If you are thinking about planting garlic and live in northern parts of the US or Canada, it’s time to plant. We planted ours this week.
The sky was blue and temperatures warm as we arrived at the farm Tuesday (October 11) afternoon to plant garlic. With rain in the forecast for Wednesday and temperatures cooling after that, Tuesday was our best opportunity to complete this task and it was a great day to “play in the dirt”.
We had about 330 cloves to plant. A bit more than last year but nowhere near the up to 8000 we have planted in previous years. I had split the bulbs into cloves the day before.
My husband had prepared the ground earlier in the day and laid out the line for our first row. The soil was like dust. I don’t ever remember it being so dry when we planted garlic. According to the US drought monitor map we are in a moderate drought.
Long time followers will likely remember how we use the lattice as a grid for planting our rows. We plant the spaces that have four across and leave empty the ones that have three across. Our lattice panels are 2 ft. by 8 ft. We can plant 64 cloves spaced 6 inches apart in each panel.
Ranger and Ruby ran around and played in the area as we worked. They are such good dogs.
It only took about an hour to get the planting done. I was surprised at how quickly we were finished. We decided to wait to mulch it hoping it would get a little rain first.
As we finished this task there was still time to enjoy some of this beautiful day. 🙂
Once again I’ve fallen behind in blogging. In this post I am sharing some of my activities from the week of November 1st – 7th. I plan to get another post, highlighting November 8th – 14th, up early next week. If all goes as planned I will be caught up. 🙂
Monday Nov 1 – I rendered beef suet into tallow. Suet is raw hard fat found around the loins and kidneys of the cow. For the last few years we have been buying our beef from a local farmer. we purchase a quarter of a cow at a time. Once the cow goes to the butcher or processor I have to call them and give them instructions for cutting and wrapping the meat. At this time I ask to have the suet included in our order. Most people who buy their meat this way to not want the suet so I always have to ask.
Rendering is the process of cleaning the suet. To do this I cut the suet into small pieces. It’s easiest to cut when cold or partially frozen. I then put it in my crock pot on high until it is completely melted.
Tuesday, Nov 2 – The suet was still in the melting process Monday when I was ready to go to bed so I just unplugged the crock pot and would finish it on Tuesday. After reheating it I strained the hot fat through 2 or 3 layers of paper towel. When the hot fat (tallow) cools it solidifies and becomes white. (picture above)
Tallow can be used for cooking. (The original McDonald’s french fries were cooked in tallow), candle making and is commonly used for soap making. If you read the ingredients on your store bought bar of soap you won’t see tallow as an ingredient but it is there. It is listed as sodium tallowate which is the result of combining sodium hydroxide (lye) with tallow.
Any solid that are left after rendering the suet are called cracklings. While some people eat these I never have. I decided to feed them to the chickens but my husband said next time don’t bother. When I asked if the chickens did not like them he told me that the chickens would have loved them but instead they were forced to stand by, dining only on bread crusts, as Ranger gobbled up the cracklings.
Wednesday, Nov 3 – I made soap. I wanted to use some of the tallow that I just rendered. The recipe I made was an oil combination of 40% coconut oil, 40% tallow and 20% olive oil. This is the first time I used this particular combination so I’ll try to remember to report how it turns out. It will be about 6 weeks before it is ready. I also added aloe to this batch.
Thursday Nov 4 – I did my dad’s grocery shopping. He orders his groceries online then I picked them up from the store. I then went to the dollar store and picked up a few things that he prefers to get from there. I delivered the groceries to dad and helped him with a few chores.
Friday Nov 5 – I took the boys out for their morning walk at the farm.
It was a beautiful fall morning. When we went out, around 10:00 A.M., the sun had melted the heavy frost that had blanket the area in the early morning hours. Our feet/shoes got wet as we tromped though the grass.
The breeze, if any, was gentle.
I observed moments when a single, random, tree would suddenly drop a shower of leaves.
It was and interesting phenomenon as the trees seemed to be taking turns.
Many leaves were still holding on. Fall is not over yet. 🙂
Saturday November 6 – My sister visited.
I still have one sister who lives near-by and we have been trying to block off some time, at least once a month, to spend together.
Last month when I visited her house I returned two bags of books that she had given me earlier this year. They had been passed onto her by our other sister and most she had not read yet. As I packed the books to return to her I stuck slips of paper into some, labeling them “must read” or “good read” so she will know where to start when she digs into this stack of books.
We also looked at different sewing patterns and she showed me some fabrics that she had purchased but wasn’t sure what she would make with them. “Take what you want” she said. There was one flowered print that caught my eye. We agreed that it was beautiful and needed to be made into something but neither of us could decide what. Even though I didn’t have a plan for it I decided to take that piece of fabric.
That fabric nagged at me for a couple of weeks. Because it was a large print I kept thinking that it needed to be turned into a large item of clothing. I searched for patterns for full length skirts and found a few simple ones but I don’t wear skirts very often and I don’t really know anyone who does.
