cynthia_h
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Growing/Threshing Wheat at Home

So...this year I planted a patch of soil out by the street with wheat and helianthus tuberosus. Only 5 helianthus came up, but most of the wheat did. The bare patch that didn't come up was planted with torpedo (red) onions, which are only now giving me some good onion-leaf cuttings.

This is my best-sun-exposure ground, but since it lies between the street and the sidewalk, I didn't want to plant anything "sexy" that would be picked by passersby, of whom we have a good number! :) So...wheat, onions, etc.

I was successful in this very limited experiment in growing wheat. I planted it on 5-inch spacings (intensive method), with HT randomly interplanted. (Next year, 2-inch spacings for the wheat; too much dirt was unproductive, and I have only 24 + 15 + 20 square feet, or just under 60 sq.ft. of available "land.")

But...how do I separate the wheat grains from their "ears" (awns, bearding)? I've read and read on the 'net about threshing with flails, having animals tread on grain on hard earth, stomping it on concrete, even found plans to convert a leaf/branch chipper into a thresher. However...

I have less than 2 lb (est.) net grain, so a small, hand- or foot-powered method is all I need.

Any ideas as to whether using a marble rolling pin on the grains would help? You know: place the plant heads between two lint-free kitchen towels and mash 'em with the rolling pin? (Bear in mind that I can't do this for very long at one time; carpal tunnel and other tendon problems are always lurking in the background, just waiting for me to get *real involved* in something interesting....)

Other ideas?

Thx.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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applestar
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Our "Little Red Hen" :wink:

I think your marble rolling pin idea would actually smash the grains into grits.... :?

I haven't done this myself, but here are 2 methods described in Earthways -- Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash,

Separate the seed head from the straw and
(1) Wooden Bowl + threshing tools of 2" diameter branches or small round cylindrical wooden blocks -- gently pound the seed head in the bowl
(2) Large clean sheet spread on the floor + 1~2 inch diameter sticks about 2 feet long (this is for 3+ yr olds so for you, it'd be longer) -- rhythmically beat the seed head
... until all the grains are separated from the stalk and the outer seed covering has come off.

Winnow by tossing in a large flat basket or a large round wooden tray with a one-inch lip in a slight breeze
(or, I should think, in a breeze from a fan).

I seem to remember a pretty detailed description in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder books... maybe The Farmer Boy I'll look it up if you like.

:D When you scatter the wheat straws, think of Masanobu Fukuoka :D

cynthia_h
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applestar wrote:Our "Little Red Hen" :wink:

I think your marble rolling pin idea would actually smash the grains into grits.... :?

I haven't done this myself, but here are 2 methods described in Earthways -- Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash,



I seem to remember a pretty detailed description in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder books... maybe The Farmer Boy I'll look it up if you like.

:D When you scatter the wheat straws, think of Masanobu Fukuoka :D
1) Well, kasha IS sort of the wheat equivalent of grits...but, yes, I am looking for a method which will simply separate the wheat "berries" from their hulls and other "packaging."

2) Yes, please; if there's a Laura Ingalls Wilder description, it's probably a low-tech method, so I would appreciate it.

3) I'm torn between simply cutting the wheat straw and leaving it in place (Fukuoka-san's recommendation, as I understand) vs. cutting the straw and placing it in my compost so that it can send vibes to all of my plants. (Did you see my post last night about Fukuoka-san on the One Straw thread?)

Thank you!

Cynthia

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applestar
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Found it! You can actually read the chapter on Google Book Search at
https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=BbBCUdxz7xYC&dq=laura+ingalls+wilder+farmer+boy&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=Vu0-fmk0mK&sig=ieFyWDPEhcSr085ZiYYGBMW4dTg#PPA305,M1

Ooh. I hope this link works. If it doesn't, but you manage to find the book on Google Book Search, the chapter is called "THRESHING" and starts on p. 305. It's a great read. The actual description of the flail is on p. 306 and the flailing and winnowing process is described starting on p. 308.

