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drummstikk

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Going to catch up with a thread I began over at brewingnetwork.com. Progress posts will go up on both sites. I know this section is for growing hops, and that will eventually be part of the project -- but these first posts are all about barley!

Originally posted Nov 15, 2011

A field is required. Through the generosity of a field manager, I have access to about 3,000 square feet of irrigated healthy soil to grow barley. It's not too sandy and it doesn't have too much clay. It has a moderate amount of organic content, derived from a compost addition every other year. One third of the field intensively grows corn in the summer, followed by a winter cover crop of legumes and oats, which is plowed under. The other two thirds may have had the same rotation in the past, but are coming off of a winter of growing chickpeas followed by a fallow summer.

Last week the entire field was disced by a local ranch. The discer is a big device dragged by a tractor -- it's two big rows of steel discs that cut into the soil, and each disc has a metal bracket extending to the side. They simultaneously chop up whatever was standing in the field and churn up about 8" of soil. This has a different effect on the soil than plowing, but I'm not sure how -- perhaps someone else knows?

I followed with a shovel to dig out the corners of the field that the discer missed. Then I began making 14" East-West rows to hold barley seed. The soil is loose in most parts of the field, and this job is easier than it sounds. Still exhausting, though, about as intense as jogging, and I can go for an hour and a half at a time before my arms turn to jelly, getting 800 square feet done in one go. Should be finished tomorrow! I use posts and nylon rope to keep the rows straight, measuring tape to keep them even.



I ordered 2-row Conlon seed from Johnny's Selected Seeds and a mix of harvested malting barley seed adapted to Colorado from Welcome to the Future of Your Beer! I expect disease will be big problem, based on the advice I received from a plant breeder at UC Davis who is attempting to create a California-adapted malting barley cultivar. So, I want as much diversity in my seeds as possible, in case some are better suited to the area than others. I'll seed part of my field with the single cultivar and part with the mix.

I'm planting all spring 2-row, now in November, as soon as the field is ready. Fall-sown Spring barley is how we do it in California. Apparently, winter barleys achieve their frost-resistance, in part, through delaying flowering until after a long period of cold temperatures. If you don't expect any freezing during the winter, then choosing a winter barley will only delay harvest time. It does freeze here in Palo Alto, but it's only a few nights a year, and only a degree or two below 0 C. Things get colder in Davis, where all the local barley knowledge comes from, so I'm confident about sowing spring barley in the fall.

In planning: a technique for seeding. Any advice here is much appreciated! I don't have a seeder, so I'll have to do it by hand. Any ideas to avoid the pain of planting 45,000 seeds? I'm thinking of dragging a metal rod across each row to dig a 1-2" trench, then following with a PVC tube with funnel attached to top, pouring seeds into funnel. Then cover seeds by dragging a metal chain along rows, followed with packing by foot.

Another option would be to build a makeshift seeder. The least desirable option is to spend $90 on a real one. Any advice here?

Last year's work: Planted 11 hop rhizomes in my backyard. Ordered from freshops and picked up locally at MoreBeer. The quality was very poor, and only five survived! This spring, I expect cones from one plant each of Cluster, Chinook, Columbus, and Glacier. A Goldings plant grew anemically last year, so I'm not sure if I'll get cones from it. I left the bines up so they could feed the roots as much as possible, but they're dying now. This is the Cluster:


Depending on the yield of the barley, I'll get enough for anywhere from 0 - 20 batches of beer. I'm setting my expectations low, because from what people tell me, this is hard. If I can get enough barley to survive aphids, scald, stripe rust, and yellow dwarf virus, get it all threshed, malt it without any fungal growth, kiln it without destroying enzymes, then get enough hops to balance 5 gallons of beer, I will be more than happy.

There's a brewer, Mark VanGlad, who did everything except the malting at a commercial scale.

Why do this? Same reasons we brew, brothers and sisters. Because we can!
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Originally posted Nov 16, 2011


I finished making 14" rows yesterday:


And I discovered an Earthway seeder in a shed, complete with seed plates useful for barley!

