Remember the overloaded pails of garlic that I harvested from the garden at the farm, way back in July? Well, I brought all that garlic home, put them in some wire boxes in Brandon's studio, and directed a fan on them for several days, to help them dry out. My plan was to wait a few days, brush off the dirt, cut the roots, and then create lovely garlic braids to display all my garlic bounty. That was the plan anyway.
Instead, it's nearing the end of August, and the boxes of garlic were still cluttering up the studio where each time I walked by I would tell myself that any day now, I'm going to do something with all that garlic. Finally, motivated by preparations for my nieces birthday party, I brought all the dried garlic into the dining room, and dumped it on the table. You know, because I didn't have enough to do, and it's important when hosting a party that there not be a harmless pile of garlic in a room that guests never go into, but instead it should be on the dining room table. Doh! So even though my timing was off, my plan was finally underway.
The good thing about creating a giant mess that involves actual clumps of dirt on the dining room table, and bits of vegetable matter and dirt in a a goodly perimeter around the table and on all the chairs, with company on their way, is that it's such an obvious disaster that people volunteer to help you deal with it. Aha! I knew I had a plan! Jamie and I settled in to tackle the garlic task, and between the two of us and a few tasty beverages, we managed to clip the extremely dried up stems from the Susanville variety, which were small and ugly, and trim the roots, clean, and braid the most lovely bulbs from the other variety. The other variety are from the bulbs saved from moms garden the season before, and we don't remember what they were called, but they make nice big bulbs and long thick stems.
My braiding technique is getting better, but my braids still don't look as tight as others I've seen. I'm pretty pleased with them anyway. The majority of the bulbs were placed in a mesh bag; I'll try to use the bagged garlic first. I recently learned a new way to peel the cloves, which I've only tried a few times, but I think when I perfect the technique it's going to make using all my bounty of garlic a cinch. You can watch the video on how to peel a head of garlic in ten seconds here, but the idea is to clamshell to big metal bowls with the loose cloves inside and shake it like mad, which bangs all the peels off the cloves. It sort of works! And it's a good arm workout too.
Not counting the five braids, I ended up with over four pounds of garlic. While Jamie and I were admiring the garlic, he mentioned that it must be worth a lot. How much does garlic cost, anyway? I've found that this is a dangerous question to ask yourself when it comes to garden produce. Considering all the work (and joy!) I put into planting the garlic, harvesting the garlic, fretting over the garlic, and then finally prepping the garlic, I'm sure it's "worth" more, to me anyway, that it would cost to buy. Grocery food is cheap compared to the labor of producing it at this scale and with my limited set of skills and know how. But, just for fun, I looked on Amazon.com to see how much I would spend had I decided to buy my garlic instead of growing it. Since Amazon has a pound of fresh garlic for $8.20, and a braid of garlic with sixteen cloves for $16.00, I could buy the equivalent garlic for approximately $84.49 and have it shipped, for free, directly to my door.
How does this compare to the cost of growing it myself? I spent about $22.00 on garlic bulbs, plus shipping costs. I spent one very pleasant day (about four hours) prepping beds and planting cloves, about an hour harvesting the garlic, and hour fussing with the garlic to get it to dry, and maybe two hours playing with it to make braids. So, based on Amazon prices, my time was "worth" about $7.80 a hour. I see now why I'm not a professional garlic farmer!
But, there are some intangibles that don't get factored into the math - the fun I had making garlic, the exercise, the vitamin D from the sun, the connection to natural rhythms, the grounding of my electromagnetic field to the planet (maybe?), the companionship of shared tasks, the excuse to put dirt on the dinning room table, the excuse to drink tasty beverages in celebration of accomplishment, the taste of homegrown organic garlic all year long, and the bragging rights (look at my garlic!). I think each of these things is worth at least $1.00 an hour, which raises the worth of my time to... well, still less than $20.00 an hour. No wonder I don't know any professional garlic farmers!!