Monday, December 10, 2012


On Thursday, November 29th, some intrepid members of LABB drove out to Agoura Hills on a rainy and misty morning to begin the planting process. Agoura Hills is located about 35 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, and is the home of Maggie's Farm. We are cultivating approximately 2.5 acres of land there, splitting it between a variety of wheat. The land is divided generally into two categories.

The first consists of 6 larger plots, approximately 4 x 175 feet. Thursday saw the planting of three types here: Sonora, Red Fife, and Glenn. The process was simple, and went very smoothly. The land at Maggie's Farm is traditionally used for planting greens, but has recently been used for grazing chickens. The soil is called "rich sandy loam." It has been organically planted for 23 years, and although it is not certified organic, only organic products are used there. Before this, it was used for tomato planting, and before that, lay fallow for some time.

The first thing we did when we arrived was to mark out the plots. This was done using small flags bearing the names of the varietal and the planting date, set in the ground surrounding the plot containing that type of wheat. Each row was approximately 4' by 175'.

The next step was to rake and hoe the land into furrows. The first plotwhich would eventually be planted with Sonorawas tilled into long rows, stretching the length of the plot.

This proved to be hard on the back and time consuming, and so the plots for the Red Fife and Glenn were dug with just a few key furrows.

The next step was to distribute the seed. About 60lbs of seed was planted per plot, which is actually about twice what is absolutely necessary, since that is roughly the proper amount for 1/2 acre. This was simply due to the process of trial and error: the seed spitters were set to distribute the seed more abundantly than required. We will plant the next plots with slightly less seed, and will be able to judge side by side the results. The seed was poured into two 20lb Solo Hopperswhich you carry on your backand by the turning of a crank, spit the seed out in a fan-like spray in front of you.

It is common to plant another crop which will grow mixed in with the wheat, such as clover. This is done to keep other, more destructive weeds from gaining ground and out-competing the wheat. In this case, however, the nettles that grow wild around the farm will fulfill these duties. Since they are a low-growing plant, they will not compete with the wheat for sunlight, and they will ward off other, more dangerous weeds from intermixing.

After the seed was distributed, it needed to be turned under the soil, both to give it the darkness it needs to germinate, and to protect it from predators (birds, etc.). On the plot for Sonora, so carefully furrowed, rakes were used to cover the seed, which had fallen into the valleys produced by hoeing. For the other two plots, where the seed lay on a flat surface, a more ingenious method was developed. Some metal meshonce part of a goat feederwas re-appropriated and tied, using zip ties, to a metal frame.

Two handles were attached to this on ropes,so that it could be dragged along the beds, turning under the seed as it goes. Due to the long ropes to which the handles were attached, the pullers could stand in the walking paths to either side, keeping the planted earth light and untrodden.

After a few tries, the device was rather perfected and was used in fine spirits by all.

This completed the planting process for these three beds.

In the next post, you will find more information on the Sonora, Red Fife, and Glenn varieties of wheat!

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