Our Earth As An Apple

This is a presentation that we’ve given to demonstrate all over our valley the extreme scarcity of good farmland in the world.

Before you begin this reading, go to your fridge, and get an apple.  Then get a paring knife and a small cutting board.  Then you can fully participate in this

Pretend that an apple is our planet earth – round, beautiful, and full of very good things. Notice its skin, hugging and protecting the surface.

Cut the apple into quarters. Set three quarters aside.
Water covers about 75% of the earth’s surface. The three quarters we removed represent the portions of the earth that are covered with water: oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.

What we now have left represents dry land. Now, slice this quarter in half, giving you two one-eighth world pieces. Set aside one of these pieces because: this land is desert, polar or mountainous regions, where it is too hot, too cold, or too high to be productive farmland.

We now have one eight of the original apple left. Cut this section crosswise into fourths, and set aside three sections. These three sections represent: areas that are too rocky, steep, shallow, poor, or wet to produce food. They also include areas of land that could produce food, but are buried under cities, highways, suburban developments, shopping centers, and other structures that people have built.

We now have one thirty-second of the apple left. Carefully peel this slice, keeping the peel intact. This tiny bit of peel represents the top-soil we depend on for the world’s food supply. It averages less than five feet deep, and is quite a small fixed amount of food producing land.

Cut off 1/10th of your peel. The large piece represents all foreign farmland. This land may produce food which may have been treated with chemicals or use practices not approved in the U.S.

The small piece, 1/320 of the earth’s surface, represents all the good farmland in the United States.

Food grown in the United States is protected by our the highest standards against unsafe chemicals. American farms and ranches produce a huge bounty of food and fiber. This allows all of us to enjoy the safest, healthiest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world.

Currently, we have over 7 billion people on our earth. The world’s population is increasing by 73,000,000 people per year. Our population is growing fast!

Can you see that protecting our farmland is vitally important?  Advanced agricultural technology has enabled the world to feed many of its people on this fixed amount of farmland. However technology will only go so far if farmland keeps disappearing at the rapid rate which it has been for years.

It is our responsibility to support our farmers and ranchers, and to ask our cities to protect farmland and promote agriculture.

 

 

The American Farmland Trust works to protect American farmland. Check out their website by clicking HERE!

 

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How Much Water Does It Take?

The west is dry, that’s not a newsflash.  California, the largest farm state in our union, has a dire water shortage.  Do you think it matters?  Sure it does.    California grows crops – including nuts, fruits and vegetables – which are not grown anywhere else in the U.S.

The thirstiest foods include beef, pork, lamb, goat, garbanzos (chickpeas), lentils, sweet peas, mangoes and asparagus.  Fortunately, many of these crops are grown in other states with a more steady water supply.

The less thirsty crops include strawberries, cabbage, onions, lettuce, carrots, eggplant, grapefruit and tomatoes.  Most of these crops grow primarily in California.

It takes 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond.

It takes more than 5 gallons of water to produce just one head of broccoli.

The value of water used on almonds is higher than on most crops.  California’s almond harvest was worth $5.8 billion in 2013, second only to milk and ahead of grapes (think California wine).  Walnuts and pistachios ranked 6th and 12th.

Regardless of value, nuts use a lot of water.

82% of the worlds’ almonds are grown in California – nearly all in the Central Valley, using 10% of the state’s water supply.  Almond growers can’t just let their orchards lay fallow as other farmers can… if they don’t water, the trees which were meant to produce for 18-20 years will die.

Fruits and nuts are 45% of revenue of California agriculture, and consume 34% of all farm water in the state.

When we hear about California’s water woes, we must remember that they grow a lot of our produce.

Pray for California (and all the west) to receive steady and life-giving rain!

 

This, from the April 17, 2015 issue of The Agriculture Letter

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Thought of the Week

Climate is what we expect,
weather is what we get.

-Mark Twain

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What’s Your Beef?

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has done a wonderful job with their long-running “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign. They have educated us well on the health benefits of eating beef products.

