Richie and I planted two big beds of garlic yesterday. After a surprise snowstorm around Halloween, I began to fear we would be too late, but the ground is not yet frozen, and we are likely to have some milder days before real winter sets in. Hopefully, we are just in time…
Developing your own garlic crop takes great patience. It’s a very expensive crop to grow if you’re buying new seed stock. And when you love garlic as much as we do, it takes steely resolve and discipline to save the biggest bulbs year after year, to replant.
I don’t think I could live without garlic in my kitchen, and nothing tastes better than our own home grown garlic. After the July garlic harvest it’s a garlic bonanza here. In the beginning, it seems like we will have plenty. It goes into all our marinaras, salsas and savory dishes that we preserve and freeze for the winter. It flavors our omelettes and stews, and adds pizzazz to our pizzas. We give it out to our shareholders. We sell some at the farmer’s markets. It doesn’t take long before our supply starts to dwindle and we begin to look longingly at our seed crop. But we hold back. You see, we have to save the best of our harvest to put right back into the ground in October, or early November. It’s hard, but we are strong because we know there’s a huge reward for our stewardship. What’s a large enough garlic crop? When you have to go to the supermarket to buy more, you don’t have enough, and we’re not quite there yet…
Hardneck garlic is the crop of choice in the Northeast, and it needs to be planted in the fall for a mid-July harvest. It takes time and experimentation to discover which varieties will do best in your own soil. Finally, after three years of holding back our best bulbs, this year’s harvest yielded us a 1/2 bushel basket brimming with very large and beautiful Music bulbs. Clearly, this is the variety for Mehaffey Farm– great big fat heads averaging 6 or 7 huge cloves each. Each clove will produce another whole head. We carefully stored the basket high and dry up on one of the beams in my house where they sat, mocking us with their plump perfection for three whole months. (Eat Me!) It’s a good thing we get a generous supply of the smallish, and in the least bit less than perfect heads to use in our kitchen!
Garlic planting time was a little late this year, partly because of the unexpected Halloween snowstorm, but also because October was a chaotic month filled with change at Mehaffey Farm. Ross and Casey and Shelby moved out and into their own place — a good move for them as every young couple needs their own nest! We miss having the baby around every day, and we loved having the baby and her parents here, but it is good for everyone to have more space and a home that’s refuge to go to at he end of the day instead of the Grand Central Station my house had become… And while I miss my morning coffee and newspaper cuddles with Shelby, we still get to see her every Monday and Tuesday when her mama goes to work on the evening shift, where she’s a nursing supervisor at Woodbrier in Wilmington.
Then, at the end of the month, Mike and Desi moved into the farmhouse with Grammie. This is a wonderful turn of events that the whole family is happy about. The old family house where Grammie has been living alone for 7 years is very large and very empty. The kids will breathe new life into the old farmhouse, which was designed for a family to live in!
Also in October, we are finally getting our chimney fixed by our son Michael! It had started to crumble after living in our house for nearly 30 years, and it wasn’t going to make it through one more winter. Last week Michael signed papers to buy the masonry/construction business from his cousin Graham, who he’s been working with for the past few years.
Meanwhile, we are nearly half-way into our Late Season shares which consist of cold-hearty crops, root storage crops and canned goods every other week until Christmas. We’ve covered large crops of cold-hearty vegetables with hoops and reemay cloth, and we have lots of winter squash and potates in the root cellar. It may seem like the season is over, but our bounty continues. (Here’s a peek into our greenhouse of crops that will appear in our late season shares in December…a post for another day!)