My car was stolen in October, and the post I'd written for that month never appeared. Here is a shortened version--too late in some places, and perhaps still useful in others:
It is not clear why so many people are reporting problems with the grains that sustained life for generations. Is the problem in the new, dwarfed, wheats that appeared in the 20th century? In the chemicals and fertilizers used on them? In new harvest methods that no longer allow enzymes to cure the grain? One thing is clear: If you grow heirloom grains at home and harvest them in the traditional way, you won't have to worry about any of those problems.
Wheat is easy to grow. It grows well in climates as diverse as the Middle East and New England. It naturally likes to sprout with the fall rains and grow over the winter. If you want to give it a try, look for one of the taller, hardier heritage varieties like Banatka or Turkey Red. Fork over or till a bed, rake the ground, make furrows an inch deep and 10” apart. Sow every 6-8 inches. Make sure it doesn't dry out before the little plants are up.
If you don't want to bother with grain to harvest, but you want a weed-suppressing winter cover, consider rye. It is planted more shallowly than wheat, so you can just rough up the ground. If you are in a real hurry, you can even scatter rye on the surface and scatter straw over it. Not the best, but better than nothing. When it comes to protecting bare soil from damage, something is always better than nothing.
Jamie Chevalier lives and gardens on a river in the Coast Range of Northern California. She has gardened professionally in Alaska and California, as well as living in a remote cabin, commercial fishing, and working with seeds. She is the proprietor of Quail Seeds.