This is the second in a series of articles looking at our plans for food security here at Longleaf Breeze, this article dealing with bread and grains. As most any backyard gardener knows, growing grains is different from (and more difficult than) growing fruits and vegetables. Amanda and I have remarkably little experience and even less success growing grain for our own consumption.
Let’s first acknowledge that we don’t need grains to survive. There are plenty of smart people who believe that eating grains, even whole grains, is a little like eating candy when it comes to their glycemic wallop. That having been said, Amanda and I are fond of breads and cereals, and as our friends are tired of hearing, we are not into suffering. So if possible, we’ll probably continue to include grains in our diet in moderate quantities. It’s nearly impossible to grow in central Alabama the kind of hard red wheat that’s best for baking bread. Fortunately, wheat berries are remarkably stable after harvest and before milling, so we expect to be able to obtain wheat berries at a reasonable price, shipped by rail as needed. We hope and expect to continue purchasing wheat berries in quantity and storing them in the deep freeze. We will use our own small mill to grind them into flour as needed. There are varieties of wheat one can grow in central Alabama that we could use to make a simple pan bread if necessary. We have not yet tried to grow any wheat, so we don’t yet know whether this would work for us.
By the way, you may be wondering how we can assume we will continue to use a freezer when energy becomes harder to obtain. We made the decision early on that we needed to be able to keep our 15-cu ft chest freezer operating, so we have multiple redundant mechanisms set up to ensure we can keep food frozen. We have continued to try to grow corn successfully, but we have failed in prior years, and the jury’s still out on this year. We will keep trying, because we know how important corn is in the southern American diet. If we are successful, we hope to save enough corn to use it for meal. We could grow rye in central Alabama. Rye has a relatively low grain yield, and neither of us prefers the taste of rye, but we know that’s an option.
We are told that we could grow oats in central Alabama. We have not yet tried. Our normal breakfast of choice is cold cereal with fruit. Right now Lee is buying and eating one kind of cereal, and Amanda is buying and eating another kind. One of our projects is to begin making our own muesli (probably mostly from raw ingredients that we buy). We expect that when we do, we will at least finally eat the same cereal! One of our long-term goals has been to develop the ability to prepare and cook whole wheat bread in the Sun Oven. I am proud to say we have now been successful at doing that. Here’s the page showing how we’re doing it. The rolls we cook in the Sun Oven don’t brown – nothing browns in the Sun Oven – but they taste wonderful, and we can brown them easily when we rewarm them in the toaster oven. As Amanda put it, it’s like we’re making our own brown & serve rolls. One of our three guiding principles is that we are approaching but will never reach subsistence. For us, this means we work to buy less each year from off the farm. I have trouble putting into words how satisfying it is to walk past that wonderful (but expensive) artisan bread at Costco, knowing we are producing our own bread now and will rarely need to buy it from the store. Strengths: long-term grain storage, ability to mill grain on-site, ability to cook whole wheat rolls in the Sun Oven. Weaknesses: ** Inability to grow wheat suitable for bread, inexperience with other grains. Key Projects:*** ** Growing wheat, making muesli** ***Overall grade: C-** Tomorrow’s focus: (2) Vegetables