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Melissa Miles | Philadelphia Home Gardening Examiner
Growing back-yard pancakes: Small-Scale Grain Raising
May 26, 4:11 PM
If you’ve been seriously considering creating a sustainable and self-sufficient garden, Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers, by Gene Logsdon, can help you to do so. When most of us think about edible gardens we usually think of fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs, but Logsdon's book challenges readers to consider raising small plots of grains and dried beans in home gardens or on small-scale farms.
In the introduction to this second edition of the book (first published in 1977) Logsdon writes that Small-Scale Grain Raising is written for the "garden-farmer" - those of us who want to increase the quality and the yield of our food supply and, wish to do so in a sustainable way. Small-Scale Grain Raising gives detailed information and instruction on just about everything involved in growing grains: seed sourcing, planting, harvesting and processing - Logsdon even includes recipes for preparing your bounty.
Though the average home gardener's patch of grain is not likely to yield all the cereals they will consume over the course of a year, Logsdon's primer can help him to supplement his family's grain ration with nutritious, good quality, and great tasting grains that can be used to make breads and crackers, pancakes, corn/rice dishes, and even soy milk. Fortunately, the aspiring grain gardener need not have a large expanses of land on which to raise his crop, as even a modest suburban acre can yield a fair amount of grain, rice or beans - giving those with edible home gardens (yet another way) to feel self-sufficient...'ish'.
Other titles by Logsdon include: The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening, Good Spirits: A New Look at Ol' Demon Alcohol, and Wildlife in the Garden: How to Live in Harmony with Deer, Raccoons, Rabbits, Crows, and Other Pesky Creatures.
With grain prices likely to continue to rise, the ever increasing concern over the safety of our nation's food supply and the unceasing controversy surrounding the potential hazards of genetically modified grains, Small-Scale Grain Raising is an old idea we gardeners can surely benefit from learning more about. Growing some wheat, rice, corn (and even some of the lesser-known grains, like sorghum, that Logsdon writes about) can help you to cut your grocery bill, add some nutritious foods to your menu, and help you to create a more sustainable landscape or garden.
The Daily Commute
Small Scale Grain Raising: a Book Worth Reading
5/19/2009 2:50:15 PM
by Hank Will, Editor
I was thrilled to take a look at Gene Logsdon's updated 2009 edition of an old favorite of mine, Small Scale Grain Raising. Now in its second edition, the book is even more apropos today than the first edition was in 1977, when I was a budding young agriculturist. I devoured the first edition in the lab between analytical chemistry procedures and dreamed of growing all kinds of grains on a small-scale level. When I obtained a copy of the second edition, which was released last April, I devoured it in five evenings, between chores and bedtime. Actually it kept me up late one night – apologies to the GRIT staff for my fatigue the other day.
Small Scale Grain Raising is a stellar work that will inspire gardeners, farmers, dreamers and just about anyone else who cares about good food, good flavors and asking questions. Most small-scale agriculturists and gardeners never even consider adding grains other than corn (maize) to their crop rotation. This is in part because producing small grains like wheat and barley, or even pseudo-grains like buckwheat, is considered to be an arduous task at best that requires seed drills and combines to accomplish. Heck, the capital outlay for equipment is enough to turn off even medium-sized farmers who are tapped into the corn-soybean rotation. But it doesn't have to be so. And Logsdon shows you how to make it happen on a backyard scale. Did you know that you can grow sufficient grains to feed your family and many of your animals all year on less than an acre of land with just a few hand tools?
Logsdon's out of the box approach to farming is as fresh and informed today as ever before. He has bothered to ask, and answer, many of the questions that paralyze gardeners and farmers when faced with the expense of some conventionally recommended production practice. And he does all of this, while respecting and understanding how those recommended practices came into being. The book is filled with anecdotes, advice, stories of success and failure – all steeped in the author's delightfully wry sense of humor.
Worried about what to do with all that backyard grain when harvest season rolls around? All you need to know about cutting, curing, threshing, cleaning, hulling and eating grains is laid out on the pages of Small Scale Grain Raising. I recommend that you pick up a copy today. Who knows, you may start a small-scale grain project of your own, or perhaps you can convince your favorite market farmer to put out a spelt crop for you next year. In any case, you will be a lot smarter about all things agriculture if you spend any time with the wisdom-filled pages of Gene Logsdon's Small Scale Grain Raising.
