Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Buckwheat Stops Here

It had been a while since I visited my grain test patches, but the Farmgirl Wannabe kept me up to speed by sharing photos. I was tickled to see a picture on her cell phone of the buckwheat in bloom, but when she reported this past week that the plants were yellowing and falling over, I thought I'd better check since it sounded like they might be about ready for harvest.

So I called up the Contradance Callers, who were mightily interested in my grains, and asked if they wanted to come along for the ride (and bring a scythe, just in case).

When we arrived this afternoon, our prospects for starting the harvest looked pretty good.

Most of the grain kernels had reached this dark brown stage, and though they mostly needed a little help, they were about ready to be stripped from the stems. So the four of us -- the Contradance Callers, the Renaissance Man, and me -- started the harvest.

The Caller did pull out his scythe for a test run, but as he realized it hadn't been sharpened in "about forty years or so," it didn't prove very helpful. The RM headed back to his truck to grab a pair of garden clippers, but the rest of us just worked on one stem at a time. Not the most efficient way to harvest, I admit.

The RM cleverly gathered bunches of stems and rubbed them between his hands (over this towel) to release the grains more efficiently, but after a while he conceded that this, too, was not the best method for harvesting.

After an hour and a half (or so) of work, we had only cleared a small edge of the patch, gathering not quite half a gallon bag full of grains before my back gave out, the Callers headed home, and the RM grew tired as well.

I need to think up a better plan for harvesting, and by the time I have something figured out, it should be easier to get the grains off the stalks since they should be much drier. Perhaps this coming weekend I'll be able to tackle more of the patch.

In the meantime, I've spread the kernels over three trays to let them finish air drying before I clean out leaves and stems, remove the hulls, winnow, and thresh the grain. (That should be fun!)

And when I'm done, I'll have some good buckwheat for baking this winter!

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