November 2016 Farmer Notes

Farmer Notes

Opening stanza from Robert Frost’s My November Guest :

“My Sorrow, when she’s here with me

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walks the sodden pasture lane.”


The wettest October we’ve seen here in the Valley has now run clear up against Thanksgiving! Snow-line has just begun to touch the foothills, but almost every day the main word has been rain. It is hard to be frustrated with significant rain in a semi-desert climate. That said, I surely was hopeful of getting more fall field work done and harvesting the rest of our crop. Not to be, on either account. I believe the last time we were in a field doing anything was over a month ago.

Mild, too. Hardly a flight of southbound geese and the local ponds we skated across on this date last year all remain wide open. Without a question, our fall planted crops are digging this different type of mountain autumn. Our cereal rye is cranking and winter peas are into their 4th leaf stage. This should give us a hefty nitrogen boost come spring planting. Oh, we should have plenty of moisture, too! However, finches and chickadees and a few buntings remind us winter will actually arrive some day soon. Ahh, Mother never ceases to surprise…

Good news for Bluebird is that the granary has been bustling and I’ve been spending a bountiful amount time running grains, sacking grains, mixing flours and reconnecting with some of you customers. As I’d hoped, the grains are of very good quality and are finishing nicely whether as flour or as whole grain. Nutrient dense kernels give us many more #1 berries from a given lot as our gravity table stratifies the heavies and lights.  As with combining, the heavier the grains, the better “processing” job we realize in the end.

One thing I’m reminded of while cleaning our hulled, ancient grains each day is the way in which we have chosen to extract the the outer hull. Because we run the emmer and einka through an impact huller to do this, our ratio of whole grains to splits is not near as high as if the grain was pearled. Pearling is the process of removing the outer hull or husk, as is traditionally done in Italy, by running the emmer or einkorn over a set of scarifying stones wherein the hull is “skinned” or peeled off instead of fractured off. This method leaves many more of the grain kernels intact. However, during this process some of the actual kernel or “berry” bran is removed as well. As a result, what is left is a “semi-pearled” berry which no longer is a true whole grain. Semi-pearled farro cooks much faster, but also breaks down much faster. Think pearled barely.

From the beginning, Bluebird made the easy decision to only offer true whole grains and whole grain flours. All the goodies we work hard to give the crop during their growth stage we surely want to pass along in the finished product. We feel that by keeping all the trace minerals and proper amino acids within the finished grain, our grains and flours not only deliver more nutrients but, perhaps more importantly, deliver more flavor as well. Many of you seem to agree!

Speaking of taste, yes, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and boy do I love to eat! Fact is, November hosts two of the most significant American holidays in my mind: Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. Both are times to reflect, count our blessings, and gather round. At times I believe Thanksgiving should be once monthly, and not just for the food. We have a great, great deal to be thankful for in this country to be sure. At the same time, there are too many who do not have as much. Please keep this in mind as we kick off the holiday season.

And last:

“Not yesterday I learned to know

The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vein to tell her so,

And they are better for her praise.”

Sit, hold hands, and break bread in peace.  Very best, Farmer Sam