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This Year's Wheat Harvest and New Harvesting Methods

Hello friends,

We grew wheat again in the 2023/2024 season with the hope to grow enough flour to make a loaf of homemade bread. We planted out our wheat seeds back in November 2023, and had a great harvest in February 2024 this year. If you want to learn more about growing wheat at home you can read it in this blog post.

With the wheat harvested, I dried it in readiness for processing. This year I wanted to try some new processing methods, to see if they would be more efficient than last year's methods. The first new method was to try removing the wheat heads from the stalks using a garden chipper/shredder. You can see footage on Youtube of this happening here.

Luckily we had a garden shredder in our garage, so we got to work. It didn't take very long at all to harvest the wheat heads from the stalks. The wheat heads fell into the hopper below, and the stalks were dug back into the garden bed from where they came from. I had hoped that the garden chipper would break open the wheat heads, but unfortunately they were still mostly intact afterward.

The next step was to thresh the wheat. Last year we just bashed the wheat heads with a piece of wood, but it was a lot of work. But I found this video on YouTube recently of someone threshing wheat with a flail.

Eager to try this method out, I bought two broom handles from Mitre 10 (broom handles are much cheaper than dowel), two metal eyes, and a length of rope. Once I got home I sawed off the ends of the two broom handles so that one handle was 1.5 m long, and the other 1 m long. I then tied them together with a length of rope.

Hubby got to work threshing the wheat heads on an old sheet. It turns out that the 1 m length of flail that was hitting the wheat heads was too long, so we cut it down to 75 cm. Another problem was that the wheat heads were flying off in every direction when hit, so we wrapped the wheat heads up into the sheet like a burrito, to keep them all in one place. After a couple of minutes of threshing using this method, it was completed. We separated the bigger pieces of plant material by hand, and then used a large sieve to further remove the medium-sized pieces of plant material.

When we thresh the wheat again next year I think we will alter the flail, and use leather strips to connect the two broom handles. The rope had a tendency to come undone, and the short piece of broom handle doing the threshing would fly off. I would also love to invest in a seed saving screen from Crafty Gatherer NZ, but it's pretty pricey.

After that, all that remained was the wheat berries and the chaff. The next step was winnowing. After watching the videos above, we saw that most people used small fans to separate the wheat from the chaff. Luckily it was now autumn, and most places were selling off fans very cheaply. Hubby took a trip to our local Mitre 10, and purchased a fan at a decent price.

He set up the fan, and got to work winnowing. The videos above suggested working a slow speed for the first pass, to remove dust, and then work your way up to faster speeds to get rid of bigger material. With the help of the fan we got the winnowing done a period of less than five minutes. With a constant breeze, it made the job so much easier.

With the winnowing done, the processing of the wheat was complete. Overall, these new wheat processing methods saved us a lot of time, and it also made the process so much easier. We'll be using this method again next year when we grow our own wheat. In a future blog I will be showing the wheat milling process, and also our recipe for making bread in a bread maker.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Our First Quince Harvest

Hello friends,

We have finally have had our first quince harvest. We planted a quince Smyrna tree back in the winter of 2022, and we've been waiting impatiently for a harvest since then.

The first year after sitting there as a stick over winter, the leaves budded, and then it flowered. But nothing became of the fruit, and we weren't worried because the tree was too small to bear the big quince fruit anyway. Over the spring and summer it grew slowly, which was fine with us, as it needed to develop it's root system.


Winter came again, and once more it became a stick. And then the spring of 2023 the leaves unfurled, and the tree flowered again, but this time little quince fruit began to form. At the start there was about 10 fruit, but over the following weeks they started to drop off. Eventually 4 quince fruit remained.

Over the spring and summer the fruit began to grow bigger on the tree. I was realistic in the fact that strong winds could knock them off, so I left them all there. By the time this autumn came, the 4 fruit remained, and they began to ripen to a pretty lemon colour.


Ever since then we've been impatiently waiting for them to be ready to pick. I tested the fruit regularly to see if they were ready to harvest, by gently holding them and tipping them sideways. At first all four did not budge, so they were not ready. But then one day the two smallest fruit dropped into my hand when tested.

We had a couple of weeks more wait for the two biggest fruit to be ready to harvest. Luckily quince store well in the fridge, so when the last two quince were finally ready, it was time to poach the quince. We used our poached quince recipe, which you can find in a blog post here. This year we chose the vanilla and cinnamon combination for flavoring.

