Scots Bere Barley

Most Flavorful Breads, Very Beautiful Implements

I was not surprised when famed culinary host Guy Fieri of the Food Network’s hit TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” selected Richland’s Ethos Bakery to feature for an upcoming episode. Ethos founders Angela Kora and Scott Newell manage one of our areas most popular eateries and one trip inside their attractive space offers proof through aroma and flavor of some of the finest breads, soups, and pastries available anywhere in the region. Small wonder Angela and Scott and their talented team were accorded such an accolade. We at Palouse Heritage were especially pleased because we have long been supplying Ethos with heritage grains like Crimson Turkey wheat and Purple Egyptian barley which they mill on site for the freshest baked products possible.

Ethos Bakery & Café Culinary Treasures; Richland, Washington

Ethos Bakery & Café Culinary Treasures; Richland, Washington

I first learned about Ethos after meeting Angela at one of the annual “Grain Gatherings” sponsored by Washington State University at their Mt. Vernon Research Center north of Seattle. These convocations draw participants from across the country while others hail from Europe and Australia. It used to be that use of agrarian folksayings, recounting tales of Old and New World seasonal farm labors, and harvest work songs were the obscure domain of cultural historians and ethnologists, but burgeoning interest in such topics is evident in sustainability and food sovereignty movements here and throughout the world. At a recent Grain Gathering session, groups toured test plots of heritage White and Red Lammas wheats, Scots Bere barley, and Lincoln oats, and learned about methods and marketability of artisan breads, craft brews, and other specialty food and beverage products. Even names of event sponsors suggest Old World associations—the Bread Baking Guild, King Arthur Flour, and Wood Stone, a custom builder of stone hearth ovens.

Conference presenters shared lines by the sixteenth century agrarian poet Thomas Tusser, and showcased a “Harvest Heritage” exhibit of art based on rural themes by plein air French Impressionists, American Realists, the Russian Itinerants. American folk art was represented in the once familiar Harvest Star quilt design and nineteenth century steel engravings of field workers wielding sickles. A notable modern depiction of this ancient tool is the sculpted stone bas-relief roundel carved by an unidentified New Deal era sculptor in 1941 for the Adams County Courthouse in Ritzville, Washington. Agricultural folklorist and artist Eric Sloan considered the crescent-shaped sickle in all its variations over time to be the most beautiful implement ever crafted.

Grain Sheaf Bas-relief (1941), Adams County Courthouse; Ritzville, Washington

Grain Sheaf Bas-relief (1941), Adams County Courthouse; Ritzville, Washington

Simple ancient depictions of sickle-bearing field workers gave way in a blended gradualism to medieval and early modern images of scythe-swinging harvesters. The social contract that had long governed and guided enduring social systems changed little until the nineteenth century. Inventions sparked by the Industrial Revolution led to the gradual replacement of sickles and scythes with mechanical reapers. This advancement in agricultural technology greatly relieved the arduous labor of harvest fields, but also compounded pressures of urban growth throughout the great grain growing nations of Europe and the America.

The horse-powered reaper developed by American Cyrus McCormick in the 1830s featured a moveable bar of small sickle sections that effectively cut grain stalks which fell onto a platform for binding and threshing. Just like anyone can enjoy today at Ethos Bakery & Café, exceptionally flavored heritage grains like Crimson Turkey were routinely held back by families to mill at home for delicious breads and other baked goods. Community elder Donald Reich of Colfax, Washington, recently told me that he remembered his immigrant father driving all the way to the Pataha Mill near Pomeroy to get their wheat ground into flour. How convenient we can go to places like Ethos and experience what they knew to be a treasure. 

Nethers and Runners: A Flavorful Tale of Northwest Milling Origins

This summer brought an opportunity for our extended family to spend several days at Curlew Lake in north central Washington near the town of Republic. Located about twenty miles from the Canadian border, Curlew Lake is magnificent place to fish while enjoying the music of the wind in the towering pines and joyful shouts of young explorers along the shoreline. My son, Karl, and I decided to also investigate the story of Ft. Colvile, the old Hudson’s Bay Company post located near Kettle Falls northwest of Spokane. This area marked the location of the region’s first farms and the historic grist mill that produced the first flour on the upper Columbia. (Note that the present town of Colville, as well as the 19th century military fort of that name, are spelled with two “l’s,” while the old fur trading post preserved the original spelling of namesake Scotsman Andrew Colvile.)

