Spelt and Slow Living

Know what I’m doing tonight? De-hulling spelt, one seed pod at a time. It’s beautiful, calming, and totally inefficient. Glorious.

Spelt seed heads from my little community garden plot

I have no idea what’s been grown in my little community plot before I arrived this year, but rumour has it that spelt will help heal poor soils so I planted a little strip in the north-west corner. I didn’t know what to expect, though having recently read Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture I’ll admit that I had visions of old-style grains waving in the gentle alpine winds of a terraced, tree-lined field… so of course I was entirely delighted to discover that it grew quite well, about as tall as me. It threatened to lodge (fall over due to rain or wind) so I propped up the margins with an adjustable plant cage, opened up like a fence. That not only worked well, but made me look like a conscientious garden neighbour, keeping the path clear of my towering spelt. 😉

When it came time to harvest, it didn’t seem prudent to pile sheaves in my living room, so I just put the seed heads in a bag to dry and left the straw for the garden and some of the seeds for the critters. You can see those lovely seed heads, now nice and dry, in the photo above.

Now, the plan was never to de-hull this by hand. People have had brilliant de-hulling tools (or “hulling”, if you insist) for millennia, and I could have made a fair approximation of a flail or thresher and smashed the little spelts apart. I could have walked out to a quiet spot on a windy day and winnowed, blowing the chaff around like a snaggy snowstorm. For that matter, I’ve pre-ordered a hand-powered grain mill from Fieldstone Organics* and one of my first adventures could have been an attempt to adapt the mill according to the “hand operated spelt wheat huller” plans from EAP at McGill University.

*I’ve discovered the extraordinary flavour and nutritional boost in freshly-milled organic spelt, kamut, emmer, einkorn, etc., and will no doubt have many entertaining tales when that mill arrives.

Tonight, though, I decided to tackle this the slow way: using my fingers to pry apart one seed pod at a time. Why? Because it’s fabulously calming. Focusing on one very small action at a time, moving slowly so as not to snag my fingers too dramatically on the toothy ridges, and enjoying the evening. Connecting with each little spelt berry, adding emotional value to each one: I know that no matter what I bake with this, it’s going to be even more delicious and more thoroughly appreciated for having been individually liberated from the hulls.

Yes, I’ll also laugh at myself when I finish all of this, but you know what? I spend a lot of time in life rushing from one thing to another and racing to meet deadlines. School is starting up again next week, and it’s going to be another fairly intense few months balancing work, school, homecraft, gardening, volunteering, and maybe-possibly a little bit of art. So, for this evening, I think I’ll deliberately slowly down.

Yup – sounds about right to me.

The first few teensy spelt berries

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