And the long wait for our own quince fruit was totally worth it, the poached fruit was aromatic and very tasty. And as a bonus we have lots in the freezer to enjoy over the year. And our quince tree is only a small tree, as it gets bigger much more fruit will ripen. My plan is to share them with family and friends and neighbours, and hopefully swapping them for other fruit we can't grow in the garden.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Frost Proofing My Outdoor Citrus Plants With Liquid Frost Cloth

Hello friends,

Autumn is here, and the Autumn equinox has just been, and so with it comes the increased risk of frosts. The earliest frost we've had at our home since I started keeping records was on the 6th of April 2019, which is only 17 days away from today's date. All it takes is one cold front to come through, followed by a cold clear night, and a frost is possible. We've already had a low temperature of 3˚C this month, so there's definitely now a risk to my frost tender plants.


Our citrus plants outgrew their pots in spring last year, so they can no longer sit inside the glasshouse over winter for protection. I planted them in the patio in October 2023, so they now need to be protected from frosts and snow over the coming autumn and winters.


I plan to do this in a number of ways. The first one, which I've just done, is to treat all my citrus plants with liquid frost cloth, which is called Vapor Guard in NZ (you can buy this from garden centers). It protects plants down to -3˚C frosts by forming a protective wax coating over the leaves. Vapor Guard lasts about 6 weeks, as rain and frosts slowly break down the protective wax coating, and then it's time to spray Vapor Guard all over again. I keep a note of the dates I spray in my garden diary, and also calculate the next spraying day six weeks from then.

Vapor Guard does not protect the plants below -3˚C, so frost cloth is needed to protect the plants during the colder parts of the year. My plan over the next month is to build wooden frames, and then to attach frost cloth over the top. I'll then move the frames daily into position to protect the citrus plants when needed.

To treat the citrus plants with liquid frost cloth I added 15 mL of Vapor Guard to 1L of luke warm water. After giving it a good mix, I sprayed the liquid frost cloth onto the plant leaves on a dry and warm sunny morning with no wind. I wore gloves and a mask while doing so. The 1L of liquid frost cloth spray was enough to spray my lemon, mandarin, and lime plants, and also enough left over to protect my Camellia sinensis (tea plant) too.

My plants then had the rest of the day to dry, and for the wax to set. They're now protected from frosts for the next 6 weeks, we don't usually get heavy frosts until late May/early June, so I now have time to build the protective frost cloth cages.

I'm relieved to have done this, as the last week has been quite rainy, which meant I couldn't get a window to get this garden job done.

There will be no blog post next week, as hubby and I are having a much needed staycation between Otago Anniversary Day and Easter. Well be relaxing and eating hot cross buns and chocolate, and I hope to make strawberry and raspberry jam as well. I'll post again in early April.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Harvesting and Drying Alma Paprika

Hello friends,

This is our second year growing alma paprika plants. It's really satisfying to sow them as little tiny seeds, see them grow up into seedlings, and then onto big pepper plants with red peppers that you can dry into mild paprika.

The process for growing alma paprika plants is pretty much the same as any other capsicums or chillies. The seeds need to be sown in late winter, at the same time as tomatoes, and they need consistent steady heat in order to germinate. At that time of the year we have them sitting in the dining room where we have the fire going each day. Within a couple of weeks they germinate, and slowly over a couple of months they grow into seedlings which need to be potted on.

I move the alma paprika seedlings into the glasshouse in early October, and once it gets to Labour weekend, it's time to plant them into the ground in the glasshouse. Over the next few months they get bigger, and need staking, and at around Christmas they begin to flower. The rounded alma paprika fruits begin to grow, and then it's a wait over late summer and early autumn for the growing fruits to begin to change colour to a bright red hue.

Once the alma paprika fruit has turned red, it's finally time to pick them. I cut them off the plant using a pair of secateurs, and then take them into the kitchen to begin processing them.

After chopping them in half, cutting off the stalks, and removing all the seeds, I slice the alma paprika fruit into thin slices and lay them out on a tray.

Then they go straight into the dehydrator at 35˚C, and I dry them until the slices are bone dry and brittle, ready for turning into paprika powder.

