DIY Grain Garden, Short Season, & Economics Points

There is a very interesting article on home grown DIY grain from a “grain garden”. It is in four parts, and covers things from planting to threshing to use in foods. The article writer lives in Alaska, so this is particularly pertinent to cold and short season areas. They tested 3 grains (rye, barley, oats) but decided rye was not productive or reliable enough. This is as expected in a very cold short season area.

To the extent we enter into a very cold cycle, that point will be very important elsewhere in the world.

Starts off with a preamble that looks at various economic trends and comes to some reasonable conclusions. Conclusions I saw as likely up until Trump (and that could return with an Obama-II or Hillary-lite in the next election cycle).

Preamble: Why We Should All Become Increasingly Self-sufficient

People’s outlook and actions are largely a product of their experiences, both real and vicarious. My wife and I have spent most of the 23 years prior to 2007 visiting much of the world via sailboat, and our observations have made a big impact on our view of the world.

Trade Deficits

Trade deficits are a reality. In Asia, more than three decades ago, we saw smart, hard-working people whose wages were a pittance by U.S. standards.
The accelerating exodus of the developed world’s major corporations left behind consumer societies that produced less goods and more debt each year to exchange for their essential needs. Earlier, I think that it was from the chairman of Sony that I first read the phrase “hollowing out of America” to summarize the process. Little imagination is required to see the end result. What do we make to exchange with China in return for their manufactured goods?

What do we make that oil-producing countries need, in exchange for oil?

Lately the answer to that question has been fighter jets, bombs, and tanks. Hardly the stuff of a vibrant growing culture or economy.

Exported Technological Advantage

Asia now has the new factories, the jobs filled with trained workers, the technological advantage of ongoing production improvement, the education, the work ethic, and, increasingly, the wages to pay for their future demand. Much, maybe most, of the world’s “high tech” is now manufactured in Asia.

When it comes to high tech, what we design is pretty much all built in Asia. From iPhones to laptops to robots and CNC milling controllers.

Then they spend a bit of time describing a trip to Russia during the economic collapse after the USSR fell apart.

I found this little bit of “PC Run Amok” interesting, and not something I’d seen anywhere else:

Food Self-sufficiency Focuses– Protein, Vegetable, and Grain

For purposes of discussion, food self-sufficiency can be subdivided into protein gathering, vegetable gardening, and grain gardening. For Alaskans, protein self-sufficiency is frequently attained, or aided, via wild fish and game harvesting. (Although, this is becoming less the case, as federal and state authorities in Alaska modify existing laws to redistribute hunting and fishing rights from everybody to Natives and in effect instituting discrimination but politically correct discrimination.) Self-sufficiency efforts for us began in the summer of 2008, when we started clearing land for a large garden. Vegetable self-sufficiency (including root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, and turnips, as well as greens, such as brassicas and spinach) is fairly easy to attain, even with Alaska’s short growing season.

Wonder if that “redistribution” of hunting and fishing rights is yet another Obama thing to be redressed?

Then note the list of reliable short season cool season vegetable crops. Fairly standard, but nice to have it confirmed. Also realize that even if you live in warm and long season areas, knowing what you can start early and eat soon is very valuable information.

Vegetable and Grain Gardens

We wanted both vegetable and grain gardens. Becoming self-sufficient with home-grown grain faced many challenges. In the locale of my home, in southern interior Alaska, my impression, without weather data verification, is that the growing season is usually shorter than even in northern interior Alaska because the summers are cooler. We started by growing rye, hull-less oats, and the variety of hull-less barley developed by the University of Alaska. Hull-less oats and hull-less barley, after threshing, become a clean grain and hull-less, like wheat. After two years of trials, I concluded that the growing season was too short for rye to mature.

Rye is itself a cool short season grain, so having difficulty with rye says it’s about the limit of what any of us might experience outside Alaska. Oats will sprout in 33 F soil just barely above ice temperature. I didn’t know there was a hull-less barley. Nice to know two useful hull-less grains exist.

Part two looks at soil preparation, planting, reaping, and drying operations. DIY machines are described to make each step easier and more productive. I found his reaper an interesting idea. Attach a catch basket to a reciprocating hedge trimmer. The main takaway for me being that some relatively simple if creative machines can make a big difference in labor required even at the very small scale of 1/2 acre.

Definition of Mid-Scale Grain Gardening

Grain plots may vary in size, ranging from, at the minimum, a small plot using a rototiller or shovel and rake for soil preparation, hand sowing the grain, reaping with a scythe or sickle, threshing with a flail, and winnowing with a kitchen fan or a windy day. The small-scale plot is very labor and time-intensive per unit of grain harvested, and the total quantity of grain harvested may not meet the needs of a large family. By contrast a commercial operation may utilize hundreds of acres and a heavy investment in machinery (or utilize the services of a commercial harvesting crew). What I wanted was something in-between the minimum and the commercial operation.

