Over Labour Weekend in October hubby and I planted our vegetable garden for the summer.
My first task was to weed the garlic growing in the smallest vegetable garden bed, and then also sow onions, carrots, beetroot, radish, sugarbeet and carrot seeds as well.
Hubby then dug over the two remaining large garden beds, and I added sheep pallet fertilizer for the soon to be growing plants.
For the next bed, which was already growing peas and potato plants by now, I added lettuce, rocket, black turtle beans, summer sprouting broccoli, and cabbage, that I had been growing in the glasshouse.
With the last large garden bed I planted maize, corn, and pumpkin plants in the top half. In the bottom half of the garden bed I sowed wheat and linen flax seeds, while hubby acted as a scarecrow to keep the birds off them, and then we double bird netted the seeds to protect them from the birds.
With most of the glasshouse now empty of plants, we emptied out the space, and hubby dug over the garden bed. After that there was just the task of fertilising the soil, and then planting cucumbers, basil, chillies, capsicum and many tomato plants. There was also the big task of setting up all the climbing frames for the growing plants.
It's been a few weeks now, and everything is growing nicely in the garden, despite low snow falling the week after we planted everything. I can't wait to feast on all our vegetables over the coming summer.
Have a wonderful day
In an earlier blog post I shared with you how I grew wheat from seed last summer. In this blog post I share with you how I processed the wheat seeds, and turned it into flour.
The first step in processing the dried wheat is threshing, whereby you loosen the wheat seeds from the attached straw and wheat head. After looking at a lot of videos on YouTube, we found two methods that would be relatively easy for a home grower to try.
The first method was pretty simple, basically it involved taking bunches of wheat and slapping it between the two sides of a bucket back and forth in a fast and furious manner. It sure made for a good arm workout.
The second method involved bashing the wheat head with a big stick, while not losing any of the wheat seeds in the process. We decided the easiest way for us to do this was to put the bunches of wheat into a fine pillow case, and bashing it with a flat piece of wood.
After experimenting to see how much the wheat seeds would loosen after using each threshing method, we decided that the best way forward would be to use both methods. I did the bucket method, and then passed what was left over to hubby for him to bash with a piece of wood.
What you end up with is a mix of wheat seeds and chaff. WIth threshing done, it was onto the winnowing process to remove the wheat seeds from the chaff. After watching even more videos on YouTube, I decided that the easiest way to winnow the wheat was to wait for a super windy day, and then get the wind to blow the chaff away from the wheat as I dropped the mixture into a wheel barrow. I used a wheel barrow for this process because it gave me a big area to winnow in, and the high sides of the wheel barrow meant that seeds were less likely to blow away.
The trick I soon learnt was that there is a specific height you hand has to be at to remove the chaff without losing the wheat seeds over the edge in the process, and this was mainly dependent on how hard the wind is blowing. If the wind is very strong, it's best to keep your hand close to the wheel barrow, and if the wind was light you could raise your hand higher. Also another thing to note, is that the wheat chaff is very dry and sharp and pointy, and it hurts your fingers, so wearing gloves is a must. The winnowing step was the most time intensive step, and I had to repeat the winnowing multiple times to get rid of most of the chaff from the wheat seeds.
WIth the main winnowing step complete, we then by hand had to pick out any stray bits of chaff from the wheat, along with any other random bits of stuff that had made it through the previous steps, and this also took a while, but it was made easier by watching TV while we did so.
Finally after all those steps, all we had left was wheat seeds, and in particular 857 grams of homegrown wheat seeds. Getting to this stage was quite a feat in itself, but we hadn't even gotten to the milling stage yet. So it was back to the internet and in particular YouTube to see how we could mill the wheat into a fine enough grade for making bread...
The following methods suggested to mill the grain into flour did not work for us:
1 - Using a mortar and pestle - Didn't do anything at all, a complete waste of time.
2 - Using our coffee and spice grinder - It did chop the grains into a couple of pieces each, but did not mill it at all
3 - Using our food processor - Didn't do much better than the coffee and spice grinder.
This was all pretty frustrating, but the good thing about wheat seeds is that they can store for over a year as is in a sealed container at room temperature (much longer than flour can), so we left it while we pondered what we could do. Hubby and I finally came to the conclusion that the only way forward would be to buy a mill of our own. There are a lot of options in New Zealand to buy stand alone home mills, but most were super expensive, and were much bigger and stronger than what we needed.
But then, while perusing the Flour Power Mills website, we found a small stone mill that would attach to our KitchenAId stand mixer. The Mockmill Stone Mill attachment was at least half the price of the smallest stand alone mills available, and as a bonus it would also mill a wide range of other grains and legumes (including amanath, chia seeds, oats, millet, chickpeas, maize, barley, dried rice, quinoa, rye, and dried soya beans), as well as milling a whole bunch of herb and spice seeds...
It wasn't too long before the Mockmill Stone Mill had arrived by courier, and hubby attached it to our KitchenAid stand mixer.
The set up was pretty easy, and all we had to do was set the mill to a fine setting, and then put the wheat seeds in the hopper. We turned the stand mixer on, and fine flour began pouring out of the flour chute.
