by Ann M. Colford & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & armers keep different hours than the rest of us. When Reardan wheat farmer Fred Fleming called me at 7:30 Monday morning, he had been up for hours, while my voice still held traces of sleep. Standing in a field of winter wheat, he was ready to start the harvest and wondered if I'd like to come watch.
"I can be there in about an hour," I told him groggily.
"Aw, heck, we'll be done by then," he replied. "I've got the scythe all sharpened and ready to go."
Normally Fleming relies on a pair of combines to harvest his wheat, the great machines mowing down wide swaths of grain with every pass across the rolling hills. But this job was a little different. This crop would be better measured in square feet rather than acres.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & ommuters who have frequented 57th Avenue on Spokane's South Hill this summer may have noticed the little front yard full of wheat just west of Luna. The innocuous brown house adjacent to the restaurant is home to Bouzies Bakery, the Luna offshoot that produces breads for Luna and Caf & eacute; Marron, as well as retail customers at Huckleberry's and the Spokane Farmers' Market. Bouzies uses Fleming's locally grown Shepherd's Grain flour.
During a visit to the restaurant and bakery last fall, Fleming noticed the newly turned and smoothed soil in the front yard. He joked with Luna chef Shilo Pierce and Bouzies baker Dena Carr that the soil looked perfect for planting wheat. They took his idea seriously.
"So I came up and hand-broadcast some seed over the yard and raked it in," Fleming says. He planted a low-gluten winter wheat, the kind used in pastries.
Come spring, Fleming returned to fertilize the wheat; Carr and the other bakers watered their tiny crop regularly and picked out weeds by hand. Neighbors began to eye the yard curiously as the green shoots grew shaggier.
"I think at first, when it still looked like grass, people in the neighborhood got concerned that maybe we couldn't afford to mow the lawn," laughs Carr. "So that's when we put up our sign -- 'Watch our wheat grow.' Once it started to look like wheat, people would bring their elderly parents by, people who used to farm, just so they could look at the wheat. It's become the neighborhood novelty."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he novelty of the suburban wheat patch also serves to awaken food consumers to local food producers and sustainable agriculture, both Carr and Fleming point out.
"We're starting to see a growing awareness among consumers of what it means for food to be sustainably grown, to be using food products grown right here and not in Kansas," Carr says. "We've really heard that from our customers at the farmers market."
"Luna has been a strong supporter of local family farms for a long time," adds Fleming. "They're real food activists, supporting the local industry. And it's great to spread the word -- the more people we can get involved, the more demand there is for local sustainably grown food."
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & s the crop grew, the bakers and chefs watched over it compulsively, comparing it to wheat in other, larger fields and developing a case of what Fleming calls "wheat envy." Early one morning last week, Carr and Luna owner William Bond noticed that some of the wheat had been flattened overnight into a series of small linked circular paths.
"Crop circles!" Carr says. "The baking crew got very excited -- it was definitely an intentional design."
Fortunately, the circles did minimal damage. And on Monday, the wheat was ready for harvest -- but not at 7:30 am. The cool overnight temps left the wheat too damp to cut.
"The rules of farming are the same whether you're using a $150,000 combine or a cheap old scythe," Fleming sighs. "You can't cut the wheat if it's wet."
By midday, the sun and wind did their work; Fleming and Carr took turns with the scythe, and within a half-hour the crop was down. Carr has no big plans for the wheat except perhaps to tie it in ornamental bundles, but utility wasn't the point of growing 800 square feet of wheat.
"As a baker, it was satisfying to be looking out at the wheat while working with locally grown flour inside," says Carr. "It really completed that circle."