Here's the wheat in its "berry" form, which I took straight from our storage bin. It's as we feed it to the pheasants and chickens -
Get off chicken! This bowl's mine
It's already been separated from the chaff, so it's ready to be ground into flour. I haven't got a special machine for that, but I do have a coffee grinder and I figure it's the same principle.
I set it on the coarsest grind and pressed the button, just like the farm wives of yore did -
wheat berries before grinding (L) and after grinding (R)
It looks like flour to me. I stuck it in the breadmaker on a basic wholemeal programme (again, like the farm wives of yore) and -
Bread! And a very tasty loaf too. Next time I might add a bit of vitamin C powder to help with the rise, and maybe a few seeds for texture, but all in all a success. The wheat is grown within 3 miles of here, and it gets delivered by the ton. I don't think I'll need to re-order any flour from the co-op this month.
This also works on dried corn (maize) and produces a nice fine cornmeal. I assume it also works on coffee beans.
I also bought some more sheep yesterday - 3 Polled Dorset ewes to double my small flock. Buying sheep is starting to feel natural now, where it used to feel like a part of a farming dream that was out of my reach (I mean hey - what did I know about farming?!?). I stood in a field of lambs and ewes with the farmer. He was leaning on his crook and his sheepdog lay down at heel, waiting for instruction.
What a marvellous invention the sheepdog. We stood by the gate and with one whistle the dog was gone, out, behind the sheep, and bringing them back to us for inspection. None of this walking out to look at your flock nonsense.
I tried to picture some of our dogs in this sheepdog role: Jazz and Pip would be clinging to my leg in mortal fear of the sheep. Podge would try an initiate a doggie play game with them. Nellie would ignore the sheep as being obviously inferior. Dakota would look at the flock as a culling mission. Nope, the sheep may be a reality but the sheepdog is still very theoretical. You need a larger flock than mine to give a sheepdog enough to do. Looks like I'll be fetching my own sheep then, at least for now.
I chose three ewes of short, stocky confirmation with a decent wool length for spinning. I left them with the farmer to be shorn and serviced by the ram. I will pick the girls up in a few months time, hopefully in lamb and ready to deliver in the autumn. This gives me another year without the need for feeding and looking after my own ram, and a chance to get the fencing on Milkweed farm finished in the next couple of weeks.
I'm off to the agricultural merchants this morning for the posts and wire to fence the field, and for some timber to build broody coops for all the chicks that are about to hatch. They can only live in a bucket under a light for so long. I'm also picking up another batch of day-old meat chickens this Saturday, which will be ready for the freezer towards the end of July. Underkeeper Pete and I are sharing the batch. He's having them til they're off heat as I'm already inundated with chicks. I'll finish them outside on grass. All of us will be needed to process them.
Speaking of eggs and chicks (and the preservation of) - I have started setting my own Larson trap and learning the art of trapping crows. Here's how it works in principle: Once you've trapped a crow/magpie in a trap baited with an egg, you can use this bird to lure others into the trap. Crows and magpies are territorial and dislike interlopers on their patch. They will defend their territory by challenging the interloper which we've secured in a little cage with a drop box either side (this is the Larson trap)-
Dakota is working out how to get in the trap and get the bird for herself
When the challenger lands on the perch, his weight causes the split perch to giveway. The crow falls to the bottom, and the trap door snaps shut. We can then use that trapped bird to bait another cage. A live bird used this way is called a Judas bird, for obvious reasons. The Judas bird is always given food, water and shelter while in the trap (you can see one of the rabbit carcases from our other night's bunny harvest in with this bird).
If you don't catch your bird within a day of putting out your trap, move it to a different location even within a small area (like our garden). As a Judas bird, magpies will lure both crows and magpies in. A crow Judas bird will only lure other crows, as crows have a pretty fearsome rep, even among other corvids. A magpie will rarely confront a crow.
Trapping is a touchy subject. My trap is in the garden, and I'd put it on top of my sheep trailer under a tree where it would be noticed by other crows, but have a bit of shade too. Unfortunately it was visible from the road. Two walkers yesterday stopped and said how lovely my "pet" crow was. I should have said "Thanks" and been done with it. Stupidly I said "Oh it's not a pet. This is a crow trap." That got a frosty reception. No reply, they just gave me a sour look and walked on.
What can I do? At least they enjoyed their "country experience" visiting my little lambs grazing in their verdant paddock amongst the daffodils. That view of country life is more broadly palatable. In my head I see the too many times I've found crows pecking out the eyes of a still-living sheep that's gone down in a field and can't get back up, can't fight off its attacker. I don't like those images, but that happens in the country too.