Tuesday, June 4, 2013

You need Barley to make Malt

Growing hops was Phase One of the farming project at Helderberg Hops Farm.  With 100 hops in the ground last year and 1,000 more this year.  The hop farming is well under way. Phase Two: Can we grow barley of good quality which can be malted and used to make beer.  After a visit to see Andrea Stanley at Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts last spring I thought we should give it a try. Well turns out you can’t just buy any old barley seed.  Barley comes in two-row and six-row.  Which to plant?  Or, more accurately, what kind can you get? Being that barley has not been grown for the beer industry in New York State  for a long time none was available from local seed sources. I put in a call to Andrea, who, as a grower of barley, could feel my pain. She a gave up 100 pounds of Endeavor winter barley--for a price. I liked the idea of winter barley for two reasons. One, it would get a good head start on the weeds and two, it should be ready to harvest in early July. Barley doesn't like hot, humid weather.

As this is an experiment I did not invest in a grain drill, which is a piece of equipment you  with the broadcast way.  Winter barley in this part of the world wants to be planted in mid September.  Unless it rains all of September and you pull behind a tractor to plant seeds. As there is not a lot of grain farming in Albany County, none of my neighbors have one to borrow--so  I thought.  So I went  So I went with the broadcast way.  Winter barley in this part of the world wants to be planted in mid September.  Unless it rains the whole month of September and you can’t get on the field until mid-October. We started our barley planting with good seed, a poor planting method and a late start. The Endeavor was growing nicely even with the late start.  Around mid-January we had some very cold nights--negative ten, and the wind came up and blew the snow cover off the barley.

Large brown dead areas  appeared in both one acre fields. What to do? As this is an experiment  I started looking for some spring barley.  I called Andrea. No call back. She must be sick of people like me looking for seed. So I called the only other maltster I know--Marty at FarmHouse Malt in Newark Valley, New York. Marty says he knows a guy outside of Rochester. I find Cold Spring Farm has 100 pounds. of Lacey six-row spring barley seed and organic to boot.

So now I’m on the hunt for a grain drill. For months I had been looking on craigslist and asking every farmer I ran into. I had my uncle scouting the Mohawk Valley.  April 15th is the magic date for both spring barley and taxes. You have to beat the weeds. Turns out I find out on craigslist that our beef farming neighbors, the Millers, have had a grain drill hiding in there barn all along. By pure coincidence I see the post and call five minutes. after they listed it. For $200. including delivery, we are the proud owners of a 25 year old McCormick International 16 X 7 grain drill.  On April 15th one acre of Endeavor is turned under and is replaced with one acre of Lacey.    

The barley experiment continues.

Did I mention I’m looking for someone to truck the 35 year old Allis Chalmers pull behind combine I bought to the farm?  More on that later

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