Sara Ward on Living the Good Life May 2024

Image: The ‘wheatfield’ at Hen Corner

Wheat is Neat!

I’ve sown a field – a field of wheat! Sorry if I’ve already told you about it – I’ve been telling everybody because I’m really excited about it. I mean it is a small field, six square metres, but I’m ‘actually’ growing wheat in my back garden and I’m going to tend it, harvest it, thresh it, mill it and bake it into a loaf of bread – oooh, I feel like Little Red Hen!

However, I’m a little bit worried because I’ve followed the instructions to sow the wheat and I’ve put in a little more than they said to, SIX times what the instructions said. But I know my garden, and I know that not everything grows according to plan.

To be honest, I’m glad that I’ve sown more than I needed to because the very next day, after sowing the ‘field’ my youngest cat, discovered it and thought that I had created, just for her, a 6m2 litter tray… that’s probably knocked quite a few grains of wheat out of the way.

Fortunately, I haven’t let the chickens out of their coops since sowing the wheat, they can wander ‘through the field’ after it’s germinated and grown a bit taller… But now it’s the other birds!

Image: Chickens on the lawn, as it was

Every day since sowing there are pigeons that are flicking with their beaks and pecking away, following the seams of grain, the drills that I’ve sown (I thought I’d planted it quite deep), but they’ve obviously found something to keep coming back for… then it’s the magpies… and my other cat who’s using it as a sundeck… But I’m really glad that I’ve sown a lot of it because I’m expecting a big harvest.

I’m joining The Grow A Loaf Challenge from the Real Bread Campaign following the instructions in the book Bake Your Lawn and am looking forward to understanding more of the journey from seed to sourdough.

Regular readers and followers of Hen Corner will know that I run a weekly Micro Bakery and regular Baking Courses, so for my own education and that of my customers, course guests and visiting Schools groups we are waiting patiently and watching with interest as it reaches for the sky.

We accidentally grew some wheat in previous years when a few grains of wheat from the chicken feed was missed by their beady eyes and took root, and after cutting down an old woody spikey shrub discovered an unused corner of the garden that is perfect for the experiment.

We sowed it on 12 April and within three weeks it’s already 20cm tall! It’s more than viable and I’m looking forward to it growing much taller, the ears developing, and it gently ripening in the sunshine as the year progresses.

Image: The tricky bit to come

I’m quite confident at this stage. I’m quite confident at the final stage – baking a few loaves of bread. But it’s the middle bit that I’m most nervous about.

I know we’ll need to find/borrow a mill – a pestle and mortar is going to take much too long – but threshing and winnowing are two activities that I’ve absolutely no experience in. I just keep reminding myself that people have been eating bread for thousands and thousands of years and maybe, like Little Red Hen, I need to ask some others to help me.

Other news in the bakery is the announcement of a new collaboration; we’ve been enjoying some of the wonderful award winning products from Bray Cured, who make handmade British charcuterie, and have been working with them to reduce food waste by creating a new bread, Fennel Salami & Olive Sourdough, using the end of salami trimmings that can’t be sliced for customers. We are delighted to announce that this is now available to order from our weekly micro bakery, and collected from Hen Corner on Fridays.

I’m assured that this rain will be stopping soon, so with a little sunshine, our gardens, parks and allotments will be lush for weeks to come.

Image: Bake Your Lawn by Chris Young and the Real Bread Campaign

Coming up at Hen Corner:

May:

Saturday 11 Full Day Bee Keeping

Tuesday 28 Bees For Children (Family Course)

Wednesday 29 Introduction to Making Cheese

Thursday 30 Bees For Children (Family Course)

June:

Tuesday 4 June A Day At Hen Corner

Thursday 13 June Making Scones And Jam

Saturday 15 June Full Day Bee Keeping

Wednesday 19 June Introduction To Making Pasta

All courses, virtual & face to face, can be found at HenCorner.com

Sara Ward is the owner of Hen Corner and author of Living the Good Life in the City: A journey to self-sufficiency

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