Hope that helps! :D

oops! Just realized they don't let you read p. 309 and p. 311.
Basically, p. 309 describes how they would stop flailing once in a while to pitchfork the straw out of the way, leaving just the grain, then layer more sheaves of wheat to flail, and occasionally scrape the wheat grain in a pile to the side. To winnow, they used something called the "fanning-mill": "Then Father shoveled wheat into the hopper, while Almanzo turned the fanning-mill's handle. The fans whirred inside the mill, a cloud of chaff flew out its front, and the kernels of clean wheat poured out of its side...." Almanzo is chewing a handful of cleaned raw wheat at the top of p. 310.

cynthia_h
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Wow! I'll take a look at the library tonight for this book. I volunteer there every Monday evening, so this time I'll use a few minutes for myself and see if this book is on the shelves.

Very nice. So maybe a big stick...flails can be deadly, esp. to people like me who aren't the most coordinated in the world! :lol:

But now I have some good ideas! :D

Cynthia

Cynthia B
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Growing Wheat in the garden

Hi Cynthia,

I have grown wheat in my Bay Area gardens and in my kids' school gardens several times. My best method of threshing so far is to place the stalks (a fist-full at a time) of wheat "head first" into a pillowcase and then holding the open end like holding a baseball bat, swing it against a wall or pole. That seems to knock most of the grain into the bottom of the pillowcase, but there are still a few that hang onto the stalks. To winnow, I stand on a chair and pour the grain+chaff into a container that is both deep and wide on the ground on a breezy day. The grain falls into the container and the chaff blows away. I have set up an electric fan when there was no wind. It takes many repetitions. Eventually, I get a bucketful of mostly grain and maybe a bit of chaff. If I need it to be completely free of chaff, I pour it onto a cookie sheet and pick out the chaff by hand. After that, I grind it into flour for bread (my favorite part!).

I hope that helps! Great to hear of others trying this at home!
-Cynthia

cynthia_h
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I like it! A pillowcase would contain the wheat quite well.

I also read the Laura Ingalls Wilder book and got some other low-tech ideas.

The whole idea came from Jeavons' challenge to grow enough wheat to make a loaf of bread. Well, we didn't get there our first time out, but maybe next year, when I change the spacings from 5" to 2"...

Good to have you here, Cynthia B!

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

Cynthia B
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Hi Cynthia,
I took Jeavons 3-day mini-farming workshop about 10 years ago and have been working to improve my skills and share my enthusiasm ever since. I would be interested to hear if the tighter spacing gives a better crop. Good luck!
-Cynthia B

cynthia_h
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Cynthia B wrote:Hi Cynthia,
I took Jeavons 3-day mini-farming workshop about 10 years ago ...
-Cynthia B
OMG. Envy. Envy. Envy.

Health difficulties (cannot stand and do physical work for one day, much less three in a row) make Jeavons' seminars a current impossibility for me. I work outdoors in small bursts and PLAN intensively. I also garden intensively.... :lol:

Would love to hear your insights on this or other threads.

Cynthia

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applestar
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Cynthia B -- ah someone who's done it! Sounds great! Between you two Cynthias, I'm starting to think this just might be do-able! I always thought it'd be too much of a project (and skipped over that page in my book) -- and "grow enough to make a loaf of bread" ? Wow... but maaybeeee... (starting to look around the garden... 8) ) What do you use to grind the wheat? Do you have a stone grinder? (I priced those a couple of years ago, thinking I might just buy wheat grains and grind them with the kids, and they were pretty expensive... I WAS going to get an old fashioned coffee grinder, just for fun, but I keep thinking they are probably not washable and would rust if I tried....)

Cynthia_h -- I hear you. I've been in a similar situation. This is the first year in a long time that I've felt equal to doing "more" (can you tell?) Good luck and hope you have more GOOD days. :D :wink:

Cynthia B
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Wheat Growing

Hi Applestar,
I purchased a hand grinder from Lehmans (www.lehmans.com) several years ago. You can get either stone or cast-iron grinders. I got the cast iron ones and they do rust if you don't keep them oiled, but it is not a big deal. It takes a fair amount of muscle and persistence to grind, say a pound of wheat fine enough for a loaf of bread. And it is a bit messy, but it's rhythmic and kind of peaceful. Like double-digging. Last year I bought an electric grain grinder and it is fast and efficient, but really loud.
-Cynthia

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