I recently pulled up the results of my first experiment with garlic. The bulbs were no where near as large as those shown above, but the trial did prove that I could grow my favorite seasoning with garlic purchased from a grocery store, rather then the seriously over-priced bulbs sold in seed catalogs. I had been meaning to purchase some more garlic, but I’ve been trying to avoid most stores in an effort to save money.
The other day a co-worker had been coughing quite a bit, and since I’ve shortened a sickness or two with some raw garlic, I thought I would get some for her while on my lunch break. When I got to the garlic, I was amazed that it was only $3.49 /lb, so I got two pounds, figuring I could plant the majority of it, eat some, and still hopefully help my co-workers sickness retreat early. It seemed like a great idea, even though it’s still a bit early to plant.
The process began first with removing the papery outer layers of the bulb, and breaking it up into the individual cloves. You can see in the bottom of the photo how some of the cloves were trying to grow right on the store shelf. I was a bit surprised by the number of cloves that were contained in the bulbs, and the amount of time and coffee it required to separate them.
My Swiss chard plants from last spring have gone to seed, and after I harvested far more seed then I will ever need, I decided to turn the soil over, and plant the garlic here. I used the pick axe shown to dig deep into the ground, and chop up the larger clumps of dirt. This is the only tool short of a rototiller that would work for the task since the ground contains a good amount of clay, and can sometimes be quite challenging to dig in. The pick axe solves the problem quite well as long as you can supply enough elbow grease to keep it moving.
When the soil was loose, I decided to juice it up with some of the good stuff. I have piles of manure all over the farm, some as old as two years. This particular vintage was some year and a half old cow manure. I’m sure there will be lots of weeds which will be seeded from the manure, but the life it gives this garlic will be well worth the effort to keep them weed free.
As I was digging, the kids came over to help weed the garden, and not long afterwards my sister had joined them. I’ve been trying to get other people to
do my work for me, help out with different parts of the garden, and I talked Maurice into taking the photo of the sky above. Just as a fish would swim away with the bait, she started taking pictures of me and “Joker” planting the garlic cloves.
I had my finest garden attire on, and Joker was curious to see if I had any of the bacon left that I had shared with him earlier. Joker is the small kitten located behind my foot on the right side of the picture. He has an odd white marking ending at his mouth, that looks like the smiley face on the character “the Joker”, hence his name.
When planting garlic cloves, simply press the bottom end of the clove about half way down into the soil, without covering the clove.
After planting about three rows of garlic, I decided to add turnips (Purple Top White Globe) and beets (Gourmet Duo) since there was lots of room left. Finally, I moved the sprinkler into firing range, and let the rain fall. The seeds will take a minimum of 7 days to germinate and begin emerging as little plants from the soil, and I would imagine in the same amount of time the cloves will begin their vertical growth with little green spikes emerging from their tops.
As I was looking around the tomato patch, I realized that I may just achieve my goal of “too many tomatoes”. I’ve been dusting the plants religiously every 7 days per the “Dragoon Dust” directions, and there is no sign of Late Blight. There are plenty of green tomatoes, and in many different varieties. Each year I seem to pick out new types which I favor, and I’ve slowly built a collection of plants, many of which I can identify by looking only at the leaves.
San Marzano is one of the few varieties I’ve started with my first year that I continue to grow. It is a paste tomato with a great deal in common with Roma tomatoes. The plants always seem to give a ton of effort, and I’m always surprised with how many veggies one plant will bear.
Not long after I acquired a taste for San Marzano, I found myself as a huge fan of Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. Both tomatoes are of excellent quality as sandwiches slices go, and the biggest difference I’ve noticed is the ripe color of the skin. Brandywine are usually red or yellow, and Cherokee Purple carries a dark purplish tone.
Since I often enjoy learning about other cultures, I tend to enjoy veggies which have originated in some other corner of the globe. The Red Lightning tomato is from China, and the color is mostly red, with vertical bands of yellow which somewhat resemble lightning strikes. The plants never disappoint, and the colors always make me smile.
Red Alert tomatoes are nothing if not consistently the earliest of my tomatoes to ripen. Since I’ve found a few greenish tomatoes that were pilfered by an unknown animal, half eaten and left in the walk way, I figured I better pick these nearly ripe tomatoes, and let them finish up in this plastic container in a window sill. The water in the container was used to wash off any dust left over from the war on blight. Before placing the container in the sill, I drained all the water out.
They should ripen in a few days, and not long after become a welcome addition to my daily salad.
I took a look around to see just how much rain we had gotten from a recent storm. I was very happy to see that the soil seemed satisfied for the time being, and I had no obligation to carry 5 gallon buckets of water half way across the farm to cure my plants thirst. I soon found my self with a zip lock bag in my hand, picking some tart cherries, and I thought I’d share the view. These are berries which were planted by the grape arbor near a small crick which runs through the center of the farm.
Just around the corner, I noticed how good this season’s grapes look. I’ve made my own potion and suggested that it be called wine in the past, but I’d like to make another attempt at fermenting these grapes into a pleasing mixture. This may be the crop that I get to experiment with, so I’m keeping a close eye on the plants, and the grapes.
