It’s Garlic Time!

Garlic is a kitchen staple around here. I put it in basically EVERYTHING but cereal and believe it is a big reason my immune system is so strong and healthy. Garlic is truly a super food, plus it’s really fun to grow. Granted: you have to have a certain amount of space set aside in your garden in order to grow garlic. Planted in October and harvested in July, it kind of takes up a lot of room. My dreams of growing ‘fields’ of garlic and onions were one of the main reasons we fenced such a large garden space. I want to be able to rotationally plant/ lay fallow assorted large crops, including garlic for years to come so i fenced in an area roughly 75 x 150 feet or something. I actually can’t remember anymore – but it’s a pretty big space. :) I broke new ground for the garlic patch in the past few weeks using a gas powered tiller for the surface few inches and my broadfork for deep cultivation. I can almost guarantee i’ll be battling with the grass and weeds all winter long since this bed is so newly cultivated….. but sometimes you just gotta get ‘her done!

I planted a small patch of Russian Red garlic purchased from a local friend last year and saved the biggest cloves for planting this year. The rest i either used up (the broken ones) or tied up in lovely braids in my pantry.

My garlic patch this year is 8×30 feet and includes: 2.5 pounds Russian Red (softneck), 1 pound Kilarney Red (hardneck), 1 pound Chesnook Red (hardneck) and 2 pounds Nootka Rose (softneck). Join with me, please, in a big prayer and round of finger crossing that the moles and voles won’t take out the ENTIRE crop over the winter/spring/summer.

This post is not a ‘how to plant’ post, as i’ve already written that one HERE and local seed growers Adaptive Seed have their own great post on the subject. Check those two posts out, pick up some (preferably organic) big cloves of garlic and plant some! Okay, okay – i’ll post a smidegeon of how to. Just the bullet points:

  • Plant in October
  • Plant only the largest cloves out of a head of garlic
  • Plant them about 2 inches deep between 5 to 8 inches apart in rows between 10 and 18 inches apart
  • Plant into good soil or amend it with bone meal, fertilizer, rabbit manure, compost, etc
  • Mulch well at the time of planting
  • Here in Western Oregon the sky will water them for you all winter, but if you’re not so lucky: keep well watered until about June
  • Fertilize in February and April. I like to foliar feed with kelp or fish and water in diluted blood from butchering. Side dressing with blood meal would be almost as good
  • Harvest in July, when about half the leaves are brown, but don’t wait too long or the cloves with spread out and won’t store as well

There is TONS more info than those bullet points that is important, so again – check out Adaptive Seed’s garlic planting post, do some research on hardneck vs softneck and have FUN getting dirty!

Do you grow your own garlic? What’s your favorite variety?

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Filed under Birdsong Farm, Gardening

Jett and Bernard – A Fiber Friendly Family

You may remember Bernard, that adorable fawn faced Pembroke Welsh Corgi i featured on Fiber Friday some weeks ago… Well, i had the good fortune of recently working on his best buddy, Jett the German Shepherd! I just love the conformation of a handsome GSD and i’m pleased with how Jett’s Friend turned out.

I often feel like i may have over emphasized the big ears on my Fiber Friends…. but these two really are all ears in real life!

Thanks to Jett and Bernard’s mama for sending me the fun photos! If you’ve been a Fiber Friends customer and want your pet featured on this blog and my Facebook page – just send me a message with some great photos and i’ll feature you next!

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Filed under Dogs/ Corgis, Felting, Fiber Fridays, Fiber Friends, Fibers

Fermenting in a Stone Crock

If you’ve been reading my blog(s) for a while you most likely know that A. i really like fermented pickles and B. i get pretty creative with the receptacles i use for said fermentation. Mason jars, yogurt lids, rubber bands….. but no beautiful stone crocks…. UNTIL NOW!

Even Pocket is proud of my gorgeous new crocks! (Pay no attention to the hideous photo and filthy floor, please). These suckers are HUGE: perfect for filling with a garden’s abundance of cucumbers or cabbage for pickles or kraut. The crocks come with stone weights that are the perfect size for the crock and a few recipe cards to try out. The color of the crocks is a gorgeous mahogany brown which just happens to match most of my other canisters and assorted kitchen lovelies.