This hand-pushed device cuts a furrow (you can set the depth), deposits seeds, closes up the furrow with a dragged chain, and presses down with a wheel to pack the soil around seeds.

It's not perfect, and each scoop of the seed wheel actually deposits several seeds -- but if you're pushing fast enough, they get spread out to roughly 1 seed per inch. This solves the seeding problem.

Plan: As soon as the neighboring fields are raked (they were recently seeded with a cover crop), which will happen tomorrow, the entire field will begin to be irrigated. I'll wait a few days for weed seeds to sprout, then spray with Roundup. Then, Friday or Saturday, I'll fertilize and plant!
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Originally posted Nov 18, 2011

I thought the plan would be for the field manager to begin irrigating via those posts you see in the photo by Thursday, when the neighboring field's cover crop seeds were raked in. I talked to him today, though, and he said that since rain was forecast today and Sunday, we would wait. A sensible decision for conserving water and managing the whole field. That's why he's the field manager. But I need my weed seeds to sprout now so I can kill them, so I can plant barley!

It was 3pm and still no rain, with only a 65% chance of rain forecast tonight, so I decided to just spray what weeds the field had and plant barley seeds ASAP. The herbicide is Roundup (glyphosate) -- a glycine analog that prevents amino acid metabolism, mixed with diquat, which destroys plant tissue on contact. I mixed a blue dye in with the herbicides so I wouldn't walk on an area I'd already sprayed.



I didn't spray areas without any growth, because glyphosate and diquat only work on growing plant tissue. Plus they both break down quickly in soil from microbial action. You don't want to dump them straight into a water supply, so any excess has to go in a low place in the field to be decomposed, not down the drain.

Anyway, it's well into the night right now, and still no significant rain shower! It looks like the field won't go through a round of pre-seeding irrigation to let weeds sprout. I've got to plant soon, because if I wait a week for weeds to germinate, then spray them again, I'll be pushing my heading date into late March. I've got to be out of the field in May-June for corn to come in. Damn the weeds -- it's time to seed!



Extrapolating from measurements made by some dudes with an Earthway at the Virginia Association for Biological Farming, running the seeder down 14" rows will result in 43-47 pounds of barley seed / acre. On a commercial farm, people typically seed closer to 100 pounds / acre, but there are a few reasons I may want to plant less densely.

  • There are trees and bushes to the west and south of my area. My corner of the field is shady, which (along with the field manager's awesome attitude and benevolence) is why I'm able to use it -- the corn people don't even bother to plant it some years. The seeding recommendation of 100 lb/acre is based on picturesque Dakota plains, not a corner of Northern California woodland. Planting too densely can actually decrease yield if the plants are stressed and compete for resources.

  • Planting over the winter will give the barley plenty of time to send up multiple shoots. It's called tillering, and it's a process of barley growing laterally in a dense tuft. It can mess up your rows, but if the plants are old enough to tiller, you don't care. The rows were there to facilitate weeding during the early stages of growth, and by the time tillers show up, the barley plants typically have grown tall enough to form a canopy, outcompeting weed seeds for light.

So, here's the plan: I'll plant 2/3 of my field at 43-47 lb/acre, and 1/3 at twice that rate. For the doubled rate, I'll just go over each row with the seeder twice. I'll choose the sunniest, most fertile area for the higher seeding rate. I really don't know what to expect, and I could imagine either seeding rate producing more than the other. (I'll do this experiment instead of trying different cultivars of 2-row, which was the previous plan.)
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Originally posted Nov 20, 2011

Planting is finished!

Rain came early this morning, and the sky was clear by the time my partner and I got out to the field. We practiced a bit with the seeder full of malt, then switched over to seeds. We followed up each seeded row on foot to press the dirt down around the seeds, and to cover up any seeds that were left exposed.

