Bluebird Grain Farms

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Left: Methow Hard Red Wheat, Right: Wa Heritage Rye

Well, it hasn’t been a quiet month at Bluebird Grain Farms where birdsong greets us each morning, the extended high pressure rolls on with lots of sun, temps in the 70’s, mostly calm days but where the wind right now blows above average. Afternoon gusts from the north rattle windows, toss the aspen trees about, and remind us to take stock in the calm days! Many a robin, oriole, flycatcher have nested in these trees. How their nests survive these waves of wind always amazes me. Are there just eggs within? Or babes? Just a week ago Mariah and I were biking up the road and saw a Mumma mallard in one of the potholes leading forth what had to have been brand new chicks – a clutch of a dozen or more. How fast Nature works!

The wind serves to dry out what is already dry as well. To date, we’ve received less than a half-inch of rain since April 1. The good news is, we do have a fair bit of groundwater and a decent snowpack continuing to melt. Irrigation water should be sufficient enough to help raise solid crops. We are fortunate indeed to be in the shadow of the North Cascades. That said, I never like to rely on irrigation to germinate a crop. This, for a variety of reasons.

First, one often gets a more even stand when seeds germinate and sprout up on their own. Also, if the plants have to fend for themselves a bit, they will develop stronger and deeper root systems than if watered right off.  Unpampered plants will be more resilient and particularly if we get any real heat when they are young. Weed pressure will be more intense if the soil is watered to start off as well. Most annual weeds germinate on the top half-inch of soil. I plant grain at least a couple of inches deep most years. This year I’m hoping to have hit moisture even at that depth. We will soon know. Thus, if the surface soil is dry while the grain seed is tucked neatly into moist soil, the grain will push up but no weeds will germinate. This allows for the crop to get a running start without competition.  

Yes, as promised, I’ve planted our spring grains! And without irrigation. Meanwhile, I have used our irrigation on the winter rye and winter wheat crop. These crops are cranking under sunny skies that aren’t too hot yet, and as their thickening leaves branch, this helps to protect the soil from losing the added moisture too fast.  However, as I rule, I try not to irrigate in heavy winds like today.

Most of the prairie is in severe drought following an open winter and no spring rain at all. This will affect many commodity supply lines, and we hope that our farming colleagues in those parts get moisture soon and soon may not even be in time. To date, a lot of farm ground remains unplanted.

We’ve had an uptick in orders at the granary here this month, both in whole grains and in flour. This is due in part, I suspect,  to the reopening of some restaurants and bakery customers. We are delighted to see familiar customers back up and operating on whatever level that they feel comfortable with. It has been such a journey. We sure hope we can continue to climb out of the pandemic problems and have a more normalized summer… whatever that “new normal” ends up being.

Many businesses have a new struggle as the pandemic wears on, and may or may not be fading: Labor. Many businesses can not find enough employees for whatever reasons – of which there are many. This makes us ever the more grateful to have a solid crew here at Bluebird. Small, but diligent. We look to these fine folks to accompany us to our new facility!

As the balsamroot and lupine begin to fade on the hillsides, the bitterroot is beginning to blossom. Such a delicate, lovely little ground gem. And something that grows on nothing but rock so it appears. Alas, lots of minerals in the rocks. Also, this is the time of year when I notice scads of caterpillars on my hillside walks.

Congratulations to all graduates, both college and in high school. And, here is to nice June rains – a month we can often count on some for moisture. Indeed, the sweet month of June is upcoming.  

Yours, Farmer Sam