Foxfield Permaculture LAND Centre
Foxfield Permaculture LAND Centre

Domestic Scale Rye Crop & Processing

Having had all my small attempts at growing wheat devastated by sparrows, I've found that an old variety of rye has been much more successful. Either the birds don't recognise it has a grain crop as it grows almost 7 feet high, or they just dont like the hairy ears. I still allow handfulls of wheat that pop up from the seed base in my soil  to feed the sparrows! Another benefit is rye prefers hungry sandy soils, perfect for my site. From a handful of grain given to me two years ago, I now have harvested 5 kilos from approximately 10 square metres in 2014 and again in 2015 on the same spot. Learning how to thresh and winnow  rye grain is an ongoing project - I threshed using a homemade flail and winnowed using a saucepan. This year, 2015, I also stamped up and down on it in clean wellies which was pretty good and I think easier than using a flail. All quite a lot of work though, so I am not sure if I will continue except for the chicken and duck foraging system. 


Note - if you grow your own rye you must be aware of the fungus Ergot that can cause serious and fatal poisoning. Watch out for black protuberances on the heads, harvest it early when the weather is dry (ie don't leave on the heads late into the year) and keep it very dry once harvested. I am only growing mine for the chickens to supplement their feed as I could cope with loosing a chicken or too, but not my family!


The straw is also a fantastic resource for straw basketry or making skeps. However this year I just squashed the straw down in situ once I had secautered the heads off. Saved quite a bit of work and a good carbon mix to some apple pulp from this years cider pressing.

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© Alison Ensor