Friday, July 31, 2020

wheat from our garden

A long delayed post:

To start, I am terrible at photo documentation of progress here. Didn't get any shots of the wheat before harvest, or the piles of wheat in racks, drying before threshing.

In fall of 2018, we planted red winter wheat in a section of our garden. I checked on planting densities, weighed out the portion required, and then hand sowed it as best I could.

The stand turned out quite well, crowding out weeds, healthy all through the summer, and dried well, no disease or lodging.

What did not turn out so well was the scything. I had taken an intro class on scything two years ago, but failed to put in the hours to refine my technique. I also studied various simple cradle attachments that others had come up with, and picked a simple one to do.

This fellow's technique and attention to detail on his cradle is worth viewing, and I may try this same design again, just doing it better.

I ended lip using a sickle to harvest about half of the wheat since I was making such a mess of the scything. Using a sickle is slower, and you have to bend over a lot, but wasn't that bad for the small area I was working with. Would't want to feed the village that way......

Getting the fanning mill screens and settings right was tough, and the thresher I made following another concept found on line did not work as well as I had hoped.

Nevertheless, I did end up with a nice quantity of grain, it just still has a bit of retained hulls I need to remove. I have two five gallon buckets (roughly 30 kilograms) of wheat berries, and will grind as needed.

So, this year I decided to give oats a try. Things got worse.

Winter wheat at my latitude is planted in the fall in prepared soil, sprouts and grows a while (timing of sowing is important) and goes dormant in winter. In spring, it restarts, getting a good jump on many of the typical warmth loving weeds. A good stand will crowd out weeds, and make it easier to harvest.

Oats do not overwinter, and are planted in the spring. My hand sowing is not perfect, and the oats did not get a head start on the weeds, so the stand was spotty and had lots of weeds. Luckily, I planted a much smaller area, so the loss was not as bad. I also chose a hull less variety, so maybe it is not as vigorous? I don't know.

But......I finally took more photos.

Here is the thresher I built. When the lid is closed, the shaft spins the wooden beaters, and grain is fed in through the little windows one handful at a time. I also built a bike powered attachment, but then you need two people to thresh, and it gets TIRING.

Here is where I "borrowed" this idea.

Here are some to the oats, bound and dried.

Traditionally, grains are stacked in shocks, and left in the field to finish drying. Stacking properly is a fiddly thing, and I did not have that much, so I put mine on racks and sun dried out next to the barn. If rain was forecast, I moved back in the barn till sun returned.

I found that the hulless oats were generally hulless, but again, a percentage did not release from their outer husks, so I have some more processing to tinker with.

In general, I have been making our farm into a perennial based food system, but boy I sure like grains. I also like the long term storage properties of grain. These will continue to be small, side ventures, I'm trying barley next.


  1. Hi Steve,

    Respect! And the threshing machine looks great. Out of interest how large an area did you plant to wheat?



    1. Hi Chris;
      I planted ~1500 square ft/140 sq. meters. My post was lacking in thoroughness. I should also mention that my harvest losses were in the range of 20% because of my scything troubles.

      But I learned, and will do better next time.

      The thresher also needs refinement, and I might even try other designs, though I've searched the internet quite a bit for small scale techniques, and they all have shortcomings.