A year’s worth of garlic, part 2

I saved the largest bulb of my “harvest” to plant, and ordered some from eBay.  The kind I saved from what I planted last year is soft-neck, which is ordinary grocery store garlic, and in fact, this came from an ordinary grocery store. The kind I got on eBay is a hardneck variety, which is supposed to have a different flavor (there’s a question- how different can it be, and still be garlic?) and also it forms flower stocks and blossoms, which are called scapes.

We got some scapes in our CSA veggie box a few years ago and I had never seen them before- they’re really interesting. You could wear them as bracelets to ward off vampires- long green spirals. I sliced them for stir fry, and they had a bright, super-garlicky taste. Growing hard-neck garlic  means you get an earlier harvest, something to pick before the garlic is actually ready to dig. This helps with the year’s worth deal. Once the bulbs in the basket have either been eaten or started to sprout, there is something to pick that tastes like garlic.

Yes, I know I could just go to the grocery store.

Why bother growing my own? Honestly, carbon. How much diesel fuel is used to plow, plant and harvest garlic in California, or China?      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11613477  how much energy to ship it here?

I am okay buying olive oil, because I can’t grow that here in zone 5, but I swear, garlic grows itself.

Before the fall equinox, I loosened some soil, broke the garlic heads into individual cloves and planted them. I put them in an area where the compost pile was, so there’s plenty of humus. I’ll cover with mulch, and wait until spring. I won’t water at all until next summer, and then it will still take less water than most people use on their lawns.

Grow garlic!!!!! Seriously!

No photo on this one- better artists than I can take beautiful pictures of bare soil.


Get Them Before They Go to Seed, Mallow Edition

Sometimes called wild geranium. Winner of the worst weed in my yard contest.

Mallow is one of my least favorite weeds in my yard- I mean, I can live with dandelion most of the time, I don’t consider clover a weed at all, bindweed is annoying, and thistles hurt, but mallow is like that kid in class who always wants to share his journal entry out loud and it goes on and on, or like a raspberry seed in your teeth, or the wind that picks up as you’re leaving the park. It gets on my last nerve…

Mallow has deep, branching roots, so unlike dandelion, where sometimes a mighty pull can get up most of of the root, usually when I pull mallow, even when the soil is nice and moist, the plant just breaks off at the crown, and then comes back.

Supposedly it is edible. I guess that is one way to get rid of it…sigh. I just hate it.

Get Them Before They Go To Seed, Bindweed Edition

Morning Glory and Moonflower's uncivilized cousin- bind weed.

It is the time of year for bind weed to bloom in my yard- cute little white or pink cups on vines with heart shaped leaves. They’re everywhere, and because I avoid herbicides it take a lot of careful hand pulling. The strawberries, the namesakes of the blog, are especially bad with bind weed this year, I suspect because I let them get away last year, and let them go to seed. Ack!
Bind weed spreads from seed and from any tiny stem or root, so it is really difficult to get rid of entirely. There is supposed to be a biological control, a disease or fungus that only attacks it, but I don’t know if it is on the market-I don’t honestly even know if it is anything more than a rumor. The best I can do is detente, I pull it when I see it, carefully tracing the stems back to the ground if possible, and pulling out as much of the root as possible.
Since it can grow back from roots and stems, bindweed is the one organic matter I don’t usually put on the compost pile- I put it in a bag in my trash can.
It has gotten so that when I see morning glory, the domesticated cousin, my immediate reaction is to think they are giant mutant bind weed, and they most be destroyed. That is why I no longer plant morning glories.
I can occasionally rake or roll up mats of bind weed, and that is the most satisfying thing ever! Well,  not ever, but pretty satisfying. However, it is usually tangled up in stems of strawberries,  or roses, which is the worst, because you can’t just yank it out, you have to untangle it. Actually, the worst is when it is so tangled around a thistle that you don’t see the thistle, so you grab it and get pricked. Argh…

A year’s supply of garlic

A bucket of garlic, with the dirt still on it.