The rows were fairly straight, but the mounds I had dug actually made it very difficult to keep the seeder going in a straight line at any speed. I'd say most rows deviated 3-4 inches within the 14" row. I'd suggest to anyone else trying this to forget about digging mounds and trenches, and just seed into flat tilled earth.





The estimates for the seeding rate of the Earthway with plate 22 were pretty accurate. We seeded two 33' x 33' plots with single passes of Conlon seeds in 14" rows, and one 33' x 33' plot with double passes. I reserved a few grams of seed to play with later on, and the five pound bag ran out just shy of finishing up the last of the second-pass rows.

Enough room remained at the ends for one row of Golden Promise and four rows of bere, a Scottish six-row. Those seeds were obtained from the National Plant Germplasm System, which will send you a few grams of seeds, about enough for one 30 foot row. I expanded the bere last spring in my backyard, and was pleasantly surprised to have enough for four rows!

The whole job only took about two hours, and then it was off to enjoy the rest of Saturday. Now that the seeds are in the ground (a few weeks too late, most would agree), some time pressure is relieved. Whew! But now I'm afraid a battle with weeds, insects, viruses, and fungi is about to begin. I'll keep my eye out for the weeds first. I have a hand cultivator and plenty of Roundup -- let's hope the rows were straight enough to allow for some weeding!
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Originally posted Dec 1, 2011

It was a cool and wet holiday weekend, but apparently enough sun came through to grow the barley to about an inch tall.



I'm completely psyched. I've had a lot of help from the field managers and my planting buddy to get to this point. I've had some luck too, with weather and tools. But now comes what most people describe as the hard part. For example, check out these weed seedlings scattered among the barley



You can see the small sprouts with two leaves. Here's a better feel for how many weeds there are overall.



I can imagine far worse -- the field managers have been diligent about planting cover crops to prevent weed buildup. In fact, these could even be seedlings from the legume cover crop that was planted here in the past. (Pure speculation -- any plant people have an idea what these little two-leaved seedlings are?)

Well, this is why you plant in rows, right? The first thing I did yesterday was to cultivate between rows with a tool that looks like this



which was able to dig up (and hopefully kill) all the weeds that weren't too close to a barley seedling



I could have also sprayed between rows with Roundup, but I'd still have the problem of what to do with weeds that are mingling with the good stuff. Does anyone know how harmful the remaining weeds will be? Is it worth plucking them by hand?

You can also see in the previous photo how the seeder deviated from straight lines. Not too crooked, because you can still walk between rows. But surely an experienced gardener looks at these rows and winces!

Maybe, though, the bigger problem is how non-uniform the seedlings are within a row. You can see clumps of seedlings followed by gaps with no plants in every photo. Buying a better (and more expensive) seeder seems to be the only solution. Earthway just doesn't make a plate that will drop one barley seed at at time. Let's see if the non-uniformity negatively impacts growth over the course of the season.

I also fertilized with a Scott Basic spreader



You pour granular fertilizer in the bin, and adjust a dial, which in turn adjusts the width of a gap in the bottom of the bin that you can open with a handle. You have to take a guess as to the proper setting (some fertilizers will list the application rate you'll achieve with different Scott settings -- check the package -- but mine did not). Weigh the fertilizer before and after application to know how much you actually put into the field.

I put down one pound of a 16-16-16 fertilizer mix. These numbers are always percent N-P-K by mass (16% Nitrogen, 16% Phosphorus, 16% Potassium). I also put down 5 lbs of urea, which is 46% nitrogen by mass. This works out to about 33 lb/acre nitrogen and 2 lb/acre phosphorus, a little under half of what I had calculated the field might need over the course of the season. I'll fertilize again before the plants get too tall.

To get the slightest idea for how much of these nutrients to apply, I used this excellent tutorial provided by the Queensland government. Does anybody have experience fertilizing malting barley? I'm currently shooting for 70 lb/acre nitrogen and 7 lb/acre phosphorus, and I'd like to know if these are in the ballpark.