 

Beef cattle out on the range. Photo source

Beef cattle out on the range. Photo source

Beef is an excellent protein, high in multiple essential vitamins and minerals, and is low in calories.  Beef has a high nutritional value, and is a delicious way to get your protein!  For just 8% of your daily caloric intake, you can get almost 50% of your daily protein needs (25 grams), 36% of your daily zinc needs, and 12% of your daily iron needs.

Eating lean beef improves your cholesterol, builds muscle, and keeps your body healthy.  And contrary to what some would have you believe, lean beef is fairly low in fat – less than 10 grams per serving.  And the high levels of everything else in beef make it a worthwhile choice for dinner!

There are many different breeds of beef-producing cattle. Black Angus are perhaps the most popular, with purebred and cross-bred Angus cattle making up around 60% of commercial cowherds. Angus cattle were first imported from Scotland in 1873.  Another popular beef cattle breed is the Hereford, which was first brought to the US from England in 1817. Other common beef cattle breeds in the US include Limousin, Charolais, and Simmental, among others.

 

Happy Black Angus cattle on pasture. Photo source.

Happy Black Angus cattle on pasture. Photo source.

 

So, the main question remaining is how does beef get from the rancher to our plate?  The life cycle of a beef animal is interesting, and one that makes raising high-quality beef as efficient as possible.

Beef cattle start their lives out on the range.  Baby calves are with their mothers until they’re ready to be weaned at about 6-8 months of age.  “Heifers”, or girl calves, are either kept as replacements for older cows, or are sold to other ranchers as replacements, to local 4-H and FFA kids to raise, or are sold for beef.  Bulls, or boy calves, are also sorted out  at weaning.  The superior bull calves are kept for breeding purposes, and the rest are castrated, are then called “steers” and head for the beef cycle.

Heifers that are going to be kept for replacement stay with the herd until they’re about 15 months old, at which point they are ready to be bred for the first time.  The gestation period of a beef animal is 9 months, so they’ll typically deliver their first calf when they’re about 2 years old.  The average cow will stay in a breeding herd for 7-9 years.

The castrated bull calves are called steers.  Don’t think that these are little bitty babies.  Calves weigh anywhere between 600 and 700 pounds when they’re weaned, and the vast majority are at or above the upper end of that scale!  After weaning, the rancher sells his steers to stockers, who graze the young cattle for approximately six months.

Young steers out on the range. Photo source

Young steers out on the range. Photo source

Stockers sell their cattle, who are now about a year old, to feedlots.  A steer will spend about six months at a feedlot with hundreds to thousands of other young steers.  Feedlots provide the “finish” to steers, feeding them a carefully balanced diet of grains (corn-oats-barley) and legumes (hay).  This gives the final product, beef, an excellent flavor and texture.  Feedlots are carefully managed to keep animals comfortable, happy, and healthy.  Sick or injured animals are immediately treated to prevent spread of disease and to keep the animal comfortable.

Cattle lounging at a feedlot. Photo source.

Cattle lounging at a feedlot. Photo source.

Feedlots, while often huge operations, focus on the health of the animal.  A healthy beef animal will produce high-quality meat, while a sick animal will produce a lesser-quality product.  If a feedlot wants to stay in business, focusing on the well-being of the animals in their care is of the utmost priority.  So, while it might not be feasible for all beef animals to be finished on grass, the cattle in feedlots have plenty of fresh water, lots of high-quality food, and an ample space in which to move around and do cattle things.  It is an efficient, effective system to produce enough beef to feed us hungry consumers!

From the feedlot, the beef animal’s last stop is the meat-packing facility.  Animals are bought from the feedlots based on market price, which is influenced by supply and demand. Cattle destined for the butcher are shipped as quickly as possible to the packer.  Once at the processing facility, beef animals are humanely slaughtered, after which the meat is processed into a variety of cuts in highly sanitary conditions. Processing facilities are inspected multiple times daily, with some of the larger facilities having over a dozen inspectors per shift!

Workers cutting beef at a processing plant in Washington. Photo source.

Workers cutting beef at a processing plant in Washington. Photo source.

The processing of cattle produces a whole lot more than beef.  The hides go to leather tanneries, fat goes to be made into lubricants, biodiesel, cosmetics and more. Cattle bones, hooves, and horns are transformed into gelatin for various food products, as well as buttons, piano keys, sandpaper and many more items. Finally, the organs and glands of cattle are used in over 100 medications and medical products, including insulin and sutures. The range of products that these animals provide for us is truly astounding, and truly a gift!

