Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beneath the Surface

My favorite things to harvest from the garden are roots... potatoes, carrots and garlic.  The kids love it, too - it's always a fun surprise to see what pops up!  Potatoes grow in all sorts of funny shapes (of course they only select the uniformly round and smooth ones to sell at the stores), and carrots will sometimes emerge from the dirt looking like a pair of legs or even funnier, a pair of legs with an extra little ... ahem... appendage :)
We plant our garlic in the Fall, and it is ready to harvest at the end of Spring... which is now!  They don't come up in any fascinating shapes really, but some grown crazy big, others stay surprisingly small.  We'll save the bigger cloves for this Fall's seed garlic.  We grew 4 different kinds this year, about 150 plants, in all.  Two were hardneck varieties that grew beautiful and delicious flower stems, called scapes, on the top.  The other two were softneck varieties, easy to braid at harvest, and the type you would commonly find in the grocery store.  First we pull them all up.  Straight up, not from an angle, and good to have a trowel handy for ones in harder soil.
Next, I let them dry out in a shady spot for a day or two.  Then I brush off any dirt clumps and trim the hairy roots.  If I was going to sell these heads of garlic, I would clean them more with a dry scrub brush.  But these are just for us and a few to share with friends, so I don't mind them not being perfectly polished.  Next, I braid the heads together and hang them in our laundry room, right off the kitchen, ready to use!

Garlic is not the only treasure hiding beneath the surface this Spring.  As I was digging in the compost bin, my pitchfork became tangled in strings.  When pulled it out, I found this:
Since anything biodegradable can compost (turn back into soil), last Winter I tossed in a pair of Reed's pants that he had outgrown and were just too used to even donate to a thrift store.  These were cotton pants, and I haven't thought about it since.  The photo above is what remains after the compost bin has done it's work!  The only things intact were the elastic waistband, the pockets (which must have been synthetic fabric), the polyester threads, the zipper and waist buttons.

Fortunately, this compost bin has help in making fast work of everything I put in!  I added a few handfuls of red wriggler worms a couple years ago (leftover from an indoor worm bin project).  These are not earthworms, they actually prefer hot compost, not cool garden soil.  I hear they're also great for fishing, though haven't tried that :)
They've multiplied so much that the kids have been able to dig them out and sell them to local gardeners!  They will eat nearly anything that's biodegradable - I even buy paper products when I need disposable dishes for parties, then it can all be composted afterwards!
Now we dig out shovelfuls of the finished compost (mostly highly beneficial worm castings at this point), and I mix a shovel full into each hole where a new plant will live.  Since the garlic is harvested, we're turning one of the garlic beds into Summer veggies.  I have been procrastinating getting the eggplants in, and I did rescue some chard seedlings from the hungry chickens, so I can plant them in this fenced in bed.
Hope everyone's having a great weekend, and Happy Father's Day to all the hard working dad's out there!    I'm always missing my own dad who the older kids only knew briefly, and little ZB unfortunately won't get to meet.  However, I'm ever grateful for the amazing papa we've got here at home - it is really a blessing to have such an amazing partner who works at home and loves spending time with us.
Much Love,

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