Left: Hudson’s Bay Company “Myers” Mill on the Colville River (looking southeast) near present Kettle Falls, Washington

Left: Hudson’s Bay Company “Myers” Mill on the Colville River (looking southeast) near present Kettle Falls, Washington

Same location today (looking southwest)

Same location today (looking southwest)

We learned that Hand-burr (buhr) milling equipment was used to produce the first flour at Ft. Colvile until a water-powered gristmill was built in 1830 several miles south of the fort at Myers Falls on the Colville River. Workers laboriously chiseled a pair of millstones from local granite, and the original stones are now housed at Spokane’s Museum of Arts & Culture. The early mills used two granite grinding stones with canted grooves cut in the rock so grist would be crushed rather than smashed between the stationary nether (bottom) and runner (top). As the runner turned, the grain gradually moved out more finely in the furrows to be thrown out at the edge as flour.

This crude milling required considerable time and produced an oily, starchy germ (which causes flour to become rancid) and whole wheat mixture of protein-rich gluten, fibrous bran, and vitamins. Other products used for “flours” and cereal included brans (outer skins or husks), shorts (bran and germ), and middlings (endosperm and bran). Five bushels of wheat weighing about sixty pounds per bushel typically yielded one 200-pound barrel of flour. Larger areas were soon under cultivation at two nearby company farms that yielded 3,000 bushels of wheat, corn, barley, oats, buckwheat, and peas in 1832. A second, more efficient gristmill was constructed near the original Ft. Colvile structure in the late 1840s and became operational in 1850 to enable substantial distribution of company flour to New Caledonia and the Snake River country.

Rob Smith,  Historic Hudson’s Bay Company Flour Mill

Rob Smith, Historic Hudson’s Bay Company Flour Mill

Ft. Vancouver’s first grist mill used a small hand-turned stone and was apparently located near the sawmill about 1828. Little of the original fur trading post remains in present Vancouver, Washington, but a magnificent living history recreation and museum are located along the Columbia River in the southwest part of the city. A larger mill at Ft. Vancouver made of locally quarried stone was operating in 1834 but powered by a slow-moving oxen or horses so provided barely enough flour for local needs, though pioneer missionary Samuel Parker considered it “of excellent quality.” Millwright William Crate’s water-powered gristmill was completed in the spring of 1839 on Mill Creek and could grind and bolt about sixty bushels of wheat per day, or 10,000 bushels annually.

Quern (Hand-Burr) Milling

Quern (Hand-Burr) Milling

The sonorous sound of rotating stones accompanied by the rhythmic clacking and splashing from the enormous wheel played pleasantly throughout the valley. A visitor to the fort wrote that the mill’s “deep music is heard daily and nightly half the year” in order to process the previous year’s harvest, which also came via wheat bateaux and barges from farms of Willamette Valley settlers. Rev. Parker noted in 1836 that the French Prairie “hunters turned farmers” McLoughlin had charitably aided were producing “first quality” wheat and found a ready market at the fort where it was traded for imported molasses, cocoa, salt, rum, claret, and Chinese tea.

Ft. Vancouver, Ft. Colvile, and Ft. Nez Perces (near present Pasco) soon came to employ a host of voyageurs, farmers, herdsmen, carpenters, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, tailors, and other laborers. They regularly worked from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. six days a week at these remote outposts where they raised such heritage grains as White Lammas wheat and Scots Bere barley. Ohio native and wagon train leader Lansford Hastings described bustling Ft. Vancouver in the 1840s as a place of “diligent and incessant plying of the hammer, sledges and axes, and the confused toiling and ringing of bells, present all the impetuous commotion, rustling, tumultuous din of a city life, in the oriental world.”

Palouse Colony Farm Scots Bere (July, 2018)

Palouse Colony Farm Scots Bere (July, 2018)

Hands to Harvest! “Bringing in the Sheaves” in 2018

Few words conjure up richer connotations of summertime, country life, and abundance than harvest. During the past three weeks we have commenced harvesting our Palouse Heritage grains and are pleased to report excellent quality and yield. Ever being interested in matters of origin, I decided to investigate the derivation of the word “harvest,” and learned that it is derived from German Herbst (autumn). That word in turn descends from a root shared by Latin carp- (“to gather”) and Greek karpos (“fruit”). “Harvest” in the sense of reaping grain and other crops came into vernacular use during the medieval era of Middle English.