So the next time you see a pasture full of cows, you’ll have a bit more understanding about where they are headed, as well as about all of the hard work and care from the ranchers and feedlot managers that goes into raising cattle to truly fulfill their purpose: to provide us with food and a multitude of important products!

A prized Brangus (Brahman/Angus) bull. Photo source

A prized Brangus (Brahman/Angus) bull. Photo source

For more information, check out these websites:

http://www.explorebeef.org/raisingbeef.aspx

http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/beefphases.html

http://www.cattle-empire.net/blog/123/many-uses-cow-beef-products

 

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Thought of the Week

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Rancher Profile – Hyde Ranch Angus

When we think of ranchers, we think of the cattlemen out on the range, raising the beef we eat.  But have you ever thought of who it is that breeds and raises the cows and bulls in order to produce that fine beef?

This month we are happy to introduce you to our friends, Bill and Beverly White and their family.  They run a fine purebred, registered Angus cattle operation on their ranch in the eastern foothills of the Owyhee Mountains of Southwest Idaho.  Bill and Beverly’s ranch is unique in that, while many farms and ranches have been operated by 3 and 4 generations of the same family, they bought this ranch themselves, and are their family’s first generation to own it.  The name of their place is Hyde Ranch Angus; it is an old and historic ranch in our region.  Let us tell you about it.

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Hyde Ranch was established in the 1860’s by Michael Hyde and his family. The area had been homesteaded by several smaller farmers, who then each sold their land to the Hyde family.  A dugout cellar from the original Hyde homesite is still standing on the property, and it is actually in pretty good shape.

Original dugout at the Hyde homestead

Original dugout at the Hyde homestead

Adjacent to the ranch, and on the main road into town, Michael Hyde also had a trading post that was built in the mid 1860’s.  His brother had a saloon across the street.  The saloon had a trap door in the floor, and the jail was below.  Pretty handy when things got rowdy!  The trading post was turned into a Catholic church in 1957, and it still serves its community today.

Original 1860's trading post, now turned church

Original 1860’s trading post, now turned church

The Whites bought the ranch in 1986, and named it “Hyde Ranch Angus” as homage to its long history and good reputation, and to the family who brought the first longhorn cattle to the area from Texas, with another cattleman, Con Shea.

Bill’s grandfather ( his mother’s father) came to the United States on a boat in 1910 from the Basque country of Spain.  He worked as a cook on the boat to pay his way.  He came to Boise to work on the Arrowrock Dam, and broke his leg on the job.  Shortly after recovering from his broken leg, his bride arrived from Spain, and they were married in Boise.  The couple traveled to Jordan Valley, Oregon, and established the Madariaga Inn there, which is now known as the Basque Inn.

Bill’s father’s family were wheat farmers in Nebraska.  In 1936, during the Great Depression, they moved out of Nebraska and ended up in Parma, Idaho.  It was like heaven compared to the Dust Bowl of Nebraska – there were fruit trees here!  The seven White brothers moved around the area, and Bill’s dad ended up in Jordan Valley, which is where Bill was born and raised.

Beverly’s great grandfather (her dad’s grandfather), Adolf Lahtinen, came from Finland.  He left Finland one month before her grandfather Lauri Lahtinen was born.  Adolf was in the U.S. for nine years before he sent for his family to come to the U.S.  They eventually homesteaded a ranch in Little Valley, in the Bruneau, Idaho area.  Her father bought it from her grandpa in the mid-1950s, and has been operating it ever since.  Beverly’s family’s ranch has the distinction of being one of the Centennial Ranches* recognized during Idaho’s bi-centennial in 1990.

Beverly’s mother was raised on Sheep Creek in Owyhee County.  Then, when Beverly’s grandfather worked on building the Anderson Ranch Dam, the family moved upriver, north of Boise.  Later he ran sheep with the Bruneau Sheep Company, which became the Simplot Company.

As you can see, both Bill and Beverly have life-long ties with the land and with cattle.

