Today I harvested 130 heads of Italian garlic. It was so satisfying.

This garlic was part of Josh’s birthday gift to me in September 2022. He ordered a beautiful purple italian variety for me to plant last fall. He also connected with a friend and got several pounds of another variety (which I call the “Roberts’ garlic”). Top 10 birthday gift. ❤️❤️❤️

During the 2021-2022 gardening season, ALL of our garlic plants (and leeks) were eaten by a gopher. Because of this, I over-planted garlic last September to ensure that we not only had backup garlic this summer, but backup-backup garlic, and worst-case-scenario garlic, and apocalyptic end-of-days garlic.

My strategy has worked so far. Kinda. We still have a gopher popping up near the pasture garlic patch (with only one alliumicide so far). But the garlic patch by the front door is untouched, as is the allium row in our main garden. We even had three renegade clumps of garlic pop up under the grape vines, which is where they had been planted the previous season. Those lucky three garlics somehow evaded the Great Gopher Garlic Gorge of 2021-2022.

When we lived in upstate New York, there was an older lady in our apartment building who gave me some advice. “If it’s 5 o’clock and you haven’t started cooking dinner, start sauteing some garlic– it’ll trick your husband into thinking dinner’s almost ready.” Not sure I’m on board with tricking my husband (plus, he’s always so willing to be a part of anything I do in the kitchen), however I do believe that the smell of sauted garlic is inspiring. It’s a solid flavor base for any meal.

None of the other garlic I planted last fall is ready to harvest yet. In my very first year of garlic growing, I harvested everything the week of the 4th of July. Today is only May 26th!! Hurray for early harvests!! Maybe the rest will be ready in July. You know when it’s time to harvest after you remove the scapes, then watch for the third leaf to begin browning, and that’s when you harvest. If the first bulb you pull isn’t fully formed wait a week and try, try again.

This September I will plant more and more and more garlic. My goal is to grow the garlic under the grape vines and beneath the fruit trees. We dumped a bunch of wood chips under the grape vines early this spring (Josh almost got the tractor stuck, but he was able to dig himself out with the bucket). Hopefully the area under the grapes and beneath the fruit trees will become a happy home for my allium allies.

The Italian garlic is curing in the carport on some wire racks. Lots of airflow. It’ll rest there for about 2 weeks, then I’ll be able to braid or otherwise process my beautiful, beautiful garlic.

I love garlic. I love **everything** about garlic.

And if you’re a TL:DR kind of person, I’ll give you Josh’s version of this post:

“Heather harvested 130 garlic bulbs this morning. It’s curing on racks in the carport. She planted different varieties of garlic in several spots on our property. The other varieties she planted aren’t ready to be harvested yet.” ☺️

The neighbor’s hay got cut on May 17, way earlier than usual. I wonder if there will be a second cutting this year.

The garden is mostly planted now. Transplanted: hops, kale, peppers, and tomatoes. Seeded: beans.

Grant’s garden is also started: Old Mother Stallard beans and a couple dozen watermelon seeds.

We transplanted a rhubarb plant on the north side of the house.

The cilantro that overwintered is blooming, so we should be able to harvest coriander seed soon. Heather checked a couple of garlic plants, and they have about four plump cloves per head. Hopefully by harvest time on June, they’ll have more cloves, but they’re looking great.

Karen the sheep was late to lose her winter coat this year. She still has a small patch on her back.

Lots to catch up on:

The garden was later than usual this year but quite productive. We had days in the 80s into mid-October, so the harvest kept coming. I picked an ear of corn a day for dinner for about two months. Heather made lots of pasta/pizza sauce and salsa with the tomatoes and peppers, and salsa verde with the green tomatoes when the frost came. Heather planned a second crop of potatoes after harvesting the first, and she got a great second harvest.

Grant’s garden in the pasture was a huge success. He just covered the issue head with lots of wood chips during the winter, then planted in late spring. He had lots of corn and zinnias, and he was harvesting melons into early November.

The deer finally discovered our garden a few weeks ago. They’ve decimated some of the greens that we would like to harvest through the winter. I guess we’ll have to come up with some defenses.

Heather has planned a bunch of garlic, boy in the garden and next to the pasture. We’re going is not concerned by gophers again next year.

It looks like the commercial hazelnut harvest was good this year. They harvested the orchard behind us at the end of September and made a second round in mid-October just as the rain was coming .

We started using our woodstove in mid-October when weather abruptly turned from hot to rainy. (Then the rain went away again, but the cold stayed.) We have less than we would like for this winter, but it is enough to make a difference. Plus, when we get installed upstairs in mid-December, we hope that will help a lot. We bought a catalyst for the woodstove, and we’re gradually learning how to use the stove efficiently. We should have plenty of wood for next year, though. A lot of it is pine, and I wish we had more hardwoods, but it’s all free, so we’ll take it. We have probably split and stacked about two cords so far, and we still have those big chunks of pine to cut and split.

Speaking of splitting: I’ll probably have to split the tractor again. The clutch is slipping, and I’m guessing one of the springs on the clutch may have broken.

Gophers ate my garlic. A lot of it. Maybe it was one lone gopher, maybe it was an underground army of gophers. I don’t know, but I do know that I was planning on a massive garlic harvest this year, and that dream is now writhing on the ground like a half-dead burrito.