Plot Size

I was seeking a grain plot size and the necessary equipment sufficient to, with a large safety margin, produce enough grain for one or more families every year. My grain garden has been about 15,000 plus square feet (roughly ⅓ acre). Normally, this area will produce enough grain each year to provide us with several years of consumption. This mid-scale grain gardening requires more mechanical equipment than the minimum, but it provides the advantages of much larger grain production and a large reduction in physical labor and time per unit of grain harvested, as compared to the minimum.

DIY Grain Reaper in harvester trailer

He did a test of row planted seeds vs broadcast and found broadcast worked best, but required tilling in and pressing with a roller for best germination.

In part 3 he makes a set of drying trays for use over a floor fan to dry the grain. This could be skipped in warmer dryer areas; but is a very useful thing to know about in wetter and cooler areas. Such trays could be used to dry all sorts of farm products, not just grains.

Reaping and Drying (continued)

Mild fall weather during harvest time as shown in Figure 3 is unusual in the Copper River Valley, Alaska. It’s usually cold and sometimes wet; we had three inches of snow on the ground during our first harvesting year. So it is frequently necessary to dry the harvested grain before threshing. Also, peas harvested for shelling must be dried before threshing.
Constructing Drying Trash

I constructed 43 drying trays to accomplish this purpose. Construction details are shown in Figures 4 and 5. The wood is finished 1” X 2” lumber. The floors are made of galvanized ½” mesh hardware cloth. One exception is that the floor of three trays are ¼” galvanized hardware cloth; these trays serve the dual purpose of also screening grain as shown in Figure 13. All pieces are attached with screws, for strength.

Then on to specifics of making jigs and processes to speed up assembly. All well thought out.

Drying trays with fan, and full of grain

I’m leaving out a lot of detail, so “hit the links” for the full article.

The author then goes on to describe a modified “Rodale thresher” giving exact description and details on how to make one:

Rodale thresher

Not the kind of thing you will knock together on a weekend post apocalypse, but something very useful to have made before hand… Sure beats whacking sheathes of grain on a cement floor.

There are more photos showing it in operation and text describing a tray used to remove the grain and more details on operations. Even down to the scheduling of operations for two people during harvest time.

Part four moves on to details of threshing, winnowing, and grain cleaning. All the little details learned by observing that generally are not obvious to the person who has not done it for a year or two.

Figure 12: Winnowing oats. Note that Peri is raking out threshed oats in the top left corner of the blower. The clockwise air swirl from the fan carries oats to the center. A more professional-looking design would add eye appeal, but this works. Some oats near the wood block and under the screen will be re-winnowed. Heavier barley seeds do not have any retained sheaths, and they drop like little stones right in front of the blower. Some oat seeds retain their hulls and oats vary more in size; winnowing results in a continuum of large seeds grading into smaller seeds and seeds with sheaths and grading into non-seed debris, with increasing distance from the fan. You must make a judgment about where, in this continuum, to draw the line for “keepers”.

Then on to some ideas for cooking:

So, What To Do With All This Grain?

Since our grain supply for family use is practically unlimited and largely pre-paid with our prior purchase and construction of needed equipment, use of home-grown grain for food is without economic limit.

Our Bread

For bread, we grind our own barley flour and wheat flour and dilute the wheat with barley and rolled oats in varying proportions, along with other ingredients, depending on my wife’s current recipe. Neither barley nor oats have much or any gluten and therefore will not make bread when used alone. This combination of wheat and barley flour makes excellent bread. We’ve made barley-only bread with baking powder, and it has the texture of corn bread along with what my wife says is a bland flavor. It’s okay with me, but it won’t make sandwiches.

My wife has recently begun to experiment with a barley tortilla composed of barley flour (no wheat flour), sesame seeds, salt, water, and that’s all. Formed on a tortilla press and cooked on a griddle, it remains flexible and tough enough to serve as a sandwich wrapper; and we like it. I think that our barley consumption will climb, because our noon meals are based on a sandwich with side dishes.
Other Users

We also use the barley grain to supplement store-bought rice. It is especially good cooked with brown rice in a 50% brown rice and 50% barley ratio. It is actually quite good by itself with butter and salt and pepper. And, of course, it’s great in stews and soups. All of this comes from my wife.

I find the whole series interesting not just for the “how to” information, but for the flow of the “lessons learned” and the details that are observed. Using cheap box fans instead of waiting for a windy day. Making drying trays to get around dank Alaska fall weather. Barley tortillas as an alternative to wheat gluten bread.

