Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Go Against the Grain with me!

Homemade bread is a staple at this farm. It is as naturalized in my environment as other native kitchen species like dark roast coffee, raw milk, and freezer chickens. My bread machine is pretty basic, just my two hands and the will to knead. My supplies are a bowl, a large spoon, and a few choice ingredients. Together this human animal and her learned skill has made this farmhouse smell like heaven and nourished my body and soul. I'm pro carbs around here. As the saying goes, happiness weighs more.

And yet, I recently decided I wanted to add another level to this love affair. I want to grow my own wheat right here in my own garden. Not a lot, not amber waves, maybe an amber raised bed? And not only do I want to grow it. I want to harvest it, mill my own flour, and make a broom from my own straw. I understand that we live in a time when bread is just a few dollars a loaf, waiting for us in plastic wrap at the grocery store. But I also understand how many preservatives, chemicals, diesel, and dangers go into something so wholesome produced so commercially. I want to go against the grain (pun intended, with gusto) and make this basic food from the ground up, something few people do. It'll be a lot more work, but a lot more rewarding. I'm certain of that

I want to do this, and I want to do it with you.
Keep reading, this is about to get real, people.

I want to make my first grain harvest OUR first grain harvest. I want to share in the journey from seed to bread together, as a community all over North America and beyond. I want to learn right along side you, with all of you there to get dirty, laugh, and support me along the way.

So here is the plan: We will plant in the spring, basic wheat, spelt, or whatever grain you prefer and follow our progress through next year's growing season. Then, at the very beginning of next August we will all gather with some of our dried wheat (stalks, head, and all) here at Cold Antler and learn the ancient skills associated with these humble grains together. We'll mill our own flour, of course, but we'll also learn to use the straw for crafts like broom making or hat weaving. It'll be a day of celebration and harvest, stories shared here in the farmhouse of our adventures "bringing in the sheaves."

So Join me in this! Anyone who wants to plant and read the story here, certainly can. But for those interested in another level of dedication and in supporting Cold Antler Farm can go against the grain right along side me in our own membered club. I am officially starting my Against The Grain Society right now. The Society is a combination of everything CAF has ever offered, online writing, a book, supplies and a workshop here at the farmhouse. Sign up for the price of an enhanced workshop ($160) and get the following:

• One pound of organic wheat seed in a cloth sack
• A copy of Storey's Homegrown Whole Grains by Sara Pitzer
• An invitation to The Society's Harvest Party here at the farm next Fall
• And a membership card with the special address for our own Society blog.

(CAF Season Pass members only need to pay for supplies and shipping)

That site will be a place to share recipes, post photos of our crops, support each other with advice for the garden or kitchen, and then harvest together as an online clan. This special site also means that you don't need to come to Cold Antler for the in-person workshop to be in the club. Instructions on buying a home grain mill, harvesting your seeds, making brooms... all of that will be available on the secret blog. We will plant in the spring in our "fields" (raised beds and gardens!) and follow the story together.

If you want to join the society, or give it as a gift, sign up by emailing me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com - You can expect your membership kit of organic seeds, party invitation, book and instructions by August 1st of this year. Now, off to the fields with you!

41 Comments:

Blogger Kristen said...

Sounds intriguing! How much to join? I'll shake out my piggy bank and count my pennies while I wait for an answer. :)

July 17, 2012 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I've been wanting to try this for years!!! And next summer I should be able to get a dedicated raised bed in the community garden.

July 17, 2012 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

$160, that covers the workshop, book, grain, supplies, shipping and the private blog (weekly updates plus community conversations)

July 17, 2012 at 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Lea said...

You are so creative.

One thing... The first thing that came to mind is: should people be traveling all over the country with crops? ( maybe I misunderstood you, are they bringing their homegrown wheat or are you supplying it?). I know various crops have pests in some regions that you would not want to introduce accidentally in yours. I'm so sorry I'm not trying to be negative, just putting it out there as food for thought. I work as a forester and know that if you were to transport tree parts across the continent, I may have a stroke...

July 17, 2012 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger erussell said...

You should check out Amy Halloran's series at fromscratchclub.com, she's been guest posting recently about her own experience growing wheat in the city of Troy as well as the current state of the northeast grain system. Happy growing/harvesting/milling & baking!

July 17, 2012 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger farmwifetwo said...

Plant winter wheat/rye in October. Then it'll be ready in July. The other's are spring planted.

Just harvested our wheat a couple of days ago... a couple of weeks early... no fungus, sprouting, army worms (this year they stayed in the hay) etc been too dry. There are many things that can destroy a crop of grain.

