Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tehachapi Weighs In

The grain grown on Weiser Family Farms this spring has been an inspiration.
In the photograph below, Roman Rye, graces a planting just across the lane from some handsome Red Fife hard red wheat.

 This was a bold experiment on the Weisers' part, and the sizeable crop is good to see, thriving on fields usually devoted to vegetables.  With only modest rainfall this season.

On July 21, 2014, a field of Barley was partially harvested, but the 63-year old Allis Chalmers combine needed some attention.  Nate Siemens scavenged an 8-foot long winnowing drive shaft from an even older combine, and replaced the shaft in the field.


 The combine came back to life and, under Nate's guidance, completed the harvest:
 It's all in a day's harvest, getting the old equipment in operation to make a success of small scale grain farming ...
 working toward the establishment of a real Southern California Grain Hub to make locally grown, varietal grain available to our mills so our bakers can once again turn out products made from truly fresh flour.

Roman Rye

Sonora Soft White Wheat

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More Harvest Preview

Glenn wheat nearing harvest.
One of the varieties to be harvested soon in the Lompoc area is Glenn, a Hard Spring Red Wheat developed by North Dakota State University in 1997, with parentage from two varieties created there.
NDSU Hard Spring Red Wheat testing fields

By 2005, extensive field tests confirm a high yield, higher protein, greater resistance to shattering, and improved disease resistance when compared to existing varieties.  It also rates superior in milling and baking properties.

North Dakota leads the nation in the spring wheat harvest, and more than a million acres planted in Glenn is a major reason why.

 Glenn has substantial awns.  As the plant enters boot stage, the awns can be seen first, emerging just in front of the important flag leaf.  Then the immature kernels begin to show.

A side note on the risks of product development – in the category of “you can’t please everyone.”  One goal of modern wheat breeding is that the ripe wheat does not shatter (fall to the ground) before harvest.  Farmers report that Glenn is so good at holding onto its kernels, that threshing is more difficult, often leaving many ‘whitecaps.’  
"Whitecaps."  Kernels of Glenn not fully threshed.

A Minnesota wheat farmer wrote:  “I agree excellent quality wheat but doesn't thrash worth a #####.   [Good yield, but] why give away 3 to 8 % of it as dockage?”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Harvest Preview

In anticipation of a wheat harvest in our area, currently scheduled for July 26th, this is a brief description of the varieties we expect to see.
Red Fife is a hard red wheat that was North America's preferred bread wheat in the 19th century.

 Usually it has only three short awns at the tip of the head.

Red Fife went out of production in the Great Depression, but seed preservationists kept the variety alive and it has made something of a comeback. 

Week-old Red Fife sprouts
A true land race, its qualities have contributed to many varieties since 1842 when Canadian farmer, David Fife, planted the first seeds to arrive in the western hemisphere on his farm near Peterborough.   

Red Fife in boot stage

Red Fife blossoms

It was named “red” because of the rich color of the kernels.  But growers find it is sometimes quite light colored, as it adapts to a mild weather terroir.

Red Fife grown this year in a Los Angeles front yard, showing a range of colors.

Kernels, glumes (chaff), and rachilla (head stem)
Red Fife is thought to have originated in Turkey and was grown in Ukraine's prolific farmlands, probably favored by Mennonite farmers.  The story is that it found its way to Canada when a friend of David Fife saw some good-looking wheat being off-loaded in Glasgow, from a ship just arrived from Gdansk.  Some versions of the tale insist he gathered up all he could in a winter "bonnet" he was wearing, mailed it off to his friend, and the rest is bread baking history.
 It is wonderful to have Red Fife growing in our area.  Over the years it has proven to have inherent diversity, a good adaptation to a range of soils, moisture levels, and temperature.  It has a reputation for robust flavor and fine baking qualities. 
In the next post, we'll talk a little about our other Lompoc-area wheat, GLENN, another fine grain for making bread.