You can see some chunks of fertilizer (and a few damn weeds) here



Since the seedlings have only one leaf, I don't need to worry about fertilizer chunks getting stuck where the leaves come off of the plant -- this can be lethal.

We've got nothing but sun in the forecast now -- the field is being irrigated just a little, and I'd say it's perfect -- the soil is moist enough about a half inch below the surface that you can squeeze it into a clump with your hand, but not so moist that the clump won't fall apart with a little poke. Some website I read somewhere along the way described this as the correct soil moisture.

Grow!
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Originally posted Dec 12, 2011



Ouch! Those barley plants have been chopped by some animal, probably a squirrel or chicken. In fact, I think predation may be the most significant reason the upper third of the field hasn't grown. This is the shadiest part of the field, so I previously thought that light was limiting this area's growth. But a closer inspection reveals entire rows of chopped leaves.



If I can stop whatever is munching away, these damaged barleys should be able to recover and reach maturity. Yield will be affected, but it should still be possible to save the plants.

There are two solutions: the first is to call out a groundskeeper. My field is right across the street from athletic fields, which don't get any sort of rodent management. It could be that squirrels are expanding their territory -- they can simply be trapped and taken away.





The other solution is to put a net over the hardest-nibbled sections of field. If the problem is chickens, (not unreasonable -- chickens freely roam the area) the nets will stop them. Here, you can see the stark difference in growth between the upper and middle sections of the field.



Like the seeder, these nets and stakes belong to the corn genetics lab that uses the field in the summer. I am extremely grateful to have access to these essential tools! It only took me about an hour to install the netting, but for now I'll just put it up over the section that has taken heavy losses -- the upper third. Nets prevent weeding and fertilizing, so the more I put up now, the more I'll have to take down when it's time for field maintenance. If the animal problem does expand to the rest of the field, I should be able to set up more nets quickly.



Before I put up the nets, I needed to finish cultivating between rows to uproot weed seedlings. The process doesn't do anything to the weeds that are right up next to the barley. These weeds are currently competing with the barley seedlings, and there's not much to do except wait to see which plant wins (c'mon, barley!). But cultivation will kill weeds in the spaces between rows. Later in the season, this soil should be weed-free so barley roots can grow into it.

Here, I've cultivated the rows on the right, but haven't gotten to the ones on the left side yet.



There was one more unrelated problem -- the lower field (which is mostly immune to predation so far) is a bit too dry. Even when you dig down an inch or two, the soil is dusty and does not form a clump when you squeeze it. The barley plants are right on the edge of health, and depending on the day, can show some signs of water stress -- on a dry windy day, their leaves are a little droopy, and not stiff with turgor pressure as they should be.

So the field manager and I adjusted the sprinkler heads on the irrigation posts. Now that I know how to adjust them, I can tweak them as time goes on to make sure the entire field is getting properly irrigated.





Despite the predation setback, I've been extremely lucky with the crop so far. Temperatures have been high enough at the right times to get the plants established, and so far, there are no signs of disease. Most plants have developed two leaves, one large one and one small, which you can see in the first few rows here:



Please let me know if you have any experience getting rid of vertebrate garden pests, or if you have experience dealing with weeds growing right next to the plants you want to keep. Hoping the first problem will soon be fixed, and that the second turns out to be insignificant.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Are these tillers? It seems like every university cooperative extension goes on and on about tillers, but none of them actually describes what barley tillers will look like. The best I've found is this presentation about wheat tillers. I'm forming my image of a barley tiller on the fact that it shouldn't be too different from wheat.

Anyway, are these tillers?





I'm curious, because apparently the timing and extent of tiller formation can help you determine how much Nitrogen to apply.