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Palouse Heritage Yellow Breton Wheat Harvest near Connell, Washington (July, 2018)

Palouse Heritage Yellow Breton Wheat Harvest near Connell, Washington (July, 2018)

Likely due to the light color of a wheat kernel’s interior endosperm, the word “wheat” in many European languages meant “white,” as with Old English whete, Welsh gwenith, and German weizzi. The Latin term “gladiators,” hordearii, literally means “barley eaters” since they subsisted on high energy foods like barley, oatmeal, and legumes. Roman legionaries were routinely outfitted with sickles in order to procure their livelihood throughout the far flung empire, and probably used them more often that their weapons. The helical frieze on Trajan’s Column in Rome (c. 110 AD) features a dynamic group scene of soldiers in full uniform harvesting waist-high grain with prodigious heads.

These days we don’t need to rely on sickles and legionnaires to bring in the crop. Good friends like Brad Bailie of Lenwood Farms near Connell, Washington, raise bountiful crops of organic Palouse Heritage varieties like Crimson Turkey and Yellow Breton. The latter is a soft red variety native to the northern France where for generations it was used for the prized flour essential for flavorful crepes. Farther to the northeast in the vicinity of Endicott, Washington, our longtime friends Joe DeLong and Chuck Jordan are harvestings stands of Palouse Heritage Red Fife, a famous bread grain originally from Eastern Europe, Sonoran Gold wheat, and Scots Bere barley that has become one of the most sought-after craft brewing malt grains.

Although there are some variations in climate and soil across the inland Pacific Northwest, this fertile region lies within the great arc of the Columbia River’s “Big Bend” easily identified on any map. While reading through some old newspapers recently I encountered the following poem titled “The Big Bend” by Louis Todd that was published in 1900. Little else is known about Todd’s life, but his literary expressions here make it clear he greatly appreciated this land of harvest time “golden splendor.”

 

No other river to the ocean

   Will a tale like thine unfold,

Of the wealth seen in thy travels;

   Of the wealth thy borders hold;

For thy thoughts the grandeur bear,

   And thy breath the sweetness breathes,

Of the boundless fields and forests,

   Of the richly laden trees.

 

And there grows within thy roaring

   All the fairest of the vine;

Luscious fruits in clusters hanging

   From the north and southern clime.

Great fields of wheat in golden splendor,

   Waving like a mighty sea,

Holding safe their precious treasure

   ’Till the grain shall ripened be.

 

Where nature works with freest hand,

   Builds her greatest work of art,

Will the feeble life of man

   There most smoothly play its part.

Oh, leave the dreary course you travel,

   Spurn the rocky path you go,

Join again your life with Nature,

   Where the fragrant flowers grow.

 

Palouse Heritage Red Fife Wheat Harvest (July, 2018)

Palouse Heritage Red Fife Wheat Harvest (July, 2018)

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A “Farm to Table” Milestone—The Grain Shed Opens!

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After seven years of patient labor begun with extremely limited quantities of rare landrace grain seed, we were thrilled to attend a soft opening of The Grain Shed in Spokane’s South Perry district (1026 E. Newark) on June 9. The event marked the culmination of our vision to complete a heritage grain-based “Farm to Table” market devoted to principles of “flavorful authenticity.” Imagine the rich, warm aroma of artisan breads made from whole grain Crimson Turkey wheat, the progenitor of most all modern bread wheats, accompanied by a glass of Scots Bere ale (“The grain that gave beer its name!”).

Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Red Letter Day: The Grain Shed Opens

Hat’s off to the remarkable cadre of committed souls whose dream for a place dedicated to serving healthy landrace grain products in an atmosphere of good fellowship was matched by months of careful planning and hard work. Palouse Colony Farm co-founder Don Scheuerman teamed up with Grain Shed co-founders, Joel Williamson, malster-brewer of LINC Foods,  brewer Teddy Benson, and renown Spokane artisan baker Shaun Thompson Duffy of Culture Breads. The result of these innovative endeavors is this first of its kind co-op producer/worker/service model in the region. 

Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

Legendary Spokane Artisan Baker Shawn Thompson Duffy

Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Grain Shed-Palouse Pint Master Brewers Teddy Benson and Joel Williamson

Shaun designed the bakery’s enormous wood-fired oven where he applies the skills of a culinary artist to transform fresh-milled flour from The Grain Shed’s stone mill into succlulent Old World-style pastries and breads. Among his specialties are whole grain rye Volkornbrot and pain de mie, a soft French sandwich bread. As an indication of The Grain Shed team’s caliber of service, the informal opening was such a hit with locals that they sold out of both specialty loaves and house Scots Bere and Purple Egyptian ales. May the fates smile and allow you to enjoy the unforgettable experience of “flavorful authenticity” on your visit to The Grain Shed. Congratulations Don, Joel, Shaun, and Teddy!

