Making bread from scratch

I recently made bread using whole wheat flour made with the wheat I grew back in BC. I’m ridiculously proud about being self-sufficient in a food as basic and ubiquitous as bread. So here is the story in pictures of my whole wheat bread. I planted the hard red winter wheat in mid-October last year. We had some rain and soon the sprouts where looking like this:

Sprouting wheat

It grew a bit higher then kind of hibernated during the winter and started growing again in the spring. By July, after some hot, dry weather that was good for drying, it was close to 3 feet tall and the heads were bent down indicating that the wheat was ripe and ready to be harvested:

Ripe wheat in the field

We then used hand sickles over a couple of days to cut the wheat and bundle it into sheaves.

Cutting the ripe wheat

A finished sheaf

The next challenge was to figure out how to get the wheat threshed. Threshing separates the grain from the hulls and stems (chaff). We tried putting the harvested wheat on a tarp and stomping on it then trying to use a fan to blow away the lighter chaff. This proved to be way to time consuming. Now if you were growing 100 acres of wheat, you would probably have a large combine to do the harvesting, threshing, and cleaning all in one step but I didn’t have a combine and I only had 1/10th of an acre of wheat so it wasn’t likely that I could find anyone willing to come out and combine this small amount. So, I heard about the Atchelitz Threshermen’s Association, a group that operates a farm equipment museum at the local fairgrounds. They were nice enought to let me bring the wheat sheaves out and run them through a 1940’s vintage threshing machine.

My wheat sheaves by the thresher

Threshed wheat coming out

I ended up with 340 pounds or so of threshed wheat. There was still a bit of chaff in with the grain but this had reduced the two pickup truck loads of sheaves to 5 bags full of grain. The next step was to clean the grain to remove the remaining chaff. I found a kind farmer with another antique piece of equipment, in this case a fanning mill.

The fanning mill in action

Beautiful cleaned wheat kernels

 I brought 75 pounds or so of the cleaned wheat with me to New Brunswick. Then we received as a present this wonderful Nutrimill that grinds the wheat (and other grains) into whole grain meal or flour depending on the courseness setting.

The new grain mill

Now that I had the flour, I used a recipe from the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book to turn it into a delicious loaf of bread.

The finished loaf!


4 Responses to “Making bread from scratch”

  1. jo willson Says:

    I’m so proud of you too, Will. I remember the fabulously hot summer we had that grew your wheat so successfully to fruition in September, and our trip to the fairgrounds to
    thresh your second load of sheaves last summer.

  2. jo willson Says:

    Alyson, I’m putting in my order for one of your home spun scarves – when the time comes!! The time has come to wish you both a Happy, Healthy and prosperous New Year with a succession of “kids” as the years go by. Our Vancouver- Whistler area is beginning to gear up to the 2010 Olympic adrenaline rush, there’ll be thousands of competitors and
    visitors around for the next few weeks.

    Bye, bye for now,
    Lots of love JO

  3. gary davis Says:

    Really cool!! I’m thinking that the collectors of the old farm equipment were thrilled to get an opportunity to use their equipment for real! I would have liked to have been there. Oh well….next time! 🙂 Have a great 2010!

  4. Myrna Says:

    Alyson – it sounds like “The Little Red Hen”, but you seem to have managed to get quite a few helpers!, and such a wonderful loaf of bread. I made bread for my family of 6 for the better part of a year, back in the 70’s, but I didn’t manage to do it in Whole Wheat – that is another whole issue! – congratulations. Keep the stories coming!

    Love ya

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