Friday, July 19, 2013

Wheat harvest in Southwest Michigan, July 14, 2013

               Chickens eating corn because wheat is too expensive in Michigan [Photo, Micki Glueckert].

The harvest continues in Berrien County in the Southwest corner of Michigan. Our local correspondent Micki Glueckert got photos.

                             Wheat field, Berrien County, July 14, 2013 [Photo, Micki Glueckert].

Micki says, "Caught one guy harvesting yesterday. A lot of the other fields must have been done earlier; I thought they would wait another day because we had had so much rain."

                            Wheat Straw bales in England, August 2006 [Photo, Wikimedia].

"I asked the guy who owns Buchanan Feed Mill why they round baled the straw. He said the big dairy farms bale the straw after the wheat is harvested in round bales, drop them in a big hopper that chops the straw up and mixes it in their feed which is I believe a high protein feed that needs some fiber added.  The straw has no nutritive value but slows the feed down so the gut can extract more good stuff from the feed. Some guys also drop a bale in a chopper that shreds the straw and blows it around the barn, for bedding. It makes a lot less work with the big round bales. I remember our neighbor trying round bales of hay for the horses. They they didn't like it, and the neighbor needed a chainsaw to cut them up as you couldn't just pull the hay out without a great deal of work."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wheat harvest, 2013

                                          Wheat harvest [Creative Commons Photo].

As of July 14, 2013, the wheat harvest around the country was progressing well.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest posted a July 2 summary:
"Texas- Small grain harvest continued across the state. While some producers continued to graze cattle on previously damaged wheat acres, others plowed fields and prepared for fall crops. Wheat harvest was 73 percent complete.
Oklahoma- Harvest of all small grains made substantial progress. Wheat harvest was 84 percent complete by Sunday, 10 points behind the five-year average.
Colorado- Seventy-nine percent of the state’s winter wheat crop was turning color by week’s end, up from 41 percent the previous week. Twenty-two percent of the crop was ripe while 7 percent has been harvested. Condition ratings for winter wheat declined last week with the majority rated very poor to poor. Sixty-seven percent of the spring wheat was headed, compared with 64 percent last year and the average of 51 percent.
Kansas- The winter wheat crop was turning color on 98 percent of the acreage, behind 100 a year ago and 100 average. Eighty-five percent of the crop was ripe, behind 100 last year and 92 average. The crop was 57 percent harvested, well behind last year’s 99 and 67 average. Condition rated 25 percent very poor, 18 poor, 24 fair, 25 good, and 8 excellent.
Nebraska- Wheat conditions rated 24 percent very poor, 26 poor, 33 fair, 16 good, and 1 excellent. Wheat turning color was 75 percent, behind 100 last year and 82 average. Wheat ripe was 11 percent, well behind 85 last year and 28 average.
South Dakota- Winter wheat jointed was at 99 percent. Headed was at 93 percent, behind 100 last year and 96 average. Turning color was at 3 percent, well behind 95 last year and 46 average. Condition rated 28 percent very poor, 27 poor, 30 fair, 14 good, and 1 excellent. Spring wheat jointed was at 91 percent, behind 2012 at 100 but near 93 average. Headed was at 52 percent, well behind last year at 99 and 66 average. Condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 poor, 39 fair, 46 good, and 10 excellent.
North Dakota- Spring wheat seeding was 95 percent complete, behind last year at 100 and 99 average. Emerged was 85 percent, behind last year at 100 and 98 average. Jointed was at 44 percent, behind last year at 100 and 78 average. Headed was at 7 percent, well behind last year at 79 and 29 average. Condition rated 1 percent very poor, 3 poor, 20 fair, 62 good, and 14 excellent. Durum wheat seeding was 96 percent complete, behind 100 for 2012 but near 94 average. Emerged was 83 percent, behind last year at 100 and 91 average. Jointed was at 39 percent, behind last year at 99 and 64 average. Headed was at 2 percent, behind last year at 64 and 22 average. Condition rated 0 percent very poor, 3 poor, 17 fair, 76 good, and 4 excellent.
Montana- Winter wheat is developing ahead of the 5-year average with 98 percent in boot stage and 87 percent headed. Spring wheat development is behind last year 50 percent in boot stage and 15 percent headed."

In Michigan, winter wheat was producing at about 92 bushels an acre in Ottawa County by July 14, 2013. The photo is from Berrien County, where wheat is grown mostly for feed for livestock.
                        June 30, 2013 Southwest Michigan wheat field [Micki Glueckert].

