Sunday, October 31, 2010

Garlic, garlic, garlic

We finally got around to planting our garlic today.  It should have been in the ground a couple of weeks ago, but life gets in the way sometimes.  We wanted to put out a big garden this year, but time slipped away from us.  So we are gearing up for next spring and getting some things planted, some things tilled (he finally agreed that we need to till up the pasture), and getting a jump on things for next year.
Garlic needs a longer growing season than most plants, so you must get it in the ground in the fall.  It will sprout (hopefully) and then overwinter in the ground.  In the spring it will continue to grow and will be ready to harvest around the first or second week in July.
We have talked for years about planting garlic, but never got it done in the fall.  So this is a new experience for us and, like most new things, you have to test the waters and experiment.  I ordered 5 varieties of garlic from 2 different companies.  I order 3 varieties from Cook's Garden, and 2 varieties from the Garlic Store The 3 I got from Cook's Garden are softneck varieties and the 2 I got from the Garlic Store are hardneck varieties.  The hardnecks really do have larger cloves and they looked yummy.  I hated to put them in the dirt --- but, ah, the hopes of a bounteous harvest next summer!!!
Our garlic sets, waiting for us to plant them.

When you order garlic sets, they actually ship you cloves of garlic -- just like you would buy in the grocery store.  I really wanted to chop some up and have a 'tasting' - but I also wanted to plant as many as I could for more plants next year!!!  You break apart the individual cloves and plant them separately (root side down) about 2 - 3 inches deep.
See the individual cloves broken apart from the bulb.

Planting a clove of garlic.  This was one of the hardnecks.  Look how big that clove is!!!!!!
We planted the five varieties and left space between each variety to plant something else in the spring.  I've made notes to map out what variety of garlic is planted where - so we can find out next summer when we harvest which variety grew well, which had the best flavor, and which produced the most/biggest bulbs.  I'll keep you posted on how it's doing in the months to come.
Please give me your comments.  Have you planted garlic before?  What varieties do you like?  Where do you order your garlic sets?  Share with us!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where to Begin?

We've been moved out to the farm for a year now, and haven't made as much progress as we would have liked, ........but, ah, life goes on.  My husband and I debate often over using chemicals and no till.  He is an avid no-till farmer, but he still uses a lot of chemical herbicides.  They have started planting cover crops in the fall to aid in soil nutrition as well as soil retention.....but like to burn it off in the spring with chemicals instead of tilling it under.  He says that tilling it under disturbs the soil structure and you lose too many nutrients and microbs by tilling the ground.  I tell him that we are not going to be able to grow carrots in the ground that has been a horse pasture for years and years because the soil is too hard packed to allow the roots to grow, therefore we must till it.  But with so many other projects that needed attention this year, the garden debate was put on the back burner.  Besides, it was a lousy year for gardening.  We're looking forward to next spring.
I did get a few herbs in the ground and a few herbs in pots and I also got some rhubarb planted.  My husband's grandmother, Granny Dot, always had rhubarb in her garden and made strawberry rhubarb pies.  Royla, one of Granny Dot's daughters now lives in the house in Cambridge City and is also an avid gardener.  But as the years pass, she has decided that she is tired of pulling weeds and is tapering down her garden.  So she dug up Granny Dot's rhubarb and brought it down to me.  I planted part of it and passed a portion of it along to my sister-in-law Judy.  I did harvest a small amount of rhubarb this year to make some strawberry-rhubarb jam.  I'm hoping for a larger crop in the coming years.
We ripped out the shrubs on the south side of the house because neither Shawn nor I like to care for shrubs.  I have managed to plant some herbs along there with a few flowers.  There was some existing tall phlox growing there and I left part of it.  It bloomed all summer and was very fragrant.  I planted some St. John's Wort, purple sage, anise hyssop and some basils and mint near the front porch and also added some marigolds that my daughter had grown.
I planted other various herbs later in the summer, but I'm not sure how many of them will make it due to the drought we had.  I planted a regular sage and a Berggarten sage, regular fennel and bronze fennel, salad burnet, parsley, Carolina mountain mint, more anise hyssop, a couple of lavenders, and some thymes and oregano and a hyssop plant on each side of the porch steps.  I'm pretty sure that my oregano and thymes have already withered beyond salvation, but I have more to plant.  I plan to get some more plants in the ground this week.
Most of my herbs were too late or too small to harvest this season, except for the mint!  Mint grows especially quickly, so I planted some mint so we could enjoy mojitos this summer!!!  ;-)  And we did enjoy them many times!!!!
I also foraged along the roadside and gathered mullein blooms to make some mullein oil.  It makes a great remedy for earaches.  More about mullein in my next post.
Here are some of the hydrangea blooms I harvested to dry this year.
And I also gathered many, many hydragea blooms that I dried to sell at markets and use in the shop.  I had a hydrangea bush at the farmhouse and also had a couple of hydrangea bushes at the old place.  So I harvested a variety of blooms and dried them.
So we have had a slow, but good beginning.  Let me know what you had success with this year, or tell me about what you planted.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Beginning

About a year ago we moved to my husband's family farm.  This farm has been in the family for generations.  We moved into the house that his great-grandfather built about 100 years ago.  It has been lovingly maintained throughout the years by family.  Our plan is to live as sustainably as possible.
We're starting a little late in life - (we both turn 50 this year), but better late than never.  My husband's family has farmed this ground for many years, and we plan to continue that, but we'd like to add a little twist -- instead of traditional grain farming, we'd like to add enough produce and meat that we can feed ourselves, with maybe a little extra to market.
I have been growing, using, and selling herbs for the past 12 years and I plan to continue that business.  I love to grow the plants and learn to use them in many ways.  I have been making soaps, salves, and other herbal skin products.  I also like to make up dip mixes using herbs and this summer I marketed many jellies and jams that also included herbs.  It's been a fun road to travel!
Here is the view of the house from the top of the barn taken Oct. 2009 while they were working on the barn.
This blog will be filled with ideas to share with you about what we are planting and how we use it.  I hope that you will find it interesting and will feel free to contribute your own ideas and comments.