Friday, April 16, 2010

Planting Day -- 2 Weeks later

Two weeks and a lot of days of scattered showers and sunbreaks, I have remarkable results in the wheat fields:

All of that green there is my new wheat, roughly in the rows I made. I had thought that the raking I did to cover the rows had horribly upset them and dragged them around, but obviously not.

In other news, my parents are visiting this week and I told them I'd break open the cheddar cheese I made last October. I'll post a full report of that after we do it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Here are those pictures I promised.

The field with the border:

You can see the footpaths in the dirt in that one.

And here's a closeup of some of the seeds on the surface that have started to sprout:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Planting Day, March 27th 2010

After I last posted about my double digging being done, I went out to the hardware store and bought some 2x6s and built a little frame around the garden. I figured having a real border would help me know where (and where not) to weed and would keep me from straying into the wheat with the lawn mower. They went in without major issue, although my border lines were not very straight and needed to be trimmed up a bit.

My next free day, Saturday the 27th of March, I got ready for planting. My Hard Red Spring Wheat had arrived from Howe Seeds and I was ready. I started off by leveling the plot a bit. In my double digging there were sections that were higher and lower than others. I’m not sure what caused it exactly, but I used my birthday hoe (thanks Layla!) and got it fairly level. There were quite a few weeds too, but they were easy to pull up with the use of the hoe.

That also loosened up the top layer of the soil and made it easy to make little furrows. I wasn’t sure exactly how to make them, and wound up just using an old piece of scrap 1x4 fencing and dragging it along the soil. I tried to space them about 3-4” apart, but it was pretty hard to control the board. I also marked out for myself where the walkways through the plot would be, so that I could reach everywhere with the hoe at least, while still using as much of the area as possible.

Then I distributed the seed. I really had no idea how heavy to lay it on, so I just did it until it looked good. I tried to get most of the seed in the furrows, but especially where they had strayed apart from each other, I threw the seeds down where ever. I did it by hand, just taking large pinches of the grain and throwing them where I wanted them to go, often parallel with the furrows. By the time I had spread 5 cups, I still had a bit that I hadn’t covered yet, so in the end I used about 6 cups (which worked out to about 3.5 lbs.).

The last step was to rake. I pulled dirt into the furrows and generally spread things out. A lot of the seeds ended up on the surface, which disappointed me. I finished it off with a spray from the hose and called it a day.

I'll post pictures in a few days . . .

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Realizations from the reading

So I’ve been reading the two books I mentioned last time. Grow Your Own Grains is not much of a book, it’s a self-described white paper. But it has some very useful information, especially the large table in the back that lists the properties of some 20 or so different grains, including planting times, growing times, how much to plant, yields, and that sort of thing.

One of the interesting things I got out of that was that it suggested planting 6 1/3 Tablespoons of wheat per 100 square feet of garden space. At first consideration, that didn’t seem too bad. Tablespoons are pretty small, right?

Small Scale Grain Raising is a pretty neat book too, although it’s a bit . . . larger scale than I thought it would be. It’s written by a farmer with a great deal of experience doing commercial farming. It gives good advice, but to find it you have to read around all of the instructions about how to use tractors, combines, seed drills and the like. The book is written very casually and has a very unintimidating style (except when talking about big machines). It’s full of anecdotes and asides, as well as recipes for the produce of the various crops.

It too, makes recommendations for broadcasting wheat seeds -- 1-2 bushels per acre. That requires a little math.

  • There are 43,560 square feet in an acre
  • There are 2,383 tablespoons in a bushel (isn’t the internet wonderful?)
  • So, 2 bushels is 4766 T over 43,560 sq. ft is 10.95 T per 100 square feet.

Well, that’s in the same neighborhood, 5.5 T to 11 T. But I started thinking: Especially if I err on the high side and plant 11 T per 100 sq. ft, I’m going to plant 750 sq. feet, which would be 82.5 T . . . which is . . . just over 5 cups. (Who would have thought there was this much math in agriculture?)

Hmm. My harvest from last year was only 5.5 oz. Did I even have 5 cups? So I went and measured -- it was only 7 Tablespoons.

This was a huge surprise. So I had planted 115 sq. feet and only gotten 7 T? But, I knew I had harvested much more than I had planted. But I had only harvested as much as I should have planted. That meant that I didn’t plant nearly enough last spring.

As you can read here, I planted 2 little envelopes of spring wheat in 2009. The package said that it was more than enough for that amount of space . . . if you started them inside and transplanted them when they were 5” tall. Oh. At the time I hadn’t thought it would really matter, but obviously it does.

So I didn’t have enough seed. I needed more and I wanted it fast, because I was nearly done with my stupid, @#$% double digging. After trying and failing at two local coops, I found Howe Seeds online and ordered 6 lbs. of Spring Wheat. I paid by Paypal and they shipped within 12 hours.