Bill and Beverly White, with the lovely Owyhee Mountains

Bill and Beverly White, with their backdrop of the majestic Owyhee Mountains

Now onto the Interview with Bill and Beverly:

Tell us about your family:
We first met at an Owyhee Cattleman’s dance in Silver City.  And now, here we are, we just celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary last month!  We have 4 kids – 2 daughters, Dana (Kevin) Donahue, and Stacy (Jesse) Anthes; and we have 2 sons, Lance and Joe.  Between the kids, we have 6 granddaughters, ranging in ages from 1 to 12 years.  They nearly all like to ride horses, and three of our kids have their own cattle on the ranch.  While they don’t live too terribly far away, they are in different businesses:  Dana works in her husband’s steel erection business, Lance has his own welding and excavation business, Joe is a diesel mechanic for Mountain View Equipment, and Stacy recently took a break from her supervisor position at Simplot to enjoy raising her two daughters at home.  They come out to the ranch to help at different times of the year, like branding, weaning, sorting, welding or mechanics.  And, of course, for family gatherings.

Happy cows and spring calves on pasture.

Happy cows and spring calves on pasture.

How did you get into ranching?
Beverly:  Bill started managing  Nahas Ranches when he was 17 years old.  After two years he took over the management of the main Sinker Creek Ranch.  He continued to manage the ranch and cattle operation for the next 17 years, which was an operation of 1,200 head of mother cows and 2,500 in the feedlot!  During the early years, we moved from cow-camp to cow-camp as part of Bill’s job for Nahas Ranches.  Our oldest kids didn’t always have indoor plumbing until they were several years old!  While continuing to manage the cattle end of the operation, Bill and I bought Hyde Ranch Angus.

The working corrals with the cattle grazing in the distance.

The working corrals with the cattle grazing in the distance.  These corrals are set up so that Bill can do much of the work himself.

Tell us about your operation:

Bill:  The cattle we raise are all purebred, registered Angus.  Our main product is high quality bulls.  We sell registered bulls, mostly to other cattlemen in our region.  Our bulls and our cattle produce high quality at a reasonable price.  Our’s is a one man operation – we do everything ourselves.  This means we have found ways to become more efficient, although those methods might not be the norm nowadays.  For example, we have found that by purchasing top-quality bulls, our operation has become more labor and cost-effective than by using artificial insemination.  We run an all-natural breeding program, which means we breed our cattle the old fashioned way – by turning the bulls out in the pasture with the cows.

A good looking herd bull. He was out with cows pregnant with fall babies and was NOT HAPPY about the situation.

A good looking herd bull. He was bellowing, wanting to visit the ladies that were in a different pasture than his.

We keep a number of herd sires and rotate them through two sets of cows.  One is a set of fall-calving cows and the other is a set of spring-calving cows.  We use the bulls for about three years before rotating them out of our herd by selling them.  We do this in order to keep the genetics of our herd fresh.  Our animals are big and hearty, and are bred for life on the range.  A big percentage of the animals we sell go to ranchers right here in Owyhee County because they’re suited to this area.

The Gentleman's Club - young bulls being held for transfer to new ranchers.

The Gentleman’s Club – young bulls being held for transfer to new ranchers.

Some of our heifers (young females) and steers (castrated males) are sold to 4-H and FFA kids.  We really like to help out the kids by continuing our relationship with them after they’ve bought their animal.  We’ll give them advice and even help them with training their animal, clipping and breeding their heifers.

We keep some of our heifers as replacements for older cows.  The rest are sold through the sale yard, or to other individuals for replacement heifers or for beef.

Good looking bull waiting to be transferred to his new owner.

Good looking young bull waiting to go to his new owner.

We also farm about 350 acres; 100 acres is in pasture, the rest in alfalfa hay. We raise all of our own hay which feeds all of our cattle, and we always have enough hay to sell.  Just hay and pasture is all we have.  We normally feed close to 400 tons of hay ourselves.  The proceeds from the sale of the alfalfa hay provide us with the funds to take care of the rest of our operation.  Our ranch is completely sustainable; we grow all of our own feed, and don’t have to buy any.  It’s good to be self-sustainable in that way.

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This young bull watched and watched us. He’ll be going to his new home soon, to be the sire for that ranch.

