Friday, July 22, 2011

Braiding Garlic for Long-Term Storage

This year's garlic has been harvested, cleaned, and braided. The braid is now hanging in the cutout between kitchen and living room, where the warm and gentle air circulation is perfect for curing the bulbs so they'll keep in my pantry throughout the coming year. This year, from a patch 2.5 x 4 feet, I ended up with a 2.5 foot braid, just short of 5 pounds, of 40 nice-sized garlic bulbs (plus a few more too small or with necks too weak to braid, and a couple of the biggest, nicest ones set aside to plant in October).

For more about the whole process, check out today's post on the SGF Co-op blog. While this braid cures, I'll be using up the twelve bulbs from last year, still in fine shape hanging in the pantry, for summer cooking, canning and pickling. For the two of us, a bulb a week throughout the year is just about right.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Little Pretties

When I first started gardening, I grew vegetables. I began slowly - little patches of lettuce and peas, then a tomato plant. Even though I enjoyed it, gardening was work. I wanted my energy out to result in energy returned. I focused on stuff I could eat.

The garden got bigger whenever I had the time and the space. When I moved onto my own land, I could stretch my food horizon out to a longer term, so planted fruit trees and berry bushes. Learning more, and building up my soil, home-grown food is now plentiful (most years, anyway).

And so, the body satisfied, I started to think about feeding my soul:

"If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul"
~Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

"If I had but two loaves of bread
I would sell one of them
& buy White Hyacinths to feed my soul."
~Elbert Hubbard

I wanted to add beauty to my surroundings. Again, that started slowly - a packet of flower seeds scattered along the edge of the vegetable garden, a six-pack of petunias potted up near the house. Then, as with the food stuffs, I started to think more long-term. Even though I put in a lot of hours out in my yard, I'm basically a lazy gardener at heart. I like having flowers around, but wanted to make it easier. And the light bulb came on.

Perennials! Plant once, and then have blooms forever after! I begged friends for bits of divided iris and daylilies; started my own gallardia and hollyhocks from seed, and dug out roses someone no longer wanted. The daffodil clumps come back even bigger each Spring; the color of the blooms on the sedums rivals the changing autumn leaves.

I love bringing a bit of the beauty inside, too. My little pretties brighten up spots all around the house: a fresh posy graces a corner of my bathroom counter, another on my breakfast table starts my day with a smile. A single rose floats in a thrift store find - an oversize brandy snifter - on the dining room table. I'm surrounded by beauty and indeed, it feeds my soul.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bending Down the Garlic

I'm having some successes, and some failures out in the garden. That's usually the case around here, too. The garlic is looking good. The tips of the leaves were starting to dry up. When the top one-quarter had dried, a couple of days ago, I pulled the soaker hoses off and bent the tops over. Sometimes they'll just fall over on their own, but if they don't by the time 1/4 to 1/3 of the leaf tips has browned I do it for them. If you wait too long, until most of the leaves have dried, they'll be too dry and rattley to form a nice snug wrapping layer around the bulb when cured, and then they won't last very well.

Bending them over now tells the plant to pull the last of the energy out of the fading green leaves and store it in the bulb. Removing the water hose also tells them it's time to concentrate and shut down for the season. I'll give them a couple more days of drying out in the ground, letting the necks shrink a bit. And then dig them up before the leaves get too dry and brittle to braid.

I've been so busy lately. I do so enjoy writing, but so many other things just had to be done first. I was installed as President of my local Soroptimist Club three weeks ago, and have been trying to get organized - committees appointed, and finding the people to chair them; creating the agenda and supporting materials for my first Board of Directors' meeting, and then today for my first Club meeting; brushing up on my Parliamentary procedures; and even inducting a couple of new members. Add in one of our major fundraisers - taking my turn in our tasting kit booth for an International Chili Cookoff, plus the training session as a volunteer for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival . . . ahh, but enough whining - I do love everything that I'm a part of here in my community.