Sunday, October 20th the weather was the perfect for just about any type of outdoor activity (except snowmobiling, snow shoeing, ice fishing or anything else the requires temperatures to be freezing or below). We reached a high temp of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius), the sky was mostly clear and there was little if any wind.
We were surrounded by beautiful fall colors.
The chickens were happily doing what chickens do.
Our activity of choice was planting garlic, or playing in the dirt as we prefer to call it. This year planting did not take nearly as long as it has in the past, mostly because of the small amount that we had to plant. If you are a regular reader you probably remember that our harvest this year was much smaller than we had hoped, and that we had fewer bulbs that would be large enough to use as seed. We ended up with between 450 and 500 cloves planted. Much less than we have planted in years past.
A couple other things made our task easier. We try to rotate our crops at least every two years so this year we planted in a new location. We have not used this area for gardening in the past, but when my husband tilled the soil it was a moist loam which made pushing the cloves into the ground very easy. If the soil is too wet or too dry planting can be more difficult.
The other thing that made for light(er) work was this weed guard mat that we used. The mat is made from a heavy biodegradable, organic paper. It is pre-scored so that we could simply punch out the hole while pushing our garlic clove into the ground.
In past years we have not used the weed guard because we were concerned the mat would shift and the garlic sprouts would not be able to find their way through the holes.
To hold the mat in place my husband was able to get these broken or damaged paving stones from his landscaping job. While they might not have been suitable for building walkways or patios they were perfect for our needs. Remember One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure.
Once we had the weed guard rolled out we were able to get the planting done much quicker than in past years when we have used 4×8 sheets of lattice for our planting grid.
After we planted all of the garlic we put a temporary fence around it as an added protection, because while the paver stones may keep the wind from blowing the weed guard they may not hold up as well against deer running across it.
Ideally the weed guard will serve to keep the weeds down and help the soil retain moisture, lessening the time and effort that we will have to spend watering and weeding next spring and summer.
So with a “WOO HOO” (I always say that when we finish planting garlic) and a prayer of thanks our 2020 garlic season is under way.
It seems that October just flew by. There are several things that I intended to write about but just didn’t get the posts finished, so I decided condense them into this not-so-short but sweet post.
Little by little my blog is acquiring new readers, so I want to start by welcoming newcomers to my blog. Feel free to look around and explore previous posts. Please leave me a comment if you find something you like or just to let me know you were here. I always enjoy hearing from readers.
October 2018 Highlights
The Garlic Is Planted!
October is the month for planting garlic in Michigan. The objective is to plant the garlic 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in order to give the garlic time to establish roots. If you would like to more about our garlic planting process you can check out these two posts from our 2016-2017 growing season.
This year our wet weather and mostly below normal temperatures in October made for less than ideal planting conditions. We watched the weather forecasts for our best opportunity and the week beginning October 21st, with several dry days predicted, seemed to be it.
Early that week my husband began preparing the garlic for planting (separating the bulbs into cloves). We, but mostly he, worked on this on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while we gave the ground time to dry out. By Thursday we could wait no longer – the garlic had to be planted because there was rain in the forecast beginning late Friday.
Despite the ground not being as dry as we hoped, Thursday morning my husband got an early start and planted garlic until nearly dark. For several reason we decided to use a divide and conquer approach so while I attended to other projects my husband worked diligently in the garlic field. Friday morning he again got an early start. When I took the boys (dogs) to the farm for their midday walk he asked if I had checked the radar. Not having done so I couldn’t offer him any idea how long it would be before the rains came. It was late afternoon when he called me. “I just got the last clove planted he said – then the first raindrop fell.” “God is good!” we agreed.
Coincidently, or perhaps by God’s design, we ended up planting during the full moon. We have talked about experimenting with planting by the phases of the moon in past years, but weather and soil conditions have always been more of a priority.
We did scale back on our garlic planting this year. We still planted enough to meet the demands of the markets we currently supply and have seed for the following year. We hope in scaling back on garlic we can put more time and effort into areas where we have not been able to meet demands, namely honey and strawberries.
An Apple A Day
This year we had our best apple crop thus far. While not all of our eight trees produced well, two trees produced more than their fair share. The branches on these young trees were so heavily laden with apples that my husband built posts to brace the branches so they did not break due to their heavy load.
We harvested 4 milk crates nearly full (we didn’t weigh them). Here’s what I’ve done with them –
Apple Sauce – I’ve canned 22 pints of apple sauce.
When I told my sister I was making apple sauce she asked if I had an apple peeler/corer/ slicer. I laughed and said “Yep, it’s called a paring knife.” LOL. Then as I started peeling all those apples I remembered this antique that I had tucked away on a shelf and had never used. I decided why not give it a try.
