This is The ChangeUnderground for the 27th of September 2021.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
A moment to pause, just for a minute, as the wheel of the year continues to turn. Last monday my weather app reported the sunrise would be at 06:10 and the sunset 18:10. Twelve hours of daylight following twelve hours of night time. The equinox was upon us. Harvests in the northern hemisphere and thoughts of planting in the southern. Those to the north of us in Australia have been planting for some time. Unless they live in the ranges or here in Van Diemen’s Land. The soil is yet to fully warm for that sort of thing but it is definitely on the mind.
So too is the ripening of the winter cereals. We’ve had a relatively mild winter for the district. Still cold enough, often enough but the bureau reported above average temperatures both day and night with the same forecast for Spring. That combined with about average rainfall could have us a little on the dry side come summer. The higher temps leading to higher evaporation. Keeping the soil covered is, as ever, critical only perhaps a little more so.
The barley I planted in May is very stunted, maybe 10cm out of the ground and, well, poor. It is though, covering the soil, slowing the rainfall down and keeping the life underground protected. WHen things are warmer, I’ll oversow with buckwheat and slash the barley remains with the sickle bar mower. This device is basically a set of reciprocating teeth that cuts vegetation off at the height I set it at. The material then falls in a chaotic manner across the land. This is Fukuoka’s suggested arrangement.
The wheat, like the barley, was sown in May from seeds sold as feed. I needed to get something in and that’s what I had on hand. Remarkably, to me anyway, the wheat is doing well. It’s on lighter soil so maybe that helped. I’m not sure and am learning as I go. We will get a great harvest from the wheat. The patch is about 50 metres by 4, 200 m2. I have a Korean sickle for harvest, a threshing area in the shed, feed bags for grain storage and an electric mill for making wholemeal flour. I am, without counting unhatched chickens, looking forward to making bread from our soil. Again, I’ll oversow with buckwheat if the timing works, if not then I’m trying to source some grain sorghum. Probably from the health food shop but it will be organic and relatively fresh.
The oats I planted were from a seed selected for feed production not grain. They are producing grain but not much. I’m looking at the oats as a straight out green manure crop. Over sowing and slashing. The amount of organic matter is really impressive and I’m thinking of using the same variety on a patch at work that’s just screaming out for more organic matter.
The four test patch was Spelt. This I sourced from the health food shop in town. It is a truly exciting prospect. 60 to 80cm tall, suffering from a slight nitrogen shortage but growing well and producing seed heads. Spelt is related to wheat but with a different gluten profile. It is a prima donna of flours. Very delicate, very water absorbent it requires different techniques to be made into bread. Mixing in wheat flour is a solution but I’m going for the 100% Spelt bread because I’m a contrarian like that. Several experimental loaves have revealed, as has a close study of techniques on Youtube with the sound off, that the no-knead method seems the way to go. Instead of pulling the dough in a stretching manner and folding it upon itself as I do with wheat no-knead loaves, the trick seems to be to use a scraper to farm the dough into a ball. By pushing in at the base of the dough all the way around the edge, the same effect is achieved. When stretched like a wheat loaf, the results are very flat, as in not risen as much as I’d like. I’ll put some pics on the transcript post for this episode so you can see the differences between the wheat and the spelt. The spelt loaves cook off to a rich light golden colour which pleases me no end.
The fifth “patch” I’ve grown over winter is about 10 by 12 metres and I’ve got the poultry, ducks and chooks, scratching and pooping on that in preparation for a flour maize to be planted in November, soil temperature allowing. I’ll be growing a Hopi Blue Corn variety that matures into a cool damp autumn which is lucky coz that’s pretty much every autumn in these parts. From that patch I’ll be able to extend the area under corn during summer 2022-2023 to about 3/4 to 1 acre.
Corn raises questions for me as to how it will fit into a Fukuoka system but no problem is unsolvable. Stand by for updates as I think it through or better yet, if anyone listening has a suggestion on how to deal with stover as opposed to straw in a Fukuoka system, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re thinking about or even ready to make the leap into growing your own food go to the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/ and you can obtain a free copy of The ChangeUnderground No-Dig Gardening System.
If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions there’s the ChangeUnderground Podcast Group on Facebook. You can search the Book of Faces or there’s a link in the show notes and in the transcript over at WorldOrganicNews.com/episode271.
Decarbonise the air and Recarbonise the soil.
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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