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The Fall Garlic Planting and a Story About Growing Garlic

October 8, 2009


An apple-picking friend of mine from Way Back When grows some awesomely fine garlic. Her name’s Rebecca and she lives back East in Burlington, Vermont, which is where I spent the coldest winter of my life. One day the temperature with the wind chill factor was, I swear to you, 90 below zero. That’s 90. Below zero. The wind whips across the huge and frozen Lake Champlain and if you are there, you know bitter cold. Anyway…it was my great fortune this year to be a recipient of a sampling of Rebecca’s superb product. That cold but beautiful place makes for some fine, hot garlic, some of which I’m turning around and putting into our Illinois soil to, hopefully, carry on her good stuff and have lots more to devour in future times.

So, we’ve cleared out some of the tomato bed, which is petering out in this cold weather anyway. I put the green tomatoes in paper bags ala my father’s instructions. He sez they’ll ripen. We shall see. Erin and I began forking the bed, but Andrew did a lot more, then JP finished it off and worked in some compost. Ronna planting garlicToday I planted the seed cloves from the 4 varieties Becky sent. JP helped with the first variety, Nootka Rose. The other 3 are Georgian Fire, N.Y. White and German Porcelain, the latter of which is HUGE, but NOT elephant garlic, which Rebecca said is the Red IMG_3911Delicious of the garlic world. You don’t have to be an old apple picker to know that that is tantamount to saying that elephant garlic is hardly worth eating, though, actually, La Casan Jacob would argue this point as he somehow is convinced that Red Delicious apples have some redeeming value. My heart aches for the dear boy. The German Porcelain garlic, indeed, is nice and strong, tons of flavor.

Now here’s a little story which is true:

I farmed garlic in Washington State for about a year and a half. I knew an elderly couple, the Webbers, who had formerly grown garlic organically. I thought the organic aspect was impressive as they had farmed many years before, far ahead of the current organic heyday and even far ahead of the beginning surge in the early 80’s. They were in their 90’s when I knew them back in the 90’s. Anyway, they let me and some friends of mine plant their field which was a nice field with an excellent view of Mt. Stuart. mt-stuart-range We did garlic and a lot of potatoes, too. One thing, though, their field had gophers. Not only did their field have gophers, but that field had more gophers than I knew could live in one field and what’s more is that these particular gophers had to taste every single garlic bulb to be absolutely sure that they didn’t like garlic. Also, the field had bindweed. It had extra strength bindweed that could bring down a rototiller in an astonishingly short amount of time, but which did not, apparently get in the way of gophers. Ever since, I can hardly believe it when I see packets of morning glory seeds for sale. I want to tell people not to ever plant it, that it comes from the devil. The DEVIL! And irrigation was, as I recall, quite tricky in that field. Al (Mr. Webber) made constant improvements to his “system”, though it never seemed become less tricky to me, and I think, quite possibly, more so. I do recall one great leap in the irrigation technology where the involvement of PVC pipes boosted our watering capabilities, but only for a day or so. Really, all those gopher holes led to one mother tunnel which emptied out not into the field at all, but, oh, down there, off the side of the hill. I thought perhaps it would at least have the benefit of washing the gophers away (or drowning the motherf*ckers), but it seemed to not impinge on them at all and what does not kill them makes them stronger. Pretty sure about that. If anything it seemed to have softened the soil up for them quite nicely. (It may have been about this time in my life that the murder of certain animals [being various rodentia] began to seem maybe not quite so abhorrent as I once thought. My dogs proved to be superior diggers, but insufficient gopher catchers. That’s a big help, as you can imagine.) Oh, and there was the wind. I wouldn’t want to neglect giving due mention to the wind which allowed for no hats, would throw dirt in your eyes, which once knocked me clean over and whose relentless blast caused me to cry and curse the wind god. (I only did that last thing once because the wind picked up noticeably when I did it.) Nonetheless, regardless and despite all we had a lot of fun and we all had garlic and spuds to last and it sure made the Webbers happy. I do not believe I would want to do it for a living, though. Not in that particular field, anyway.


Garlic chomping gopher. Say that 3 times fast.

Bindweed (Morning Glory)

Bindweed (Morning Glory)

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