One of the problems I have with this and some similar kitchen tools that I have is that they are designed to clamp onto a counter. My kitchen counters were not designed for such uses as they have about a two inch lip that the clamp will not fit over. To accommodate these tools I use a stand alone shelf, but since I don’t often use these tools that shelf is also used to store things. I first had to clear off the shelf and move it to an accessible area. I rinsed the dust off the old apple peeler then clamped it to the shelf. I placed an apple on the prongs of the peeler and began turning the crank. As I turned the crank the blade removed a thin layer of peel from the nice round apple. When it got to the end the apple was pushed off the prongs and popped into the pan I had placed on the shelf to catch the peels. The second apple I tried was not perfectly round and the blade did not touch the flatter areas, so it left strips of peel behind. Considering this, and that I still had to use the paring knife to core and slice the apples, I cleaned up this antique and put it back and the shelf. Lesson learned: My paring knife seemed the better way to go.
Apple Chips – Last year, when we had our first decent apple crop, was the first time I made apple chips (dehydrated apples). We discovered that apple chips make a wonderful snack.
This year I have filled up my 9 tray dehydrator twice. Each tray holds 3-4 apples and it takes about 20 hours to dehydrate them. When they are finished I store them in small sealable bags usually putting one tray (about three or four servings) per bag. When eating apple chips it is important to consider portion size because they are so good it would be easy to eat too many. It is also important to drink lots of water because they still contain lots of fiber.
Apple Vinegar – This is something I have been reading about and wanting to try for a while. I have seen recipes posted on several blogs and had bookmarked Home and Harrowto return to when I was ready. My vinegar is still fermenting so I’ll let you know how it turns out in a future post.
Apple Pie – Yesterday I made our third apple pie from this crop. There is just nothing better than homemade apple pie, except maybe homemade pumpkin pie, or homemade blueberry pie or homemade cherry… well you get the point. It is just so good. I also froze enough pie filling to make six more pies.
Coffee Cake – Even with all of that I was still looking for ways to use apples so when I made this coffee cake, which is a recipe that we really enjoy, I decided to add apples. I peeled, cored, and diced three apples and added a layer of apples on top of the streusel in the cake. It turned out fabulous.
I think we are now down to our last 7 or 8 pounds of apples and our plan for those in the next few days is to start a batch of apple wine. Cheers!
Making Soap – You may remember from this post that I consider this time of year soap making season. I haven’t yet come up with any new recipes but I did upgrade a couple of recipes that I have previously made. Perhaps I should add “version 2.0” to their names. :)Let me tell you what I did.
Cocoa Soap– My cocoa soap is made with olive oil and coconut oil as the base oils and coco powder, powdered milk and sugar as additives (just like a cup of hot cocoa might be made). When I first decided to make cocoa soap it was really just for fun. I mean how many of you would love to just bathe yourselves in chocolate? or maybe have dreamt about swimming in the chocolate river on Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Fun eh? According to this article cocoa may actually have some benefits for the skin, but when it is made into soap I am skeptical as to whether any of those benefits remain. It does however make the soap a deep brown color. The milk adds a creaminess and sugar makes for an extra bubbly lather. What more could you want right?
Actually there was one other ingredient that I use in another soap recipe that just needed to go into this soap, because what goes better in a cup of hot cocoa than ——————————marshmallow. In case you are thinking that I have totally lost my mind – no, I don’t use those sweet little sugary puffs that we all know as marshmallows. What I use is marshmallow root from the marshmallow plants that we grow.
I have been using this herb in my hair care soap for several years now. The marshmallow root is said to add conditioning properties. For the past four years I have exclusively used my homemade soaps (usually hair care or coffee) when washing my hair and in all honesty my hair is healthier than it has ever been. Don’t Eat It! Cocoa Soap (2.0 🙂 ) should be finished curing around November 23rd, so we will have to wait to find out how it turns out.
Coconut Soap– Like my Cocoa Soap the base oils used in this soap are olive oil and coconut oil. The additive in this case, however, is shredded coconut. The coconut, while gentle on the skin, adds a little extra scrubbing power. It really is a nice soap, but I decided to make it even nicer this time around by adding yogurt. In the past year I have discovered that adding yogurt to soap gives it a super rich creamy lather and who doesn’t love that?
Incidentally, I once had a lady ask me “Doesn’t the coconut clog up the drain?” and you might be wondering the same thing. The answer is No – nor do the coffee grounds in the coffee soap or the oatmeal in the breakfast bar soap. What does clogs up the drain is hair. Being the mother of 4 daughters, and all of us having long hair at various times in our lives, I can attest to the fact that hair is what clogs drains.
I also decided to stamp all the bars of these two batches. What do you think?