This year’s plot is a little different than last year’s. I planted another 60 cloves (like last year). But if you notice the picture above, I have markers placed for divided sections of twenty cloves each. Last year I bought a big bag of garlic from Costco, divided the cloves, and planted. This year, I bought another bag, but I also bought a small bag of organic garlic, and took three heads of garlic that I grew last year, and divided those. So, I have three different types of garlic planted, to compare with each other. I’ve marked them above with “O” for organic, “S” for Scott garlic, and “R” for regular, or conventional, store-bought garlic. Eventually, I’d like to only grow garlic that I’ve cultivated, but we just didn’t have enough left from last year’s crop to plant a full bed. Read that last statement carefully; we probably pulled in 55 heads of garlic of the 60 we planted. But just like a raise in your paycheck, any extra you have gets consumed quickly. We have burned through an enormous amount of garlic since July when we harvested.
For those of you who haven’t planted garlic before, you should. It’s incredibly easy, and it’s so rewarding to have long braids of fresh garlic hanging in your kitchen, ready to pull anytime you need to add a little spice to a meal.
It was butchering day yesterday for my three remaining rabbits. Two weeks ago a pack of dogs came in the yard in the dead of night through an opened gate to destroy one of my rabbit cages and kill two rabbits. Of the three who were left, one got a stay of execution at the ninth hour. A friend called and offered to trade a rabbit for three non-laying hens. He’s a vegetarian but didn’t want to keep buying chicken feed for three girls who were well past their prime (they were 2-3 years old). He also knows the value of rabbit manure, so he was willing to offer what – to me – was a pretty good trade. He brought over three of the most gorgeous chickens I’ve ever seen. I threw together a pen in the back yard out of pallets I had laying around and put them in while I got to work butchering the boys.
It was dark by the time I got the two rabbits “dispatched”. They ended up at 3.04 and 3.05 lbs each, which is in line with last year’s batch of rabbits. They should be good for stew and as a chicken replacement in casseroles.
Afterwards, we rounded up the three chickens and put them in their pen, along with some water and food. We then covered the pen with a tarp we had been using to cover the rabbit pen. It was going to be 27 degrees, so we wanted to make sure they were well covered.
This morning was still cold, and because it was Sunday, we got up early and headed to church. After worship ended, my wife and I headed home quickly to get Sunday dinner completed before the rest of the family got home. But before I even went in the house, I went to let the chickens out of their crowded cage.
I grabbed a bowl of food, filled up a waterer, and pried open the makeshift pen. I threw the tarp up to find: horror. There was a mass of blood and feathers, bare skin and hard, stiff bodies. The chickens were dead.
I’ve cleaned up the mess, bagged the chickens (kept the feathers for compost), and thought about this event the rest of the afternoon. I’m sad at the waste of life – both the chickens’, and the life they would provide my family through their meat. I’m confused at what happened. All I can think of is that the three went into a pecking frenzy in their cramped cage. Judging by the amount of damage observed on each one, I think that there might have one left standing who then froze without the warmth of her sisters.
I don’t get too disappointed or disgusted by these tragedies any more. Dogs eat rabbits. Chickens peck other chickens, sometimes ruthlessly. It’s who they are. I find, however, that I get a little mad at the waste and my inability to see events like this coming. But shame on me if I don’t learn from the mistakes, huh?
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: Autumn, Butternut Squash, gardening, Memphis, Urban Agriculture, vegetables
It’s a bit of a sad day here today. It’s the last harvest of the summer veggies. Although the last few days have been perfect, mid-60′s kind-of-days, tonight it’s going to plummet to 26 degrees. I went out today and cleaned the plants of tomatoes, peppers, okra, and the last few butternut squash. This is a full 11 days earlier than last year – in fact, the last couple of years I’ve been able to hold off until a day or two before Thanksgiving.
I ended up with a huge bowl of green tomatoes, which are hidden away in newspaper now, hopefully to ripen and extend our summer pleasure just a little while longer.
The rabbits are nestled in beds of hay, the plants are bowed to the ground, their wooden skeletons pulled. And I’m already dreaming of what I’ll start in the attic come February.
It’s been a good garden year. I haven’t posted much since spring because, frankly, summer is a busy time. The garden has done great. I’ve had some great successes (and some colossal failures). But by far, my most anticipated fruit of the year are almost ready. I give to you now…butternut squash.
Here’s our first braid of our first ever crop of garlic. And this is just one braid – we have more! We eat tons of garlic here, so this will be a money/life saver around here. Very excited – had to share.
Oh – and thanks to my wife for the beautiful braid. She took initial clues from Garden Nerd’s video here.
We are summer soldiers (though not in the way Payne meant the phrase).
Already in Memphis every day tops 90. The tomatoes, once so eager to set fruit, have begun slowing to conserve energy because of the heat.
The rains have stopped coming regularly and the rain barrel is empty. At early and late hours we carry 5 gallon buckets of water to dry, wilting plants. All the while, the irony exists that parched soil devastates gardens while weeds thrive.
The bugs have appeared. Mites, cucumber beetles, and other unidentified critters munch on leaves and suck the blood from our squash and okra. Under cover of darkness we don our headlamps and pick parasites from our precious cucumbers, while human parasites – mosquitoes – drain the lifeblood from us.
This is the time that separates the true summer soldiers from the sunshine patriots, those who are are in love with good food, from those in love with the idea of good food.
March on, soldiers, heads held high. Victory is sweet.
If you garden very long, you know that each year is a learning experience. I’m not a terrific record keeper, but I do take note of what is working, what isn’t, and tweak for the next year. In fact, this blog is one way that I detail my progress.
It seems like this year I’ve been able to take my past mistakes and turn them into gold. The garden this week is beautiful. Blooms abound on tomatoes, potatoes, squash, cucumber, and peppers. The tomato plants are packed with fruit. The newly planted herbs are thriving in their new sunny spot by the mailbox. The garden is virtually weed-free.
Of course, I can’t take all the credit – God has provided ample water (and more!). Bucket loads of rain have come down in long, soaking intervals every four or five days. My workload has really been easy.
I still have some big-time learning to do: the grapes didn’t get pruned this winter, and so they’re a mess. They’re currently full of new fruit, but much of it will rot unless I open it up to sunlight. The garlic is falling over because it’s simply so tall and heavy. I’m really not sure what to do – do you stake garlic? I know it still has some growing to do, because I pulled a plant to inspect the bulb – almost there, but not quite. And the plants haven’t gone to flower yet, either.
This weekend’s “to do” list:
- Clean the rabbit cages
- Use the rabbit poo to fertilize the herb garden
- prune grapes
- pull weeds from strawberry beds
What’s going on in your garden? What successes and/or failures are you experiencing this year?