Monday, June 20, 2011

Tis the Year of the Grains!

July 21, 2010

We're experimenting this year with deliberately growing our own small grains.  Here's last years buckwheat, grown as a cover crop which was very quick to 'freely self-sow".  If you are growing it for a summer cover and nitrogen 'fixer' crop,  chop it when it blooms or you'll be raising buckwheat  everywhere.  But it is  nice to know that one can get a crop of whole grains really quick; "they say" 80 days, but we think it happened quicker.  Buckwheat is hard to process for flour, so we'll not be growing for the grain.   We've also had some volunteer oats (from not thoroughly composted manure) that actually produced! 

On to this year and more easily edible crops!

I planted organic wheat (hard red wheat, unknown variety from my bulk purchase bucket ) in a bed along the side of the house back in October of 2010.  The wheat 'grass' kept nice and green and fairly short until the weather warmed up this year.  And of course, I can't find the picture of that, but here's June 8, ready for harvesting!  
The majority of the heads are 'nodding', heavy with seed.  The wheat did "lodge' (fall/got pushed over) a couple of times during the winter/spring storms.  The Garden Master even practiced his scything on it once after it lodged, but it came back!  Apparently, farmers can allow cattle to graze the wheat one time and still have a harvest. 

Here's another view and a lesson in microclimates.
The wheat is growing on the south side of the house.  Can you see how golden the wheat closest to the reflected heat of the house is?  The wheat on the outside is just that tiny bit cooler and is ripening a bit slower.  Take advantage of microclimates in your space.  Look around at your space, growing lettuce in the shade would be welcome in this heat wave.

Sorghum grain went in the front yard since I think it makes an interesting specimen.  We chose an heirloom Mennonite variety good for both cane syrup and seed grain.

Agriculture Marketing Resource Center
I'm looking forward to trying the grain as a pancake flour, if it makes....and testing the cane for 'sweetness'.  I've often read of folks enjoying it as a fall treat.  I LOVE sorghum syrup from Sand Mountain, so I'll leave the sorghum pressing to the mules, since it's not an easy process for micro homesteads.

Seeds of Change
Along the side of the house, we've created a new row/bed outside the bed that now has wheat (to be followed by winter squash shortly).   We chose Golden Amaranth for a drought tolerant grain which can be "ground, sprouted, popped or used as hot cereal".  As it grows, we hope the squash twining around it's stalks won't bother it, rather like corn.  It is up and growing, so we'll see what we have in about 70 days!

             We really like oatmeal more than other hot grain cereals.  "Real" oats are hard to process, especially at home, so we're going for the newer "hulless" variety Pennuda.  Even the hulless varieties are harder to thresh than other grains, but we're going to try it.  Maybe some friend's chickens will get lucky if we can't eat it!  These will have to wait til later in the year to be sown as they prefer cool weather, not soil temps over 90 degrees.

Here's a couple of resources you might look into... we'd love to hear of anything you've found helpful!
Alabama Extension pamphlet on small grains.  They have a lot of specialized information on grains, aimed for the commercial grower, but this gives a nice overview.


  1. You might want to check with "Straight To Ale" brewery, they have a couple of REALLY nice grain mills that they might be willing to let you process your small harvest with.

  2. Thank-you for sharing your 'experiments' with us Lee!
    You sure are an inspiration...
    Want some chicken 'droppings'?
    Give me a holler!

  3. great idea acedrew, thanks!
    I may grab some Leela, droppings make great compost "heaters"