I've debated for years keeping some back off the combine but never have. Storage is the biggest issue.

July 17, 2012 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Yes! This is awesome! I just inherited my Grandpa's old grain mill and I can't wait to put it to use. I will see if I can save up enough money to join the privet club :D

July 17, 2012 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Winter wheat is the way to go for bread making. Higher gluten content. Harvest in the spring, and then the ground is ready for summer veggies.
Great idea, and I wish I could participate, but $160 buys alot of feed and hay at my farm.
Heather in PA

July 17, 2012 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Fresh Eggs Farm said...

Jenna, I've been wanting to grow my own grains at some level, even as small potatoes as we are. Although I don't have the funds to join along for the workshop (plus, I live in SW Ohio) - I'll be with you all in spirit :-)

July 17, 2012 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Keli Martin said...

Oh how I wish we lived closer to you Jenna! I will definitely be watching, reading, and quite possibly joining you from afar.

Keep on, keeping on! You're rocking the world!

July 17, 2012 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Marci said...

I am with Heather in PA. I would love to take part, but money is tight this year and I have hay to buy and earlier than normal I might add because of this drought.

You might also get some broom corn, Jenna. That is truly what most brooms are made out of. It is a very decorative in the Autumn and makes wonderful brooms!!

July 17, 2012 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Ruby said...

Do you have a membership option for those of us who can't make it to the workshop? I would be happy to buy my own supplies if I had access to the private blog and could play along from Indiana.

July 17, 2012 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Sure Ruby, I could offer a blog membership for folks who can't make the workshop. email me please.

as for moving crops and diseases, people will be bringing just the dried out stalks and seed heads inside my own farmhouse. I am not worried about spreading diseases, no more so then when people come here from out of state with their boots and walk around the farm. Just as many things could be spread, but I do not worry about it.

We are not growing winter wheat, we are growing spring wheat. It is the same variety you may have seen in The Victorian Farm series.

The price of a full-day workshop here is a hundred dollars and the book, wheat, packing supplies, writing time to start a second blog and shipping and such cover the rest of the money.

July 17, 2012 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger rkb111@bellsouth.net said...

I'm in Mississippi so I won't make the workshop (sadly), but would you share your basic bread recipe? Love your blog!

July 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger rkb111@bellsouth.net said...

I'm in Mississippi so I won't make the workshop (sadly), but would you share your basic bread recipe? Love your blog!

July 17, 2012 at 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Becky said...

Would you share your bread recipe? Love your blog!

July 17, 2012 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

gladly share my bread recipe. It is also in made from scratch, in detail there.

Here is a super simple crusty bread

http://coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com/2012/01/crusty-bread-in-five-minutes-son.html

and here is a cinnamon/plain bread

http://coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com/2009/06/raisin-bread.html

July 17, 2012 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

This is such a great idea! Unfortunately, like Ruby we live too far away, and can't really afford the whole workshop price, but would love to have a blog membership. Should I email you also, or will you be publicly posting the price when you decide how much it will be?

July 17, 2012 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately it is difficult for me to leave my farm, although a workshop with like minded farmers sounds like a blast. How much for just the blog?
Heather in PA

July 17, 2012 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Mac said...

I might be interested in the 'plan' Ruby asked about (supplying my own stuff) .. would love to be part of the blog. The past 6 months I've been sprouting/drying/grinding the organic wheat that I purchase diligently and make all our own bread. The thought of growing a small swath of grain has been on my mind for the past year or so.

July 17, 2012 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Oh that sounds wonderful. Wish I could join but I'm gluten intolerant... working on some ideas though...

July 17, 2012 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger MKandtheforce said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 17, 2012 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger MKandtheforce said...

Oh... my... god... I REALLY want to do this. I've dreamed about growing wheat for years, so why on earth would I pass up a chance to do it in an e-community setting?? I would even seriously come down from Maine for the workshop (I'd love to meet you and see the farm). When would the workshop be?

July 17, 2012 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger MKandtheforce said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 17, 2012 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger Ellen Rathbone said...

I wish you luck with this. About three of four years ago, while I was still up in the Adirondacks, I attempted to grow my own wheat. According to my sources, I could grown enough wheat for 1 loaf of bread a week for a whole year in a 100 sq ft. bed. So, I bought the seed, planted the wheat, watered it, watched it grow...and screwed up the harvest - not that there was actually much to harvest. I had had dreams of purchasing a grain mill and grinding my own flour...I ended up braiding the few stalks together - buying books on wheat braiding instead of a grain mill. I hope your luck is better than mine!