Just a few paces away grow some tiny blueberry plants. I’d guess they are about five years old, and they sure are taking their time in their vertical race. I’ve been trying to bring the soil to the proper PH, which is lower then most other plants, using wood shavings. The berries are quite good, even thought I am generally not a fan of these berries. They must be a special type of blue berry if I like them !
Just as I was about to put the camera away for the night, I saw this beautiful sunset. If everything does happen for a reason, I’d say this display is clearly meant to suggest better days are coming, and they may just be right around the corner.
I decided to take some photos from odd angles in an attempt to find some really unique perspectives. I started with this sunflower, positioning myself so that the sun would be directly behind the flower. While to photo has some nice qualities, the seeds are washed out. I do like the colors produced as the solar rays passed through the petals, and It’s really cool to see a bug flying toward the flower in the top left hand corner.
I then decided to try a similar shot with some of my Swiss chard leaves, and I got a similar shot of tones produced as the suns rays ran through the leaf. The yellow in the photo is just how the plant looks in real life, and I have not altered the colors in any way.
When I decided to try some other angles, and avoid the sun, I pointed my lens at these festive chard leaves basking in the sun. In the background, peas grow to about 7 feet tall, and here they look enormous. The blue sky in the background gives the photo a quality of paradise, and this is often how I remember the valley when I’m away.
Since I had already gotten dirty, I figured I’d take a ground level shot of the Kohlrabi I direct seeded. Here the base of the plant is about the thickness of a pencil, and it has a lot of growing to do before becoming the shape and size of a baseball if all goes well. I had wanted to plant kohlrabi after realizing I had missed it, and when I got to the seed section, they were our of most seeds, but they did have this purple colored variety. I figure it can’t taste too much different from the light green toned plants that sprung forth in last years garden.
At the end of the day I decided to try my luck waiting for the ground hog to appear while my scope and generous supply of lead were nearby. Soon I found myself creating a hammock, and not long after that, I found my self waking up in it. So much for keeping an eye peeled. I guess it’s that time of year where I can relax a bit, so long as I can keep up with the weeds that constantly grow.
I planted quite a few potatoes this year, and I just couldn’t wait anymore to try them out. I was going to rip one of the plants out of the ground, for investigative porposes, when I heard that you could sneak potatoes off the side of the roots without harming the plant.
The process is very simple. Start by slowely digging around the roots of the plant. Use care not to damage the roots, as this will slow the plant down in it’s growth process.
Once you dig back some of the dirt, the potatoes and roots should be showing. Some of the potatoes will be a bright color, and a few will be darker. The darker colored potatoes are the original seed potatoes, and should not be picked. When you’ve chosen which spuds to nab, simply pluck the potatoes from the soil, and gently break any attached roots.
Once you’ve gotten a small heist, cover the roots back over with a loose covering of soil. Do not pack the soil, since this will hinder the plants growth.
You may hesitate for a moment before recovering the spuds, as I did. It’s simply amazing to imagine that a plant can harvest the minerals and moisture in the dirt, and convert all of that with the help of solar radiation into an edible potato. If you simply pause for a moment and look around, this world is pretty amazing.
My father often pushed me to learn as much about everything as possible, and he also stressed the importance of having a particular skill set that was specialized. In my teenage years, dad taught me many different skills from basic use of construction tools, up to and including hanging dry wall and spreading the “mud” which covers it’s seems. I discovered the fine points of attaching electrical wires to plugs and switches, and connecting PVC pipes together to form water inflow systems. All of this knowledge has helped me greatly through the years, and I’ve got a mind to pass on many of the things I know.
I gave Jessica a basic introduction to my camera, and asked her to take some pictures of whatever she thought was cool, or neat. I also asked her to take some pictures of how the whole structure was put together. Jessica seemed to think the whole idea was pretty fun, and I could tell by the smile on her face, but what she doesn’t know is that I’m conspiring to teach her the basics of photography.
On the top of the shed, I’ve left a 4 x 4 foot landing where I hope to place a small dome for a telescope. For now, I’m leaving that part of the roof flat, and I’m planning to cover it with rubber roofing.
So here is the front of the shed with the majority of the roof intact. Now that the sun doesn’t directly fall on the second story, the wind blows through and produces a very nice breeze on hot days. I hope to place large opening doors on the bottom and second story, so I should be able to keep this natural air conditioning intact once the building is complete.
So here’s today’s helper, Jessica. I had asked her to hold the carpenters pencil that I use to mark cuts, and just like a pro it found it’s way behind her ear.
Just like last year, the Chablis peppers are the first to produce. These are a really neat pepper, starting off yellow, then sometimes turning green and finally ending with red tones. They are edible through the whole process, but do not usually grow as big as the bell variety.
Instead of planting so many tomatoes this year, I got more serious about peppers, since we were not overwhelmed with them in the past. I used my last bag of frozen peppers long ago when the ground was very cold.
I have six rows of pepper plants that are nearly a foot tall, and four rows of experimental directly seeded plants which are only an inch or two tall. I really don’t expect much from the direct seeded plants, but once again, if you never try anything new, you’ll never learn anything new.
I’ve also discovered that the eggplant I wrote off long ago as dead, due to a thousand flee beetles, has recovered. It has little hope of producing, but with enough water and the hot temperatures that have descended onto the east coast, I might just get one eggplant from this stem.