“One Dinner” with Palouse Heritage and the Inland Northwest Food Network

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Founder Teri McKenzie of the Inland Northwest Food Network is passionate about health and heritage! Since establishing the organization five years ago in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area, she has spearheaded dozens of events across the region to promote local agrarian economies through farm-to-table dinners, seed swaps, and cooking classes. Her friendship with my brother and Palouse Colony Farm co-founder, Don Scheuerman, led to a wonderful evening last month at Spokane’s acclaimed Ruin’s Restaurant for the Inland Northwest Food Network's monthly "One Dinner" featuring Palouse Heritage. We arrived right on time but were lucky to find a seat so were grateful we had made reservations. All the folks at our table were “Ruin’s Regulars” from the city who enjoyed hearing Don talk about life on the farm and the nutritional benefits of heritage grains.

Chef Tony Brown crafted an incredible menu of eight small plates paired with specialty drinks, which more than enough for the hearty appetites present around our table. Among my favorites were the farro risotto with white miso and crumbled cheese, Shaun Thompson-Duffy’s Culture Breads made with our Palouse Heritage Crimson Turkey wheat flour, and those incredible pulled pork sliders! My wife, Lois, raved about the braised beef and barley with sweet potato, and we both loved the rye bread pudding Tony devised with huckleberry curd and custard. Should have asked for that recipe! Since my German paternal grandmother made the most delicious rye bread while Norwegian maternal Grandma Peterson made every dessert possible out of huckleberries she loved to gather, I suppose I come by passion for Tony’s bread pudding naturally. Topping off our wondrous evening was Bellwether Brewing’s Smoked Palouse ESB made with our Scots Bere heritage barley malt.  

Something else we found interesting at our tables were colorful handouts listing “15 Reasons to Eat Locally Grown Grain.” Here are a few of the entries:

Local grains taste better. Farmers grow a diverse variety of wheat and other grains, and these products travel a more direct path from the field to your pantry. Without the conventional additives, local grains have more interesting flavor profiles and taste better.

Supporting local grains rebuild regional food systems and the regional economy. In addition to the on-farm jobs they support, local grains require processing, storage, and distribution. This means more regional-scale infrastructure and jobs in these facilities. It also paves the way to create other regional food infrastructure for products like meat, pickled and processed goods, and more.

Nothing makes truly “artisan” bread like truly artisan grains. Bakers using regional grains are constantly innovating to celebrate the diverse flavors and characteristics of local grains, creating a richer array of products.

 

You can cook it, bake it, and brew it.

Because the “staff of life” should be local too.

Bread is agriculture! And so is beer, cake, and granola.

 

Whites of Their Eyes, and White Lammas Wheat — The 2017 Northwest Colonial Festival and Early American Heritage Grains

With a state named for the first president, counties that honor Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, and towns like Mt. Vernon, perhaps it was only time before the Northwest should host a full-blown Northwest Colonial Festival complete with Concord Bridge battle reenactments and Early American grain demonstration plots courtesy of WSU/Mt. Vernon and Palouse Colony Farm. You may recall from blogs posted earlier this year that in partnership with Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, founder of Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina, and Stephen Jones and Steve Lyon at WSU/MV, we embarked on a marvelous adventure to (1) document specific grain varieties raised by George and Martha Washington, John and Abigail Adams, and other “Founding Farmers,” (2) find any samples that had been kept vital in US and world germplasm collections, (3) begin propigating them, and (4) share samples with the dedicated heritage-minded folks at Colonial Williamsburg, Mt. Vernon’s Living History Farm, and the National Arboretum in Washington, D. C.

Colonist Encampment, 2017 Northwest Colonial Festival;   George Washington Inn, Port Angeles, Washington

Colonist Encampment, 2017 Northwest Colonial Festival; George Washington Inn, Port Angeles, Washington

Among our most recent partners in this special endeavor has been Dan and Janet Abbott, proprietors of the George Washington Inn, a five-star B&B situated on fifteen acres overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Washington State’s coastal communities of Sequim and Port Angeles. The inn is an incredible full scale replica of President Washington’s Virginia estate mansion with exquisite period interiors, only with updated conveniences! Lois and I were guests of the Abbotts this past winter and marveled at the meticulous care taken to develop the building and grounds as a tribute to the democratic ideals and legendary hospitality of the Washingtons and other Founders. We were even joined for a breakfast by General (Vern Frykholm) Washington himself in full uniform and in keeping with the occasion we supplied the Colonial White Lammas wheat flour for the pancakes. The Father of our Nation said he hadn’t tasted anything so delicious in over 200 years.

