November 2011


Play has been delayed due to international travel. Nieces had to go to Honeydukes in the wonderful world of Harry Potter, Orland, Florida. Boats in France sold and all such like adventures were had. We have also survived hurricane season; just
In the beginning we are trying to be self sufficient and at the same time using farming techniques that are in the main quite new. It’s all about maximum yield in the minimum space with an emphasis on polyculture and perennials, fruit and nut trees if you will.
To this end the planting has centred on a wind break, fruit  trees a veg patch and polytunnel. Also areas of trees planted for fuel and not forgetting the animals.
This leaves a gap in cereals hence the oat bed. To try and grow cereals does seem to be a much more serious farming concern and yet cereal growing predates all modern farming equipment so how hard can it be? Cast your minds back to spring and you can see pictures of the oats seeds being planted with a 1936 seed drill. This was into soil that had been mulched with wheat and barley straw. Once the seeds were in we left this patch to itself where it flourished growing rather wonderful rows of waving heads of oats. The method of harvest we employed was pulling our hands up the sheaf pulling off the seeds heads and dropping them into a bag so not particularly sophisticated but effective. The seeds needed more drying so we lay them on sheets and topped it with netting to air dry for a few more days. The netting was a huge row of tutu net from a car boot that has proved invaluable. We also have some big sealable plastic storage barrels which used to hold 80% alcohol for making alcopops which after several months of airing were smell free. So oats grown harvested and stored and a family sense of smug achievement permeated the homestead, now we just need to separate the seed from the surrounding chaff and porridge will be on the menu

There’s a lot to this threshing and winnowing game. The best method we have come up with so far is a big tray with a rubber mat in it; the sort of door mat with rows of sticky up toggles on it. You chuck a handful of seed heads on the mat and trample them quite harshly wearing crocs. Next winnowing, this can be challenging as we tend to be gale or dead calm here. Gales have resulted in the entire bowl of seeds landing somewhere in next doors field but if it goes well you can tip the seeds from one bowl to the other and the light and empty chaff blows away leaving a bowl of mainly cleaned seeds. The key word here is mainly about ¼ or even less of the heads are still in an outer sheaf of chaff so I sit and pick through them one by one. At the moment this generally takes one episode of Strictly come Dancing It takes Two and one episode of a junky Australian dance teen drama to pick through. Now I have cleaned grain it is run through our rather swanky mill which gives us roughly ground oat groats which I soak overnight in water and bubble the following morning served with a dollop of crab apple and sloe jelly. There are still bits of chaff in the final product and it has to be remembered these are naked oats that are far easier to process. The normal oat would need cracking and separating from the outer hard kernel.
There is something immensely satisfying about getting a bowl of porridge.

And also grow in the field is barley and wheat which we feed to the chickens. They like barley a lot

House building has began but still seems to take last place on the priorities list as the land and supporting activities take precedent I do not want to still be in the caravan next winter but at the same time it wont kill me if I am I want the house to be wonderful when its finished.

A small concern on the horizon is the building of a new road which could involve compulsory purchase of land but its best not to think too much about that at the moment we will know more in January.
Here is a little movie of our air dryed ham it is most exciting.air dryed ham

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