How To Braid Garlic (Illustrated Step by Step)

Learn how to make beautiful garlic braidsYou carefully planted your garlic last fall. You cared for it all spring: watching its water, fertilizing a few times, weeding the patch well. Sometime around July you harvested a bundle of gorgeous bulbs and dutifully hung or laid them somewhere to cure before long term storage… Wait, you did do all this stuff, right??? – No? It’s time to revisit some of my other garlic growing posts and to check out the Fall 2016 issue of Self Reliance Magazine for my complete guide to growing garlic for the home gardener!

Self Reliance Magazine - Fall 016

Anyhoo – you’ve got yourself some soft neck garlic that has cured 3-5 weeks. (Curing is important: Don’t trim the roots before they’re cured: the roots help to facilitate the drying process. Any other cleaning at harvest time is also not recommended as the bulbs are very tender at that time. Garlic should be hung in a cool/dark place with plenty of ventilation.) The roots are good and shriveled/dry an the paper wrappers around the bulbs are nice and papery. It’s time to braid your garlic!  Braiding itself require a bit of practice and for me, requires chanting an out-loud mantra, but also requires a bit of prep. This post will most likely be a bit long but hopefully by the end you will have a VERY good idea on how to braid your own garlic. You can click on the images to see larger versions. Let’s get started!

Choosing your garlic: Softneck garlic store longer than their hardneck cousins and have softer necks (duh) making them easier to braid. My favorite braiding garlic that i grow is Nootka Rose – they clean up beautifully and the stems are very pliable. Nootka is a Silverskin garlic which occasionally sends up harneck like scapes – trim those bulbs off your bundle and store separately in a cloth bag or ceramic crock as they will be too difficult to braid.

Sort, Set aside, Clean: Before i begin braiding, i first sort through my garlic to choose the largest bulbs to keep for fall planting. For my 10×30 foot patch i hold back around 30 big bulbs of softneck and 15-20 or so of hardneck. If this isn’t enough, i can always pilfer my braids. You can write right on the bulb with a sharpy to label your variety.

Garlic_SaveTheBiggest

To clean your garlic, use a scissors to trim the roots off tight to the bulb. Use a soft brush to brush out all the dirt. Carefully break off the outer layer or two of wrappers (not too much or the bulb will be exposed and won’t store as long!) to remove the dryer/stiffer outer stem. This will result in a very clean looking bulb of garlic and more workable stem.

Carefully remove the outer 1-2 wrappers, leaving plenty on the bulb for long storage

Carefully remove the outer 1-2 wrappers, leaving plenty on the bulb for long storage

I like to braid 13, 16 or 19 bulbs per braid.  Prepare a wet towel and lay 4 of the largest bulbs on this towel after you’ve cleaned them up, wrapping the stems close to the bulb. Let soak  while you clean the remaining bulbs. Alternatively, you can dampen all the greens of all the garlic for a really clean looking braid. I’m not entering anything in the fair so i’m more concerned about facilitating the starting knot than making a really clean braid.

HOW TO BRAID GARLIC: Soaking the Stems makes braiding easier/cleaner

Once all the bulbs are cleaned and soaked to your satisfaction, arrange bulbs in the order of size. You will begin braiding the largest 4 and work your way up/ small.

Birdsong Farm: HOW TO BRAID GARLIC

Braiding your garlic: Along with your garlic you will need a length of twine and your scissors. To begin your braid you must start with the “Starting Knot.” Here is a visual illustration, followed by directions:

HOW TO BRAID GARLIC: THE STARTING KNOT1. Lay your bulbs down “right, left, center” or “1, 2, 3”

2. Take the stem of bulb one and wrap it over 2,3/ left,center; under itself; then over the 2,3 stems again.

3. Cinch up the bulbs 2 and 3 close to this knot for a nice, tight base for your braid

Once you have this knot, finish it by adding a 4th bulb in the center. Always add every new bulb so that their stem is being added to the existing center stem(s). Add this first bulb to the center. After this always add new bulbs in the pattern: right, left, center, as you did with the starting knot.

How to Braid Garlic - illustrated

Hopefully you are familiar with how to braid. While you are adding the garlic bulbs in the “right, left, center” pattern, you are also braiding the stems as you would anything. The lowest (farthest back) stem(s) is always the stem(s) that you braid over your new center stem. It can be confusing, but when braiding the stems you are alternating left, then right, then left, always braiding the outer/furthest back stem over the center stem while your bulb addition pattern is ‘right, left, center’. I told you it takes some practice and chanting!