Over the past few months I have watched gophers systematically take down bulb after bulb in my precious garlic patch, taking out half of my elephant garlic, half of my hard neck garlic and half of my soft neck garlic.

Gophers are extremely hard to exterminate with a pellet gun–I’ve tried. They only pop up for a few seconds before heading back down. It’s really a game of crazy luck to be able to see a gopher and have time to open the window, load and aim before the furry garlic theif goes back down. I’ve done it once in my lifetime, and I earned the respect of everyone that my husband told the story to. “The day Heather shot a gopher from the kitchen window.” I faked modesty whenever he told the story, but I was dang proud and still am.

This morning I looked out the window and noticed two more stalks of my elephant garlic were sideways. I went out to survey the damage, when I noticed a burrito-sized animal writhing a few inches away from a freshly dug hole near the elephant garlic.

It was a partially-alive gopher–with an aching belly full of my garlic, no doubt. I poked it with the fallen green stems left over from its elephant garlic bulb feast. It continued to squirm. It was awful. I felt bad for its suffering, but still had time to deliver this powerful, embarrassingly loud speach, that hopefully struck fear and dread into the hearts of nearby sub-earth dwellers (and unfortunately, a few people walking by):

“YOU SHOULD NOT EAT MY GARLIC. THAT IS NOT A NICE THING TO DO. THIS IS MY GARLIC AND I DON’T WANT TO SHARE IT. YOU ATE SO MUCH, AND THAT IS PROBABLY WHY THIS TERRIBLE THING IS HAPPENING TO YOU. DO NOT EAT MY GARLIC.”

And so, I publicly issue this warning to all sub-earth dwellers: Let the words of my impassioned, bold speech echo in your ears, and share these words with your fellow ground dwellers, your children and your children’s friends, since you probably won’t live long enough to meet your grandchildren.

Respectfully,

The Owner of the Garlic

We have our very first harvest of garlic! Over the last few weeks I’ve pulled a couple test bulbs to see if they were ready, but today everything was ready!! You can tell that is ready for harvest when the bottom two leaves are dried up and the third is partially dried up. If you wait too long, the bulb will split apart and but preserve as well.

I took the big garden fork (the one I gave to Josh for Christmas last year) and started loosening up the soil around the garlic while trying not to dislodge the corn, salad greens or peas.

Our garden holds water really well, so every clump of garlic I pulled up had about 4 pounds of wet dirt attached to it. No amount of shaking would dislodge it, so I resorted to picking off the clods so that the garlic would dry out faster. I went against all the rules and dipped about half of the bulbs in a bucket of muddy water to get the huge chunks of dirt off. Next year this won’t be an issue because the garlic will be in an area of our property where we don’t water–under the grape vines. I plan to double the garlic next year so that I can give some to friends and family as gifts. Also, I think we can eat lots of garlic in the year 2022. I can guarantee that.

We have a beautiful harvest of 100 bulbs. They’ll be drying in the carport for the next 2-4 weeks. It’s going to be 103-113 over the next few days, so we might end up with roasted garlic. No worries though, they’re shaded and there’s a slight breeze.

My next garden task, after the weather stops having a tantrum, is to aggressively prepare the grape area for growing garlic. We have the chickens out there amending the soil, but we also need to aerate with the garden fork, kill some grass with cardboard and wood chips, then add some fresh rabbit manure. I want next year’s harvest to be phenomenal and massive.

#garlicgoals

We have a massive heat wave hitting us this weekend. Highs will be in the hundred-and-teens. We’re doing everything we can to prepare. We’ve frozen blocks of ice for our rabbits, checked the water levels in the garden (those soakers hoses water deeply!) and have added extra water and shade for our chickens and rabbits.

While we may experience some non-preventable losses this weekend, we have done everything we can to be prepared.

The two animals that don’t seem to be bothered by any of this heat are the Indian Runner ducks and Karen (our St Croix–a heat tolerant sheep). The ducks + ducklings spend the day splashing and lounging. And Karen seems to not mind the heat.

Josh and I did a garden walkthrough last night as part of date night (but it’s also becoming a fun 2x daily tradition). He collected soil samples from four parts of our garden and I planted bush beans where the struggling peas are. We came inside the house, dripping with sweat. This heat coupled with high humidity reminds me of the very small, teeny tiny country of El Salvador. When we check the weather for El Salvador, we can’t complain about our little heat wave. They have high heat and high humidity 6 months out of the year–plus lightning, volcanoes, and organized crime. We just have two out of the three in Portland.

Our garlic is looking so, so good. I’m looking forward to a generous harvest in early July. I want to save a good amount to use as seed for this September when we plant garlic under the grape vines. Can you imagine what life would be like with unlimited free garlic??

In the stories of Peter Rabbit, as of today I ally myself with Mr. McGregor.

The bunnies are escaping on a daily basis. They mowed down all of the leeks, tatsoi, peppers, tomatoes, snapdragons, a few garlics, and all of my lettuce. I’m not a happy gardener.

We planted several garlic varieties in late September/early October. I actually can’t quite remember when we planted it.

Chesnok Red (hardneck) in failed lettuce patch.

Deerfield (hardneck) in the ne corner, with elephant garlic on very end of row.

Dujanski (hardneck) by bean trellis.

Health store garlic (no idea what variety) on failed bean row.

Here’s to a huge harvest of garlic! My goal is to have enough by July 2021 to weave into braided garlic.