Garlic, Guineas and Soil Analysis

What good is an idea if it remains an idea?  Try.  Experiment.  Iterate.  Try again.  Change our world.- Simon Sinek

In our garden

Who wants to hear me go on and on about garlic?!  I’m so glad!  Me, too!

I LOVE GARLIC.  A neighbor (whose name rhymes with Ed and has exactly that many letters) once said he was trying to get the smell of it out of his house and my first thought was, “WHY?!”  My second was that I would probably need to leave for him to be successful.  And do you know why I love it so?  I’ll tell you.  It isn’t because is it crazy good for you and repels bugs.  It also repels people who do not really love you.  All of these things are just bonuses testifying to the wonderful nature of my favorite allium.  No, my love is simple and pure.  Garlic tastes amazing.  That is it.  That is my motivation.  I love it.  If I had to choose between garlic and chocolate my head might explode.  So, as you can imagine, when people said it wouldn’t grow down here because of our poor soil, we took it as a challenge.  (Note the change to the plural pronoun here.  My mister likes garlic a lot, especially on his own breath instead of mine, and it was his muscle that did the digging on this critical experiment.)

And so we found some scrap timber and framed two 4’ by 8’ beds and dug them down about 2 feet below ground level.  We filled them with rich compost-fully composted because garlic grows below ground- and planted our precious cloves, all 260ish of them, and then topped them with straw.  Real straw, which is made of wheat, as opposed to the local pine straw that acidifies everything.  Then we waited.  When they poked their little necks up I was almost as elated as a new mother and when we finally pulled that first bulb out of the ground I was forever hooked.  I would’ve been happy to just be a garlic farmer in that moment.   That was 3 years ago.  Now there is a third bed and the little sweeties have just popped up to meet the world.  

If you live in an area with a warm winter, refrigerate your cloves for about 8 weeks before planting them to make them think winter is longer.  This will give you bigger garlic.

IMG_20150518_132559360

Part of last year’s garlic harvest set out to cure

What produce do you LOVE to eat?  

In other news…

The guineas, Larry, Curly and Moe, have decided to make a meal of my precious butter head lettuce.  The tops of the heads are ragged and sad.  This should have been the week to start cutting on that succulent row of salad greens but, alas, it is not to be.  The row would have lasted us two weeks of daily salads.  It seems it is the time of year to start giving guineas something to supplement their foraging.  And plant the lettuce further from the boys home base, since they don’t travel far from the chicken coop most of the time.  We live and learn.

We have a set of heavy duty, chrome shelving in our dining room with adjustable height, full spectrum lighting on it for starting seeds indoors.  I’m seeing the end of cucumber season soon.  These things correlate in my mind because our family can eat 5 or 6 cucs a day, easy.  I think I am going to start a few plants in pots and let them climb the racks.  With well timed lighting, we should be able to grow some indoors and extend our season.  Is this cheating nature?  Yes, unless you take into account that humans are part of nature and everything manipulates its environment to the best of its ability.  Is this environmentally sound?  Yes, if one considers the alternative to be purchasing cucumbers at the grocer.  No, if one is willing to truly eat seasonally and go without in the off season.  I’m going to do it because the lights require very little to run for a few hours a day and will be on when there are a dozen flats of seedlings on them anyway.  Nice to live in a rich country with all these choices, eh?

Project

Now that you have chosen your garden location, it is time to get a soil analysis.  This is simple but will require a couple of trips.  There are two places in our area to take your soil sample but since you may not live in the south and have a Southern States Cooperative close, you will likely be using your local extension office.  Rural areas are usually serviced by an office that is an extension of the relevant state university.  (You can learn more about this program here: http://nifa.usda.gov/extension and find your office here http://www.pickyourown.org/countyextensionagentoffices.htm )  

Typically you go to your local office and request an envelope and instructions, which are simple, and then return everything to them after you have collected your sample.  Our office is able to email the results to us.  More about what to do with those results next week, when you are closer to receiving them.

Change

This week, consider getting a glass water bottle and stop drinking from plastic.  It isn’t just BPA that is dangerous.  This is a good place to start if you are still using plastic:  http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/winter10plastics/  

Chew on this

So, as you may know, my specialties (both training and experience) are politics and agriculture.  This is worth your time.

https://medium.com/@michaelpollan/a-national-food-policy-for-the-21st-century-7d323ee7c65f

Suggested Magazines

There is a lot to read out there about gardening.  If you enjoy magazines, here are my favorites:

Grit www.grit.com (Mother Earth News for a tamer homestead)

Mother Earth News www.motherearthnews.com (a classic with a ton a projects most of us will never do but still interesting)

Mary Jane’s Farm www.maryjanesfarm.org (girly in a pink kind of way but it has some great info)

Acres USA www.acresusa.com (This is more for the larger scale grower than those with a kitchen garden but a great read, none-the-less)

Love from the farm

Love from the farm

4 thoughts on “Garlic, Guineas and Soil Analysis

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