After a quick whizz in our spice grinder, the paprika powder is ready to use in cooking. The spice is tasty and mild, and works great in a number of dishes. The whole process is really easy, and satisfying, so it's now yet another yearly thing for me to do in the garden and kitchen.

Do you have any yearly tasks you enjoy? There's great satisfaction in accomplishing them when it means you have tasty food over the cold winter season.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Growing and Harvesting European Linen for the 2023-2024 Season

Hello friends,

As a crafter and a gardener, I like to combine my hobbies in interesting ways. In this case it was growing and harvesting European flax (Linum usitatissimum) in order to prepare some linen for spinning and weaving.

Back when we lived in Wellington I bought some Essene European flax seed (Linum usitatissimum) from Koanga Gardens. In the first year I sowed half the seed packet into a 1 m x 2 m space, and grew the linen plants mainly for producing seeds, so in years afterward I could grow even more flax for linen. My linen harvests thereafter would be self-sustaining. I now grow linen every couple of years for collecting seeds, and stockpiling flax stalks for making linen.

This blog post is showing the process of growing linen from seed sowing to harvesting. In later blog posts I'll share as I go through the flax processing and then spinning and weaving it.

The first thing I did was buy the book "Homegrown Linen: Transforming flax seed into Fiber." by Raven Ranson. This book is very detailed, and shows all the necessary steps in growing homegrown flax for linen. I then used it to calculate how to grow it in New Zealand seasons.

The first step in growing flax seed is deciding when to sow the seed. Flax seed is sown in spring when oats and barley are sown, and in our case it was in mid-October. If flax is grown for linen then the seeds are grown very close together so that long tall stalks are produced, but if flax are grown for seeds, they are planted further apart to allow for branching and more flower production.

After weeding the patch of ground it was to go into in spring last year, I fertilized it with a high nitrogen fertilizer in the form of sheep pellets, and then prepared the soil to a fine tilth. I then sowed the flax seed in a broadcast fashion very close together, so that the linen plants would grow very tall, with little to no branching. After covering the seeds over with a fine layer of soil using a rake, I watered the seeds in, and then covered the crop with bird netting to protect the seeds from the local very hungry avians. It takes approximately 100 days from seed sowing until plant harvest, so this was classed as day 0.

Within a few days of watering each day, the flax seedlings began to appear. It is always very exciting to see them come up.

And within a week, the seedlings were actively reaching for the sky. In the photo below I was growing the linen plants for seed, but as you can see, I spread them a little too far apart.

Once the flax starts growing, it basically fends for itself. If sown very close together no weeds will grow, making it an easy crop to take care of, as long as it gets enough water. And once the flax reaches about 50 cm tall, it begins flowering at around day 60. The beautiful blue flowers open during the day, and close again at night. And now that the plants are tall, they sway very prettily in the breeze.

Flowering and setting seed boils takes around a month. One of our neighbourhood cats, who we call Patches, decided to make their snoozing spot inside the linen crop. No matter how many times I tried to shoo them away, they kept coming back, so I let them be. It's a good thing they're cute because they ended up squishing a bunch of linen...

Once the seed heads (boils) have set, now is the time to think about when to harvest. It's a good idea to set aside a section of your crop to let the boils (seed heads) mature and turn brown, which means they are then ready to harvest for next years seeds. Their plant parts will be dry and thick and yellow, and they won't make good linen.

The rest of your crop will be used for producing linen. When the bottom half the plant has turned golden, it is time to harvest the plants. The seed heads will not usually be viable for collecting seed, but I've found in the past that some of them can be.

The best way to harvest linen is to pull them out by hand in clumps. Lay the harvested linen plants out on the grass, all facing the same way, with the roots at one end, and the boils at the other. Once you've harvested all the linen plants, it's time to stook the plants, which means creating bunches of sheafs, and then tying them in the middle like the poles of a teepee. You want air to get up into the middle of the sheaf to dry it out. Place the sheafs upright with the roots at the bottom and let them dry in the sun on sunny days.


Once the linen plant sheafs are dry you can store them until you want to begin processing your linen. The next step is processing my current linen crop, and this will occur in a couple of weeks after autumn starts...

Have you ever tried experimental gardening? I've done this in the past with growing wheat, and it's very interesting to see how food and fibers are processed. It makes you appreciate how complicated food and textile production is.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky

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