In Ohio, the July 14 yield was about 71 bushels per acre in Erie County (closest county to Ottawa County, Ohio, where the photo was taken).
                   June 30, 2013, winter wheat in Northwest Ohio [Betsy Slotnick].

From National Association of Wheat Growers, one important piece of news is that South Korea has satisfied itself that U.S. wheat does not contain any genetically modified grain. This had become an issue in April when GMO wheat from Monsanto was discovered growing in an Oregon wheat field. Because Monsanto had stopped testing that strain of seed about ten years earlier, no-one had a good explanation for its presence, causing concerns that other U.S. fields could be contaminated.      

The National Association of Wheat Growers also reported on national statistics for the year to date. Bottom line: although wheat was selling in June on the commodities markets for $7.13/bushel, $.55 less than in May, the price was still $.43 better than the June 2012 market. One percent more acreage was planted in 2013 than in 2012. The winter wheat harvest was a little behind schedule this year, and the spring wheat growth was also a bit slow.

The New York Times, a week ago, picked up a Reuters piece about the possible merger of Cargill and ConAgra wheat milling operations, that would "control about one-third of U.S. capacity, dwarfing all competitors in size and market reach."  . . .  Not all U.S. wheat is processed within the country of course. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that "958 million bushels of U.S. wheat will be used for food in the 2013/14 marketing year, which started on June 1, while 975 million bushels will be exported." Nonetheless, the proposed merger would give the new joint venture about one-third of the market, and leave the next largest market share in the hands of Archer Daniels Midland Co. with its current 17% of the wheat milling capacity in the U.S.

                  Flour mill, McConnells Mill State Park, Pennsylvania [Creative Commons Photo].

Friday, July 5, 2013

[Updated, July 6, 2013] Wheat festivals around the world

                Lane County Fair [Photo, creative commons]

For as long as people have harvested crops, they have held festivals to celebrate. Today's county fairs are the direct descendants of the most ancient events. From that day to this, parades and processions, crownings (then of the gods or saints, now of the queen and king of the event), displays of the finest fruits of the harvest, and singing and dancing rule the day. Tractor pulls weren't featured in ancient Greece, but they must have had something noisy.

Some of the older traditions included: 
  • Lammas (Loaf Mass) Day. August 1, signaled the beginning of the wheat harvest. The word means “Loaf Mass” in Old English; on that day the first ripe grain was taken to the church to be blessed at a special Mass. In Scotland, men and women made trial marriages on Lammas Day; after a year they could end the marriage with no strings attached. This year, you can celebrate Lammas on July 27 and 28 in Eastbourne, U.K., with music, dance, beer, and food. For good measure, there's a seafront procession (aka parade).They give a nod to Lugh, the Celtic fire god, who gave his name to Lughnasa, the Celtic festival of the harvest. That is celebrated anywhere between about August 1 and August 12 [depending on which website you read].
  • In old Slavic traditions, people threw Dvoroi, a yard spirit, a slice of bread to keep him from playing tricks. On the harvest holiday, Zaziuki, August 7, people thanked Volos and Mokosh for the harvest, then carried the first sheaf of wheat into the house and threshed it. [Note -- I can't find any web sites with more information about this, but if you want to toss a slice of bread to Dvoroi, he might be happy with that.]
  • In China, the harvest festival featured legends about the moon, and moon cakes made of wheat with fillings of lotus seeds and egg. It is widely celebrated; in 2013 it falls on the full moon night of September 19.

