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Report from a DIY local wheat harvest

On Saturday, while the news was full of stories about a collapsing financial system and possible Greater Depression on the way, some of us spent the day out in a field harvesting wheat by hand. Our methodology was ad hoc and primitive; the harvest of "spikelets" -- the heads of the wheat containing the wheat berries -- was substantial. Much attention has been given over to growing vegetables and scoring fruit in the city, and many creative approaches tried out; yet those foodstuffs comprise only a small percentage of the typical human diet, which is heavy on grains augmented with proteins (the majority of it vegetarian). The less-than-an-acre plot we harvested on Saturday is part of one attempt to address this issue. Help is still needed winnowing, and wheat will be shared with those who put in time.
Wheat spikelets on plants
Wheat spikelets on plants
Folks in the wheat field
Folks in the wheat field
Harvested spikelets in bin
Harvested spikelets in bin
Big ass spider living in the field; body is an inch long!
Big ass spider living in the field; body is an inch long!
Winnowing wheat with buckets and fan
Winnowing wheat with buckets and fan
Winnowed wheatberries
Winnowed wheatberries
Grain grinder making flour (with rotating stones)
Grain grinder making flour (with rotating stones)
Quinoa maturing in field in Milawaukie (poor cell phone cam shot)
Quinoa maturing in field in Milawaukie (poor cell phone cam shot)
The wheat field was about 2/3 of an acre and located outside Carver, a so-small-you'll-miss-it-if-you-blink hamlet on 224, out Estacada way. We had leased the land from its nominal owner for the year to attempt to grow some staple crops. As it turned out, the previous farmer had sown wheat for an over-winter cover crop so when it came up, we left it. As the year went on it got taller and produced big fat spikelets. Last week, we got a call from the folks living there that the wheat was ready and did we want it. Looking at the weather, I saw that if we wanted it we needed to get it soon as rains were on the way. Sure enough, today's downpours showed that we got it with perfect timing; that is to say, just this side of too late!

I put the word out among folks who are involved with the CSA I farm for, and among the permaculture crowd round these parts, and to other people I know. Over the course of the day, two dozen people helped. We pulled the spikelets off by hand into bins, then transferred them into huge Stumptown coffee bags for transport. Adding to 13 bags worth collected the previous Tuesday on a test-run, we got nearly three dozen more!

Winnowing has so far occured by spreading the spikelets out between tarps and stomping and "doing-the-twist" on them. This breaks the berries out of the spikelets and removes their inedible hulls. This step could stand to be improved somehow with a simple machine, or maybe by renting a steam roller! We're looking to find better ways. The next step -- cleaning -- has gone well. We have just been pouring the wheat/chaff mixture from bucket to bucket in front of an electric fan. (The right wind would also work for this.) The chaff blows off while the wheat berries fall straight down into the bucket.

We have taken some of these berries, ground them into flour, and made bread and pancakes with them. DEE-LISH!

Now, we've got thirty some bags of spikelets still, under plastic under a big fir tree at a house in the Hawthorne neighborhood and we are seeking more help with the winnowing. We will have berries and flour on site to take home for people if they want something then, basically just to taste or play around with. We will also be disbursing the harvest based on number-of-hours-worked, once we have a total cleaned amount and can do the math for dividing it up.

This whole thing is happening as part of "The Staple Crops Project", more details of which can be found here:
 http://www.trashfactory.net/sunrootgardens/html/carver.html

If you are interested, give me a ring at the number found on that web page, or drop me an email: kollibri (AT) riseup (DOT) net

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COMING UP: QUINOA HARVEST IN MILWAUKIE
(the one south of Sellwood, not in Wisconsin!)

Looks like the quinoa will be ready to pick in a week or ten days, too! That project will be a little smaller, as it is merely ten 300-foot rows. Also requires harvesting, winnowing, etc., and will be disbursed like the wheat, dependent on hours contributed.