Overall, a story of how to make the world work for you, while adapting to the world where it refuses. Just that attitude needed to make a go of life in a self sufficient way in a less than perfect place or time.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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38 Responses to DIY Grain Garden, Short Season, & Economics Points

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    From my time in Alaska. Delta Junction, just south of Fairbanks, is the furthest north there is commercial Barley production. Cold and dry, very short growing conditions .
    Copper River is south near the coast. warmer and damp, several more days growing.
    Barley is a very fast grower, 60+ days. Will jump out of the ground as soon as the ground warms a few inches deep and has short roots. Rye and Wheat take longer to establish themselves before they tiller up to make grain. They take deeper warmer soils and are more drought tolerant.
    I’m glad to hear that Alaska Ag. saved that Hulless Barley. I grew it in Surprise Valley,Ca. elevation 4,600ft in the early 1960s, Wonderful stuff if you have enough water. Rye was nearly bullet proof in drought conditions but needed a long cool damp spring to get started. In Alaska the soil goes from frozen cold to warm and damp in a few days. As soon as the grain “makes” it can freeze hard and be harvested later as the straw is fairly short and stiff and will stand erect in bad weather. Wheat and Rye straw is much less stiff and will “lodge” or fall down in late rains or snow and quickly rot on the ground…pg

  2. John F. Hultquist says:

    I do find this interesting, but … always a but or two.
    [Did not see that Buckwheat was part of the operation. Nor bees.]
    [Did not see “drying” berries or anything, the making of beer, or fruit wines.]

    The equipment used is modern — fans, trimmers, and a Stihl something (?). Stihl equipment is high tech — in the USA, Virginia Beach based. Otherwise coming from Germany. Stihl (also Honda) recommends gasoline with no booze and, refined oil. These things require a modern economy and significant logistics support. Sort of anti the “a preamble that looks at various economic trends “.

    In much of the world there is an ageing population moving to cities to be near health care. Seems the % of the population that might want to start a mini-farm is shrinking.
    We have fruit trees, straw-and-other berries, tomatoes, squash and sometimes others. Also, usually showy flowers (for example Dahlias – makes easy and cheap gifts). The only basic crop we grow — Onions. Special ones, such as Ailsa Craig, Copra, Sterling. Just because!
    I would grow wine grapes if we were at a lower elevation. Spring can be wet, windy, with late season frost. Honey and wine provide calories to folks in cool climates — London became the center of the old world wine trade for this reason.
    The life described for this family requires that no one gets sick or ill for more than 3 or 4 days, or crops suffer. A long term illness puts the entire operation in doubt.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F.H.:

    They didn’t cover buckwheat as technically it isn’t a grass so doesn’t fall under one of the major definitions of “grain”. Yes, grain can be any small particle, even “grains” of sand, but depending on where you are, “grain” can mean only the seeds of grasses, or can include things like buckwheat.

    Note the care even the Wiki uses in not quite calling it a grain:

    Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), also known as common buckwheat, Japanese buckwheat and silverhull buckwheat, is a plant cultivated for its grain-like seeds and as a cover crop. A related and more bitter species, Fagopyrum tataricum, a domesticated food plant common in Asia, but not as common in Europe or North America, is also referred to as buckwheat.

    Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, as it is not a grass. Instead, buckwheat is related to sorrel, knotweed, and rhubarb. Because its seeds are rich in complex carbohydrates, it is referred to as a pseudocereal.

    The cultivation of buckwheat grain declined sharply in the 20th century with the adoption of nitrogen fertilizer that increased the productivity of other staples.

    The article is all about how to grow grains in small areas in harsh conditions, not about non-grain substitutes.. For the same reason, it didn’t cover the other items you listed. (Berries, beer, fruit wine). Since bees are not needed for grasses (cereal grains) it would be unrelated to mention them in an article about grains & grasses.

    Were it an article about “making food in cold harsh conditions in general” then I’d be 100% asking about why buckwheat was left out. It’s the “go to” quasi-grain for very short (like 40 day short) growth and harsh conditions. One kind of buckwheat even being used to “remediate” or recover mine tailings from piles of rock fragments to usable land.

    Yes to the rest of your points. That’s a general failing of the “self sufficient back to the land” Mother Earth News sorts. It’s great for 20-something to 30 somethings, but Lord help you if someone gets a major injury or illness.

    I do think there is a place for “legacy high tech” in an economic collapse. It is far far easier to buy 2 gallons of gas on the black market (perhaps in exchange for 5 gallons of grain…) and run your harvester engine for 3 or 4 years until either it is worn out or the economy recovers; than it is to find 40 gallons of grain every year for 3 or 4 years.

    I guess it depends on your scenario. Permanent stability in isolation from all outside tech, materials, and society; or “just get me through the bad time” with society at arms length, but a resource.

    Per Grains:

    FWIW, in my admittedly trivial experiments with small (micro?) grain plots – we’re talking a few square feet – I found Barley to be a marvel. Trivial to grow with big fat heads of grain. Biggest issue for me was the hulls. Now I find I want to buy some hull-less seed and try again ;-) Triticale was also interesting and grew well. As sturdy as rye to bad conditions but almost as good as wheat for “wheat like things” in cooking.

    Wheat was fussy. May have been the kind I was trialing as it was a modern commercial that expected to be pampered with perfect conditions. I was going to trial some older forms (like spelt and such) but lost interest.

    Rice I got to grow as a ‘dry land rice’ (specialty rice from a fancy food store that is grown on hillsides in Asia without flooding) but didn’t get much yield. Then again, I was generally stressing plants looking for what grew best when abused, not providing conditions for max production.