Dan and Janet spearheaded the first Northwest Colonial Festival in August, 2016, and with such an overwhelming public response made plans far in advance of this month’s August 10-11 event that attracted reenactors throughout the country including regiments of British regulars and American colonist soldiers. Dan and friends had built a model of the famous Concord Bridge just east of the inn and I’m happy to report that once again the patriots managed to drive the Redcoats back and claim victory. A vast encampment is set up along the long driveway from the Finn Road entrance and organizers and participants go out of their way to make for a family-friendly experience where kids can experience how colonial families lived, worked, played, and ate. There are games, music, marching soldiers, demonstrations on Early American printing, spinning and weaving, cooking, and a host of other crafts so you might want to mark calendars for August, 2018, in case you missed it this time around.

Early American Heritage Grain Plots;   George Washington Inn, Port Angeles

Early American Heritage Grain Plots; George Washington Inn, Port Angeles

My special interest was in the grains of Early America and Dan invited Steve Lyon from WSU/Mt. Vernon and me to present on this topic at one of the afternoon sessions. We met folks who had come from as far away as Arizona and I especially enjoyed getting to know Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin (Mr. and Mrs. Gregg Hardy) Franklin from Utah who go to great length to fully dress and act the part. Dr. Franklin reminded me that his brother was a prominent New England farmer and that he had great interest in “agricultural improvement” by introducing new techniques to improve soil fertility and bringing new grain varieties to the colonies from Europe. I was heartened to hear that others who took part in the festival had heard of the work we had done this past year through Palouse Heritage to reintroduce Virginia White May wheat and Scots Bere barley to the National Arboretum and Colonial Williamsburg.  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin lauded the fertility of American soils in their correspondence, as did Thomas Jefferson when writing of the Piedmont region in his Notes on Virginia (1785). He also also famously proclaimed, “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God,” and the haven of “substantial and genuine virtue.” Jefferson envisioned a vast network of yeoman farmers who would be rendered self-reliant and virtuous through possession of private property. Widespread appreciation for both commerce and cultural heritage grounded in religious values is evident in Early America’s many weekly and monthly newspapers and other popular publications.

Festival Celebrity Visitor Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia,   AKA Gregg Hardy of the Colonial Heritage Foundation

Festival Celebrity Visitor Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, AKA Gregg Hardy of the Colonial Heritage Foundation

Although a confirmed Philadelphia city-dweller, Franklin visited farms throughout the area and turned his scientific mind to experiments with grains and grasses and crop rotations. He famously proclaimed, “The great Business of the Continent is Agriculture,” carried on extensive correspondence with Scottish agricultural improver Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) and through interest and influence circulated ideas as well as seeds to promote more productive farming. Franklin was also the prime mover in establishing The Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731, predecessor of American public libraries, to promote members’ literary and political knowledge. Franklin served for a time as the organization’s librarian and gathered numerous agricultural titles that were widely circulated.

Agrarian allusions were common in the expressions of Franklin’s Poor Richard who observed that the divine call to “Places of Dignity and Honour” went forth to those who cared for land and livestock: “David keeping his Father’s Sheep,” “Shepherds feeding their Flocks,” and “Gideon from the Threshing Floor.” The same 1756 edition of the Almanack and Ephemeris offered verse that resonated with the prevailing Protestant work ethic of Franklin and his readers:

 

Learn of the Bees, see to their Toils they run

In clust’ring Swarms, and labour in the Sun:

…Unless you often plow the fruitful field,

 

No grain, but mix’d with Thistles it will yield.

…Plough deep, while Sluggards sleep;

And you shall have Corn, to sell and to keep.

 

The pithy sayings and light-hearted verse that made the Almanack a best-seller in colonial America reflect Franklin’s creed regarding liberty of persons as a “key freedom” so Americans could own property and enjoy the fruits of their labor in the philosophic tradition of John Locke and John Milton. But in Franklin’s view, such freedom should have reasonable limits since unrestrained personal liberty could transform into exploitation that threatened the public good through radically unequal distribution of wealth. While touring Scotland and Ireland in 1771, diplomat Franklin had seen firsthand the widespread abject poverty of the countryside which he attributed to absentee landlords and exploitive farming practices. He proposed an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 to limit the large concentrations of farmland and other property which he believed would be “destructive to the Common Happiness of Mankind.”

