Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harvest Time

I looked at my wheat today and noticed that most of the heads were bending down.  So I tested a grain and it was firm and crunchy, and I figured that it was time to harvest.

I figured that harvesting was definitely a two-man job, so Michael obligingly stepped in as my helper to get everything cut and tied.  I was telling him earlier today about needing help with the project, and I sang, "Will you help me harvest my grain?  Will you help me harvest my grain?" Then I said, "See?  You have to help me because if you don't I'll have to sing that song from the Disney cartoon and then you won't get to eat any bread when I'm done."

To which Michael replied, "I'm gonna need to see this cartoon before we go any further."

It turned out that he helped me even without seeing the video, so that was lucky.  Anyway, as we all probably know, the old-timey way of harvesting grain is with a scythe or a sickle, which basically just cut down the stalks and then you lay them together and bind them.  The reason I wanted Michael's help was so that he could do this:

He'd just grab a bunch of stalks and then I used long clippers and just clipped the bottoms of the stalks and we'd do an entire row like that.  Once we had clipped a whole row, Michael would hold all the stalks together while I tied a string around them to make sheaves.  Here's what my handy website says about that:

The next step is to bind the grain into sheaves, each about 12 to 14 inches in circumference — a bunch you can hold comfortably in your hands. Bind the same day you cut the wheat. It’s nice to have two people taking turns cutting and binding. You can bind with cord or baler’s twine or even with some of the wheat stems, twisting them in a way that holds the bundle firm.

So we just bound each row into one sheave and moved on, and the whole harvesting process took about 20 or 25 minutes.  Here's what all of my sheaves looked like when we were done, aren't they pretty?

And here's what my plot looked like when we were through, just a little bit sad:

The next step of the process, curing, sounds easy enough:

Curing the grain. Stack sheaves upright in a well-ventilated, dry location safe from grain-eating animals. Our ancestors stacked sheaves to make shocks in the field, but with small quantities, it’s easy to bring the sheaves in out of the weather. The grain has been cured when it is hard, shatters easily and cannot be dented with your thumbnail.

I have a little work shed in the backyard so I propped my sheaves up in there.  I really don't think they have far to go to get cured and once that's done it's time for threshing and winnowing.  Apart from preparing the plot last fall for the seeds to go in (pulling up weeds, pulling out roots, and digging rows), I'm afraid that threshing will be the most labor intensive part of this process so far.  I have a feeling that I will have to wait until I'm really frustrated and I just want to beat the hell out of something.  Because that's what it's going to take!  So if anyone has an bad news they've been waiting to give me, now's the time. =)

P.S. Now that things are harvested, there are a couple of things that I wish I would have done differently:
1. I wish I had made my rows farther apart.  I think I did them so close together because I had so much seed (and tons left over), and I was trying to get as much in as possible, but it really made weeding difficult.
2. I would lay down a layer of newspaper between each of the rows to discourage weeds from growing between them.  I did consider using some weed killer this year, but I just felt weird about putting down harmful chemicals adjacent to something that was going to potentially grow and possibly feed my baby.  I'm sure that a lot of foods we eat daily are grown in exactly this way, but when the power was in my hands to put those chemicals there or not, I chose not to.


Kylen and Adrienne said...

wow, so awesome! Those sheaves are beautiful. Thanks for taking so many pictures and putting all the details in so I can learn along with you.

Erika said...

I'm officially impressed!!

Hugs from mom said...

This is so exciting!

Ross and Kathy said...

Kathy and I are really interested find out how much wheat flour comes from a wheelbarrow of full of sheaves. And how much sweat it takes to do the job. P.S. I've figured out why I couldn't post or comment on the blogs. Windows Internet Explorer 9 So now I'm using Google Chrome without problems - is anybody surprised?