Bluebird Grain Farms

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Rye ready for harvest.

The June rains never came here in the Methow and the almost freakish heat of early June returned for the latter part of the month, continuing right into July when it generally really gets hot! Even the morning birds appeared to disappear as nights barely cooled into the 60’s and days remained either side of 100. Occasionally I’d hear a quail prrr down along the creek as I sipped my early cup and the hummingbirds would zip around early but even they seemed a tad sluggish. Chatty wrens, feisty flycatchers, swallows with their young fledglings went quiet, as if they’d already left for the summer? Then, one morning I spotted 5 young bluebirds lined up on the cross-bar to the kids swing.  Glory be!

So, how do the grains fare in the heat? Fortunately, we have water and given water, they grow! We’ve given them fish, we’ve given them an extra boost of sea minerals and we’ve kept on the water so as to minimize early stress. So far, the early planted crops look pretty good. They’re done filling and we’ve stopped watering them. Now, the earlier fields are actually turning color fast. The later planted fields are just now beginning to boot-out and we’ll have to see if the heat took a toll on their development, or not? To be sure, they’ve grown quickly! What concerns us ultimately, however, is the actual head-fill of kernels and, of course, the quality of those kernels, or “grain berries.”

Our spring cover crops are all turned under for a fallow second half of summer and our winter rye is close to harvest. Likely, there will be about a 3 week wait before we’re onto our spring grain harvest which could be a good 2 weeks early this year. That said, just this week we had a change of weather!  Temps  dropped 20 degrees and in certain parts of the valley, sporadic and true rain showers burst! That fast, there seemed a sudden turn toward fall? The birds began singing again, the wasps quieted and the streams seemed to cool down. I caught myself waxing nostalgic about fall the other evening as I watched a change in light fall upon the dry foothills – almost September light. Ha, I won’t be fooled; we’ve plenty of summer to go.

The best part of this summer so far has been the lack of wildfires in the immediate vicinity. Wildfires are burning and have been destructive elsewhere in the state and definitely up north of the border. With the countryside bone-dry, we all are on alert and hoping that everyone takes precaution to the potential danger and volatility of this region. So far, Mother Nature has spared us any violent storms here, and for that we’re grateful and hope weather continues to be mostly quiet.

Granary orders flow in even during the wicked heat.  As tough as working in the heat is, everyone steps up and doesn’t seem to miss a beat. We continue to make some improvements in our milling line, thanks to Brad and Hanz, and ultimately are becoming more and  more efficient. Thanks, guys! Grains are awfully good eating in the summer, too and though I’ve only made my favorite trout rolled and fried in the farro porridge once, I intend to enjoy another round soon. The Labs sure don’t mind the odd fishing excersion, and seem more than willing to lie in the water while I “flick a fly…

In next month’s notes and I’ll hopefully be reporting more earnestly on the up-coming harvest. Meanwhile, we’re still growing out a lot of our crop and look forward to the slightly cooler, stable weather. Ahh, yes, finally I’ve begun to see the deer fawns – seemingly late this year when everything else is early? I’m unclear as to what this means? Also, the blue grouse are hatching out a second clutch. For some reason, their first did not survive well at all and this with a dry, mild spring?  Nature always keeps one guessing.

I hope this finds you all enjoying the summer and long light and you are staying cool!  We will be taking our annual trip back to my homeland – New Hampshire – while the crops cure for harvest. Looking forward to the trip and, of course, the return. Until then,

Yours, Farmer Sam

Methow Hard Red Wheat forming its seed head.
Field of Methow Hard Red Wheat