Franklin’s designs for paper currency in 1775 as an expression of growing spirit of American independence also incorporated familiar agrarian imagery. TRIBULATIO DITAT (Threshing Improves It) proclaimed the banner of a circular shield in the center his two-dollar bill that featured a flail above a sheaf of grain. Invoking the colorfully stirring rhetoric characteristic of Franklin, he described the image as symbolic of “enriching virtues” in an anonymous submission to the Pennsylvania Gazette: “…[T]ho at present we are under the flail, it blows, how hard soever, will be rather advantageous than hurtful to us: for they will bring forth every grain of genius in arts, manufactures, war and council, that are now concealed in the husk…. And threshing, in one of its senses, that of beating, often improves those that are threshed.”

Franklin United Colonies Flail and Sheaf Two-Dollar Bill (1775);   Private Collection

Franklin United Colonies Flail and Sheaf Two-Dollar Bill (1775); Private Collection

 

 

From Colonial America To El Camino Real — The Great American Heritage Grains Adventure, April 2017 (Part 2)

This blog is a continuation of a series on my (Richard's) trip across the country visiting important sites related to heritage and landrace grain studies. View the other posts in the series here.


Hillwood Estate Museum, Ann McClellan, Interpreter

We’re big breakfast cereal lovers at the Scheuerman household! I still enjoy a good bowl of Post Grape Nuts or Toasties Corn Flakes, though I wish they would cut down on the sugar. I had some vague memory of the Post family’s association with Post cereals. C. W. Post was a man of humble origins and a passion for healthy living who built the Postum Cereal Company into a substantial empire. After he passed away in 1914, his only child and heir, Marjorie Meriwether Post, took over the family enterprise and transformed it into the General Foods Corporation and a host of other related concerns. In the 1930s Marjorie lived in Moscow as the wife of the U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies. She became fascinated by Slavic culture and began collecting treasures from Russia’s Imperial Age as many tsarist objects and works of art were sold at auction by the Soviet government in order to obtain hard currency. Ms. Post had special interest in Catherine the Great and was among the few who could afford the finest pieces which began the vast collection at her Hillwood estate west of Washington, D. C. She arranged to have the mansion and its treasures donated to the nation upon her death in the 1970s.

Russian Empress Catherine the Great (1729-1796) commissioned a breathtaking project to transform a vast area near the summer palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Pavlovsk), the “Tsar’s Village” west of St. Petersburg, into an allegorical landscape shaped by her conception of this Russian rural idyll. She found in Orthodox priest and agronomist Andrei Samborsky (1732-1815) a teacher with the proper background to tutor her grandsons and a small circle of privileged classmates like Prince Alexander Golitsyn. After graduating from the Kiev Academy in 1765, Samborsky had studied agriculture in England and served as chaplain at the Russian Embassy in London, married an Englishwoman, and returned to Russia to begin tutoring the Russian dukes in religion and natural science in 1782.

Buch Chalice with Gold Wheat Stem; presented by Catherine the Great to Nevsky Cathedral, 1791

Buch Chalice with Gold Wheat Stem; presented by Catherine the Great to Nevsky Cathedral, 1791

Hillwood’s Imperial Palace Service and Furnishings from Pushkin, Russia

Hillwood’s Imperial Palace Service and Furnishings from Pushkin, Russia

With the Empress’s support, Samborsky formulated plans for an Imperial Farm and School of Practical Agriculture on a thousand acres adjacent to Tsarskoe Selo which became an important state institution devoted to the improvement of crop and livestock production and farm management. An engraving from the time shows Samborsky plowing with an improved English implement as his distinguished Order of St. Vladimir medal hangs from a nearby tree. Open land in the vicinity was sown to wheat, rye, pasture grass, and other crops while workers labored nearby in the 1780s on Pavlovsk, the splendid summer palace of Catherine’s son, Paul I, and from 1792 to 1796 on his son’s Neoclassical residence, the Alexander Palace. The first structure built at Pavlovsk was the open air Temple to Ceres (later Catherine’s Concert Hall, 1780) by the empress’s favored architect Charles Cameron (1745-1812), a colonnaded Doric rotunda that originally contained a statue of Catherine as Ceres and painted panel An Offering to Ceres.