    Buckwheat grew well, but I couldn’t figure out how to harvest it effectively. (Then again, didn’t try real hard… just looked at it, saw seed set, looked like trying to harvest a short weedy bush, and then a rabbit had a satisfying lunch and my experiment ended ;-) (Note to self, assure rabbit barriers are closed before letting rabbits roam garden… )

    Also, found that both Sorghum and Millet were very well suited to my particular Dry California conditions. Especially if water were erratic. It just goes dormant and waits for more water to pick up where it left off. Grew easily and very productive. Biggest issue was just birds eating the crop.

    In a real survival context that would be a feature. Sit at the edge of the garden with the Daisy Air Rifle and pot little birds all day long for the stew… (Note to self: Store a few thousand BBs for about $20 and be set for life on ammo…) Probably get more protein and calories from the birds than the grain anyway. As I can hit a walnut in a walnut tree at about 40 feet with an iron site BB gun (and was a terror to the local sparrows when I was 10…) I’m pretty sure a deluxe scope equipped air rifle at 20 feet would be a “one shot one bird in the pot” operation.

    So I rapidly settled on Sorghum, Millet & Barley (and maybe Triticale) as my grains of choice, and Buickwheat as a “standby” seed supply just in case.

    FWIW, I’ve presently got 2 or 3 volunteer sorghum plants growing next to the fence where I’d been feeding some birds a few years ago. This is the 3rd year running they have sprouted after I stopped the feeding. They seem to be regrowing from the established roots in the lawn near the fence. (Always the same spots) They also seem to just start over again if I mow them down. I’ve also let the lawn go dead brown (during the drought last year) but that didn’t seem to stop them surviving. I did have one die; as the male dog we ‘inherited’ like to use it as his “target” and it was, urm, “over fertilized” and nitrogen burned.

    So for just “give me something, anything” grain, I’d go with Sorghum and millet. But they are best for hot dry places (like where I live) and not Alaska. Here, my intent was to grow Barley as a winter crop, given that it almost never does a hard freeze and it’s cold and wet then, Ideal for barley. Doing this, I could likely get 2 or 3 grain crops a year even without irrigation. (Middle of summer would not crop without added water – right now everything is going brown / dry.)

    Oats, FWIW, do well as a winter grain here, but are just a PITA to harvest from what I’ve tried. Probably need more technique or some of the tools described in the article; and a hull-less variety.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh,and Amaranth…

    Grows like a weed. You can eat the leaves as a green, but the older ones get a bit fibrous and tough. Makes millions of pin-head sized pseudo-grain seeds. Fairly easy to harvest and with a fine screen easy to winnow / clean.

    Only problem I had was that the third year straight of growing it, the local seed eaters had built up, and just before I was going to harvest (like 2 days before that planned weekend harvest) they descended in a large flock and stripped the whole batch in one day.

    Millet has a bitter coating on it that reduces bird losses, so I moved to it instead. With some effort (and probably some crop rotations) Amaranth would work well. Perhaps under bird netting ;-)

  5. D. J. Hawkins says:

    If you are going to invest in an air rifle, I’d stay away from Daisy, at least anything at the regular consumer level. My 8-year old cub scout had a poor experience at camp with several (one out of the box) that refused to hold a pump. I’m sure the cartridge ones work better, but if we’re talking gone-to-heckville a ready supply might be an issue. An older – like 40 years older – model might be the ticket.

  6. E.M.Smith says:


    I happen to have a “40 year old one” that I like. But were I buying something new, it would in fact be a non-Daisy Name Brand for lots of money and with about 1000 fps velocity and a real scope on it… Something like this:

    FWIW, I only use the Daisy name as everyone knows it and it’s become something of a metaphor…

    Though if you have more money, this one is nice too… .22 Caliber so a bit more expensive for the BBs / pellets

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    Interesting cheaper option at $130 to $250 (dep on options) but with a built on silencer:

    Probably more than enough for potting sparrows off the Amaranth… and the silencer would allow multiple shots before they decided to leave…

    I’m actually tempted to get one of those as it is in the “pair of tires” cost range ;-)

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Not quite “me” but…

    Things you never new existed… Want to buy a Sig but put off by the $thousands price tags?

    How about one for $210? With 30 round magazine…

    CO2 powered and .177 caliber with red-dot sight and Picatinny rail… for all those “wannabees” out there ;-)

    I suppose it WOULD put a bit of Fear Of God in someone who saw it pointed at them with the red dot on their shirt… but it causes me to think “NEVER bring an air gun to a real-gun fight”…

  9. Larry Ledwick says:

    For short range varmint and small game popping I would prefer one of the pump up style airguns.

    Advantages – very economical, For what you spend on that Sig you can buy 3 of these.
    variable power if you only want to discourage a pest rather than kill it, you can just slap it in the butt with a pellet that has only one stroke on the pump.
    Not dependent on CO2 cartridges.
    With the .177 caliber you can use either bb’s or pellets. The lead pellets cannot be reused if they impact anything of substance where the steel bb’s can be recycled endlessly.