The cattle are fed alfalfa starting around Christmas and on through mid-April, when they go out to pasture again.  We go through about 2 tons of hay a day when we’re feeding the cows.  Once the calves are weaned, they are fed chopped hay after they’re weaned, almost 2 tons a day, October through April.

Lovely alfalfa field with the Owyhees in the distance.

Alfalfa field with the Owyhees in the distance.

We believe in providing high quality meat everyone can afford.  This is a way of life for us.  It’s not a way to get rich, and that’s not what we’re here for.  We taught our kids the value of hard work and honest values, and now our grandchildren love to come out and be on the ranch.

Cows and calves, grazing on lush pasture.

Cows and calves, grazing on spring lush pasture.

We were taught to raise a good product, do a good job, to charge a fair price, and most importantly, to leave the ground better than it was.  We take care of our land to make sure it stays good for a long time.  You have to learn to take care of what you have, and to build up the land and your stock.

Do you use any sustainable practices?
The land is of the highest importance, and we work hard to take care of our environment.  We have Bald Eagles and Red Tailed Hawks nesting in the trees.  This spring we built some nesting platforms for them to build their nests on.  They’re good for helping to take care of our problem gophers!

Pretty field of green alfalfa.

Nice pasture, you can just see the new pivot to the right.

We’ve also been putting in pivots (center pivot irrigation systems) to irrigate the alfalfa fields and pastures.  We now have four pivots, and our goal is to have a total of six.  Pivots place the water carefully onto the fields, and helps us get the maximum efficiency from what little water we have out here.

We run our cows on a rotation through the different pastures.  They’re moved once a week to a new pasture to keep the grass healthy.  Cows are fed only alfalfa hay in the winter months or are grazed on pasture through the summer months, and are on a mineral supplement.  They don’t get any corn or silage.  We try to run a really efficient operation, and give them just what they need.  Our animals are bred for maximum gain on just natural feed.  We also do a lot of our work on horseback – branding, working and moving cattle.  (Horses minimize the footprint or damage to the land).

Bill and his horse.

Bill and his horse.

Something interesting, cutting-edge – that you would like our readers to know?
Our operation is as natural as possible. No growth hormones, no grain, nothing but grass or alfalfa hay. We have to take care of our animals. People often don’t understand that we’re in this for a lifetime.  You can’t just jump in and out of raising cattle.  The way we take care of things now is going to decide our future, because there’s no such thing as retirement in ranching. What you put into it is what you get out of it!

Going to gather cattle.

Going out to gather  cattle.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a rancher?
Ranching is not without is challenges. We face water shortages to our alfalfa and pasture fields.  That’s why we installed the pivots.  Our energy costs to run the pivots are going up as well.  Right now, beef prices are up, so the increases in costs are manageable.  But when beef prices go down, it can put us ranchers in a precarious situation.  That’s the cost of doing business in a risky area, I guess!

Bill, turning his cows and calves out after working them.

Bill, turning his cows and calves out after working them.

What are ranching’s biggest rewards for you?
The wonderful benefits of ranching along Idaho’s Owyhee mountain range outweigh the challenges.  Raising our family here, so that our kids and now our grandkids have been able to  experience the things that they did growing has been wonderful.  We also love the opportunities we’ve had to meet so many different people from all over. When we do get to travel, we like to see what people are doing in other places, and get new ideas to bring back to try on our place.

Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations?
We’re active in the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association (recent past president). In the past, we’ve been involved in the Owyhee County Fair, as Beef Superintendents, and with many other organizations including the Snake River Stampede Calf Scramble and Boise Valley Angus.

It's not a ranch without a ranch dog or two.

Bill and Beverly, and their working cow dogs.

Are there any stories you’d like to share?
Hearing our 3 year old grand daughter beg to ride Annie the Show Cow again!  Teaching our kids how to ride and work cows with us.  4th of July, sitting around the campfire with our winter coats on.  Eating homemade ice cream under the Juniper trees.   Watching our grown children tease each other on every get-together.  Our families, children and grand children have provided us with a lifetime of love, memories and laughter to carry on through the next generations.

