Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Don't Count the Garlic Before They Hatch

 Saturday, despite the sprinkling of snow on the ground, I planted garlic at the little farm.  I planted a lot of garlic.  While Brandon was busy removing old wiring from the house, and doing other constructive things with his time, I played in the dirt.  I've never gardened in the snow before, at least not outside, so I was excited to find out that planting things in the winter is fun!  Is it productive?  I don't know.  I may have wasted a bunch of garlic cloves that I could be eating, but if there's a chance that I will have beds of garlic next year, which will be my very first planted crop in my new garden, it's worth all the effort. 

So far, the carpet technique is really working.  I peeled back the carpet which has been lying on the grass all summer and found the dirt underneath to be loose and mostly weed free.  I think earthworms have been tilling the soil all the way to the surface under the protection of the carpet, which made for some lovely dirt.  Unfortunately, part of the reason the soil was so loose and crumbly was because of the many small mammal tunnels that were in the soil too.  Hopefully it's a mole or something that doesn't like to eat garlic.  If it's a garlic loving shrew, then I just stocked it's larder with some fresh cloves.  I shall soon find out! 

After I pulled the carpet up, and broke up the garlic bulbs into cloves, I placed the cloves in a grid pattern throughout the beds.  I tried to leave the width of a hoe between each clove in case I need to do some serious weeding this summer.  Not that I will actually do the weeding, based on my gardening past, but just in case having a new garden encourages new good habits, I'm keeping my options open.  I scrounged around in one of the junk piles that came as a bonus with the property until I found enough old barn boards to make a rough border.  I keep telling myself that I'm not gardening in a small suburban yard anymore, that I can spread out and stop thinking in little raised beds, but old habits die hard. Without a border, what keeps Brandon from mowing it down? 

Instead of digging holes for the cloves, I just covered them with dirt I dug from what is left of our mysterious dirt mound in the front yard.  This was extra effort, but I would like to raise the garden anyway, to make sure I'm clear of the clay layer I know is near the surface.  I did learn that if my wheel barrow has a flat tire it's easier to pull it across the yard than to push.  Easier, but still not easy!  It's been awhile since I really put my mind to wheel appreciation, but after a few loads I was ready to sing praises to that important invention.  I love wheels.  

I think what I would really love is wheels attached to a cart and a friendly donkey to pull it.  The old hay bales in the photo above belong to my neighbor.  He was generous enough to say I could have some to mulch my garden, and even offered to haul a bale to the garden with his awesome tractor, but probably didn't realize I need it now, not next spring.  So, I had to invent my own, sadly donkey free, method of rotten hay transport. 

First I had to crack into the frozen bales, which reminded me of frosted mini wheat cereal, only huge, with a white and crunchy sugar coating on the top.  But, once I broke through the frozen outer crust, what was once hay turned out to be damp, black stems crawling with life.  Ah, the Good Stuff.  For my first trip, I filled a big garbage can and half dragged half carried it back to my garlic.  In the picture above, which I took after I stopped panting in that hands on knees pose that really out of shape people use, is at the half way point.  The tree line in the distance is where the hay lives.  From this point on, it's all up hill to the garden.  After all the pie and turkey I consumed for the holiday, I thought I might blow out an artery getting that first load!  Miraculously, my feet were no longer cold afterwards.  I small hay generated miracle. 

For my second load I filled up a tarp and dragged it across the ground all the way back.  It was easier, and I got more hay, but I nearly gave Brandon a heart attack when he looked out the window and saw me laying flat on my back on top of the tarp.  I was just trying to catch my breath and cool off.  Why was it so hot all of a sudden?!    If I don't get those wheels and that friendly donkey, my new garden may actually provide exercise.   

I took this picture for Future Rain.   Since I am terrible with labels and usually immediately forget what I planted and where I planted it, I am trying to leave myself a cookie trail with this blog.  Maybe next summer, if I manage to harvest garlic, I can look back at this post and remember that the garlic in the bed closest to the house is from mom's garden, and the garlic in the other bed is called Susanville, a mid season soft neck variety.  It was the only garlic available from all the on-line sources I checked.  Since everyone else in the world knows to plant their garlic earlier than I did, they probably bought up the good ones.  Susanville sounds like a friendly place, so it's got to be good, right? 

Remember, Future Rain, the bed on the right is mom's garlic, that she harvested from her garden.  We really liked that kind, and the cloves were really big and dried nicely, so I hope if the shrew decides to eat some he eats the other ones.  

I know it's not wise to count my garlic before it hatches, but, I estimate that I planted two hundred and twenty cloves!  I may have been a teensy bit over excited for my first garden item.  And really, I like garlic, but what I liked most about this garlic adventure is not the thought of all that garlic bounty, but that my first real food production experience, at this place I have spent so much time day dreaming about, was such a good time.  I mean, it was a cold and dreary day and I had a flat tire and I nearly busted a gut hauling rotten hay, but when I was done, I felt good.  I felt like I moved my body and stretched my muscles in a useful and healthful way, and I was comfortable there in my garden spot.  I even enjoyed the view of the power line free sky while I lay panting on my tarp.  I think I'm going to like it there as much as I thought I would!  


Anonymous said...

I planted two pounds of purple stripe hard neck this year. What kind did you plant?

rain said...

I planted a pound of a soft neck variety called Susanville. I have no idea if it's a good one, and preferred a hard neck variety, but I waited too long to be very picky. I just ordered the only kind available. I also planted about half a pound of a kind I've been growing for a few years, but I don't remember what kind it is. My fingers are crossed that I get any at all! Do purple stripe actually have purple stripes in the cloves?

Anonymous said...

Yes and no, the purple striped I planted is striped on the the whole cloves. Once you peel it, it's just white in colour. I did not plant some of mine deep enough and the frost thaw cycle pushed up, most of mine already has a pretty good start.

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