People didn't limit themselves to just one feast, of course -- they started in the spring with the planting and continued right on through until the last of the crops were stored away for the winter. In the United States, the wheat beer festivals were all in May, so we've missed those for this year. But here are a few wheat festivals coming up during the next few months.
  • The Kansas Wheat Festival  is in Sumner County, Kansas, which titles itself "The Wheat  Capital of the World," and hosts an annual party in Wellington, its county seat. To solidify its claim, the county says that it produces more hard red winter wheat than anywhere else in the world (according to Kansas Wheat Facts, 9 million bushels in 2009.
    The 113th festival  is held from July 10-14, 2013. You can enjoy dozens of events, from the Mayor's Cookie Jar Contest, to the Cow Chip Throwing Contest, horseshoes, bed races, BBQ cookoffs, and of course, baking, and doughnut eating contests. There's a Kick-off breakfast, bake sales, train rides, chain saw art, Kiss the Pig contest, street dancing every night (with Marty Haggard and others), a beer garden, carnival rides, ice cream social, a parade, antique tractors, softball and volleyball tournaments, and much more.
  • You'll have plenty of time to get to a pair of wheat festivals in central Italy in the towns of Lupara and Jelsi. Lupara's is Festa di St. Antonio on July 22; Jelsi's honors Santa Anna on July 26. In Lupara, villagers mount the statue of Saint Anthony on a cart, and two white oxen pull it through the streets, with a band and the feast-goers singing behind. Sheaves of wheat from the successful harvest decorate the cart, and women distribute bread and biscuits. After St. Anthony has been returned to the church, everyone celebrates.
lupara s. antonio
  •  In Jelsi, a similarly elaborate procession winds through the streets, with floats made from wheat, bands, farm machines, people in Renaissance costumes, and more.

This year's theme is "folk wisdoms and legends in the Brie area." The events are fewer than in Kansas, but the town promises a parade of wheat-decorated floats, folk dancing, "old-style threshing," a fun fair, and ""jazz and world music." It's free on Saturday, but costs 10 euros on Sunday; kids under 12 are free. The FaceBook page says that people decorate their homes and shops with wheat and wildflowers. They demonstrate the threshing, milling and baking (and one presumes that there's plenty of good French bread to eat at the end of this). The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its well-preserved medieval buildings, and there's plenty else to do besides celebrate the wheat harvest. 
  • In mid-September, you can join the Wheat Festival in Okawville, Illinois (it was Bridgeport, but German settlers in the 1870s re-named it). There's not a lot of information about this year's festival, except the dates (September 12 - 14) and the promise of a parade. The 2012 schedule shows bingo, antique tractor pulls, a parade, a queen, music, and an exhibit hall. 
  • An Indian harvest festival, Baisakhi, is celebrated in the spring, and for the Hindu calendar is also the start of the new year. In the Punjab, people bathe, then pray at the temple before dancing during the day and feasting in the evening. When is Baisakhi 2014
  • The Jewish traditions centered on a pair of harvest festivals, the "Hag Hakatzir" (Reaping festival), and "Hag Habikurim," (Holiday of the First Fruits). The pilgrimage, or procession, to the temple included an ox with gilded horns, music, dancers, and the people carrying their offerings of loaves baked from the first wheat of the harvest. This is a spring festival; the next is June 3-5, 2014.
A photo from about 100 years ago, a re-enactment of the story of Ruth (traditionally read on the holiday) in Israel.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What's wheaten at the Anchorage Farmers' Markets, 2013

Alison Arians shows off a fresh-baked loaf of Rise&Shine bread at the South Anchorage Farmers' Market.

Here's a sampling of what's wheaten from Anchorage Farmers' Markets at the end of June, 2013:

At Spenard Farmers' Market, Chilkoot Charlie's parking lot on Spenard Road:
  • Zoi and Bambino's Baby Food by the owners of Pizza Olympia offer homemade cous cous, noodles, orange and carrot biscotti, and more. They were there on June 22, but we didn't see them on June 29.

  • Tiers from Heaven, a cupcake truck, shows up in Spenard some weeks.

  • Russian piroshkis, borsch, and more at Grandma's Old Kitchen:

At the Anchorage Framers' Market, Parking lot of Central Lutheran Church at 15th and Cordova:
  • Turkey Red, from Palmer, has macaroons, breads, scones, and cookies [photo was taken on a cold day at the end of May -- it's warmer now].

Downtown, at Third Avenue between C and E Streets, the Anchorage Market and Festival every Saturday is the place to go for things made with wheat -- funnel cakes,wraps, empanadas, and more. 

  • Tonia's Biscotti, now baking in Homer, offers Lemon, Cranberry, chocolate, and many other flavors.

At the South Anchorage Farmers' Market, in the parking lot of the Subway/Cellular Sports Centre at the corner of Old Seward Highway and O'Malley Road:
  • Whole wheat sourdough bread from Rise&Shine Bakery, along with their other breads: baked potato, spent grain, chocolate cherry, and onion rye.

For up to date information about the markets each week, track their offerings at Market Fresh on the Anchorage Daily News website.

South Anchorage  Farmers Market  has a newsletter and web site that you can check for announcements, recipes, notes about vendors each week, and photos.

                                  A young customer samples the goods at the Spenard Farmers Market .