In other news, a few of the Conlon plants (as featured above) have leaf number three! Almost all of the Scottish Bere (four rows only) have three leaves. They're supposed to be quicker than the Conlon, and so far they are. But no squirrels in the traps yet...
 

jgln

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I didn't read all this but I plant winter wheat as a cover crop in winter then plow under in spring before it heads. Anyway, I wouldn't go through all the trouble you did with rows, just plant it like grass. Planting and growing wheat/barley/rye is the easy part. Harvesting is the bitch IMO. What I don't plow under (along the border of garden) I let grow to heads and just to collect that and get the seed out was more trouble than it was worth. Now we let the chickens have it. They grab the head with their beak then strip off the seeds, neat to watch.

Planting like grass will keep the weeds down too and you will be less worried about what gets picked at by animals, forget the rows. I don't have that problem with the wheat but I do with young corn plants with the chickens, they love to eat young corn plants.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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I didn't read all this
Haha, don't worry -- most posts won't be so damn long.

Planting like grass will keep the weeds down too
I'd definitely broadcast if it can prevent weed growth better than rows. What's the reasoning behind it? How does broadcasting help the barley to keep the weeds down?

At the time, I went with rows so that I could do some mechanical weeding with a cultivator. So far, it's been great -- I've killed about 2/3 of the weeds in the field. The other 1/3 are too close to barley to scrape up.

Now, those remaining weeds should be getting a little more intense competition from the barley rows than they would be getting if I broadcast. For a given seeding density, making rows will concentrate all the plants into stripes -- the weeds in those stripes experience a local density of barley that is much higher, and they should have an even harder time than if the barley were spread out in a broadcast distribution. Would you agree, or am I thinking about this in the wrong way?

One change I'll certainly make will be to forget about making hills/furrows with a shovel prior to planting. I can't see any advantage this has given me so far, and it was about 95% of the work of planting!
 

jgln

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Haha, don't worry -- most posts won't be so damn long.



I'd definitely broadcast if it can prevent weed growth better than rows. What's the reasoning behind it? How does broadcasting help the barley to keep the weeds down?

At the time, I went with rows so that I could do some mechanical weeding with a cultivator. So far, it's been great -- I've killed about 2/3 of the weeds in the field. The other 1/3 are too close to barley to scrape up.

Now, those remaining weeds should be getting a little more intense competition from the barley rows than they would be getting if I broadcast. For a given seeding density, making rows will concentrate all the plants into stripes -- the weeds in those stripes experience a local density of barley that is much higher, and they should have an even harder time than if the barley were spread out in a broadcast distribution. Would you agree, or am I thinking about this in the wrong way?

One change I'll certainly make will be to forget about making hills/furrows with a shovel prior to planting. I can't see any advantage this has given me so far, and it was about 95% of the work of planting!
Since you broadcast at an even rate and since it will sprout within 1-2 weeks, the wheat/rye (in my case) will sprout before most if not all weeds and once it gets a few inches high it will begin to shadow the soil and inhibit weed sprout/growth. As the wheat continues to grow most all weeds don't have much chance. Yes there will be some but the wheat will dominate. Plus no weeding at all. It is also how farmers plant wheat, at lesat how farms in my area do. They harvest with a combine so row planting has no atvantage.

I have a John Deer 950 tractor I use. I till the ground, hand broadcast seed, then till again shallow about 1" to plant the seed and it comes up pretty even and I see few weeds even when I go to plow it under at about 4-5".
 

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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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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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drummstikk

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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.
 

wyoohio

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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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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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drummstikk

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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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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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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. :D
 
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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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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.
 

jgln

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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.

I am no stranger to what you speak of, like I said I garden, been doing so all my life. Go crazy on it if you like, I just thought you could save a lot of time, effort and $$ and still get a lot of grain.....I do. I mean what I don't till under grows fine without all the fuss.

I own a 10 acre property myself, I just don't farm it because I have a full time job. Grew hay for years, last year soybeans. My neighbor farms it for me, he has a large farm, grows some wheat and owns a combine.
 

wardenwheat

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I grew a half an acre of barley this year. Shocked it up by hand and built my own threshing machine to harvest it, but I planted it with a drill. The 7.5 in spacing is good for controlling weeds.

