As the aspen turn gold and the robins re-gather and the first flights of southbound geese murmur overhead during the night, another farming season, too, draws to close. We’ve completed harvest, applied our straw digesters and sowed winter peas as our winter cover crop. Fall tillage is what is left for us to do. This includes disking in the grain stubble, some cultivation on our summer cover crop fields, and to a lesser degree, a little plowing.
As I’ve likely mentioned here before, autumn is my favorite and also the time when I enjoy field work most. Finally, there is time for some reflection as the pace has slowed and the list of should-have-done- yesterdays fades. Fall tillage is just as important as any of our other steps, and it can snow for good here early, but this aside and just as important is the time to summarize ones actions of past, so as to set the future’s stage.
Truth to tell, I’m at a loss to summarize this past farming season. The one constant seems to be all of your positive feedback and steady flow of orders for Bluebird goods. If I were to choose one constant, that would be at the top of the list! As well as the consistency of our employees. Regarding our crops, we’ve had a wide spectrum of results. Given the adversity of weather we experienced during the second part of the summer, following a mild but dry beginning, this isn’t at all surprising.
I mentioned in the previous blog that hail had hit us and actually hit one of our emmer fields twice. This has presented us issues not in just out-right yield loss, but has created processing challenges as well. In some cases, the actual grain kernels themselves have been compromised, giving us a harder time separating the whole grain from the splits. The nutritional quality is actually very high. This is common in hard grains. when severely stressed they actually cycle faster and bring up soil nutrients faster than normal. So, we’ve got very nutritious emmer grain and flour, but twice the work in getting there!
Meanwhile, our hard wheat seem to have fared better as they were in a different location and a different growth stages. Our hard white wheat did particularly well, as did our einka! This is a big one, as we only had one field of our einka and it came off the best crop we’ve grown of this sort in the short time we’ve been growing it. The einka, too, only saw hail once and it was a younger, less susceptible plant.
The einka really grows and matures quite differently than the other grains. We spring- plant it just like our other spring grains, and usually it is up in-row within a week, like our other grains but then it seems to fade. In fact, it doesn’t seem to grow much at all for the first month or more after it is up. I’ve decided this is true because the plant is so wild it is as close to a true grass as any cultivated grain, including the emmer. And most grasses spend their early development building their root systems, and thus spend energy going down, not up. Once the heat of July hits, the einka takes off. I mean it will grows like July corn! I haven’t heard it grow at night yet, but I have seen it grow 2 feet in two weeks time.
When the einka harvest finally came round, our last crop to harvest, the plants were 4 feet tall and beginning to blacken as is natural with this strain. It was late September, and a lovely, mild sunny September it was! The einka harvested beautifully. And for all the stress, the success and many failures that this summer conjured up for ALL of us here in the Methow, finishing harvest on a good note with the oldest of grain gave me renewed hope! Amen.
We just received our first October rain and cool air after an amazingly mild beginning to fall. It smells, feels and looks wonderful. Get out there and enjoy this lovely time to be on the land. The close of even this summer smacks of melancholy as animals and birds busy themselves “stocking up” and heading out. Alas, another curve of the cycle comes round…
Yours, Farmer Sam