Garden Wheat

Maybe I’m a bit nuts, but I’ve always felt like going to the grocery store was like admitting defeat. I’m not sure I can defend that feeling, but how many feelings really are defensible?

This year, my level of Pollan-fueled urban gardening has gone up a notch. In the past, I’ve made my own bacon, cured my own hams (and prosciutto), canned all the usual suspects (my wife does that), and pretty much attempted to never buy anything processed, ever.

This year we grew wheat:


This is winter wheat grown from seed planted during a thaw sometime in February. It grows like any grass, green and singular, until it has photosynthesized its way into fruitfulness, and then, BOOM, up come the seed stalks.

A few more weeks, and they’re yellowed and dry as a brut.

There’s something vulgar about plants, if you think about them long enough. We stare at their sexual organs without shame, and we eat their unborn.

I harvested these stalks in the first week of July, so I’m going to put the seed-to-harvest time at about 15 weeks or so. We could have done a lot better by letting them sprout at the end of fall and then do their seed business as soon as it got warm enough, but we didn’t plan that far ahead.


My mother-in-law got me a scythe from who-knows-where, and it was as dull a Khan Academy video. Not for long.

Scything is hard. This was my first time reaping anything other than FCI scores, so I pretty much scattered grain all over the tri-state area. Getting the seed heads for threshing was not a fun process.

Threshing, however, is about as fun as farming gets:

How to thresh: Fill a pillow case with wheat heads. Beat the pillow case on the ground as if your were being attacked by a thousand house centipedes. About 30 hulk smashes releases the seeds from the chaff.


Then winnow this mixture by pouring it from its holding container into a clean trash can while a box fan blows over the opening of the trash can. The light parts just blow away, and the wheat berries fall with a satisfying tin-roof ping into the container. I winnowed about 5 times for each batch.

I used a coffee mill to grind up the seeds into a coarse flour. You’ll need to let this rehydrate for hours before you can bake them.

In the end, I’m going to have about 30 lbs of my own organic whole wheat flour. 4 months, and about 8 hours of labor later, It appears that I could’ve just gone to the store, bought some flour, and eaten some “home made” bread in about 3 hours.

I have a hard time with the philosophy of grading and school. We want to specify outcomes for our kids, but really we know it’s the getting there that matters. Hell, we know that it’s thinking about how you got there that matters.

After all this fancy standards-based grading and competency-based classroom structure, I still can’t help but notice that I’m either putting lipstick on a pig or wax on a corvette. The pig when we focus on what students know, the corvette when we concentrate on how they know it.

In the end, the bread’s probably going to be chewy and rough on the ol’ colon, but I got to sharpen a freaking scythe.


[PS: did you know if you drop an image into WordPress WYSIWYG editor it will convert it into base 64 for you? How much fun is that going to be in programming? Srsly?]