Barley.jpg
 
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drummstikk

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I grew a half an acre of barley this year. Shocked it up by hand and built my own threshing machine to harvest it, but I planted it with a drill. The 7.5 in spacing is good for controlling weeds.
That is awesome!!! Grain porn...

So many questions: Do you have any plans for your thresher you could share, or do you remember what you referenced to learn how to build it?

What tool did you use to cut the stalks? Do you have a scythe?

Do you remember about how much grain your half acre gave?

Were you able to walk between your 7.5" rows? Did you apply any fertilizer?

klyph, thanks for the note!
 

wardenwheat

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This is an old drill I cut in half for small food plots. It was headed for the scrap iron recycler, until I flagged the guy down.

Drill.jpg
 

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Here is a video of my homemade threshing machine. It runs on a 1/3 hp electric moter. The thresher is a piece of 1/2 inch cold rolled steel shaft with small chains welded to it every 3 inches. The chains are about 7 inches long and welded to the shaft at right angles from the next. When the shaft spins, the chains really fly around fast. There is a sieve under the chains that I made out of a couple metal queen excluders I had laying around. I also keep bees.

After the grain falls through the sieve it gets blown by a squirrel cage fan. In the video I used my shop vac to blow it, but this lead to too much chaff in my grain, so I have since installed a squirrel cage fan from an furnace. The grain is heavier than the chaff, which gets blown out the back, and falls through another sieve I made out of 1/4 inch hardware cloth. I just looked around the internet at different homemade thershing machines and came up with this. I also use it to crush my apples for cider with an different system on the same base.

I cut the barley with a walk behind sickle bar mower and then gathered it up and shocked it to dry a few days before threshing.[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxg6p07u2kc]Homemade threshing machine - YouTube[/ame]
 

wardenwheat

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I did fertilze with some 6-28-28. If you use too much nitorgen it will lead to other grasses really taking off and possiblity of lodging. I planted a little early - April 5th. We had a late frost and it really hurt my yeild. With a good population and stand you can expect around 70 - 80 bushels an acre. Mine was considerably less because I didn't use herbicides, the late frost, and when harvesting it the way I did you leave some in the field.

I planted winter wheat in the same plot this fall and I'm going to frost seed some red clover this Febuary so after harvest of the wheat the clover will take off. In the fall I'll till it under and you end up with about 80lbs of nitrogen per acre increase from the green manure, plus the bees love the stuff. I'll plant it back to barley the next spring, but will wait until a little later in April.

You can't walk between the rows really, but there really isn't a need too. If you can't drill the seed, you might be better off broadcasting it than planting in rows to shade out weeds and increase your population.

wheat.jpg
 
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Nice! Do you brew with the barley you grow? I'm drooling over your seed drill and thresher.
 

COLObrewer

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Awesome, I love to see others that like to do it ALL from scratch. I will be following this thread although I wish there were a better section to place it in. I have stated before and suggested that there be a seperate malt or malting section on HBT but it has yet to happen. I mean if it weren't for malt alot of this other stuff would be mute (Or at least alot different).

I would question your earlier statement that malting is easier than brewing however, I suppose it depends on what quality of malt you want to end up with.

Your planting method looks different (more tedious) than I've seen for any grain type product but to each his own, we use what we have right. I would have just broadcast with the same spreader you used for fertilizer or simply hand broadcast for that small of plot.

Good luck and keep us posted, the pictures are always helpful.

Brew on my friend:mug:
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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I have stated before and suggested that there be a seperate malt or malting section on HBT but it has yet to happen.
I also found it a little surprising! I guess fewer people grow barley or malt at home right now. Hopefully more people get into it in the future.

I would question your earlier statement that malting is easier than brewing however, I suppose it depends on what quality of malt you want to end up with.
It's not hard to make very high quality malt at home.

