Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Amber Waves of Grain

Last week we took off the first of our two small grains fields. Small grains are generally considered to be the cereal crops: wheat, oats, rye, spelt, buckwheat, and maybe more than I can't think of right now. They generally grow as grass that puts up a seed head. We harvest the seeds, thresh them (removing all the extra chaff) and bale up the dry grass stalks as straw. There is not much nutritional value in the straw, so it is generally used as bedding for animals. It's much more golden in color than hay, which is generally green.

We raise rye for seed to replant as cover crops. We sell some to other farmers to be used as seed for cover crops. Since we are certified organic farmers, sometimes you see weeds in the field--like this milkweed plant.

The combine harvests the rye, cutting the stalks, separating and retaining the grain, and spitting out the chaff and straw.

The oat field is also almost ready for harvest. You can tell that the oats do not suppress the weeds as much as the rye does. Here we have quite a bit of ragweed growing up between the oat plants.

It's always a dance to make sure we wait long enough for the oats to be dry enough, without allowing the weeds to take over the field. The green weeds will add a lot of moisture to the dry grain, and it can spoil. We feed oats to our sheep during the late part of their pregnancies and right after the lambs are born.

The rye has been harvested, but we didn't get the straw baled before it rained. I think we will till the straw back into the soil to help increase organic matter and add carbon. The oats have not been harvested yet. We ran into a bit of trouble with the combine...

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