Monday, August 18, 2008

Bringing in the Sheaves

Oh, what a lovely morning! Our friends, Dave and Joanie, invited us to see their wheat field and to watch them harvest the wheat with a scythe. I couldn't pass up the offer.

Growing wheat

They've got 900 square feet of three different kinds of organic wheat. Dave thinks they'll harvest about a bushel of wheat berries. Joanie told me they started with a no-till system, first covering a patch of the field with 2 inches of leaf mulch, then Kraft brown paper, and then another 6 inches of leaf mulch. Then they seeded the wheat right in the new garden. It seemed like a manageable size. I don't think I ever realized that you could just grow a small amount of wheat like this.

Harvesting the wheat with a scythe

Of course, part of the reason that growing a very small amount of wheat is so unusual is that people think you need to have huge machinery for harvesting. To solve that issue, Dave uses a scythe. It looks like it came straight out of a Halloween costume store, except it's real. It has a big wooden handle on one side and when he got going you could tell there was a clear rhythm to it. He has a whet stone in a holster in his pocket because the scythe must be sharpened every few minutes. He was done cutting the wheat in less than an hour, and would've gone even faster if we hadn't been chatting and experimenting and thinking about how to separate the wheat from the weeds (not the chaff, that comes later).

Wheat ready to be dried and then threshed

We ended up separating most of it by hand. It was time-consuming, but it's amazing how a job divided between friends can get done so quickly and happily. And watching the pile of golden wheat grow at our sides was downright intoxicating. It was really beautiful. I felt really inspired. Perhaps we'll grow some winter wheat this fall ourselves. I love the idea of the no-till garden. And the thought of making bread from our own wheat is really enticing. It felt just like the first time I spun wool... that delicious feeling of going back to the source and doing it all yourself without relying on any external power.


  1. I love these pics Liz - and the thought and musing behind them is right on. Back to the source. MMm and fresh bread!

  2. Kim, it was so cool. I can't wait to go back and do the threshing. And taste the bread...


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