Yes, it took some time and several batches of crappy malt, but I worked out the following procedure: soak grains to > 40% moisture, measured by weighing, then drain well using a grain bag. Then pour 4-5" deep into plastic bins in a chest freezer set to 51F. This keeps the malt close to 16C where it should be. Mix daily and spray with water if grains begin to dry before malting is finished. You can also just spread out a tarp on your basement floor and spray with water every day. Even if the malt goes over 16C, it will still make decent quality. Quality drops as temperatures climb over 25C, because the malting becomes uneven, and if moisture precipitates on the grains, you can get fungal growth.

Do a low temperature rest (40, 50, or 60C, depending on the type of malt) before kilning using your mash tun and a fermwrap heater + temperature controller. Commercial Pilsner malt is dried at 40C, Munich malt undergoes a wet 50C rest before kilining, and crystal malts undergo a wet 60-70C rest. It will be hard to get up to 70C using the fermwrap, so I just hit 60C and do a long rest. You don't need to dry with heat like the pros do, since you're not really concerned with the throughput of your malthouse. Just do the low temp rest for 3-4 hours, then dry with a box fan at room temp for 2-3 days.

For the kilning stage, I'm lucky that my gas oven can achieve the temps (80-120C) required. It might be difficult if I didn't have the right oven.

Remove rootlets after kilning by placing malt in a tied pillowcase and running in the dryer with no heat for 10 minutes. Pour malt in front of a fan outside to blow rootlets away.

I haven't noticed that the quality of the beer I make with my malt is any less than what I can make from commercial malt.

The big exception is roasted malts, which really require a roaster to get right. I would have to play around with a coffee roaster -- I only know that it's very hard to get a consistent result with aluminum foil and a propane burner!
 
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drummstikk

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COLO,
I just read your thread about malting at home -- time to insert my foot in mouth! I see you know exactly what you're doing when it comes to malting, and I could probably learn a thing or two from you.

Anyway, for higher throughput, like the 50 lb you started with, I agree that malting is not easy. But it would not be easy to brew 40 gallons of beer in a single batch either. You'll need lots of equipment.

I have only had an easy time with smaller batches of 15 lbs of malt. Enough for a single 5 gal batch of beer.
 
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drummstikk

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Your planting method looks different (more tedious) than I've seen for any grain type product but to each his own, we use what we have right. I would have just broadcast with the same spreader you used for fertilizer or simply hand broadcast for that small of plot.

Good luck and keep us posted, the pictures are always helpful.

Brew on my friend:mug:
Thanks for the encouragement! Good to know I'm not the only crazy person trying to do it all at home!

A lot of people seem to have a problem with the rows. But making them didn't take much time or effort (one hour with a seeder), and they allow me to walk through the field to weed, fertilize, and do things I didn't even expect, like put up netting. You can still walk through a broadcast field, but you crush plants under your boots.

Maybe the question is more about why I would want to bother with increasing my yield in the first place? Well, that's because I don't have a big plot. If I had a big space, like a half acre or more, I could afford to broadcast and take a hit to weeds and predators. I'd still get plenty of grain.

But if you have a small space like I do, you really want to get the most out of it. It's essentially a large garden, and I've been trying to give it the attention a gardener would give their vegetable crop. With a small plot, I think you want to spend more time, not less, bothering with potentially tedious stuff like weeding.

But again, making the rows themselves took one hour with an Earthway seeder -- not too tedious.

COLO, did you ever make malt from the barley you planted in your thread? And did you ever make try making roasted malts at home?
 

COLObrewer

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. . . . . . COLO, did you ever make malt from the barley you planted in your thread? And did you ever make try making roasted malts at home?
I only grew a couple of plants to determine variety so no I haven't malted anything I grew myself.

The roasting is on page 12 of the hapiness thread.

Keep on malting my friend:mug:
 
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Awesome! So it looks like you used a normal electric oven, but you placed it outside and and turned the malt frequently by hand. Is that right?

It sounds like the smoke is the biggest thing keeping me from doing this in my plain old oven.
 