How to braid garlic - illustrated

Finishing the braid: Keep adding your bulbs and braiding your stems, finishing on a center bulb. From this point continue braiding the stems for a few inches. With your length of twine, tie a tight knot to tie the end of this braid. Fold the remaining stem ends over backwards (Make the fold at least an inch above your first knot) and tie again behind your braid. Double knot this tie then create a simple knot with the end of the string to create a loop for hanging. Cut off the string and stem ends and VOILA!

HOW TO BRAID GARLIC

Depending on the variety of garlic you grew and how well you cured it, these braids could last up to a year if hung in a dark, cool room. To remove a bulb, simply twist it a few times to pop it off the braid. Use the bulbs at the top first.

My garlic harvest on display

Garlic braids are a wonderful way to store a delicious crop, make special gifts and are “pretty enough to eat.” I hope you’ll try it for yourself!

Grow Garlic with Self Reliance Magazine contributors, Miranda and Pocket from Birsong Farm

Read lots more about how to grow garlic in the fall issue of Self Reliance Magazine and search this blog for more posts. You can find even more resources at some of my favorite websites and blogs from my resources page. Happy braiding!

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My Canning Fail – Your Planned Success!

 

Blueberries and Ball

Food preservation. I love it. Dehydrating, canning, fermenting and more: all totally awesome.

Ball-CIFD-2016-LogoBut i must admit: in late spring/early summer, most of my time is spent keeping animals alive, butchering animals when they’re ready, keeping plants alive, and harvesting plants when they’re ready…… Not a ton of time for preserving the harvest. Yet. My garden is also in a short season zone, so the bulk of cannable items aren’t yet ready. All of these excuses are why I am not yet ready for Can It Forward Day – but you can be!

The old ‘Ball Blue Book” is a solid staple for referencing recipes and techniques for canning. It belongs in every homesteader’s pantry. This year Ball released an even ‘awesomer’ book:     The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving has more than just canning recipes and processing times, this new book has recipes for making things WITH the jams and sauces you preserve. It also covers the basics of fermenting, curing meats, dehydrating and both pressure and water bath canning. It’s also a really pretty book – great for a coffee table.

There were so many fermented and tomato based recipes i wanted to try – but tomatoes are at least another month away for me. So i decided to can some blueberry/lemon zest jam with blueberries from a neighbor’s farm and lemon zest i froze last winter. Sounds yummy, right?   Sadly i began the recipe without checking my supplies and gave up after discovering i’d run out of both sugar AND liquid pectin.

Fail.

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The nephew enjoyed my ‘muddled blueberies’ on french toast at least! I swear, that is the face of enjoyment.

So, who wants to tackle food preservation this summer – now or later when you have more time and bounty? You, i hope!

To encourage you to ‘can-it-forward’ and enjoy the flavors of summer all year long, i am offering some incentives :)

  1. Head over to the Freshly Preserved Ideas Tumblr page  and sign a pledge to can it forward this year! This will get you a $5.00 coupon to spend in the Fresh Preserving store (tons of cool stuff there!)
  2. Friday, July 22nd, the Ball brand will host this year’s sixth annual Can-It-Forward Day! A day to celebrate the joys of fresh preserving, and encourage both new and veteran canners to preserve more, they’ve planned for a truly unique experience for 2016 with a real emphasis on “canning it forward.” This year,  Can-It-Forward Day will be entirely online via Facebook Live. Throughout the day, the Ball brand and their expert ambassadors will be demoing a variety of canning recipes and in the true spirit of “canning it forward,” for every engagement received on the videos, whether it be a comment, like or share, the brand donate $1 to a local charity. Get inspired!
  3. I’m hosting a giveaway! Get a Case of the new BLUE Wide Mouth Pint Jars: a copy of the new book and a $5.00 coupon towards Ball jars or lids!

HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:

  1. Share this post with your friends – the more folks we can encourage to can the better! Share by email, facebook, twitter, whatever – comment on this blog post letting me know how you shared it and what you hope to preserve this year.
  2. Like my Facebook page and post a comment tagging a friend. Again post what you’d like to preserve this year, of a photo of what you preserved last year.

I will choose a winner by randomly picking one of the comments on July 22nd. Good luck, and happy canning/dehydrating/smoking/curing/fermenting/freezing!

