Sunday, August 23, 2009


I really didn’t have a good idea about how to do this step. I had the lovely ears of wheat (ok, maybe not so lovely as they has spots of mold on them) and they were all stuck together with their long awns poking out and their thick husks. I needed to get rid of all that -- get them separated and lose all of that chaff.

I of course, could do it by hand. It’s not that hard. Tear off a kernel from the ear. Squeeze/roll it between your fingers until the husk falls away or the wheat seed falls free. Easy to do, takes forever. Really only feasible when sampling to see if they’re ready to be harvested.

Do I do it the medieval way? Lay it out on a large tarp or clean floor and beat it with a flail? It would work I supposed, but I really only had a small amount. I was very worried about being too violent and loosing some of what I had.

So, with a little hint from our old friend the internet, I compromised. I feel that it has a medieval spirit but is better suited for my small harvest. I took an old pillowcase (a modern concession, it should have been a linen sack or something) and threw the wheat ear into it. My original intention was to beat the bag with a stick, and thus feel like I was threshing properly. But it was immediately apparent as I tried to find a good way to seal the open end of the pillowcase, that the easiest way to do it was to bring the wheat to the stick, rather than the other way around. So, holding the bag closed with hand and wielding it like a blackjack, I beat it against the side of my porch for a few minutes. To excellent effect!

Large pieces of stalk and chaff were easily removed by hand, the grains being heavier they rested at the very bottom of the sack. Once these large pieces were removed I poured what was left into a pan and considered winnowing. I was still worried about losing anything, so I didn’t want to take it outside and throw it into the wind. I also didn’t want to go through the laborious task of doing it by hand.

I eventually came up with the plan to float the chaff off. I filled the pan with water. The light chaff floated tot he top and I scraped it off, leaving fresh, clean wheat kernels at the bottom. After three goes with this to get every last bit I laid the berries out on a towel to dry so that they would not sprout -- no malting yet!

Here it is -- the fruits of almost a year of watching this grow in my little pot:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sooty Mold

Saturday, I harvested my winter wheat. I should have done it two weeks ago as they were hard and ready to be reaped, but I was busy and threw out my back and never quite got around to it.

There was also the problem of how to do it. Do I get a scythe? What else would I cut them with? Do I cut at the top or the bottom of the stalk? How do I winnow and thresh? Etc. I eventually decided to cut them just below the ear of grain with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. Hardly medieval, I know, and surprisingly time consuming.

When I got out there to finally do it though, the tops of the stalks were covered in black spots. I cut them anyway and then went inside to do research about the spots. Here’s a picture of the harvested ears of corn:

Once at the computer, I found a website, The Guide to Wheat Diseases and Pests, which was very good at diagnosing my condition. It is a Black (or Sooty) Mold.

From these two websites: Wheat FAQ (USDA) and Weekly Crop Update it appears that it is not a serious problem and the wheat is still usable.

Now I just have to figure out how to thresh it. It’s not a big deal doing it with my fingers but it would be prohibitively time consuming to do it for a lot of grain. So I’m going to try a few different things this week and see how it goes. I’ll keep the events posted here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Planting Day - 19 Weeks in

How long did the Red Wheat say it needed to grow? Checking back to the Bountiful Harvests website, I see that it says 17-19 weeks.

Well here we are at 19 weeks:

We had a hard rain a few days ago and it bent/knocked over many of the wheat stalks. That probably has something to do with my shallow planting, since my winter wheat were not so affected.

As you can see in the picture, some of the wheat is tan and dry, looking ready to be harvested and some isn’t. How can you tell if it’s ready? Several websites I have read have mentioned a fingernail test: apply pressure to a kernel with your fingernail and if it doesn’t leave a dent in the seed then it is ready to harvest.

Applying that method, some of them are ready and some of them aren’t. Considering what has happened with my winter wheat, I will harvest the ready ones this week and leave the green ones to fully mature.

What happened to my winter wheat? I will explain all tomorrow.