Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Slowly ramping back...

Many apologies for not having posted anything in months...  As I warned, life has taken a few interesting changes--I retired from my Real World (tm) job, and acquired new employment; my family and I also purchased a new house, and have moved.  It's a "fixer-upper," so the house is taking most of my spare time, but there are a few nice points to it.

Firstly, it's a farm, with some land attached.  I've already got my wife's go-ahead to use one of the fields for growing various things; I hope to eventually have a half-acre or so dedicated to an assortment of barley varieties.  A chunk of the field has been rough-mowed, but the grass and weeds need to be taken down another few steps, then turned over somehow (by hand? ewww...); I'd like to get a bit more of the field reclaimed from the brush, as well.  (It's been fallow for probably three or four years, and has a variety of weeds and grasses up to my eyebrows...)

As for what varieties, I've got a handful.  In keeping with my SCA/historical bent, I've done a little reading and found an interesting barley varietal called "Bere" (pronounced "bear").  It comes from Scotland, specifically the Orkneys, and is thought to have been brought to the British Isles by the Norwegians/Vikings sometime in the late 900's or so.  Scientists consider it to be Britain's oldest cereal grain in continuous commercial cultivation.

I've also got some Maris Otter, simply because I like it so much, and some Halcyon, which is reputed to have better yields.  On the other side of the English Channel, there's Hana barley, from Moravia, in the Czech Republic.  It's not necessarily as old as Bere, but has the distinction of being the barley varietal from which the first Pilsners were made.  Where did I get all of these?  Well, it turns out that the USDA maintains a seed database, and will send 5-gram seed samples on request.  Now, 5 grams isn't a lot of seed--at typical barley planting rates, it should cover about 5.5 square feet, more or less.  But they suggest growing the plants and harvesting the resulting seeds for re-use, until you have enough for your purposes.  My purposes are about 1/16 of an acre per variety, depending on how well they do...

I believe that it'll take me two years or so to build up sufficient seed-stock to plant for my production purposes; in the meantime, I also picked up some (commercially available) Conlon variety.  It's a pretty basic US spring 2-row malting barley, nothing particularly special about it.  (The varieties I chose are all 2-row; the Maris Otter and Halcyon are winter barleys, the others are spring barleys.)  I'll set up a "main" plot of that, with small side-plots of the others; that way, I can use the Conlon for "practice," until I get sufficient seed for my "artisanal" varieties to take over.

Yes, there will be room for me to plant my hops, as well--I hope to have multiple bines started next year, with the first "good" harvest coming in 2014.  In addition to my current Cascades, I'd like to get something a bit stronger--Magnum maybe, or Columbus--and try out Fuggles and Mt. Hood.  If I could just get someone over to Sweden, to smuggle some rhizomes from their "historic" hops...

Additionally, one of the farm's outbuildings has been ceded to me, to allow construction of a dedicated brewery/pub!  Woohoo!  It was originally a slaughterhouse, and is at present in atrocious shape, but it has potential.  I'll begin constructive work on it probably in the early part of next year--among the first things to be done will be a roof replacement (!) and running electricity to it--but I'll post pictures as I go.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try to begin posting regularly again--probably not weekly, but every two-to-three weeks, or monthly at the least.  It's good to be back, and I hope you'll join me...

2 comments:

Lauren said...

Hello, I have been doing research on Hana barley and your blog is the first piece of information I've found with helpful details on finding seed. I'd really like to learn more from you on getting a seed sample from the USDA, if you're available. My email is Lauren_S_OShea@yahoo.com. Hopefully this won't result in spam, but the potential of learning more about Hana is worth it. Thank you!

Mikhail "Misha" said...

I've replied privately, Lauren. If anybody else wants info on the USDA seed database, I'm happy to help.

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