Hard, Sweaty Work…with Stinky Results!

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic

I went out to work in the gardens today with two thoughts in mind: water and mow. Weeding will take place over the next few days, but for now, the basics need to be covered, and some of the aisles were getting a little tickly to traverse.

All the newer crops got water–the kale and beans and second planting of cukes and summer squash. The first row of broccoli is going downhill fast–only a couple of the heads left are salable or deliverable and the rest are forming crazy-looking uneven heads from the heat.

But, I still have some hope for the direct-seeded row in the lower part of the garden that is just starting to form heads (why, I don’t know, because it’s hotter down there), and left a soaker hose on it for about an hour while I started mowing.

One of those really awful things about farm work is the little critters that hide so well it results in their demise–I hit a baby rabbit with the mower. I didn’t even see it until it was thrown behind me, and I was shouting “NO! NO!” and trying to short out the engine to stop the mower (these farm mowers are cobbled together and short on safety features like auto shut-off). He/she didn’t last long–I put gloves on and carried it from the garden before resuming my task.

Then the mower wouldn’t work–a loose bolt or something.

So, up I went to get Harry, and he tinkered a little with a secondary mower in the barn that wasn’t interested in starting either, so he brought the first mower up to the main barn and started working on them both. Vexed with my inability to accomplish what was one of my primary goals, I decided instead to dig the elephant garlic.

The leaves had started yellowing a couple weeks ago, and with the soil nice and dried out in the lowest part of the middle garden, I thought it’d be easy work. But that soil, well-dug and amended as it is with both duck and horse manure, was brick-like. I didn’t have my digging fork either, so I had to make do with a long-handled manure fork I’d left stuck in a small compost pile.

Garlic will sunburn like potatoes, so I tilted my bucket on its side facing north so the bulbs wouldn’t be exposed to the sun’s rays and started basically removing chunks of soil from around the stalks until I could see each bulb well enough to shimmy the fork underneath and lever it out.

All told I got 37 bulbs out of the forty cloves I planted last fall–about two-thirds of which is of deliverable size and quality. However, I will likely only deliver one head to each member out of my own patch (maybe more out of pride than anything), and keep the rest of the good-size heads for replanting, and the small ones for my household.

The reason for my elephant garlic stinginess?

The Garlic Guy

The Garlic Guy

Mike Gaidelis of Red Rooster Farms, a.k.a. Vito, a.k.a. the garlic guy. He grows more elephant garlic than you can shake ten sticks at, and he’s the man I got my seed stock from, and the man I barter with or buy much of my winter garlic supply from.

It is a sad day in my house when my big bag of Vito’s garlic hangs empty. I will be once again buying a couple heads of his garlic for each of my members’ deliveries, and making sure they know where they can get more–at the farmers market, of course!

Garlic needs to be “dried down” after it is harvested to avoid rot and to make the bulbs last longer. I had thought about setting up a rack in one of the barns but the swallows would make a mess of it. So, I trucked it home and thought maybe I’d find some racks and set them up in my basement.

Then it hit me–I have a three-strand clothesline down there I don’t use much in the summer–preferring to hang my clothes outside. I gathered up a bunch of clothespins and started hanging the garlic from the line by its leaves.

Garlic on the Line

Garlic on the Line

I think it goes rather well with Jon’s painting, don’t you?


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