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Old 12-14-2011, 01:48 PM   #11
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Mmm beer. I hope it tastes REALLY good for you! Best of luck on this labor of love. Cool project even with all of the work. Keep us updated.

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Old 12-14-2011, 02:16 PM   #12
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We have an 8 acre field that we mow just like a regular yard. We plant about an acre of garden each year and have seriously debated planting the rest in rye and barley. We usually plant rye in the garden at the end of the season for soil conservation, but never let it grow to much before tilling under.

We have the tractors and all the implements (Father-in-law is a retired farmer and kept the smaller stuff for fun) so this is an easier thing to do than all the manual work you are doing. Hats off to you by the way.

I am just not sure of the yield per acre and my abilities to malt the barley to make it worth my efforts.

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Old 12-14-2011, 07:42 PM   #13
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We have an 8 acre field...We have the tractors and all the implements...I am just not sure of the yield per acre and my abilities to malt the barley to make it worth my efforts.
8 acres, awesome!!! Well, it sounds like you're just a few steps away from making beer form your field. Do you have a combine or any type of harvester? If you just want enough to make a few batches, you could also harvest and thresh by hand -- it's not too hard to do small volumes.

It's true that the more time you put into it, the higher yield you'll get. I only have 3000 square feet, so I'm taking measures to maximize my yield. (Fertilizing, weeding, irrigating, et c.) I'm also just interested in learning how to do this stuff. But it doesn't sound like you're limited by land. I would buy some malting barley seed and broadcast half an acre or so. You'll have more than enough barley to brew every weekend of the year!

Malting is way easier than brewing -- soak grains in water overnight, then drain and spread them out on a plastic bag or tarp. Spray them with a water bottle every few days if you live in a dry climate, and turn them in the morning. It's okay if you forget and leave them alone for a weekend -- they'll be fine. When the shoot is 75-100% of the length of the grain (should take 10 days or so), dry out with a box fan. Then bake in an oven on the lowest setting for 4-5 hours. Pale ale malt.
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Old 12-14-2011, 07:54 PM   #14
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Would need to harvest by hand is about the worst of it.

If a half an acre would be a yield that large I may look into it more seriously.

My family in PA farms over 300 acres, might be cool just to see if they would plant barley in a small area.

Either way, I have hops I grow, just need the grain so I need to work on this.

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Old 12-14-2011, 08:16 PM   #15
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I have no useful knowledge to add to this, but I must say I enjoyed reading all the posts and seeing the changes and growth of your field. Very cool, and I'm pretty jealous that you can actually plant and grow something in winter

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Old 12-15-2011, 01:48 AM   #16
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If a half an acre would be a yield that large I may look into it more seriously.
No promises! But yeah, industrial farms get something like 5000 pounds per acre! Let's say that you and I can get just a fifth of that -- well, a half acre is still 500 pounds of grain. You could brew a batch almost every weekend for a year. Play around with malting -- get some wheat grains from the bulk bin at Whole Foods (or a less expensive store) and practice getting them malted and dried. Just make sure to drain them after soaking and you should be fungus-free.

Psych, thanks for the kind words. I used to live in upstate NY, and sometimes I imagine my old professors covered in snow while I watch these little guys grow! Well, I don't know if I'll be able to live in CA forever, so got to enjoy it while I can.
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Old 12-15-2011, 02:31 AM   #17
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I'm not a grain farmer and it appears you have done some research, but I have to ask why all the concern with fertilizer, watering and weeding? Sure, maybe it will help but this stuff pretty much grows care free. Is it because of where you live?

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Old 12-15-2011, 02:32 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by drummstikk View Post
8 acres, awesome!!! Well, it sounds like you're just a few steps away from making beer form your field. Do you have a combine or any type of harvester? If you just want enough to make a few batches, you could also harvest and thresh by hand -- it's not too hard to do small volumes.