    I have used one of these to bag a trap smart mouse I could not get any other way

    I have some airsoft CO2 pistols for practice and at close range they would probably be lethal to a small bird, they can shoot through both sides of a cardboard box. The good news is the CO2 cartridges keep essentially for ever so you can stock up a couple boxes. Once the CO2 cart is pierced in the gun though you need to shoot them up in a few days or they will bleed off CO2 and go flat on you.

    You can also use the airsoft inside the house for general practice as well although you end up finding the little plastic pellets everywhere even if you strive to capture them all in a pellet trap some of them go astray and bounce all over the place. (wear eye protection, they will occassionally come back to you)

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    All the ones I “suggested” were pump types, for the reasons you stated. I was just astounded that Sig makes one and that it looks like it does. Other than for some kind of training or for “wannabees” I can’t see the point of it. Barrel too short, price too high, CO2 costly, etc. etc.

    I mean, $210 is A LOT to get one “wow” from a couple of friends who don’t know guns… (much cheaper to just post a picture of it, or a link to Amazon ;-)

    I’ve sometimes wondered if one could get a mold for 22 round pellets and cast tin solder in it. Ought to be light enough to keep most of the speed, harder than lead, and if not always reusable, easy to recycle. One can buy .22 shot (for .22 BB Caps) but solid round lead will be way slow and drop will be an issue. FWIW, I’ve used BB Caps and CB (Conical Bullet – like a cone shaped .22 pellet) in my bolt .22 rifle and they work fine. Nearly silent. Sound a lot like a pellet gun. Last time I bought any was something like 20 years ago… they were dirt cheap then.

    Looks like 7 ¢ / round now:

    But if you just need to quietly pot a few varmints without alarming the neighbors and don’t want to pop $200 for a new air gun… then $8 is a cheap option for 100 rds.

    While I have some small interest in the .22 air gun as it is supposed to be a bit more effective “on target”, when I see the significantly lower velocity I end up wondering if the Joules is all the same… in which case I’m not seeing the real benefit of the .22 caliber. MV would be more M and at the same Joules it might have more energy delivered to target (as it would take its share of recoil as more M and less V so MV^2 would be less so more MV^2 into target as bits of V of target…)

    I suppose it is one of those things “gun guys” argue over endlessly to no point.

    In the end, were I getting one, I’d most likely just get the .177 and be done with it, just because 99.9999999999999% of the time it would be shot at a piece of paper against a wood backstop… and recycle BBs is easy.

    Anyone with “real world experience” welcome to talk me into .22 pellets being better…

    FWIW, I inherited a couple of very cheap Airsoft guns when my Son moved out. Very low power ones that I doubt could even punch thick paper. Used them to scare off predatory birds when I had free range rabbits in the garden. None of the big birds seemed more than ruffled by them. (One uses a couple of AA batteries to make it go. The other is a transparent “Eagle” pistol where you pull the slide back to power it.) Fun if you want to scare a bird to death ;-) These are in the “very much a toy” group and not in the “serious Airsoft” group. My Daisy BB Gun (vintage way way back) has much more “umph” to it… though way too short for me to hold comfortably to shoulder ;-)

    At one time a friend had a .22 Pellet Pistol and could fire little feathered steel darts from it with very sharp points. No idea if that kind of kit is still around. It was one of those 1 to 10 pumps variable power things and at full pumps that dart would do damage… Also shot pellets…

  11. John F. Hultquist says:

    About 6 weeks ago, while my wife looked at shoes, I wandered about a Big 5 Sporting Goods store.
    They had a variety of air guns, sling shots, and other interesting things I can likely do without. Still, it was nice to see them in 3D, rather than on a screen.

    We have Collared Doves (an import) and Black-billed magpies (native). Both make lots of noise, with that of the dove soft and repeating like a broken record. The Magpie’s noise is more associated with aggressive behavior.
    Maybe, I should craw under the bed or into a closet and see if I can find my old pump BB rifle. One of those “I know it is here somewhere” things.

  12. Larry Ledwick says:

    A couple of interesting alternative thresher designs fabricated with similar materials.

    simple thresher – could be wind powered or bicycle powered I suspect

    Another poly barrel design

    The technology of grain processing is not that difficult. In the short term you can get by with come grain flails and a tarp.

  13. Larry Ledwick says:

    There are several polymer skirt pellets out there in addition to the traditional lead pellets.

    I see no reason you could not fabricate a little pellet mold to make your own from damaged used pellets.

    These plastic skirt pellets and similar really get some velocity to them and have pretty high penetration.

    Note : Don’t do this at home these are crazy people! (obligatory disclaimer)
    .22 airgun pellet with powerload test video

    airgun pellet with power load velocity test

    Holy crap using the power load charges and a 14 grain airgun pellet he was getting hunting rifle velocities, with total explosive energy release on impact (great for varmints not so good for meat)
    Power load #2 = average velocity of the .22 airgun pellet of 1881 ft/sec
    Power load #3 = average velocity of the .22 airgun pellet of 2324 ft/sec
    Power load #4 = average velocity of the .22 airgun pellet of 2821 ft/sec
    (pressure signs bit sticky extraction at powerload #4)

  14. Another Ian says:


    If you get a spring powered one lay in a spare spring and seal kit. I’ve had a .22 BSA Airsporter for a long time and it needs that now. It also needs a new scope as that has been shaken apart.

