Growing Barley on a small plot

In September this year I sowed five 10m x .8m rows (40m2) of organic barley seed. It is the first cereal grain I have tried to grow in my cool temperate climate. Sown early Spring and harvested early summer its a fast  growing crop and sown sparsely as the plants sprout multiple stalks.

Knowing when to harvest needs close attention as the grain heads start to harden yet are still green. I went off some advice I read online and harvested while the stalks were still a bit green and the heads starting to brown and bent at 45 degrees. Left too late the heads will be dried to the point the seed will fall out. I harvested the heads using a serrated hand sickle called a Kama and filled a feed sacks as I went, leaving 90% of the stalks standing, later to be scythed down as mulch.

Threshing was done using a 20L bucket, a paint mixer with chains attached and powered by a cordless drill. This method is suprisingly fast and effective. Removing the stalks then winnowing through a few different sized sieves. The final winnow done on a fairly windy day pouring the grain from one bucket to another.

From 40m2 my yield was 20kg of grain ….. for me this is a good years worth of flour once milled (depends on how much baking one does). Barley flour is more often added to wheat flour when baking and has “a rich, nutty taste and creates a different texture than all-purpose flour in baked goods”.

I can’t describe the satisfaction of growing a grain and milling it into flour ….ultimately its more than the end product, it is so much about the relationship one builds with the plant, nurturing & observing while experiencing the environment over the growing period.


3 responses to “Growing Barley on a small plot

  1. Most impressive Kade ! Hope you continue getting good rains.
    I’m spending a couple of weeks ‘bagging’ the inside of the cellar with a limemud render. Good to do this in cool weather, unusual for Capertee Valley at this time of year.
    Hope 2016 is as succesful for you as your previous 5 years at Intuerifarm.

  2. What an exciting harvest 🙂 I wonder will you eat it as a whole grain too? Fantastic for Autumn/ Winter soups and stews. Traditionally the Japanese make the grains into a tea by dry roasting in a cast iron skillet until golden and smelling a little nutty. You can store this indefinitely in an air tight jar, and prepare by simmering with water for ten minutes. It’s cooling in hot weather and soothing at anytime.


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