COLObrewer

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Awesome! So it looks like you used a normal electric oven, but you placed it outside and and turned the malt frequently by hand. Is that right?

It sounds like the smoke is the biggest thing keeping me from doing this in my plain old oven.
Correct on all accounts, it is an old oven that stays outside by the shed, works great. If I ever get my "all-in-one" malt rig set up I will be able to do the roasting in it as it slowly rotates.:mug:
 
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I don't think the predation is happening any more. Every plant I see that has been chomped has damage to the first and second leaves, but the second leaf is always longer.



In normal plant growth, the first leaf grows quickly, then slows down as the second leaf grows. So either the predators always eat the first leaf down further (unlikely), or all this chomping happened in the past.



If the predation were still occuring, I would expect to see some plants with both leaves eaten down to the same extent, and I don't. That's good news!



I still don't know what caused it, so I'll leave the netting up for now.



Most of the Conlon in the middle plot, which was seeded at 2x density and is in partial shade, is at the 2-3 leaf stage:



But in the lower plot, which has 1 x Conlon density and far more sunshine, some plants are farther along,



like this guy that has three leaves, a coleoptillar tiller, a leaf-1 tiller, and what may be the prophyll of a leaf-2 tiller.

Overall, the plants are taller than they were last week



but growth seems to be happening slowly. It is December after all, so you can expect growth to be slow. But how do you know if growth is slow because of the temps, or if there's another, more fixable cause?

There is a heuristic that farmers use to evaluate and predict the growth of crops called Growth Degree Days. GDD is just the time-integral of temperature, and not surprisingly, it has units of Degree*Day. It's usually expressed in Fahrenheit in the States, and it's calculated by taking the average of the high and low temperatures for a day, subtracting a baseline temp (usually 5.5C or 40F for barley), then summing up the adjusted mean for each day in a period.

For example, the GDD for barley yesterday in Palo Alto was (60F + 42F)/2 - 40F = 11, and for the past two days the GDD was 11 + (55F + 32F)/2 - 40 = 14.5

In practice, just use this calculator to make things easy.

All other things being equal, GDD is roughly proportional to the developmental progress of plants. So you can compare the progress of plants grown in different climates and at different times of year by checking how far along they are with respect to their GDD. If they're behind where they should be, this helps you identify water, disease, or nutrient stress.

I can compare my progress to Merit, another malting barley variety. Merit had 2 leaves at 177 GDD since emergence, and 3 leaves plus tillers at 277.5 GDD. I'm not really sure when my plants emerged since it happened over the Thanksgiving weekend, so I'll say it was Dec 1, the first day I saw them above ground. Then, I've had 168 GDD since emergence.

It has taken me 3 weeks for the slower Conlon plants in the middle plot to match the progress that Merit made in 9 days, but my GDD (168) is about the same as Merit's GDD (177) at the 2 leaf stage. The Conlon in the sunnier lower plot and the bere seem to be closer to the stage Merit achieved after 277 GDD.

So even though the plants are growing slowly, they're well on track given the cold temperatures we've had. At least it isn't frosting hard at night!
 
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Oops, it turns out that when calculating GDD, temperatures below the baseline do not count as negative GDD. Any temps below 40F are just set to 40F. In the example I gave, the GDD for the past 2 days should be 11 + (55F + 40F)/2 - 40F = 18.5
 

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That small damage shouldn't do much to decrease yeild with such a young plant. It appears to be insect damage. If it were eaten off completely, then you may have some problems.

Nothing against rows, but ceral grains really aren't grown that way. Think of barley as grass. If you had a yard with grass in rows, you would have tons of weeds inbetween them. By broadcasting or drilling the barley in high population, you could grow multiple times more in a very small plot. This also controls weeds by shading and discourages pest damage, but I admir your efforts. The seedlings look excellent.

P.S. if I could figure out how to post pictures on BN. I would have put it there. Good Farming!
 
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