Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great Wheat Experiment, Part 2

(Read Part 1 here)

I would just like to point out before we get started that my mom is mad at me for growing something that she and all of my sisters can't eat.  Sorry, guys.  But it's the staff of life, baby!  Well, not your life.  But mine.  And lots of other people's.

As I started looking into growing your own wheat, I found that there are two types of wheat, spring wheat and winter wheat.  Winter wheat you plant in the fall and it sprouts, then it lays under the snow during winter and grows back in the spring.  You harvest it in June or July.  You're supposed to plant a few weeks before the ground actually freezes, so by the time I got this crazy notion into my head, it meant it was time to plant already.  Yikes!

So it looks like for every pound of seed that you plant, you get about 8 times that amount when you harvest.  I read one site that suggested starting with a small amount, like 6 pounds of seed.  I called my local IFA store and asked for winter wheat seed.  The guy on the phone said, "Oh, I only have a little bit left.  Just two 50 pound bags."  I laughed and told him it was more than enough.  Apparently, people planting wheat around here do a much larger-scale operation.

I went and bought one of the bags, which cost about $13.  Except that they gave me a discount, because he said the seed was a little older and not every seed would sprout.  So the 50 lb bag cost me about $7.50.  I had the seed.  Check.

The harder part was getting the ground ready.  I had an unused part of my backyard that had been overgrown by weeds, so we had those weed-whacked and then I had to rake the remains out.

I discovered some things about this area of the yard.

1. It used to be a lawn with grass.
2. Grass is hard to pull up.
3. There used to be a massive tree in this area, as evidenced by the large trunk and even larger root system running through where I wanted to plant.
4. Tree roots suck.

A lot of my time was spent pulling out the green bush that you see on the left in the photo.  That's where I found the tree trunk.  Also digging up the clumps of grass was challenging.  I finally got it to this point:

I like to call that thing in the middle there the Giant Root of Death.  It had to go.  I tried making a furrow with it in there, and it was totally uneven.  So I got out the hatchet and chopped, chopped, chopped at it (what I would have given for an axe.  Or a CHAINSAW).  Michael helped me pull it up, and after a sunburn and a few blisters, the ground finally looked like this:

The whole process of clearing this space out was done over a couple of weeks, during Jane's naps, by me, me, and ME.  I felt like the little red hen ("Will no one help me plant my corn?") and kept getting the Disney song stuck in my head while I hacked away at the soil.  Not that I had asked anyone for help.  And Michael did help me with the large roots.  I was also stressed out trying to get the seed in the soil fast enough to give it a chance to grow a little before the ground freezes, and I did the best I could and we'll just have to see what happens next year.

So what about the actual planting?  It sounds like you can just throw the seed out in the area, and then rake it into the soil.  It should be covered by 2 to 2 1/2 inches of soil, and it didn't seem like raking could do that very reliably.  You can also plant it in rows.  One site suggested that you make holes every six inches and put seeds in.  But the IFA Store Guy told me to plant my seed twice as thick as I normally would (hah, normally would?  If I had ever done it before) because the seed was older and not all of them would sprout.  So I decided to go with rows, and instead of spacing things out every six inches, I just laid down a line of seed in each furrow.

Check out ma rows:

And ma wheat:

Like I said, it looks like for every pound you plant, you can harvest up to 8 times that amount in the spring.  But then again the IFA Store Guy told me that not all of my seed would sprout.  Tricky.  Here's how I laid it down:

Looking at it now, it looks pretty dense.  But what do I know?  I'm no farmer.  I'm just some schluck who decided to try planting wheat.  Maybe next spring it'll all crowd and smother each other.  Maybe the grasshoppers will eat half of the stems that come up.  Oh well.  It's my first try and I'm not really stressed about it coming out perfect.  If I had to guess how much went in, I'd say maybe 10-15 lbs.  Will I have 80 lbs of wheat next summer?  We'll just have to see what happens.

What about watering?  Apparently, wheat likes dry weather.  I've read that you water it when you plant it, and then only water again if it's looking parched, even in the spring.  I guess whatever rain it might get is enough?  At any rate, I'm glad that it's in and can start growing.  I'm actually just happy with what I've done so far.  Sometimes life feels like I'm accomplishing nothing.  But it's been really satisfying to look at those photos, before and after, and see that I really did this, and almost completely by myself.  Big pat on the back for me!


Barney Family said...

Wow! You are totally crazy, but I love it!! I can't wait to see what happens in the spring!!!! Too bad I can't be like the other animals in The Little Red Hen and eat the fruit or your labors.

Kylen and Adrienne said...

That is so awesome, Bre! We have buckets of winter wheat that I use to grind and make's awesome! That's so cool that you have a yard that you can do this in! Can't wait to see it in the spring.

Jacque said...

holy cow. you go girl! or hen. or farmer. farmer hen girl!

Ross and Kathy said...

I AM TOTALLY AMAZED! I need to remind myself every now and then that Breanne is the child who DOES EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTS - WHEN SHE WANTS TO. It's always been that way - always will be. BREANNE ROCKS - and not just Jane.

amy jo said...

wow you are my hero