Seemingly out of the blue I remembered the bathrobe pattern that I had. This fabric would make a lovely bathrobe. I bought a contrasting fabric for the trim and decided to make a bathrobe for my sister.
As I was making the robe I would try it on for size and in doing so discovered that as beautiful as this print is it looks horrible on me. Thankfully when my sister put it on it looked gorgeous – elegant, like I had imagined. ” I don’t know if I love it so much that I won’t want to wear it” she said, “or if I love it so much that I will wear it all the time”.
“Wear it all the time!” I told her. That would be the ultimate compliment.
In addition to giving her the robe, I showed her the projects I have planned to make as Christmas gifts. And we solved a few of the world’s problems over lunch. LOL!
Sunday Nov 7 – It was a perfect fall day for being outdoors and I started out by raking leaves.
The maple tree just off our deck had shed most of it’s leaves.
It took about an hour and eight trips with the wheelbarrow to remove the leaves from the front yard.
The maple that stands in front of our house was still holding many of her leaves.
As were many of the trees in the woods behind our home. The work is not finished yet.
After lunch I headed to the farm with my husband and the boys (dogs) to plant garlic. Normally we plant garlic around the middle of October. This year the ground has been too wet and muddy to plant, so we have been waiting for things to dry out a bit. We had decided earlier this year that growing garlic to sell is not in our future, so we were only going to grow enough for us and to be able to share some with family. We were able to get about 250 cloves planted, mulched and fenced (so the chickens couldn’t go digging them up). This is the smallest amount we have planted since we began growing garlic in 2013 and it was a breeze compared to years past. Now we can only pray that the weather stays warm enough for the garlic to get a start before the ground freezes. It will be spring before we know if this crop will survive.
When my husband told me that our son-in-law would be stopping by the farm to winterize his bee hive I decided to take along the gifts I made for Jackson and Addy. I had a hoped that the kids would be with him, but even if they weren’t he could take the gifts home for them – just in time for Addy’s (4th) birthday on Monday.
I hadn’t taken pictures of the super hero capes I made for the kids so my husband hung them from a plant hook and held them so I could get some photos.
Addy loves unicorns so one side of her cape was made from this unicorn fabric.
The capes are reversible so the other side of Addy’s was made with this brilliant yellow, orange and white tie-dye fabric.
I wasn’t sure what Jackson’s favorite thing is currently so I selected this superhero(ish) fabric for one side of his cape.
and this outer space type fabric for the other.
I wasn’t able to give the kids their gifts in person but I received a message from my son-in-law that the kids love the capes and that Addy was pretty insistent on wearing hers to bed. 🙂
If I made you a super hero cape what would you want on it?
It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I last wrote about having the garlic planted. This is something that I blog about each year, mainly so I have a record of when we planted, how much we planted and how the weather was.
If you are curious about how we plant garlic you can check out this post from 2016.
Relying on the 7 day weather forecast it’s always a gamble, but I must say that our plan came together quite nicely this year. It was Wednesday, a week prior to planting, that I looked at the forecast and noted that we had a nice weekend coming up and temperatures were suppose to remain good through the following Wednesday, October, 14. Monday night was supposed to bring rain followed by dry days Tuesday and Wednesday.
It would have been prudent to plan our garlic planting for the weekend, as my husband suggested, but I really wanted to have the kids over for a picnic since I didn’t know when we would have the chance to do that again. We decided to roll the dice and wait to plant until Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were prep days. On Monday My husband tilled up the ground where we were going to plant and I began splitting the seed bulbs into cloves. We had rain, as predicted, on Monday night, but Tuesday was warm and mostly sunny giving the ground a chance to dry up some. I finished splitting up the bulbs on Tuesday.
It was shortly after 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday when we made our way to the farm to begin planting our 2021 garlic crop and it was right around 5:30 when I said “WOO HOO! the garlic is planted,” followed by a short prayer “Lord please bless our efforts.”
In that 3 1/2 hours we planted nearly 1100 garlic cloves. The soil was moist and loose making for ease of planting, but having to continually chase chickens out of the area, so they didn’t dig up the planted garlic, slowed us down some. We also lost some time when I had to take the boys home after Ranger decided to run though a patch that we already had planted. After all the garlic was in the ground we enclosed the patch with a temporary plastic fence that will deter chickens and dogs and deer that may be wandering in the area.
Today I am even more grateful that we planted the garlic on Wednesday since we had rain again on Wednesday night and on and off on Thursday. Friday and Saturday were dry but the rain started again last night, continues on and off today, and is in the forecast for each day in the 7 day forecast.
It may seem odd but I have begun to think of garlic planting as the beginning of our growing season – almost like the New Year – something to be celebrated. Perhaps next year we’ll have champagne and fireworks. LOL.
For anyone who may be considering growing garlic next year, in northern parts of the world now is the time for planting. Garlic takes about nine months to grow and we try to plant about 6 weeks before the ground freezes. This gives the garlic time for it to establish roots. Ideally the garlic will not sprout green leaves before the freeze comes, but in past years when we have had this happen the garlic did not seem to be damaged by the leaves freezing.
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?