July 17, 2012 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Love this! I think it would be awesome to make a broom!!! I can't wait to see it when you do! Your bread recipe is great! I have made a couple different kinds and my family loves your recipe the best!!!

July 17, 2012 at 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Tracie said...

This is so ironic. I just ordered the book "5minutes a day to artisan bread" and all the needed supplies. I own several businesses so it is hard for me to get away, but I would love to participate in the blog. Can you give us a price Jenna? Or is this something you don't want to do? Either way it sounds wonderful! I can smell the bread already!

July 17, 2012 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

How much space would you recommend putting aside for this?

For those of us who are wheat or gluten intolerant, do you have a source for alternate seed or should we source our own?

July 17, 2012 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger CarolG. said...

A comment to people who are concerned about possible grain spoilage. One tip I have read, and use, is to buy dry ice, put it in the bottom of the container, add grain to fill, let it out gas for a while and then seal. Lack of oxygen makes it hard for bugs, molds, fungus to grow.

July 17, 2012 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger TwoBlueHeelers said...

Oooh! You could also braid symbolic or just decorative corn dollies with the straw stems... that was the first thing I thought of when you mentioned growing some wheat at CAF. Also known as corn mothers. Yet another way that our ancestors honored their connections to the land and the crops that nourished them.

July 17, 2012 at 6:46 PM  
OpenID ruralaspirations said...

First, I want to say I love your enthusiasm. I'm excited that you are starting yet another experiment in self-sufficiency, and I will be reading with interest.

With that said, here's my two cents on our experience: We experimented with growing grains when we first bought our homestead. We soon discovered that it simply isn't worth the effort if one is looking to provide a food staple. Sure, you can make a token homegrown loaf of bread or two, or a cake, but to grow and harvest and process enough grain for it to be the sort of thing you can put on your table everyday (like veggies, for example) takes huge amounts of labour and growing room. In the end, we decided grains just weren't worth the effort, and took up valuable growing space for animals and veggies that produced denser nutrition with less labour and effort.

That was the start of our journey to a grain-free diet. Not only was it better for our health and weight, but it also fits beautifully into a permaculture type homesteading system where one seeks to reduce external outputs and labour.

July 17, 2012 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

Wheat is already trucked thousands of miles, so duplicating this is not an issue. Wish I could go!

July 17, 2012 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Marcie said...

would you consider a no-workshop/harvest party (seeds, book, blog only) participation level? I would be interested - thanks!

July 17, 2012 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

I would love to be an active part of this but, unfortunately, I can't leave our little homestead for any length of time because of our animals. I would definitely be interested in a blog membership, also ~ great idea since there are so many of us who love your blog but live too far away or can't leave their farms. Thanks, Jenna ~ you're the best.

July 17, 2012 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger City Girl said...

Hi, Jenna. I might be interested in the non-workshop option as well. Although I would LOVE to go to one of your farm workshops, it's too far for me geographically. But I would love to follow along your community grain adventures.

As an apartment dweller, I have no plans on growing any grains in the near future but I would love to support your adventures. I think it's great that you are encouraging people to revive long forgotten traditions and experiment fearlessly in doing things ourselves. The satisfaction in growing and processing your own grain must be an amazing feeling!

Diana

July 17, 2012 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

What a great idea. I've been making my own bread by hand since 1980 now. I shall watch with interest how your wheat-growing experiment goes, but NO CHANCE of growing any here as our part of Wales is far too wet. I doubt wheat has ever been grown here - oats yes, but wheat no.

July 18, 2012 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Anyone interested in a version of this, please email me at jenna@itsafarwalk.com

July 18, 2012 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger miz hannahlu said...

Jenna, it never ceases to amaze me how often your community projects align with some long-held dream of mine- and many others too, as i read the comments (the violin laying a few feet in front of me is the direct result of your fiddle summer call a few years back)
i will email you re: online community option, because i'm in northern CA :)

July 18, 2012 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger City Girl said...

Hi, Jenna! I'm in! I've made my payment via PayPal and await the fun!

Diana, San Francisco

July 21, 2012 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

this is too funny! we have a hug boulevard here in town and rather than mowing the damn thing, I wanted a wheat field for our own grain (Red Fife was what I was going to plant - heritage Canadian wheat). Town planted 4 trees so have to relocate the wheat field!

July 22, 2012 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

This is a project I have been wanting to do forever. I make all of our bread already but growing and milling our own wheat is the next step. I am in WI and can't make the workshop but you have inspired me to make next season the year to start, and to start!!

July 24, 2012 at 9:55 AM  

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