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Food Preservation

Grain Storage by: Nathanael

Jeremiah unloads grain from the mill.

Jeremiah unloads grain from the mill.

Ah yes. Grains are certainly staples here. Purchasing and storing grain in bulk quantities has been a very good investment for us. We have had some minor problems but storing our corn, wheat, and oats in 55-gallon drums has proven the best option thus far.

While we have a local source of dry kernel corn, we must drive a considerable distance to pick up wheat berries and rolled oats, which three make up the majority of our grains. Because we buy in bulk, we can get our grains directly from the farmers or a mill, at a major discount. Since Dad grew up on a farm, he enjoys talking with farmers, which has given us great relationships with a number of them. Paying with cash may also help. While the soft wheat we need grows out here in the east, hard wheat is shipped in from the west. Since spring and winter hard wheat have more

Zechariah carries in bulk supplies.

Zechariah carries in bulk supplies.

gluten than soft wheat we use them for most yeast breads, while we use soft wheat (cheaper out here) for quick breads, and well, everything else. Saving on chicken feed is another benefit to purchasing in bulk. As a side, although far from insignificant, benefit, we do not need to travel for grain or flour save once a year, either for us or our animals - a tremendous time savings, as well as, the convenience of never running short. [Tip: Purchasing late in the season when the new crop has been brouught in allows us to get the new harvest instead of the old.] All in all, a little planning ahead pays off.

When any seed is ground, the flour will spoil fairly quickly because of oxidation - the oil in the germ going rancid. Keeping our grain whole until we need the flour adds another benefit in that our flour is fresh. Of course the rolled

Joanna enjoys a book while she supervises the grain mills.

Joanna enjoys a book while she supervises the grain mills.

oats we use are crushed long before we buy them, at least we have fresh corn and wheat flour. Perhaps we will get a rolling mill someday.

We use 55-gallon drums for grain storage, keeping our corn in a shed, while the other grains are in our basement. Collecting them over the years, we have increased our number of barrels so that now we have a sufficient number of them. We don't use them all for grain, although they are hard to come by they are in general highly versatile storage containers. Most of them have a rubber seal to keep out the moisture, and we put them up on blocks to facilitate air circulation, since one significant problem with steel barrels is that their bottoms are liable to rust through.

Caleb selects wheat for grinding.

Caleb selects wheat for grinding.

Some of the corn we have bought has had a slight problem with mold, because the moisture level was too high, and we were not able to dry it. In the future, we may try some methods of drying our corn before closing it up in barrels. Being a similar threat, bugs also need attention prior to a problem arising. Basically it is impossible to keep bugs out of our storage areas, so instead we take a few measures to control their access to the grain we are storing. I think that simple rubber seals do a pretty good job of restricting entry to a barrel. Still, bugs could get inside the barrels either in a bag of grain or when we take the lid off. To counter this, we mix diatomaceous earth with the grain in a thick layer all across the top of the barrel so that if any bug does enter the top it cannot get to the wheat without going through the diatomaceous earth. In addition to this layer, we put two or three similar layers of diatomaceous earth in the barrel while filling it to divide the barrel into separate sections thus cutting off any bugs, which may be in a portion of the grain, from ruining the whole. While our grain has been fairly clean, we have now experienced a weevil infestation in one barrel, where I think our measures were proven effective at controlling any spread. Basically all we lost was a bag in which we had not put diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth, made up of the shells of millions of tiny sea creatures, will kill hard shelled bugs while being harmless to people and animals(yes, we eat some along with our grain).

Unloading the bulk supplies from PA.

Unloading the bulk supplies from PA.

We have always kept some food on hand to ease the logistics of purchasing regularly and to reduce our expenses. Dry staples like grain lend themselves easily to bulk storage and are thus an easy item to keep on hand. Certainly we didn't start with large quantities, however, over the years we have increased our supplies as our family grew and as sources of food changed. While purchasing our grains in bulk saves us time and money, 55-gallon drums have proven to be excellent low maintenance long term storage.

Tip: We have purchased chickenscratch soft wheat, which has a little chaff in it. A little extra fiber never hurt anyone, and the chaff is almost unnoticeable until the pieces of wheat stalk get over a quarter inch long.

Zechariah refills the buckets from the grain barrels.

Zechariah refills the buckets from the grain barrels.

Tip: You may be able to buy food grade 55 gallon drums second hand from a local business that receives product in them or possibly from a container business. You would just need to look around and ask to see if it were a possibility. Just make sure they are 'food grade' barrels.

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