We hear the slogan “eat local” over and over again, but what does it really mean? It’s more than just eating fresher food. It’s about preserving local food systems. It’s about food security and common sense management of the pantry. – Harry MacCormack – Southern Willamette Bean and Grain Project
Grains and beans will be part our crops. We are working with the regional Back Yard Bean and Grain Project to identify grains and beans that we can grow without irrigation so that our farm can join others in creating self-sufficient community farming. So far our trials have shown us that we can grow oats, black and pinto beans, winter squash, quinoa, and other grains.
Starting in 2014 we have been very busy trying to grow our own grains. We created several research plots to test our hypothesis that beans and grains and some winter squash would grow here with out irrigation. We have a limited amount of water on the farm to grow crops. It is very important that we identify what crops use the fewest resources.
We worked closely with several organizations to find resources and discover what might grow here before we planted. We wish to thank the Krista Rome of the Backyard Bean and Grain Project of Whatcom County, Heather Simpson and Heather McLeod of the Salt Springs Island Grains project, Harry MacCormack of the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project and Greenbank Farm Training Center for their help and direction. We received a great deal of training at the Mother Earth News fair held in Puyallup, Washington at the fair grounds on May 31, 2014. It cost $10 to get in and we attended workshops and made lots of good contacts all day long. We believe that it is entirely possible to raise grains and some vegetables as dryland crops. We believe and others have proven that we can grow enough on small acreage to support ourselves, our family and a few friends. As we learned, before you invest in seed and equipment, it is a good idea to plant some trial plots of crops. Even though much of our training and research came from other farmers who live in our region of the world (Salish Sea), each little valley and hill region can create its own micro-climate. We are happy to report that we can raise much of the same crops as Bellingham and Salt Spring Island, B.C. The following is an account of what we learned in 2014.
Our trials showed that we are able to raise the following beans, grains and winter squash in our little valley located along the Chimacum Creek:
- pinto beans
- black beans
- acorn Squash
- delicata Squash
Planting on the far side: Beans and Squash
We planted beans and winter squash on the far side of the property. We choose and area of the land that does not have irrigation but is very nice soil. It was an area on the east side of the pasture that is a little higher than other areas and has good sun exposure. We can have unexpected cold fog that lays on the bottom of our fields that have caused frost burn all the way into June. We have lost some garden crops due to this fog. The area we chose is on the other side of Chimacum Creek and access to it is over a neighbors bridge. We have a need to build our own bridge and that is on our wish list for the farm. We planted other squash, oats, buckwheat and barley near the house. The two grains that did very well were oats and buckwheat.
BUCKWHEAT AND BEES
The buckwheat was planted as a smother crop. We had a nasty patch of both
Reed Canary grass and Wild Chervil. The buckwheat also is a huge pollinator attractor. Last spring we lost our honey bees that had lived in an abandoned building on the farm for 20 years. They just disappeared. So we were bringing in orchard bees and mason bees for our orchard. The buckwheat was covered in honey bees, bumble bees and lots of small flying pollinators. We had such a huge apple and pear crop this year that limbs broke off the trees due to the weight of the crop. Buckwheat is on our favorites list. However, we lacked equipment to properly
harvest it. Norm made a scythe and we spent several days harvesting the buckwheat and the oats with it. We do not have a thresher so we have gathered the seeds and plan to replant them next year. We hope to have better equipment next year.
Our oat crop was very much needed for our household. We planted a special variety of heirloom oats called “cayuse” or Avena sativa that would be used for making oat milk and milky oat medicine. Ellen has some digestive problems and cannot use diary products anymore so she makes her own “milk” out of oats. We purchased the oats from a company in located in Mt Vernon, Washington called “Osbourne Seed company” and even though it was only 50 pounds of seed, they delivered it to our door. They had been doing business with Nash’s Country Store and we were on the way. Nice people.
The oats were never irrigated and we got them planted just before it started to rain. The spring had been somewhat dry and we were not sure our bean and grain trials would do well. But the oats grew up thick and even the daily attack of turtle doves did not keep them from thriving. It was a beautiful 1/8 acre plot.
We used Norm’s hand scythe to gather up the oats in their final stage. Ellen used a small hand scythe, the type
used in harvesting lavender for the young oats. It took some doing but Ellen was able to harvest four 5 gallon buckets of the oats in their milky oat stage and made a nice tincture and some oat milk. The rest of the oats were left to harvest when they were in the their golden stage. When the oats were ripe we cut them and placed them on a plastic tarp and threw them up in the air on a windy day. The wind blew some of the chaff away. This “winnowing” process is the way grain has been threshed for thousands of years. It is a very work intensive way to thresh. There was still a lot of chaff left so we will investigate making some kind of thresher for next year. They will be used next year. Yes, we need a thresher.
THE BEAN HARVEST
We did not get many black beans and will try to grow them again next year closer to the house where we will be able to water them once in a while and of course keep them fertilized. The Pinto Beans did much better and we will try caring for them a little better. We noticed that adding Azomite to our soil really help with fertility update. Azomite is an organic mulit-mineral supplement – minerals A through Z. We are keeping the seed we harvest for planting next season.
NEXT SEASON: Growing for us and the new poultry.
Our farm used to lack a on-farm source of fertilizer and we lacked an affordable supply of eggs, chicken and turkey. In November of this year I went to the local store to scope out the price of organic turkeys. We planned a family dinner and hoped to provide the turkey. The turkey was $76.00, way beyond what we could pay. We have decided to raise poultry and eggs for ourselves, our families and our friends. It is the only way we can afford the meat source and make sure it is raised without chemicals and antibiotics and GMO’s. We will be raising our own feed for these birds and plan to add dent corn, millet and other grains to our fields next year. We need the poultry poop for our fields and crops too. The crops will raise next year are the tried and true listed by the Bellingham Backyard Bean and Grain project. Here is a list:
- Pinto Beans
- Black Beans
- Soup Beans
- 8 varieties of heirloom beans
Grains and Seeds
- Dent Corn
Eaglemount Farms will be part of the Jefferson County Bean and Grain Conference to take place at the Chimacum Grange on April 3, 2015
Rome, Krista M. (2011) “Growing Dry Beans and Grains in the Pacific Northwest – A step-by-step guide to producing your own staple foods” Backyard Beans and Grains Project- publisher. Bellingham, WA
Simpson, Sarah and McLeod, Heather (2013) “Uprisings, A Hands-on Guide to the Community Grain Revolution. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada
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