I am home. The leaves on the trees are yellow, and not yet ready to let go of the branches. Iâ€™m glowing too, and hanging on to a journey that has me shining.
I got to see the Palouse in Eastern Washington. This is wheat country. Barley, too.
The Palouse hills were green with fall planted grains, or stippled tan with a 5 oâ€™clock shadow of stalk stubble. The land looks muscular, and also at rest, like boneless sleeping giants collapsed on each other after a roaring party.
Every few miles huge elevators and bins are full of wheat and barley. The grain projects I write about are a drop in the bucket compared to this scale of production.
But tucked inside the big is what got me here. Dick and Don Scheuerman from the Palouse Colony Farm invited me to their hometown of Endicott. I made pancakes at Jennyâ€™s store, on an electric griddle as people helped themselves to coffee, sat down with their mugs at paper-covered tables. Beyond this room people came and got breakfast sandwiches, bought other stuff at the general store. We used a recipe Dick traced to Martha Washington, with my favorite pancake flour, White Llammas, plus Scotâ€™s bere barley, and cornmeal.
After breakfast, I sat with some growers and shared stories. The idea was to offer tales of alternatives to these 4th and 5th generation wheat farmers. I only got a hint of the challenges these growers face if they want to change course in grains.
I wish I could tell you all about the people I met, but I feel at a loss for description. We had a morning together. Thatâ€™s not enough to get beyond first impressions, and I canâ€™t wrap generalizations around people anymore. Theyâ€™re like old bandaids on wet skin.
Dick Scheuerman has been a student of this area and its peoples his whole life. Heâ€™s written about the Russian German history, and the first nationsâ€™ histories in the Northwest. I landed just at the right time, to see a celebration of Palouse Regional Studies at Washington State University in Pullman. (I also managed to see a Troy friend who is working in a desert wheat research lab!)
That would have been enough for a trip, but it was just the beginning. Then I had a full weekend in Spokane, where I spoke at the Farm and Food Expo, and listened to Steve Lyons from the WSU Mount Vernon Station, who spoke with Dick Scheuerman about grain varieties. Other grain folk spoke too: baker Shaun Thompson Duffy of Culture Breads, and maltster Joel Williamson of Palouse Pint.
These people are very excited about using the unusual grains from Endicott. Shaun made bread from Turkey red and Sonora. He made me pancakes from Turkey Red and Abyssinian barley, with a touch of Purple Egyptian malt. (On a little backyard woodfired griddle!!!)
These grains have histories. Theyâ€™ll have a future, in a brewery and a bakery, both businesses known as The Grain Shed.
I am just getting to know these people, the newly minted maltster and the chef-turned baker, the 4th & 5th generation farmers on the Palouse. Like grains, these people have names. I am just making their acquaintance.
What a privilege that the Scheuerman clan welcomed me to their world.