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We Make Bread from Wheat We Grow Ourselves

One Wisconsin family satisfies nostalgic desires by baking bread from wheat they grow themselves.

| July/August 1976

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    It may not be traditional, but pouring the grain from the roof separates the wheat from the chaff.
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    Bread made from wheat grown in your own garden is the best bread you'll ever eat.

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Nearly everyone, it seems, now wants to recapture some of the joys and values of "the food old days". Here's how one Wisconsin family satisfies that desire.

I grew up on a 127-acre farm and, for that reason, the little 1/7-acre field next to our house sometimes seems pathetically small to me. Even though it is tiny, however, that plot of earth plays an important role in my family's life. For it's there that we (my husband, myself, and our three children) raise our year's supply of wheat!

The ritual begins at the end of each summer when we haul buckets and barrow loads of manure from the neighboring cow pasture to our mini-field. Along with some old hen house bedding (generously donated by a nearby chicken farmer), we spread the fertilizer on the ground . . . and then wait eight or nine months for the rich nutrients to percolate down into the soil. By the following May, we're ready to sow wheat.

The first time we planted, we did it by hand . . . which meant throwing out big, sweeping fistfuls of grain (and trying afterwards—with little success—to even up the seeds' distribution with a rake). Since then, we've mechanized. Now-with the aid of a wooden, hand-operated broadcaster—one of us can simply walk back and forth across the field and (by turning a crank) scatter seeds evenly on its surface.

And that's the signal for the beginning of a race between us and the birds: We must cover the little grains of wheat before the feathered robbers can eat them! (To speed this part of the job we do use a rototiller but, no matter how mechanized we get, we'll never resort to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.)

Next comes the hard part. The three months of waiting . . . and waiting. We cast an expectant eye at the field each time we walk by on the way to the mailbox or the school bus. We peer at that seemingly lifeless soil. We squint and we stare at that dirt. And then—at last—the Big Day arrives when one of us announces, "The wheat is up!"

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