It's true that the more time you put into it, the higher yield you'll get. I only have 3000 square feet, so I'm taking measures to maximize my yield. (Fertilizing, weeding, irrigating, et c.) I'm also just interested in learning how to do this stuff. But it doesn't sound like you're limited by land. I would buy some malting barley seed and broadcast half an acre or so. You'll have more than enough barley to brew every weekend of the year!

Malting is way easier than brewing -- soak grains in water overnight, then drain and spread them out on a plastic bag or tarp. Spray them with a water bottle every few days if you live in a dry climate, and turn them in the morning. It's okay if you forget and leave them alone for a weekend -- they'll be fine. When the shoot is 75-100% of the length of the grain (should take 10 days or so), dry out with a box fan. Then bake in an oven on the lowest setting for 4-5 hours. Pale ale malt.
Check the prices on combines, you better have more than 8 acres or be rich.
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Old 12-15-2011, 04:06 AM   #19
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The U Idaho Extension website gives a roadmap of what to expect for the coming weeks. The bere, pictured above, has four leaves and a coleoptillar tiller, which comes from below the ground.

Most of the Conlon now has a developing third leaf, which according to the U Idaho blog, is about a week behind the bere. The two varieties were planted at the same time, but develop at different rates.


In other news, I needed to finish fertilizing. I had applied 33 lb/acre right after emergence, but I should be closer to 60 lb/acre for the upper and middle fields (which grew soybeans last winter), and closer to 80 lb/acre for the lower field, which grew corn two summers ago and lay fallow last summer.

Because of the netting, I can't apply anything to the upper field. So, I laid down 1.25 lbs of urea on the middle and 2.5 lbs of urea on the lower. The total Nitrogen for upper, middle, lower is now 33 lb/acre, 56 lb/acre and 79 lb/acre.

It's worth thinking about this because you want to try to get the nitrogen in a sweet spot. Too little N and yield suffers through decreased tiller formation and fewer kernels per head. Too much N, and the protein in the finished grains will rise above 12.5%. This would still make beer, but 13% protein grain would be rejected by the malting industry. We've essentially never experienced high-protein barley, but I imagine it gives some problems similar to wheat and rye -- stuck sparges and hazy beers. The Queensland website is still the best one for figuring out how much N to target.


I'm still not sure when it's best to apply N. Intuitively, you might want to apply it in several doses during the plants' vegetative growth, so that the plants get a steady supply. But some extension websites claim that late N additions increase grain protein without affecting yield.

Another reason to fertilize early is this:



That urea chunk is right there in the middle of the plant, and if it's not removed or washed out, it will eventually burn the plant and kill it. Fortunately, there was only about one plant like this per row.

The field got an extra-good watering to help wash urea out of the plants and into the ground.

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Old 12-15-2011, 04:37 AM   #20
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I'm not a grain farmer and it appears you have done some research, but I have to ask why all the concern with fertilizer, watering and weeding? Sure, maybe it will help but this stuff pretty much grows care free. Is it because of where you live?
From the barley's point of view, all these things will increase yield. No matter where you live, soils typically never contain enough nitrogen to support a big crop of grain. We're asking a lot of the ecosystem when we farm, and you'll almost always get more grain per square foot if you give your crop some N.

Watering is unfortunately just a requirement where I live. Without irrigation, I'd have some sad barley, and actually, before the field manager and I adjusted the irrigation posts, some of it was getting wilty.

Weeding is also to increase yield. This is just due to eliminating competition for the first two variables, nutrients and water.

Now, I don't want to necessarily mimic a big commercial farm. But just like we can learn a lot from commercial brewers, I think it's interesting to learn some of the techniques and thinking that go into pro farms.

I imagine this would all still work without weeding or fertilizing, and if you're strategic, you could probably get a small crop without irrigation. Well, you can also make beer without a thermometer, hydrometer, or BeerSmith. People did for many thousands of years, and that beer drank pretty good. But most of us use these things because they give us some control, they sometimes help us to make a better product, and it's fun to geek out on beer.

I suppose that's the main reason -- I have a raging geekrection for beer.
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