Wheat, the good the bad and the ugly

Wheat. We see a lot of it and talk about it all the time. Its been around awhile, like corn it doesn’t even vaguely resemble what it started out as, both grains became empire builders and now both grains it could be argued are no longer really good at all for the human domesticator.  It’s not a stretch to say that without processing both corn and wheat aren’t terribly digestible. When we say farmers are feeding the world I think the image that comes to mind is probably wheat and corn.  I see lambs and vegetables but that’s just me. I digress. I think, and this is just me and my own thoughts here, a theory, not based on any actual fact. I feel like the reason wheat and corn are so bad now, both for us and the environment  even our soul,  I think its because we lost track of our connection to the plants themselves, to the soil they grow in and to the food chain they become a part of. We and this is with a broad brush I am saying this, are out of touch. No I am hoping that this wheat that we are raising is walking the clock back.  I am hoping we can get back in touch with wheat, grains in general as a staple and as a integral part of our biodynamic farm. Plus we have this combine just sitting around.

Our first experiment with wheat was entertaining. Successful on all counts, this isnt a story of disappointment. Hilarious notion number one, I wasnt sure I could get wheat to grow in our field. I mean why would something that volunteers itself in ditches and straw bales ever grow for me if it was actually seeded in the field. Farmer insecurity I guess. The whole action of planting a seed implies hope right? Here I was drilling a whole field and having doubts. The crops previous to the wheat had been disasters, but they served as cover crops and soil builders. In hindsight I wish I would have seeded some low growing clover as a nurse crop for the fall wheat. The Fall Wheat, a fancy patented seed I bought from the local seed plant, developed by WSU. The variety was bred to be drought resistant as well as rust resistant. It came up right away, if it comes up in a combine header after a rainstorm then I guess you can bet that with good seed to soil contact its going to sprout. It was a great stand of wheat too. I would go toe to toe, take the Pepsi Challenge with both of my neighbors, if we were to walk across field lines other than a plow ridge you wouldnt know which field was organic and which was conventional….minus the treated seed, the one thing all three fields would have in common. Our field was just as clean, if not more so and our wheat was just as robust. I’m getting ahead of myself, we still had to harvest the wheat. I thought I would cut the field with a scythe, figured it would take four days. Yeah, four days for the romance to wear off. We got about halfway through the feild and the wheat was in socks and it looked old timey and cool but it wasnt threshed, it wasnt out of the feild. At this point I was still willing to cut it by hand but it was proving difficult to find a small scale thresher. It was either the size of a garage or it was some sort of hand powered Mother Earth News thing. Then I saw the combine on Craigs List. For a song too. I thought it was probably a typo, but I responded anyway and it wasnt a typo. I just had to drive it home. Roading a combine is not my favorite thing. We did it. Its a lovely old combine that is very simple to work on and the best part of all, it was working when we purchased it, it didnt get pulled out of a fencerow. It was really really good timing.

“Sail on Silver Girl…”

It took longer to service the combine than it did to finish cutting the cut the field, the old Silver Girl grumbled a bit when I started running the shocked wheat through but it only plugged the header once.

heirloom landrace wheat seed plot

now that we know we can do it and we have the equipment for it all we need is the seed. We started out with a few seed packets from a now defunct seed saver group. from there we grew our first test plot and every year the test plot has gotten bigger. In the mean time the field is in lush alfalfa charging up for our wheat project.

Will It turn out? I think it will, time will tell.

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