April 23, 2019

Saving the Wheat

I didn't know whether to call this blog post "Saving the Wheat" or "More Adventures in Haylofting." Why? Because of what happened to our beautiful stand of winter wheat.

One of our two small stands of winter wheat.

A mix of winter wheat, crimson clover, and vetch.

It was doing wonderfully until we got a series of heavy rains which flattened it. Last year some of our wheat lodged and while the kernels still dried, they also mildewed. With more thunderstorms on the way we decided to cut it. The kernels were still immature; in the milk stage with soft berries that squeeze out milk-like moisture. Because of that we decided to use it for hay.

Vetch is hard to cut with the scythe, so Dan used the sickle mower instead. We let it dry for two days and then with rain due again we raked it up. It amounted to two trailer loads, which were stored in the carport until the next round of rain was over. Then we had to figure out how to get it into the hayloft. We've somewhat "perfected" (I use that term loosely!) getting large round bales up there, but loose hay is another matter. This is what Dan came up with.

Extension ladder, plywood, and rope.

The tarp is one Dan used as a flat-bed driver.
It's much heavier than retail consumer tarps
and has d-rings as well as grommets.

Tarp tied to the plywood & sides bungeed together.

It was fairly easy to pull up then.

Because it wasn't fully cured, the concern was mold and the possibility of combustion from high heat decomposition within the piles of hay. In Salad Bar Beef, Joel Salatin mentions salting hay, so that's what I did.

I sprinkled a handful over each layer.

Spread out in the hayloft to finish drying.

So far this is working very well. I'm still turning it twice a day and am amazed at how quickly it's drying out. While it's a disappointment to lose the wheat for our consumption, this is really my favorite way to feed grain to goats. It's truly whole (plant) wheat. If SHTF and I can't buy wheat for flour this winter, we'll eat cornbread!

Meowy's favorite use for hay.

Weather is just one of those things we can't control! But a loss somewhere can be a gain somewhere else. All in all - no complaints.


  1. Looks like you're making the best of a bad situation! I would think the goats would relish salted hay, too.

  2. Just make sure you keep an eye on it's temperature up there, check it all over, put your hand in different areas. Every year in the UK there are lots of barn farms from hay or straw that is stored not fully dry which heats up and spontaneously combusts.
    In the Uk they do harvest Mazie like this, as a feed for cows, but it is normally fermented into silage.

  3. Michelle, apparently salting does increase palatability! Or so say those who do salt their hay. It was a good save though. :)

    Kev, do they salt hay in the UK? I've been turning it twice a day and find that the salt is helping it dry quite quickly. I didn't sprinkle much on, but find that my hands are slightly salty when I'm done. They make corn silage here too, but from what I've read, there's a technique to it.

    1. When you mentioned the salt I assumed that it was suggested by Joel Salatin to do just that. Draw the water out to encourage drying. Sounds as if you are doing great with your unplanned windfall. Are you leaving the barn loft door open to encourage evaporation from air circulation also ?

  4. ah... the trials and tribulations of a farm cat!

  5. Where there's a will, there's a way! Took a little bit of extra work plus ingenuity (!), but as usual, you and Dan made a good save. As Kev said, keep checking it to make sure it doesn't get too hot. We've had to bring in our "green chop" from our little hay field before it was adequately dried and although we kept turning it, it was remarkable how hot it got before we felt it was cured enough. We didn't use salt, though, so that's a good tip for us to remember.

  6. RT, yeah, it's a tough life, LOL

    Mama Pea, I've been turning it twice a day and so far there's been no heat produced. The hay on the bottom is damper but cool to touch. I suspect that's because the salt is a bacterial deterrent as well as drawing moisture quickly out of the grass. Actually, I've been amazed at how quickly it is drying out. Much faster than we've experienced in the field. Of course, I wouldn't use salt in the field because I wouldn't want it leaching into the soil. I have some areas where the soil has too much sodium as it is.

    Jo, most people seem to use table salt, but I really didn't want to add the preservatives. Glad I had canning salt on hand.

  7. Well done saving it, and I think your frequent turning is a very good idea. Will never forget back in Colorado the first time I stuck my hand into a lovely dry-looking bale of hay and it was HOT inside.
    By the way, making a giant tarp bundle is one of the (many) ways I also transport loose hay, although I don't have your lovely super-tarp so I tend to use tarps that are already a bit tattered since dragging them across my stony ground is pretty tough going.
    Keep up the good work, team!