 

Where did i get this beauty, might you ask? I purchased my two crocks from a wonderful small business in the suburbs of Chicago. Owned by a young family with ties to Poland, Stone Creek Trading specializes in beautifully made crocks, wooden kitchen utensils and basic childs’ toys. Krzysztof & Emily Kociolek are friendly, willing to chat and troubleshoot the art of fermentation, and sell some really high quality merchandise. I can’t recommend these crocks or the company more! (PS, not only are the crocks really well made, they’re much cheaper with Stone Creek Trading than just about anywhere else i’ve seen online)

My garden was busting with cucumbers this year and my crocks arrived just in time. The recipe included called for less salt than i usually use for fermenting, but i went with it. The resultant pickles are delicious, and i was able to pickle the cukes whole instead of slicing since i finally had ROOM to fit them all – but there’s an awful lot of sediment in the jars. Our well water is pretty heavy with the minerals so i’ll be upping the amount of salt in my next batch. I usually throw ‘the kitchen sink’ in when pickling including garlic, hot peppers, horseradish leaves, cherry leaves, grape leaves, allspice, mustard seeds, dill, etc. I’ve run out of big jars to keep all my pickles in and my friends run screaming when they see me coming with my special ‘gifts’ for their fridge… so i guess i’m done pickling for the season. ;)

The fridge is even more full now than when i took this photo…. ha. So many pickles. So many. Want to make some? Here’s a recipe:

Sour Pickles

  • Cucumbers, small
  • Brine, enough to cover all cukes: 2-4 T salt to water)
  • Garlic! Lots of cloves, whole or sliced
  • Fresh dill, 1-4 heads/leaves, whole
  • 1 T mustard seeds
  • 1 t allspice (whole)
  • 1 T fresh horseradish root (or a few horseradish leaves)
  • A few grape or cherry leaves

Wash cucumbers and poke a few holes on either end. Alternatively cut off the tips of each end. Prepare brine by boiling the water and letting it cool (i skipped this step, another potential culprite in my hazy pickles), then dissolving the salt in it. Place cukes in teh crock, add spices in layers. Cover it all with the weights and add brine until weights are covered with water. Fill water seal groove with water and cover with the lid. Keep crock at room temp for 3-4 days then move to a cooler place. Pickles can be eaten at any point in the fermentation process. When desired sourness is reached, remove from crock and refrigerate!

Recipe courtesy of www.StoneCreekTrading.com

Check them out online and on Facebook and treat yourself to some seriously awesome kitchen gear that will last a lifetime.

Do you love fermentation? What is your fermentation vessel of choice?

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Filed under Cooking, Fermented, Kitchen Tools, Preserved Food, probiotic

Ducks Raising Ducklings – Musings on Cuteness and Social Behavior of Muscovies

I wasn’t expecting our latest batch of eggs to hatch until this coming Monday, so wasn’t i surprised to notice a bunch of extra, TINY, newly hatched duckling heads tucked in amongst the other ducklings, adults and adolescent muscovies?

In comparison to my rabbits, whose breeding, nesting and birthing i have a large role in facilitating, the ducks do it all by themselves. They breed, lay, nest, sit and eventually hatch all on their own and usually do a great job of it. Our last two hatches were miserable failures: a hatch of ONE duckling and another of just 3. I hadn’t even counted Snowflakes eggs and it seems she hatched out 11 little ducklings with just 3 duds left on the nest. After her spring clutch of 13 i’d say Snowflake is the winner of successful hatches this year!

I am mildly concerned by an interesting turn of events in the flock just now: Snowflake had basically adopted Svetlana’s 3 young ducklings the past few days as the temperature turned cold and they sought refuge in her nest amongst the eggs. Now that her eggs are hatched, she seems more interested in cruising about with the older and more mobile surrogates than with her own little bundles of fluff. I’m grateful that the next few days are supposed to be quite warm and that they have many brothers and sisters to snuggle with, but concerned that she will abandon her little ones entirely, leaving them cold at night and without the safety of a protective duck to help them manage amongst a mixed flock of many different ages.

It is amazing just how well tiny ducklings CAN manage amounts so many different and older ages of ducks: the others really do try NOT to trample them and despite their small stature a duckling a few days old will often be found nipping at a much older and HUGER flock-mate come dinner time. Warmth, however is another issue entirely – so i hope miss Snowflake will notice her peeping babes on occasion and give them the comfort and warmth of her fluffy chest come dusk.

I locked them in together last night to help solidify the bond and ensure they were warmed during their first evening, but i’m not sure the bonding goal really worked. She still seems most interested in the older ducklings, so we shall see! Raising chicks or ducklings in a flock of mixed ages can be a bit more complicated than brooding under lamps, all at the same age – but it’s the way nature planned and they really cope quite well. Humans don’t always have ALL the answers after all. We do enjoy looking at cuteness, however and i’m pretty happy to have taken a few minutes to just lay in the field watching their adorable antics before getting back to work.

This is what life on the farm is all about – and it’s high time i took some time to lay down and enjoy it. :)

Do you have any experience with animal mamas getting a bit ‘confused’ ?

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Filed under Birdsong Farm, Critters, Ducks