29th January 2016
We are already a month into the new year, though it still feels like the beginning. With the arrival of our first woofer, the cycle begins again and we find ourselves looking towards another eleven months of hard work, new people and general chaos! Already, the skies are noticably brighter, and the haystack is nearing it’s halfway point. According to old norse tradition, midwinter was on the 24th of january, on the full moon. We celebrated with homemade pinnekjøtt (salted lamb ribs) and beer!
We have finally started threshing , and it’s been really exciting to see how the wheat turned out! It seems to be quite easy to thresh, and the husk comes away easily from the grain, leaving us with grain that’s husk free and ready to use! (After we winnow it and dry it that is.) The grain has been patiently waiting in the shed since we harvested it last autumn. It is stacked in the form of sheaves, which are just small bundles of grain, tied with a handful of straw. We have a simple hand-cranked threshing machine, which is essentially a large rotating drum inside a sturdy wooden box. The drum has metal spikes which pull the grain from the straw, when you turn the handle. One person stands and holds a sheaf into the machine and moves it around, to help loosen the grain, while the other person turns the handle. The grain comes out the other end, as does the straw when its done. After a few sheaves we beat the straw a bit with an old-school flail to remove any grain still in there, then remove the empty straw. We also have a hand cranked cleaning machine which removes remaining straw and other bits and pieces. When you turn the handle, there are two mesh trays that shake, which allow grain to fall through and roll down a fine mesh into a box. The larger pieces of straw and whole ears end up on the other side, and chaff is blown away by the fan, which is also powered by the handle. Dust falls out the bottom through the fine mesh. There is also a place at the side where grain ends up that was not threshed properly, i.e still attached to the ear. This we will feed to the animals.
After the grain is threshed, we still have to dry it for storage. We have a dedicated drying room, where we also dry alot of fruit in the summer. We have a big rack filled with mesh trays, where we spread out the grain. When it’s full we light a fire in the stove, and keep it burning until the grain is dry enough.
We pimped our small hand mill, so now it’s bike powered! This means that we can now mill grain in larger quantities, and faster. Though it’s still one hell of a work-out! I already milled some flour from our own wheat, and baked the first 100% homegrown bread! And yes, it was extremely good. It has so much more flavour than shop bought flour, and from what I’ve read, should be alot healthier. Firstly, because it’s homegrown (needless to say organic), secondly because our wheat is an old variety (dalalandhvete) which means it’s more nutritious, and thirdly because it’s freshly milled! Apparently there are some nutrients which degrade within hours of milling, so the fresher the better! So in general the wheat was a success, though the yield was low. We are hoping that this was due to the bad weather, and that we will get a better yield in future years. We certainly haven’t grown a year’s suppy, but i think i will just mix some homegrown flour into every dough. The current estimate is that we have about 36 kilos, but i will give you the figures when we know for sure.
I have also started spinning the wool from last spring! My first project is to spin sock yarn, and knit some extremely hard wearing socks for Dan. He certainly needs it. Working all day in the forest is not something socks stand up to for very long! To make them extra strong I’m going to knit them very large and them felt them down to the right size- the felting really strengthens it, and will make them warmer too.
As I have hinted, Dan is working in the forest making fence posts for the new pasture. We are in the process of clearing land, so that in the future the cows can get everything they need from grazing and we don’t have to feed them hay in the summer. It’s a big project, but progress is being made. (Thanks to one, undeniably dedicated farmer.)