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We admire the White’s attention to the detail and care of their cattle and the efficiency of their operation.  We appreciate the way in which they care for their land, so that it will remain healthy and productive for the generations to come.  They are model stewards of the land!  In time, perhaps the White’s operation, Hyde Ranch Angus, will have the opportunity to become a 2nd generation ranch, and then a 3rd!

The next time you are enjoying a delicious steak or a nice, lean hamburger, think of Bill and Beverly and their family, who raised the breeding animals for you.  This hardworking family takes great pride and care in breeding excellent cattle, so that you and I can enjoy abundant, high quality beef.

Thank you Bill and Beverly White, for growing high quality, nutritious, safe food for us to enjoy!

*In order to be a Centennial Ranch or Farm, the land or a portion of the land must have been operated by the members of the same family for 100 years.

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Thought of the Week

Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.

-Thomas Edison

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Crop Signs

Brand New Crop Signs!

We want to show off the crop signs we just posted in the farm fields which border roads.DSC03757

Frequently, one hears, “I wonder what that crop is, growing out there?”  Well, this our proactive approach to teaching people who are driving by, a little more about farming and the food they eat.

It also tells the world that we’re proud of our farmers, the work they do, and the food they provide for each and every one of us.

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You can see that the season has just started, the crop is just coming up.

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Todd, and his beautiful stand of wheat

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Woven in Wheat

There was a lovely article on wheat art in the March, 2015 edition of Wheat Life magazine.  Since humans began planting and harvesting wheat, there has been straw, the stalk of the wheat plant.  For centuries, the straw of wheat, oats, barley, rice, and other crops has been collected and spun, sewed, or woven into a variety of objects.

In the 1600’s, woven straw hats were the rage throughout Europe.  Hundreds of thousands of people were employed in the industry, weaving straw and making hats in factories or in their homes.  Other objects made of straw include boxes, baskets, toys, decorative items, and more.

Vintage straw hat from the 1920's.

Vintage straw hat from the 1920’s. Photo source.

There are several different forms of straw work.  The first, plaiting, braiding, or wheat weaving, is when stalks of straw are twisted around each other.  There are hundreds of variations of this method, producing different patterns, shapes and styles.

A pretty sculpture made out of braided wheat. Photo source

A pretty sculpture made out of braided wheat. Photo source

Straw marquetry is when the stalk of straw is split down the middle, then applied to a flat surface in a pattern.  Sheets of straw marquetry can be cut up and integrated into different pieces of art.

A gorgeous example of straw marquetry. Photo source

A gorgeous example of straw marquetry. Photo source

Swiss straw work was developed in the 1800’s to create trimmings and products for straw hats.  Swiss straw work features very fine, detailed, and delicate patterns.

This lovely brooch is a good example of Swiss straw work

This lovely brooch is a good example of Swiss straw work. Photo source

Straw embroidery dates all the way back to at least the 1600’s, if not earlier.  The stalk of straw is split and softened in water, making it pliable enough to work it through fabric using traditional embroidery stitches.  Straw embroidery was used to decorate traditional costumes, as well as church altar cloths, vestments, and other decorative fabrics.

A fine antique example of straw embroidery

A fine example of antique straw embroidery. Photo source

Tied straw work is found mainly in Scandinavian countries.  Whole straws are bent and tied into different shapes and figures.  In Germany and Switzerland, stars are the main object to be made using this technique.

A tied straw star. Photo source

A tied straw star. Photo source

These straw working techniques can be combined to make beautiful objects ranging from bits of jewelry to large sculptures.

The tools used for working straw are simple – scissors, thread, smoothers (for marquetry), needles (for embroidery), straw splitters, and stronger thread or thin wire for tied work.  A large pan for soaking stalks of straw to keep them pliable is also a necessary tool in the wheat worker’s stash.

Working straw was almost a lost art coming into the mid 1900’s.  Today, however, it has experienced a resurgence in interest, and there are active organizations across the United States and Europe dedicated to preserving and promoting this art form.

For more information on wheat weaving, or to learn the craft, contact the National Association of Wheat Weavers.   The organization was started in 1970, and has members in the United States, Canada, and Europe who would love to share their expertise with anyone interested!

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Thought of the Week

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

-Thomas Edison, Inventor

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