Wednesday, July 24, 2013


It was supposed to be last Thursday, but my instincts told me otherwise. Spend the time, spend the money, they'll be bigger in several more days. I didn't have several, however, but I could spare four. So Monday it was, the last day of harvest, and like so many days I've been out at the farm, it was cloudy and this was welcome. I also had a field meeting with a writer who scribbled so furiously as I spoke I began to understand how easily facts and words get twisted. I'm saying too much, I thought, but the questions kept coming. There'll be photographs, later, at the barn, during November planting, May weeding, and maybe harvest. Mostly, I just felt good that the hardest work was done, or almost, and as it turned out, the bulbs did get bigger, and I felt vindicated for spending the time and money. In a season with a lot of tough luck, this little bit felt like victory.

I've cleaned the field of everything, save two rows of potatoes and a bed of saffron crocus. All put in their place for the season, tucked away, out of the way, and it can be said -I like cleanup. I will pull the potatoes in two weeks and this entire field, save the crocus, will be turned under.

In my new field, the Autumn field, the buckwheat cover is sprouting. Hooray for moisture holding soils! It took me awhile to find the correct spreader setting, leaving some areas dense with sprouts.

This is more like it. In two weeks time I expect to see two foot tall plants if that isn't asking too much. I've never grown buckwheat, but I understand it is fast, loves heat and poor soil, creates flowers bees can't get enough of, crowds out weeds, and turns under easy as pie, decaying without leaving so much as a tough stem. 

Buckwheat sprouts.

I saved organizing and bundling for the barn, where I can stand comfortably at a table in the shade. The Nootka did not get as big as they can, but far better than last year and with hope they will acclimate and size up next season. 

My last task was to collect a few of every strain to bring out to Minnesota for taste testing the differences among strains. This is when I discovered the mounting disaster of the Artichoke variety -they were soft, not good. Immediately I understood what was happening. These were harvested on the wettest days of the harvest -fogged in, mist, out and out rain. I pulled them a week or more early because the outer skins were rotting under all this moisture (remember we had nearly 9 inches of rain in June). So not only were they wet, they had many green leaves and bushy roots. The humidity has been quite high and they were hung in the center of all the other garlic. But what could I do, it was late.

Betsy and I decided to return to the barn the next day. We cut down a thousand bulbs, unbundled them, trimmed the roots, cut the leaves, sniff and squeeze tested all, bundled and then rehung. It took six hours (plus 6 hours of driving). It is not a sure way to stem the rot, but it's all one can do. This is a curing problem for the Artichoke strains only and my take is that it is a special problem born of their deeper domestication. Now I remember throwing away dozens of Artichoke bulbs last season for having stinkers (what I call a rotten clove). I chalked that up to poor seed, but now the information I have read but not absorbed, is coming to light. Artichoke strains are the California strains, the grocer garlic (that isn't Chinese garlic). I suspect that beside the drier conditions of the regions this garlic is normally grown, farmers have automated systems for harvesting and drying these bulbs quite rapidly. Growing these in a humid, wet, maritime environment without a dry curing arrangement is asking for trouble. So now that I have experience, whereas before I had only information, what I'll do beside hope for a dry June is cut the roots at harvest, bundle in smaller groups, hang them at the edge of the curing space, and if needed, cut the leaves after the first week. And if we have that dry June, I will harvest them later, allowing their leaves to dry above while the cloves mature further underground.

Artichoke haircut. Garlic takes up considerably less space once it's trimmed. We are sure to lose more than we culled yesterday, meaning that I will have even less of these otherwise grand garlic for sale this season.

We were wrapping things up just as these powerful storms rolled in from the west. It rained heavily and I was pleased that I had little to care about in the field. We washed the silt dust from our faces and arms with warm rain water, returned to our trusty van (nearly two hundred ten thousand miles!), the highway, and finally Brooklyn.

Now, I write in lieu of preparation for our hot weather trip to Minnesota. There will be work there, as expected, but maybe mushrooms too, in the woods. These trips are good, but they also take a lot out of us, especially now that Rex is in such poor health. He is without vigor and cannot do much before being completely wiped out. These visits are strained by talk of health care, his will, and our distance. Still, it's always hard to leave, and even more so now that he is ill.

1 comment:

  1. I love that last photo of the storm. I wish you an easy trip to MN. I know too well how these visits can be.


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