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DIY Pasture Shade / AKA ‘No More Fried Ducklings’

Like much of the country/world, we have been dealing with increasing temperatures here at Birdsong Farm Oregon. Last year we lost a half dozen nests of Muscovy ducks due to the heat frying the eggs under our half barrel nests without any proper shade. It was a total tragedy that left our mother hens confused and distressed – one we have not forgotten and do not want to repeat! Since our pasture has but one shade tree on it we had to get creative. Enter Miranda’s brain and sketch book, some materials on hand and a killer deal on some Ebay shade cloth. I hope this post may be of use to you!

Farming makes me happy

Materials we used:

  • Baling twine. (if you aren’t already savvy to the infinite uses of baling twine, you haven’t been creative enough)
  • Shade cloth. I purchased a roll of 7×100 feet of 90% shade cloth for under $60 on Ebay
  • T-posts – all were on hand in assorted states of bent: still work fine!
  • Tiny cable ties (not sure of the cost, but cheap)

Assembling these two areas of shade took us a few hours on a beautiful sunny day listening to birdsong. How we did it:

First we drove two T-posts near the rear of our nests (full of setting hens). I tied many lengths of baling twine together to create a long IMG_4975‘rope’ that stretches much less than actual rope and utilized free/trash materials on hand. We then measured from the first set of T-posts about 5 feet so that the 7 foot shade cloth would reach and also drape over for more early morning shade. We drove these posts at an angle so that the tension of a tight rope between them would pull them in less. Once all the baling twine was tightly secured we cut the shade cloth to length and attached via small cable ties. This shade cloth came with hemmed edges that i rolled around the baling twine and tightly secured the cable ties.  The center of this long run sags somewhat so we plan to add a 5th t-post to the center on the high side. I also put a stake at the center of the low side to keep the shade cloth off the back of the nests.

Cool ducks

For the ‘grow out area’ we just needed as large a shaded area as we could make. I decided not to angle it and to just make one long rectangle about 2 feet off the ground. We drove the first 2 t posts about 30 feet apart and tightly tied the baling twine between them, then adding a third t-post in the center, attaching the existing twine to that post with a second, shorter piece of twine. Next we measured and cut the shade cloth and attached the first long side. Using the shade cloth as a measuring tool we drove the next three t-posts. * all t-posts in this structure were driven at a slight outward angle to manage the tension. We placed the cloth low so that there would be less potential stretch/sag. We ran the same long rope of baling twine around the entire perimeter, securing at each corner firmly.

erecting a shade structure for our duckserecting a shade structure for our duckserecting a shade structure for our duckserecting a shade structure for our ducks

After getting the cloth all attached we notice that it sagged somewhat. So, i made two ‘x’ patterns with the baling twine under the cloth from corner to center/ etc:

tight as a fiddle!

We then thought to ourselves: “Growing Muscovy ducks really like to fly and land on their houses. One duck trying to land on this will ruin it completely….. perhaps we should try and prevent that.” So we strung two more lines of baling twine above the ‘roof’ to hopefully thwart their interest in jumping on this. We’ll see how THAT goes. will this keep the ducklings off?

It rained last night which caused quite a bit of sagging, but as it dried the sag decreased. This will be a season of experimenting with this. For our meat chickens we plan to build a very simple/lightweight tractor with shade cloth on top that we can move around. I’m sure we’ll have new trials to learn from, but learn we will and new strategies will we develop! The great thing about this system is that we can ‘easily’ move it to a new position in a new season and don’t have any heavy tractors to lug around. The t-posts can be pulled using a car jack. Ask me at the end of hte summer how much i am excited about cutting all the cable ties and re-doing this system a few feet away vs just dragging a tractor….. haha. The nice thing about this is that we purchased very few materials and didn’t need to ‘build’ anything… so, pros and cons.

Pocket approves. :)

Pocket approved

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Custom Nubbins: Maslow and Valerie

It’s Fiber Friday once again and i’m pleased to feature two adorable corgis and their custom Nubbins, Valerie and Maslow. Thanks to their mama for sending me these great photos, which i plan to include in my 2017 Fiber Friends calendar!

Custom "Nubbins" by Fiber Friends Custom "Nubbins" by Fiber Friends Corgi Love

Custom "Nubbins" by Fiber Friends Custom "Nubbins" by Fiber Friends Custom "Nubbins" by Fiber Friends Custom "Nubbins" by Fiber FriendsPocket and her little Friends

You can see lots more Fiber Friends and Nubbins OR place an order for your very own custom felted portraits at my website, www.FiberFriendsOnline.com

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