Finally, at long last, we had a chance to sow our wheat field. But not without a lot of work!
First things first. Our tractor has been down all summer, so some wonderful friends of ours (hi Mike and Judy!) loaned us their tractor. These are the kinds of people who would literally give you the shirt off their backs, and we're honored to be among their friends.
Mike drove his tractor to our house (a distance of - what - four miles?) from his house.
Don had disked the pasture several times over the summer to kill weeds, but there was still some growth.
So this time he decided to dig deeper and use the cultivator rather than the disker.
This loosened the soil much deeper than the disker had.
You can see the difference.
Next he disked once again.
Ready to plant? Not quite.
But first we had to get the seed wheat. We got one hundred pounds of treated hard red winter wheat (type: Paladin), resistant to the Hessian fly, and non-hybrid. Cost: $18.
This wheat is treated with a fungicide to maximize the potential for germination. For this reason, it is not suitable for human or animal consumption. The fungicide dyes the wheat red so it can't be mistaken for regular untreated wheat (which, of course, is brown).
Before sowing, though, Don wanted to run over the field one more time with another neighbor's chain-drag-thingy, which smooths everything out. I tell ya, with all the stuff we're borrowing from everybody, this wheat field is truly a neighborhood endeavor.
The chain-drag-thingy was pretty heavy, so we sort of draped it over the tractor bucket in order to bring it over to our wheat field.
But boy what a difference it made in how smooth the field was!
Finally, at long last, we were ready to plant! I found an old photograph of a farmer sowing seed by hand. This was the technique we needed to emulate.
I divvied the wheat into buckets...
...then we spaced ourselves across the pasture and prepared to sow.
It was a little trickier than it looked, trying to fling the seed evenly across the ground.
By the end of the first pass, we were disappointed by how thin and uneven the seeds were. We could definitely appreciate the benefits of a seed drill in terms of reducing waste and increasing efficiency. But we lined up and did it again...
...and again, and again, and again. We kept filling our buckets and walking abreast with each other across the pasture until the sacks of seed wheat were empty. (With the last little bit, we told the girls to run along and fling it however they liked...)
And you know what? When we were done, it didn't look half bad! (Look closely and you can see the red wheat on the dirt. This was after the first pass.)
Sure, the wheat won't grow as pretty and uniform and weed-free as the professional farmers, but what the heck - if all goes well, we'll have enough wheat to feed our family for a year as well as share some with the kind friends who loaned us their implements and equipment. North Idaho is wheat country, so there's no reason ours shouldn't grow at least moderately well.
Don took one last pass over the field with the chain-drag-thingy. This buries the seed very shallow, and keeps the birds from eating it.
And that's it. In theory, with the possible exception of adding some fertilizer in the spring, we don't have to do a thing to this field until next August.
Winter wheat is planted in the fall. It starts to grow, then goes dormant over the winter, buried in a blanket of snow. In the spring, it comes up lush and impossibly green. It starts to head in July, and by August it should be ready to harvest. We'll see what happens!