June 3, 2021

The only history course I took as an undergrad was on farming technology.  I have always been interested in manufacturing and machinery and needed another liberal arts course, so this seemed like a no brainer.  The course covered the development from threshers to combines and the steel plow by John Deere in 1869.  The steel plow was the implement that transformed the central plains from the Great American Desert to the breadbasket of the world.  The other reason I took the course was because my family came from an agricultural background, and I thought this might help me understand what they faced when moving to rural Kansas.  This was a way to understand my roots.

When I checked an online photo reference on the millet plants I was growing along the back fence (that were run over by the mower), it identified the plant as Durham Wheat.   Durum wheat (Triticum durum or Triticum turgidum subsp. durum) is also called pasta wheat or macaroni wheat.  It is the second most cultivated species of wheat after common wheat, although it represents only 5% to 8% of global wheat production.  It was developed by artificial selection of the domesticated emmer wheat strains grown in Central Europe and the Near East around 7000 BC.  This wheat formed the roots of much of civilization.

While I had thought the plants growing along the fence looked like wheat, when I checked the package ingredients it did not list wheat as an ingredient, only millet.  This showed I was a bit removed from my roots. Yesterday I decided to try another process that could take me closer to my agricultural roots.  I harvested the grain, tied it together in a shock, and placed it on the screened porch to dry.  My hope is to be able to thresh the rain and then again feed it to the birds who had pitched it out of the feeder in the first place.  I felt while it might help me connect to the roots of my ancestors, it would also help the birds connect to the grain they had rejected.  It could happen, right?

Thoughts:  I was part of an archeological survey on the high mesas of Utah when it began to snow.  We stopped and huddled together for warmth while we waited for the truck to arrive to pick us up.  I had read stories on my Kansas roots about the early settlers having no wood on the prairie and instead burned the buffalo chips (read poop) that littered the landscape.  Since the mesa was also a pasture, I suggested we collect dried cow chips and burn them for warmth.  They did not burn well and smelled horrendous.  I was glad this was a part of my roots I did not have to live with.  Every time I think how bad I have it, I remember things have been worse in the past.  The Influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919 never had a vaccine to bring resolution.  It is estimated there were 50 million deaths worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the US.  One hundred years later, there are those who choose to refuse to get the vaccine.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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