The Imperial Farm originally constructed from 1828 to 1830 featured buildings of Tudor Gothic country style designed by Scottish architect Adam Menelaws (c. 1750-1831) with a single story Cottage Palace built nearby as an izba containing rooms for visiting members of the imperial family. Outbuildings included a stone barn, stables, granary, and dairy, and a kitchen redesigned in 1841 to serve as a Grand Ducal School. The cottage was expanded to three floors in 1859 with the addition of bedrooms, and dining and drawing rooms to become the ocher-colored Farm Palace which Alexander II (1818-1881) used as the family’s preferred summer residence for the rest his life. When time permitted, Alexander especially enjoyed his Blue Study which displayed favored paintings of rural scenes and fine bindings, and where he signed the Emancipation of the Serfs decree in 1861.

 

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site

“I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.”  --George Washington, letter to Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788

The great Business of the Continent is Agriculture.” --Benjamin Franklin, “The Internal State of America,” c. 1790

“I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.” --Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787

 

I had day of splendid Virginia sunshine for the short drive from Washington, D. C., down to Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate overlooking the Potomac River where I made arrangements to visit the park’s living history farm and the nation’s most recently presidential library—the spectacular Smith Library for the Study of George Washington. Prior to leading freedom’s cause in the Revolutionary War, Washington first leased Mt. Vernon after the death of his half-brother, Lawrence, in 1754, and obtained full title in 1761 upon his sister-in-law’s death. Washington significantly expanded his holdings to 8,000 acres through acquisitions of Mansion Farm, Ferry Farm, Dogue Run Farm, Muddy Hole Farm, and River Farm. He began experimenting with various kinds of crop varieties in the late 1780s in order to move from tobacco to grain production in order to eliminate reliance on slave labor and in to improve the land’s fertility. My very helpful host was Lisa Pregent, who manages Mt. Vernon’s Living History Farm, where our Palouse Heritage Scots Bere barley will once again be growing after an absence of over two hundred years!

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site and Living History Farm, Lisa Pregent, Farm Manager, holding Palouse Heritage Scots Bere Barley Seed

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site and Living History Farm, Lisa Pregent, Farm Manager, holding Palouse Heritage Scots Bere Barley Seed

; and George Washington’s Restored Octagonal Threshing Barn

; and George Washington’s Restored Octagonal Threshing Barn

I continued down the winding road about five miles through the sparsely populated countryside to the recently rebuilt George Washington Gristmill and Distillery. (Someday soon they’d also like to reconstruct his farmhouse.) I arrived right at 5 PM closing time and the place was about empty, so thought my chances of any kind of guided tour were slim. But I was pleased when Head Miller Cory Welshans emerged along the lane leading to the mill with an inviting smile that seemed to say, “I’ll spare time for anybody with information about George Washington’s original grain culture.” And indeed he did show me around the grounds and invited me to return on my trip back from Williamsburg to meet Historic Trades Manager Sam Murphy.

Cory Welshans, Head Miller

Cory Welshans, Head Miller

Sam Murphy, Historic Trades Manager

Sam Murphy, Historic Trades Manager

In no tribute to my time management skills, I did return but this time a few minutes after closing hours though Sam and the milling team could not have been more accommodating to my interests. I got a grand tour of all three stories of the operating mill and found Sam, like Cory, to be a storehouse of knowledge and very interested the old White Virginia May wheat for milling and Scots Bere barley for both milling and brewing.

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site Gristmill and Distillery

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site Gristmill and Distillery

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Sam provided some valued insights into Washington’s agricultural know-how and business savvy:

"President Washington did many things as a political and military leader, but here we really emphasize George Washington the agricultural entrepreneur. He led the transition from tobacco to grain culture in this region and built the two-story octagonal threshing barn based on a European design that reduced his loss to soil and sky by traditional methods from 20% to less than 10%. He also experimented with new grains from Europe and Asia, and installed the first Oliver Evans stone milling and silk-sifting equipment in the country. The reconstruction here is the only one of its kind presently operating.

"Washington developed a very lucrative milling business by vertically integrating his operations. He raised high quality milling grains for that time and installed sophisticated silk-sieve sifting equipment to separate the flour into three products—superfine white flour for the best bread and pastry flour, middlings with the bran and endosperm, and “ship stuff” for making hardtack or sea biscuit. He traded considerable grain to Caribbean markets for rum which he sold here in the Colonies, and also used those profits to import goods from China. So he was into global trade and vertical business integration long before those terms became fashionable."

Thanks again, Lisa, Corey, and Sam, and I can’t wait to see these Early American grains once again flourishing where they did in the time of our Founding Farmers!

