The Little Red Hen and the Wildflower Field Gone Wrong

For a long time now I’ve been fascinated with how things were done in generations past.  Besides the many visits to my grandparents’ farm, I think it probably started in my teen years when I discovered the Foxfire books.  I wanted to make my own soap, raise chickens for meat and eggs, and bake my own bread.  When my boys were very young, I began to bake homemade bread and read them stories about the Little Red Hen who worked so hard to grow her own food and bake her own bread.  So what’s this got to do with a wildflower field

For a long time now I’ve been fascinated with how things were done in generations past.  Besides the many visits to my grandparents’ farm, I think it probably started in my teen years when I discovered the Foxfire books.  I wanted to make my own soap, raise chickens for meat and eggs, and bake my own bread.  When my boys were very young, I began to bake homemade bread and read them stories about the Little Red Hen who worked so hard to grow her own food and bake her own bread.  So what’s this got to do with a wildflower field

Well, it was really the bees fault.  Since I wanted to provide lots of flowers for a source of pollen and nectar I decided to turn the front yard (well, about a third of it) into a beautiful wildflower field.  From the beginning, my husband opposed the idea.  He was sure our yard would look wild and overgrown compared to our neighbors’ manicured lawns.  But we live in the country and our one acre plots are outside city limits.  This means no association fees or regulations and we do have tolerant neighbors.  I assured my husband that this field would be lovely – he would see.  So for a winter cover crop, I sowed wheat (to kill the grass) along with three varieties of clover.  When winter began to turn into spring, the wheat was green and lovely and I could see the yellow and red clover as it pushed its way up between the wheat.  To be certain that the field would actually be a thing of beauty, my husband bought three large bags of mixed wildflower seeds and I broadcast these into the wheat.  I’ll have to say, I was a bit concerned that the wheat would choke out anything else that wanted to grow there, but I was already in deep and by now it was too tall to mow.  And then the wheat began to turn brown - which is what it’s supposed to do when it’s moving toward harvest time.  Now I had a dilemma since there were no wildflowers growing and the front part of our property was beginning to look like an abandoned lot. I was starting to think my husband was right after all, but now what could I do?  I decided to borrow a scythe from the farm where I work and cut the wheat down.  It so happened that my brother-in-law was in town for a visit and he declared his willingness to help.  I was thrilled!  He would do the cutting and I would gather the wheat as he went along.  After two passes with the scythe, my brother-in-law stopped and pronounced the field much larger than he realized.  I also had a sinking feeling this job would stretch into many days – and what in the world was I to do with all that wheat.  As we were contemplating our next move, a truck drove slowly by and then stopped.  The man at the wheel leaned out the window and asked, “Did you just move in?”  “No, I answered, we’ve lived here nine years.”  His eyes got big and he asked, “What in the world happened here?”  “Well, it’s a wildflower field gone wrong” I said.  I discovered the man behind the wheel was Bob, a neighbor I’d never met, and he decided that we would never get the job done with a scythe, and he was right.  So Bob drove home to get his tractor and bush hog!  While he was gone, another neighbor stopped and leaned out his window and told me he’d be glad to get his bush hog and mow my wheat field.  I thanked him but told him Bob was already on his way.  I was relieved that my brother-in-law knew how to drive a tractor, which I do not.  We only use hand tools at the farm, so I have had no need to learn how to drive one.  The tractor moved over the wheat until dark came and Bob returned in his truck to see if we needed to keep it overnight.  I assured him we had done as much as was possible and thanked him profusely. 

Most of the wheat had been mowed down but before the tractor destroyed it all, I had used my grandfather’s sickle to cut a tarp full. I spent the next five hours tying the wheat into bundles (sheaves) so they could stay dry until I was ready to thresh.

Most of the wheat had been mowed down but before the tractor destroyed it all, I had used my grandfather’s sickle to cut a tarp full. I spent the next five hours tying the wheat into bundles (sheaves) so they could stay dry until I was ready to thresh.

I spent the next five hours tying the wheat into bundles (sheaves) so they could stay dry until I was ready to thresh.Since wheat is a commodity I’d never grown, I was digging through my “how to farm on an acre” books to get all the how-tos of wheat growing, harvesting and processing.  So on evenings when I was weary from gardening or working at the farm, I sat on the couch and cut off the heads of every last stalk of wheat.  Then I ran my hand down the stems to remove the berries.  Using a bowl with a lid, I shook until all the husks released their treasures.  Once that was done I moved to the front porch where I winnowed the wheat by pouring it from bowl to bowl in front of a fan.

I spent the next five hours tying the wheat into bundles (sheaves) so they could stay dry until I was ready to thresh.Since wheat is a commodity I’d never grown, I was digging through my “how to farm on an acre” books to get all the how-tos of wheat growing, harvesting and processing.  So on evenings when I was weary from gardening or working at the farm, I sat on the couch and cut off the heads of every last stalk of wheat.  Then I ran my hand down the stems to remove the berries.  Using a bowl with a lid, I shook until all the husks released their treasures.  Once that was done I moved to the front porch where I winnowed the wheat by pouring it from bowl to bowl in front of a fan.

.  Without a grain mill, I wasn’t sure I could turn my wheat into flour, but a blender worked just fine.  From there I knew what to do with the flour since baking bread isn’t a new skill for me.  The recipe is one I’ve used for the past 30 years or more - one I tore out of the Ladies Home Journal magazine.

.  Without a grain mill, I wasn’t sure I could turn my wheat into flour, but a blender worked just fine.  From there I knew what to do with the flour since baking bread isn’t a new skill for me.  The recipe is one I’ve used for the past 30 years or more - one I tore out of the Ladies Home Journal magazine.

And the bread was delicious.  I think the Little Red Hen would be proud of me!

And the bread was delicious.  I think the Little Red Hen would be proud of me!