Well worth the wheat: Gene Logsdon’s “Small-Scale Grain Raising”
As the price of flour and other grain-based foods has risen, creative-minded people have begun to consider growing their own wheat, corn, rye, and other grains. Groovy Green noted last year that one bakery — the Hungry Ghost Bread company in Northhampton, Massachusetts — even offered grain seeds to their customers through their Little Red Hen venture, encouraging them to grow the grains to sell back to the bakery for local loaves.
It’s an idea whose time is ripe once again. More than 30 years ago, farmer Gene Logsdon followed his publisher’s suggestion to write a book that would help aspiring grain-growing homesteaders of the 1960s and 1970s choose the right grain for their land and their garden or farming situation. The book went out of print many years ago, but the recession, the specter of peak oil, and the desire to take back some control over the food supply have all combined to prompt some folks to grow grains locally, sparking a renewed interest in the work and sending the price of used copies of “Small-Scale Grain Raising” well over $1,000.
It’s with some relief, then, that readers and homesteading hopefuls will welcome this revised second edition (Chelsea Green, spring 2009; pre-order from Amazon.com), in which Logsdon has updated the information based on new research and his personal experience. Logsdon returned with his equally knowledgeable wife, Carol, to farm a portion of his family’s land in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, in the 1970s. He began a prolific literary career by working at “Farm Journal” in the 1960s before writing on practical homesteading and how-to topics, moving to philosophical essays, and in recent years producing two novels and a “fable” on reclaiming strip-mined land. He currently writes at Organic To Be, combining reprinted essays and passages from his books with up-to-date musings, and at Farming Magazine. (He also writes a more down-home column in his local newspaper that occasionally tweaks his neighbors’ sensibilities.) For my money, he ranks with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson as a realistic and necessary voice in the realm of agriculture, challenging how we see farmers and farming as well as challenging the agribusiness establishment in all its guises.
In “Small-Scale Grain Raising,” Logsdon lays out clearly just how easy it can be to grow grains for your family and your livestock, from his beloved “pancake patch” up to acre-sized plots. Interspersed with good-humored vintage anecdotes and his usual “Contrary Farmer” commentary, this primer elevates the status of grain-growing on farms of all sizes (from the backyard on up) to a happy essential. As he states repeatedly, there’s nothing so delicious — or so economical — as home-baked goods made with fresh grains you grew and milled yourself. And when those same home-grown grains can also feed your animals and build soil fertility… well, what’s stopping you?
Logsdon’s book covers all of the well-known grains and several of the lesser ones: barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rice, spelt, sorghum, triticale, wheat, and others. He also devotes a chapter to soybeans and dried beans, despite their classification as legumes, because they partner so well with grains both in growing and in eating. For at least the major grains he discusses varieties, yields, nutritional value, and uses (both for human and animal consumption as well as other farm uses). He describes how to prepare the soil, how to plant the grain seeds (including optimal space requirements), what diseases and pests to watch for and how to deal with them, how to harvest and dry the grains, how to store them, and, finally, how to turn those seeds into food for your family.
Drawing on his personal experience growing almost all of the major grains, Logsdon describes “how we do it” even when it contrasts with conventional wisdom. He touts the value of open-pollinated seed, despite advances in hybrids, because of their superior taste and the satisfaction of not being beholden to agribusiness. He also demonstrates that old hand tools and techniques can sometimes be the most efficient when growing on a small scale. For example, though corn may be harvested by machine, he outlines how to bundle corn stalks into shocks for easy, inexpensive drying and storage (and aesthetic value). He claims to keep a basket full of old socks to slip over ripening ears of corn to prevent wild animals from dining on his crops. (I’d like to see that!) And for his money, the best weed control — the one to which pests never develop resistance — is the hoe.
Logsdon points out another benefit to small-scale growing: little or no waste in the crops. Once the ears of corn are harvested for drying, the cornstalks can be used as bedding for livestock or, bundled together and propped against a wall, as insulation for buildings like chicken coops. Naked corncobs can find new life as the base for corncob jelly or as fire starters. Straw from other grains can be used as bedding, too, or tilled or disked back into the soil.
Read the whole article.