  15. Terry Jackson says:

    A rather comprehensive discussion of air guns and small game.

  16. Steven Fraser says:

    I read the fine article, some recollections provoked:

    Ancestors in my mother’s family homesteaded in Canada, in the area not too far north of Chatham, ON, in 1832. Several generations farmed there, classic ‘rainfall-based’ farming, no irrigation, but some tiling where needed. The last was my mother’s cousin, whom I visited as an adult in the years between his sale of the farm, and his passing.

    The new owners of the property are hydroponic farmers, and I had a chance to meet them and take a tour of the facility several years ago. The entire farm production was done in a massive greenhouse, which they have expanded incrementally as their business improved.

    The new owner gave me a tour, and described how the whole process works.
    Some characteristics:
    – The greenhouse is tiled so runoff can be captured and recycled.
    – The environment is controlled for temperature, CO2 and pests.
    – Their production is all-year, with continuous harvesting
    – They sell the vast majority of what they produce, so its an agribusiness

    Since Ontario can be cold in the winter, I asked how they could maintain production during those times. It turns out that the sunshine on a clear Winter day is sufficient for heat on all days over 17F, and that above that, they have to further open the windowed roofs to let out the excess heat. Below that, they fire up the boilers, and pump heated water throughout the greenhouse piping system.

    It seems to me that a modest investment in a greenhouse, not as extensive as I described, would assist in making the growing season longer for those crops that need the extra days, or specific growing conditions, i.e., raised CO2 levels, or protection from critters/birds, or to provide some flexibilty in what is grown.

    @EM: Any thoughts on the use of grains in the production of… fermented beverages?

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven Fraser:

    I’ve frequently pointed out that farms are run for lowest cost of production (highest profit) not maximum yield per acre, and that we can easily get a few more doublings of output with modest price rises. At some point that runs to the greenhouse methods.

    Already we see increases in saladings coming largely from greenhouses near urban areas. Sometimes even on rooftops! It is the freshness and quality that supports the modest price rise for a hydroponic greenhouse. In winter, large crops of tomatoes come from greenhouses for off season supply.

    Oddly, down here in the lower 48, too much warmth is often the big problem for greenhouses. If very well ventilated with open walls and roof, you get pest problems returning. So most of the time greenhouse are single wall (or even just thin poly sheeting). It would be very easy to make them couple wall polycarbonate sheeting (as is done in harsher climates or places with lots of hail and hard rains).

    As for grains for fermented beverages:

    I’ve posted a few times on the history of beer. The Foundation of Civilization. IMHO, it was the desire for consistent beer supplies that lead to the invention of farming, after all, a hunter gatherer can get lots of BBQ & greens without all the work.

    After that, we worked out distillation as a way to preserve the beer across seasons and years. Then farmers discovered it was a great way to “condense” a grain crop in storage and transport while preventing it from rotting. (Then governments decided to tax it a lot and we got things like the Whiskey Rebellion…)

    To the best of my knowledge there is NO grain that is unsuited to fermentation. Barley gives real whisky and beer. Wheat gives quasi-beer hefeweisen. Rye makes a fine Rye Whiskey. Maize Corn for Bourbon. Rice for sake (and as an adjunct in that not-real-beer Bud…). And on down the list. I’ve seen sorghum beer (tasted a bit, er, less than stellar…) and heard of African millet beer. I’ve seen references to oat beer & whiskey. I’m pretty sure a web search on any grain will yield something or other.

    Personally, I like the Barley and Rye products best, though Sake is gaining a foothold in my fridge… Never found the need for oat or wheat stuff (though the hefeweisen can be nice sometimes). Corn in beer is a sin, IMHO, and corn whiskey just doesn’t taste as good as real barley malt based whisky to me; though the Canadians make some nice stuff too… but I’m not sure what exactly they put in it… perhaps being colder they don’t use as much corn in their whiskeys.

    IF you have a home grown grain plot of an acre+ you will have excess grain. That either means building a storage bin and policing the rats, or fermenting it and perhaps distilling it. Personally, I’d go for the distilling. The US limit for home made is fairly generous… Just don’t try to sell it. (But why would you? ;-)

  18. philjourdan says:

    ” Just don’t try to sell it.”

    Many of us here recognize that conundrum and selflessly volunteer to take excess distillations off your hands. :-)

  19. Steven Fraser says:

    @EM: What lead me to the thought process was the potential applicability of greenhouse techniques to the problem of plant germination, growth and harvest profile conditions, all accomplished by the management of the ‘airspace’, especially management of convection, and directly resulting in higher than ambient growth temperatures. I would call this an engineered microclimate.

    If I recall correctly, the direct effect of this is general metabolic advancement of the plants under care, and with co-committant supply of the growth factors denied the plants by their heat-retaining enclosures. To wit, water, soil, light (potentially) CO2, nutrients, etc.