The process was loud, but very easy, and within 5 minutes we had our own flour! We hadn't lost any wheat in the process, and the flour the mill had produced on the finest setting was just as good as flour we used normally for making our own bread.
The wheat in this state is a mixture of fine white flour and wheat bran flakes. For a rustic bread it's fine to use as is, or you can sieve the flour to remove the wheat bran if needed. The only step left in this journey is to make bread with the flour, in a future blog post I'll share with you hubby's family famous bread recipe that never fails, using our own homegrown flour!
We are very excited about this, but not only that, hubby has already started mumbling about growing our own maize, so that we can make our own corn chips...
Have a wonderful day
I'm a curious person at heart, I love growing new things in the garden, and especially when they're niche plants or crops. Every year I'm always trying a new variety of tomato or basil to see if I can get a crop that works well in our local conditions, and I've also grown linen plants so I can get flax fibre for spinning (but that's a whole other story)...
Back during the great bread flour shortage of 2020 during New Zealand's first Covid 19 lock down, I joked to hubby that we might have to start growing our own wheat and then processing it into flour if we wanted to continue baking our own bread at home. I was only joking of course at the time, but ever since then the idea has been at the back of my mind. Could I possibly successfully grow my own wheat, process it, and then make it into bread?
During the winter months of last year (2022), I finally decided that now was the time to try growing wheat in my vege garden. There's an unspoken rule about wheat locally—you can't grow it successfully in Otago, and especially down in Dunedin. You grow wheat in Canterbury, and oats in Otago (now that gives me another idea...). I chatted with my friends online, and they were doubtful it would work, it's too cold and not sunny enough, but that didn't deter me. Hubby and I live in Mosgiel, which is an inland suburb of Dunedin, and we get long, hot summers compared to suburbs much closer to the sea. I successfully grow limes, lemons, and mandarins outside during the summer, and wheat isn't as fussy as to grow as them.
My first task was researching where I could find wheat seed. I found two small seed merchants in New Zealand who sell it, Kings Seeds and Kōanga Institute. The Kings Seeds wheat was sold in packets for growing wheatgrass, and came in a handy 1 kg packet, so I went with that since I was already buying other seeds from them in my spring seed order.
My next task was figuring out when to sow the seed, and I found this wonderful blog post by Epic Gardening detailing everything I needed to know about growing wheat. My plan was to sow a 1 m x 2 m section of vege garden bed in early October, at 25 plants per square foot, as our last frost is usually in late September. That would give the wheat plenty of time to form ripe wheat berries over summer before autumn arrived, as it takes 120 days from seed sowing to harvest. But unfortunately that plan was delayed by two weeks after we got an 8 cm snowfall in early October, followed by a week of frosts.
So the week before Labour Weekend I prepared the soil to a nice and fine tilth, and then sowed my seeds. I diligently placed bird netting on a frame, watered the seeds in, and waited impatiently for them to sprout. What I didn't count on though, was Luna, our neighbor's cat. She had decided that the netting and fame made a nice hammock, and it would be great to sleep on.
While climbing onto, and sleeping on the bird netting she created gaps, and that's how the birds got in. Without me knowing, within half a day, sparrows had eaten most of the wheat seeds I sowed. After much grumping, and completely redesigning the frame and bird netting, I completely bird and cat proofed the second sowing of wheat seed. And this time it worked.
After about a week, the wheat seeds germinated. It was easy to tell the wheat from any weeds, as wheat is a grass plant. The plants grew fast and strong with sunshine and spring rain, and by the time it got to Christmas, the plants themselves were already 80 cm tall, and they'd already set seed heads.
Our past summer was the hottest and driest in years, and I think that helped the wheat ripen quite quickly. The bird netting went back on as the wheat began to turn golden,after I noticed that the sparrows had begun to hang around the wheat again. The tricky part was knowing when to harvest, and I used the Epic Gardening guide to figure out when I was time to cut the stems.
I used a combination of looking at the angle of the heavy seed heads, the hardness of the individual wheat berries when pressed between two fingernails, and also the golden colour of the seed heads to know when it was time to harvest. The wheat wasn't uniformly ready all at the same time, so I selectively cut them on hot summer days in late January, and bundled them up for drying.
The wheat bundles had to dry in the sun for a week before threshing, but I also needed to keep the sparrows away from the drying grain. After much pondering on how to do this step, I decided on laying out the wheat bundles on the gravel floor of the glasshouse during the day. Every morning I would lay the out the wheat bundles on the glasshouse floor, and then place a mesh screen over the glasshouse door, so there would be good airflow.
After a week of drying the bundles were bone dry, and some wheat berries had already began popping out of the seed heads. The next step is threshing, followed by winnowing, and I'll share these processes with you in a future blog post.
But what I can conclude from this whole process, is that wheat is indeed an easy to grow crop. It doesn't require any specialised tools, and is well within the abilities of a home gardener. I've also shown that is possible to grow wheat in Otago, and Dunedin, if you live in a warm, sunny suburb away from the sea. I will happily grow wheat again in my garden in the future.
Have a wonderful day