  8. I learn something with every one of your posts, Leigh! I had never heard of salting hay, but it makes perfect sense (and, if Joel said it, well...) If you want to survive this type of lifestyle, you have to be flexible!

  9. Back when I was younger and still living at home, we used to raise quite a bit of wheat every year and every year something or other used to occur that caused the crop to be poor to bad causing my dad to complain to us. One time I asked him why he continued to raise wheat and he told me it was because a good crop would make up for bad ones. I asked him when the last good crop of wheat was and he couldn't remember. After that discussion, we gradually planted less and less wheat and haven't planted any wheat for grain harvest in probably 20 years. Occasionally some gets planted but these days just as a cover crop.

  10. Quinn, I trust Joel but I couldn't not turn it! One thing he points out is that the heating of green hay is more of a problem with bales than loose stacks. That makes sense since bales are usually tightly packed to hold together. Stacks are more "breathable."

    Susan, that's so true about surviving the lifestyle. That's why it pays to be well read! It also helps to have a community of like-minded souls out there to learn from and share with. :)

    Ed, in Laura Ingalls Little House series she mentions that same mindset in both her pa and her husband. Always waiting for the big harvest to settle the score and get ahead. I think it's probably less stressful to simply take things as they come.

    Goatldi, I have to say it's working! Yes, I do leave the hayloft doors open. Plus the relative humidity has been low, which helps a lot.

  11. Wow Leigh! Good catch on that wheat! I did not know about the salt. Could have used that trick at an earlier time in my life. How much salt did you use?

  12. What does it mean when you say "our wheat lodged?" We haven't tried wheat yet. We're going to plant a mix for our chickens this year that includes it though - wheat, oats, barley. I'm sure they'll love it.

  13. Wyomingheart, Joel says (page 207) that they use 25# of salt per ton of hay. I had no clue how to translate that to our harvest, so I just sprinkled a handful on each layer as we got it into the hayloft. It seems to be about the right amount because there's no excess salt falling off but the hay is drying out quickly.

    Ann, good question. Lodged refers to falling down. We've had it happen with both corn and wheat. I don't recall all the reasons why it happens. I should refresh myself on that though, to see if I can prevent it in the future. Your wheat, oats, and barley mixture sounds excellent. Your chickens will love it.

  14. Wonderful save but hard work. Egg custard from cracked eggs.

  15. A wonderful example of life as it happens, not life as everyone think it happens.

    I have never heard of salting hay before (although I should probably buy Salatin's book as I have others of his). Do you remove the salt before feeding it?

  16. Pricket, good to hear from you! It's a huge relief to save it, not to mention learning something useful. Our first years here we lost a lot of hay due to not understanding it. It's likely I'll salt it routinely from now on, because we often have to put the hay up early because of the weather.

    TB, I haven't found a trace of salt when I turn the hay. But my hands are slightly salty when I'm done, so it would seem that the hay absorbed it all. Curious, I know! Thankfully I read Joel's book long before we needed to know this. I think my memory was providentially jogged, so I could duck-duck-go "salting hay" and learn more.

  17. I wonder if wheat could be treated like spelt and in germany. the result is called "gruenkern" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gr%C3%BCnkern(). it has a slightly smokey taste, but is brilliant as a gruel and esp. made into burger style patties. a lot of people, who are not keen on veggie food, like these burgers for their "meaty" taste... I think people first started to treat the grain like this after bad weather periods, so not to loose the harvest!

  18. Bettina, thank you for that! I hadn't heard of it but it sounds like a wonderful way to use immature grains. I'm sure it would work for wheat too.

  19. Leigh, when done with wheat (durum) it's called Freekeh; I recently bought some from Bob's Red Mill but haven't tried it yet.

  20. Michelle, I will definitely look that up! Mine isn't durum wheat, but it would be fun to give it a try. Thanks!

  21. All that infrastructure which took so long to build, is really coming into it's own. Now your system can flow much better. There would have been a time, you might have had to take your chances with the rain, without a place to dry the hay. All that extra feed now, you don't have to buy from the feed store.

  22. Chris, that's so true. Even though I often lament that we didn't know then what we know now, I can't say that the learning curve hasn't been invaluable.

  23. I would never have thought of salting it, but I bet that works!

  24. Rose, I wouldn't have thought to use salt either! And I have to say that it worked very well. I still turned it but it dried out within several days. I will likely salt all of our homegrown hay from now on.


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