    The hydroponic farm I described had subsystems for all of these things, so that they did not have to be labor-intensive. Each tranche of plants had its own supply of water/fertilizer via tubes to the roots, and pumped out via CO2 bubbles in the lines. The CO2 was trucked to the location in liquid form, and the day I was there they took delivery. The manifold on the East wall chilled significantly, and iced up as the gas expanded.

    Yesterday, I was investigating the characteristics of the polar Inuit settlements, and was surprised to learn that one of the larger towns (~2700 people) had built a diesel-power plant because it was too expensive to link the town to the closest grid. It got me thinking that a sealed-system, modularized nuclear power plant (think flat-bed-truck sized) would do nicely to support otherwise off-grid communities. Once you have power, you can do all sorts of things with it, like, what you said about beer :-) You could even make ice during the ‘long day’ of Summer. :-)

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven F:


    Once you go greenhouse, you can live anywhere on the planet. All it takes is some power.

    Modular nuclear (think Submarine Nuke worst case, though there are better) is very very cheap power, about 1/2 what I’m presently charged in California. Can provide all the water and heat you need too.

    FWIW, here, the cost of ONE Power Pole is about $10,000. So if you are 2 power poles from the existing grid, it is cheaper to “roll your own” power (unless they third party the pole cost to all the other grid users…)

    Were I living “off the grid” by even 200 yards, I’d not bother to connect. Just use a local Diesel.

  21. H.R. says:

    @Simon Fraser: p.g.sharrow has a nice little thread on a greenhouse on his blog about a greenhouse he made and his experiences with homemade greenhouses.

    It’s not long, some nice pictures, and some lessons learned. Anyone could scale it down for a small backyard just about anywhere there’s 4×6 or 6×8 (feet) of space.

    @E.M. I’m with phil. We’ll help you drink your next distilling experiment. I’m already partially blind, so if anything goes horribly awry; no harm, no foul. eh?🤷‍♂️ Let’s just not make it double-blind experiment.

  22. H.R. says:

    Wow! I need beer. That first sentence to Simon Fraser was barely intelligible. Sorry.

  23. E.M.Smith says:


    Yes, you need beer. (Isn’t that a tautology? ;-)

    But I found sentence the first Simone igegilglelblel jus finee… Wash youur pbolmbem with wit?

  24. p.g.sharrow says:

    that reminds me, I need to make several gallons of Hard Stuff, 140pf, to make about 15 gallons of Blackberry Brandy for my friends ;-) and family. I now have about 40 gallons of berries in the freezer to be juiced. Also need to pick up a few gallons of honey to make it just right…pg.

  25. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Simon Fraser:
    this is the best cheap quick green house that I have made. 12 feet wide from 20 foot PVC 1-1/4 scheduled 40 pipe and as long as you want. The best configuration is beds on each side and a walk down the middle…pg

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Which reminds me I’m supposed to deliver to you some bottles and gear…

    You have some fairly large brewing stuff already, so I’m not sure what would benefit you. Seems to me that a Mr. Beer is somewhat “light weight” for you, no?

    I have a LOT of saved bottles that could use a new home, but beyond that?

    And ought I bring a tent for a weekend camp, or what?

  27. p.g.sharrow says:

    A tent would work as sleeping space is a bit short. At least a sleeping bag, I’ll mow the lawn! 8-) or the warehouse is cooled, tight and very quiet and it has a wonderful long leather couch.
    I do have 5 gallons of Blackberry brandy from 2 years ago in a carboy if you want to bottle off some. BYOBs LOL
    Grape crop is beginning to color, the Zins look fat! gave the grapes their last watering for the year. the rest of the grapes look ok. This year We will pick and freeze as the varieties ripen and then make wine as a mix, all at once. Likely distill all of it to make brandy base.
    Right now the weather is a bit hot and the smokey air is bad 8-( …pg

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    OK, so bring bag and tent, but hope to fit on the couch.

    What brewing kit ought I pack? (Figure arrival about 2 weeks out on a late Friday night…) So you have a carboy and fermentation lock. Mr. Beer not needed. Some bottles would be a nice to have? (And maybe whatever caps I’ve got laying about…) What about yeast packets from the fridge or….

    As to hot: I grew up in the valley below you where it is even hotter… Smokey air? Is the Carr fire smoke getting to your place? Or something nearer?

    (If smokey enough, I’ll pack 20 lbs of pork and a clothes line ;-)

  29. p.g.sharrow says:

    Right, the Carr fire, You plan on making beer here! or just stopping to visit a spell. 8-) you are welcome to kick your shoes off and enjoy the place as long as you wish. we can even rig up Internet connection inside or out. I will have to get the big WiFi back on line if it is needed. Need to fix the wall wart power supply that went out last winter. I’m sure we can cobble up something quickly. Guess I should pick up a few cases of beer ;- ) Have no fear, that couch is 7feet inside! and very comfortable, biggest problem is the warehouse is dead quiet inside. …pg

  30. Larry Ledwick says:

    @pg regarding you green house, that is almost identical to the expedient greenhouses a local professional green house operation I worked at used for getting ready for the spring plant sale rush.