 

Williamsburg, Virginia

I continued to the southeast on my rental car expedition for some 170 miles via Richmond to Colonial Williamsburg, America’s famed and meticulously restored 18th century community with generous support from the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. family. I was invited to meet with Ed Schultz and Wayne Randolf who have managed Great Hopes Plantation there and who have been wanting to restore the period’s authentic grain culture to the farm. I found them to be very gracious hosts and incredibly knowledgeable regarding Early American agricultural history. Various Williamsburg museums and libraries also contained works relevant to my “Hallowed Harvests” study.

Great Hopes Plantation Rye Field, Ed Schultz, Journeyman Farmer

Great Hopes Plantation Rye Field, Ed Schultz, Journeyman Farmer

William Prentis Store Field

William Prentis Store Field

What’s more, I hadn’t dined at the King’s Arms Tavern since first visiting Williamsburg with my wife, Lois, our parents, and my sister Debbie in the 1970s. I was pleased to find the same colonial era wines, savory pot pies, and desserts on the menu that we found back then. Today, however, some craft ales said to be based on old recipes had been added to the mix.

King’s Arms Tavern Marquis, Colonial Williamsburg

King’s Arms Tavern Marquis, Colonial Williamsburg

But I really knew I was where I was supposed to be after checking in late at night to the Quarterpath Inn and finding a framed print of this work by the French artist Jean Millet that I had been writing about in “Hallowed Harvests” hanging above my bed. Below it are some lines I composed about its significance.

Jean Millet,  Harvesters Resting  (1854)

Jean Millet, Harvesters Resting (1854)

Millet sought to paint “pictures that mattered” and the work he considered his masterpiece, Harvesters Resting—Ruth and Boaz (1857), earned the artist his first medal and is among very few paintings he explicitly based on a biblical theme. The canvas bathes Millet’s aesthetic mission in a spiritually charged golden pink light that merges appreciation of nature with faith, while the complex composition reflects associations with precedents like Breughel’s The Harvesters. In this monumental idyll, Millet reinterprets biblical Ruth and Boaz with contemporary relevance in clothing and setting to illustrate the mutual respect born of her courage and his benevolence. A jarring disparity is expressed between rustic peasant piety and privation.

Painting from a carefully moderated palette of soft tones, Millet clothes Ruth in blue, the symbolic color of purity typically seen in Renaissance portrayals of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The artist almost certainly intended this in accordance with Boaz’s proclamation that Ruth be known as a woman of excellence. Boaz presents her to his laborers, most of whom recline and eat their fill from a communal dish while Ruth clings to her grain as if she were protecting a child. She is vulnerable, excluded, and poor—like those who exist on the margins of society in any age. Yet a man of means shows uncommon compassion and chooses her to be a member of his household and offers promise of a new life.

The pithy sayings and light-hearted verse that made Benjamin Franklin’s Almanack a best-seller in Colonial and Early America reflects his creed regarding liberty of persons as a “key freedom” so Americans could own property and enjoy the fruits of their labor in the philosophic tradition of John Locke and John Milton. But in Franklin’s views, such freedom should have reasonable limits since unrestrained personal liberty could transform into licentiousness that threatened the public good through radically unequal distribution of wealth. While touring Scotland and Ireland in 1771, diplomat Franklin had seen firsthand the widespread abject poverty of the countryside which he attributed to absentee landlords and exploitive farming practices. Franklin proposed an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 to limit the large concentrations of farmland and other property which he believed would be “destructive to the Common Happiness of Mankind.”

Keep Within the Compass    Print   (Carrington & Bowles, 1784)

Keep Within the Compass Print (Carrington & Bowles, 1784)

Agrarian toil was likewise associated with moral wellbeing in Early America. The popular Keep the Compass allegorical broadsides, printed in England with separate versions for young men and women, depicted the benefits of proper behavior and hard work. Colorful scenes around a draftsman’s compass show the perils of vice beyond the instrument, while a harvest scene and church steeple inside represent keys to success symbolized by a sack of treasure. “KEEP WITHIN COMPASS AND YOU SHALL BE SURE,” the poster admonishes, “TO AVOID MANY TROUBLES OTHERS ENDURE.“


Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog series on Richard's "Great American Heritage Grains Adventure."

Richard's trip has been made possible by generous support from The Carolina Gold Foundation, Anson Mills and Glenn Roberts, Seattle Pacific University, the University of California-Riverside Department of History, and Palouse Heritage.