.


Country Jane said...

How exciting, your yard is so neat and tidy!

Jane in Alaska

Sheryl at Providence North said...

I am growing more of our own graint his year to! It's exciting! I grew flax and amaranth last year and this year plant to add quinoa and chia.

Sharon said...

Growing your own grain...that's an exciting prospect. we also want to do that in the future.

Hubby (forever the analyst) and I appreciate all the planning you do and the forethought you put into all your projects. We think planning is the key to understanding the risks and how to mitigate them.

If anyone can succeed, it will be you guys.

Woolly Bits said...

seeing the drawing made me realize how much land you have to cover! I don't think I'd manage this size, I have my hands full with just my few flowerbeds and veggie patch! though we'd never have enough land to start growing grains, I don't even manage to grow enough potatoes... we are thinking of getting a small mantis tiller just now - there isn't enough space to get a digger in, never mind a tractor - but a smaller mantis tiller would make the job so much easier... I try not to get every gadget on the planet, but sometimes one of them would help so much, that it's worth it (thinking of the washing machine here:)))

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

I know how you feel. My fields have small ponds in them and more rain coming the next week it is getting impossible to get in and get them worked. If something doesn't give soon I will be behind on all grains and hay. At least corn doesn't go in here for over a month. I sure hope things straighten out for summer.

Grace said...

I'm excited about your grain growing efforts. Do keep us updated. I hope to grow plenty of my own grain in a couple of years and I fully intend to draw on your experience. Thanks, Leigh!

Mama Pea said...

Your pictures are such a breath of spring time for us still under snow and ice. I wonder if there is ever an end to the experimentation we all do to see just what will (or won't) work for us in our different areas. And, of course, Mother Nature likes to keep things interesting by throwing unpredictable weather patterns at us!

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

My experience with goats says yours may soon find little hoof shaped wire-cutters and will join you at your breakfast table. So cute, useful and exasperatingly curious.

Leigh said...

Jane in Alaska, that's only an illusion, LOL

Sheryl, it is exciting. We successfully grew a lot amaranth last year, but I haven't tried those others yet. Flax sounds like a good idea too!

Sharon, I have to admit the future got here quicker than we thought. We're wrestling with biting off more than we can chew, versus losing a battle with Mother Nature, who has made excellent progress on reclaiming our fields. Hopefully this will help!

Bettina, sometimes it doesn't seem like enough, sometimes it seems like too much!

I've heard good things about the mantis tiller, especially for small gardens and raised beds. Dan would never agree to something so small and lightweight, but it will probably do well for you. I agree about all the gadgets! It's trying to find the ones that are actually useful, that's the challenge.

Jane, maybe we should all take up hydroponic gardening!?!?!?

Grace, thanks! I just hope the experience is helpful to others. I do find that even our failures impart valuable information. I do hope this experiment imparts lots of corn!

Mama pea, this spring has definitely been a humdinger weatherwise. This morning I awoke before sunrise to 57F. Now the sun is out and it's 48!

Nellie, LOL, they are industrious aren't they?

Anonymous said...

The plowed field looks so lovely. Lucky chooks!

City Sister said...

Right now we have our chickens on our "corn field" (about 10'x20' area) so that way we have it turned, composted,well fertilized, and aged by the time we plant it.

Doyu Shonin said...

This is looking really good. I like your plan.

Lynda said...

Growing grain is so *earthy*. We grow wheat about every two or three years and the off years we grow flint/dent corn...it's a farmer thing, I think. I'm late in getting my pastures established. I should have planted in the Fall...don't know if I should wait, or just give it a shot and cross my fingers!

Your homestead is really coming together...you should really be proud of yourselves...you have both worked so hard.

Laura said...

Unless you clip your chicken's wings, they will be able to get over the cattle panels, she says from experience... Poultry netting towards the bottom will help, but if you start it at the point that the "holes" are big enough for a chicken to squeeze through, you'll save money.

I love these panels - I wish I could afford to fence my whole place in them, but I can't!

Betty Bohemian said...

Your property is so pretty! I would love to do something like that but desert gardening is quite the challenge.

Leigh said...

Evelyn, they're loving it too. :)

City Sister, that's a good argument for a chicken tractor. We've talked about that and may likely incorporate that into the eventual scheme of things.

Risa, thanks! Let's hope it all goes according to plan (though I doubt it :)

Lynda, hopefully it's coming together. Some of it we're already familiar with but so much of it is new to us. I'm in the same boat about the pasture!

Oh Laura, I have two flyers. And both seem to defy wing clipping. One in particular insists on laying her eggs in the hay mow. She'll make an awkward jump and manage to flap up to the top of the fence with a squawk, just to go lay her eggs. I figured out what you're saying about the chicken wire when I did the birthing stall. It's worked pretty well so far, except for goats trying to figure out how to get to the other side. :)

Betty, desert gardening! Oh my yes. It's interesting you should say that because I recently read about the Papago Indians in Wendell Barry's book, The Gift of Good Land. They made a go of desert sustenance farming, and did pretty well until the US government stepped in to "help."

Kids and Canning Jars said...

I love your space. So lucky. Good luck and thanks for the update post.

luckybunny said...

This is really exciting!

Leigh said...

Melissa and Donna, thank you!

Eliza Tilton said...

This is really amazing to watch. Love this blog.

Robin said...

Neato! It will be interesting to see how it works out for you. How much grain do you think you will be able to yield? I just heard Lee grumbling to himself yesterday that he didn't think he was going to be able to plant his grain crop that he wanted to this year.