    We built the hoops out of 3/4 ” electrical conduit bent on a wood form to create a uniform shape. The tube hoops were set on pieces of re-bar driven in the ground like your metal pipe.

    To fasten the plastic they attached 1×4 boards along the bottom of the hoops about 6-8″ above the ground with 1/4″ U bolts, then we stretched the plastic over the top of the hoops and sandwiched the plastic between those base boards and a similar top board and then used a screw gun to clamp the plastic. Did one whole side first than went to the other side and pulled the plastic taut and did the screw gun and top board drill to fasten the other side. The small spacing at the bottom helped ventilation, when it got hot we would open both ends of the arch, and the hot air would dump out at the apex of the end arches and cool air would flow in along those bottom gaps providing pretty good uniform air flow through the green house.

    We oriented them east west so they got broadside illumination all day and their axis was pointed along the prevailing westerly wind so if the wind came up it would easily ventilate the green house.

    As you say worked very well, economical and could last more than one season if taken care of and using a thick enough plastic sheet. (helps if the clear plastic is UV resistant)

  31. p.g.sharrow says:

    @ Larry, if you use hoophouse vinyl instead of clear polyethylene it will last 3-5 years instead of the one season of the polyethylene and it has much better transmittance. The vinyl is much more expensive.
    The construction you describe is the commercial version of the hoop house I built and is more durable…pg

  32. philjourdan says:

    @p.g. @7 August 2018 at 3:51 am – re: greenhouse.

    Made one of those. It was to winter my wife’s plants, so not permanent. Made it with 4 mil and PVC. First year, late snow storm (March). Very wet. Crushed it! But rebuilt it the next year. Only issue is you have to keep replacing the plastic (rots). The PVC frame lasts forever! Found the plans on line. Modified them to fit my situation. Which only takes simple math and a calculator!

  33. E.M.Smith says:


    As I’m downsizing / prepping for move to RV, I was intending to donate to you a load of beer bottle, if you want them. Couple of office boxes worth? I’ll likely give the Mr. Beer to my son (since you fermenters already) but don’t want to cart boxes of bottles across the country… So not intending to make beer, more intending to give you beer making stuff… since you had expressed an interest in beer making.

    I travel with my own 110 VAC supply (car inverter) and a T-Mobile hot spot (IF T-Mobile reaches your spread). I’m also quite fond of quiet, so no worries there either.

    Due to “Dog Management Issues” I’m only free between Friday evening to Sunday night…

  34. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith; beer bottles would be great, one more incentive to get her done. A project for a neighbor is nearly finished and stocking up ingredients to make beer is next on the list of project preparations as we approach winter. Some kind of Red Beer I think. Everyone seems to vote for that. Cell service if a bit flaky for AT&T here, It will be interesting to see how your T-Mobil works out.
    Any time is good for me …pg

  35. Steven Fraser says:

    @all: The greenhouse I was describing had Aluminum-framed polyethylene wall panels made with 2 layers of poly sheet. THe sheets were clamped to the frame, well-sealed, and the frames had passages for the air to inflate the sections, giving a not-dead-airspace, one that could be temp controlled by circulating heated or ambient air.

    The growing height was 16 feet, and supported at the top with Al Framing. You could grow vines straight up, and harvest as things ripened.

    The roofline was angled glass, with motorized vents on top for the aforementioned release of heat and surplus O2.

    Maybe they made the beer at night, in my great-aunt’s basement….

  36. Larry Ledwick says:

    I picked up a couple small bags of barley and a bag of rye to add to my general seed stash as a result of this discussion. Don’t really have a place to grow it but in a true emergency that issue could be resolved.

    Apparently it has become cool to sprout barley and rye as a highly nutritious addition to your diet, so bought some small bags of “sprouting barley” and “Sprouting rye” from Amazon. Comes in really heavy duty plastic zip lock bags, of a manageable size.

    Big enough bag to play with and get a feel for how to sprout and grow it, but not so big you need a huge storage bin for it.

    I in the past bought some seeds intended for sprouting as that is a very quick way to get some greens and the associated vitamins while you wait for a garden to establish. You don’t have to wait for all seeds to become mature plants. Especially if you are just trying to add some general nutrition to staples like stored beans and rice or pasta etc.

  37. H.R. says:

    @Larry: You just reminded me that I haven’t seen those little 8 or 12 ounce packages of bean sprouts in the produce section lately. I liked them on salads, but I guess, at least around these parts, they have lost favor and no longer sell well enough to justify stocking them. Alfalfa sprouts are readily available, though.

  38. E.M.Smith says:

    Whole Foods sells a lot of bulk grains that are non-GMO (no issues with the seed not being a stable variety). Often you can get particular varieties in packages. It is where I got my dry land mountain rice…

    Sprouting is easy and fun. All it takes is a jar and perforated lid (plastic best as it doesn’t rust…)

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