Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wheat Harvest

Thanks to a former nutrition student of mine, Johnny and I decided to try growing wheat three years ago.  This summer's harvest came in early - in late May, ripening surprisingly quickly. 
We put wheat and/or field peas in as a cover crop on our acre crop field each fall.  We till this in early in the spring, leaving a small plot of wheat to ripen.  This plot is only about 18' x 180', so just over 3000 square feet.  The past two years this plot was about half wheat and half weeds, yielding a pickup truck load of wheat.  This year our plot was weed free, and we got 3 pickup truck loads!   We hoped to invite some folks out to help, but our hand sickles didn't arrive in time.  Luckily, we had some die-hard friends who had their own hand tools and showed up at our place at 7am to cut and bundle the wheat - many thanks to Russel, Terri, Dave, Stan and Amy!
We let Dave drive home with his truck full, and kept two pickup loads for ourselves.  This should provide enough wheat berries and thus flour to bake a loaf of bread twice per week. 
We thresh on a weekly, as-need basis.  This is the most time consuming part.  This year, with everyone's help, the harvest only took about 3 hours, but threshing and winnowing (to separate the wheat berries from the hull) takes a while.  We store the wheat on our screen porch, and grind it in small batches in a coffee grinder.  Dave has already made whole wheat biscuits for his family, and his daughters enjoyed them.  We were lucky to find this year's wheat resulted in a finer, lighter flour and is easier to thresh than other years.  Thanks farmers' coop!  We gain greater food sovereignty each year as we expand our farming operation, but I still find that wheat products are what I purchase at the grocery most often.  The favorite dish of the elders where I work of cornbread, beans, and greens with a side of buttermilk is starting to make a whole lot of sense to me.  This meal is nutritionally complete, consists of crops that are either easy to grow in drought and cold, or easy to preserve without refrigeration, and inexpensive if you did have to purchase these foods.  Fortunately, they are delicious too! 

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