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July 21, 2011 / 74

The Empress Hath Decreed…

When I put the question to her, The Empress (aka “The BOSS!”), declared “Wheat!”

The question was, “At the rate I’m going, it is going to rain before I get all the grain harvested. So… should I keep going on the rye, which is about 1/2 done, or should I switch over to the wheat?”

And with a classic Empirical one word decree, she declared “Wheat.”

So today I switched over. I cleaned out the pickup truck, swept out all the rye seeds and detritus, and re-installed the tarps in preparation.

It was a beautiful morning! Temp about 80F, nice strong breeze for winnowing, and some cloud cover. Having given some thought to the process, I determined to do the wheat differently than I was doing the rye. With the rye, it was fairly clean of weeds. The wheat is nearly 50% or more of clovers and weeds. So if I scythed the wheat, I’d spend the next 6 years sorting out the weeds.

While I was doing the rye, at the end of a row of scything stood the wheat, and it prevented the last pass or two from laying out, and so the mowed straw just curved around and kind of wadded up. This prevented me from mowing all the way to the end of the row. When I grabbed a hand full of this row-end rye straw and pulled, it just came up in my hand – it was very shallow rooted. So knowing a blessing when I see one, I had been grabbing hand fulls of that and just cutting the dirt clumps off the bottoms with a pair of scissors and *poof* the straw was “faced” with all the grain on the same end which makes it easier to thresh. I didn’t have to bend down under weeds to get the rye, because it wasn’t weedy at all. I could just grab clumps

So I decided to just apply that method to the wheat. Because of the weeds, I had to bend down low, under the weed leaves, where I could see base of the straw clumps. Then I’d grab them and uproot them, and just pull them out of the weeds! It’s working pretty slick – even though it takes more time than the rye. But if I’d cut it, it would have taken even MORE time.

Now, if I had a mowing/threshing machine, all I’d have had to do was to raise the mowing bar and take the heads off the wheat, leaving the straw and weeds, get the grain out and unloaded, then go back over it for the weeds and straw. With that many weeds in it, the straw is going to be bedding straw anyway. I’m thinking that if it looks like rain on the way, I may get the chipper/shredder out and feed the rye into it, put the result into plastic yard bags, and use it for chicken bedding in the winter. And I’m thinking that had I seeded the patches at 5# instead of 2#, the weeds would have been much thinner… ya think? ;-D

And my old hens are pretty happy today. I took them some fresh wheat straw with gleanings attached. They took a while to figure out there was candy in the straw, but once they figured it out, they were rootin’ and scratchin’! And the egg box they use got a new bed of straw too.

Raising and harvesting the grain is a neat-o thing – but it has come at a cost. It is taking nearly ALL of my time – which leaves NO time for hoeing and weeding the rest of the garden. The joint grass has taken over the beans, and I haven’t even had time to water things. So when you’re gardening, remember – there are always trade-offs.

Well… getting about time to head back out.

“I’ve been workin’ in the wheat field, all the live long day…”

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