Last fall I planted around 50 cloves of garlic- just the boring kind from the grocery store. How do I know how many? Because I just harvested 50 heads of garlic, each of which started from a clove.
I don’t know if this will be a year’s supply- I know we don’t buy garlic every week, so 50 should certainly get us through the year, but many of the bulbs I harvested are smaller than the typical grocery store bulb. And, I need to save out some to plant again this fall.
Late September last year, I got a few heads of garlic, broke them up and put them into the ground- half into a brand new bed by the hillbilly goldfish pond and the other half in the Boy’s garden- a 2×2 space that I dedicated to him a couple of years ago so he wouldn’t dig holes randomly. Also, I was hopeful that if he was participating in his vegetable growth, he would be less picky. Not so much. I talked him into the garlic because he does like garlic bread… I planted the cloves about 2 inches apart, which was too close, it turns out. Next year, more space between.
Last week, the leaves were going brown, so I researched when to harvest, and discovered that the time to harvest was in fact, when the leaves were going brown, and while the soil was dry. The thunder was starting to reverberate while I was on the internet, so I went out before the rain came, so I could dig while the soil was still dry. I was extremely conscious of the metal digging fork in my hand as the storm moved in. Got it dug up and into a bucket before the rain, driven diagonal by the wind, came in.
The garlic is curing now- I knocked most of the dirt off the roots, and put the plants into bunches of about 20. I tied twine around the bunches, and I’ll hang them up in the garage, hopefully somewhere where I won’t bump into them every time I go in there. After they cure for a couple of weeks, I’ll trim off the roots and stems and store them in the basement.
I got most of my info from the fine people at http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/growing.htm  which has great quirky information- more than you think you need to know about garlic, the native american flute and southwest US petroglyphs. it’s a rabbit hole right after my own heart.
I also plan to order some “boutique” garlic to plant this fall- with a bit more space, in a different location (rotate stuff in your garden, you know- the best way to avoid pests and disease is not plant the same stuff in the same place year after year.)

You might be wondering, why grow your own? it is cheap and legal at the grocery- per pound, it might be the cheapest produce around. Think about this- if your garlic comes from California, or China, what does it take to ship it here? What kind of pesticides and fertilizer? What’s the carbon footprint of your garlic butter? With very little work, and very little space, I have what I hope is a year’s supply.

Bag Those Apples


We have an old standard apple tree that came with the house- don’t know the variety, but it is sour, a pie apple, rather than a sweet one. I have also planted a yellow delicious, which is my favorite.

Most years, the big apple tree produces more than we could ever eat- we give away bags of them, and I made apple sauce last year, but many, many go on the ground, and in the compost pile. I don’t spray for worms, and because I don’t kill the worms, there are more worms every year.

I’ve been researching what to do, because even though we don’t love the pie apples, the golden delicious, which is my favorite, is just getting big enough to produce- we had two apples from it last year, but this year it bloomed well, and there are a bunch (get the number) I still don’t want to spray poison, so I researched what to do to get organic apples. Organic apples with no worms, I mean; mine have been organic for years, with a nice shot of protein…

Most websites I found suggested sprays and traps and pheromones, which I don’t really want to mess with. Expensive and time consuming.  Then I came across this guy (http://www.finegardening.com/pages/g00062.asp)at Fine Gardening magazine, and got a paradigm shift- instead of trying to kill all the bugs, why not just prevent the bugs from getting to the apples?


Put staples in the edges of the bags while sitting in the shade, then slip the bag on the apple and do the last staple.

So, it’s late June, 4-5 weeks after my apples bloomed. I go through, select the biggest apple in each cluster that I can reach, and staple a paper lunch bag around it. The apple will grow inside the bag, moths won’t get to it to lay their eggs, and by picking off the smaller apples in the cluster, the chosen one will get bigger. The paper bags are kind of ugly, but I am hoping they will fade into the background- I’m not hosting a garden tour or anything.

I will start with the golden delicious-(it’s my favorite, did I mention that?) and then put bags on the big tree for as long as my patience (and my stapler) holds out. I bought a package of 100 bags, but I don’t think I’ll get that far. This fall, I’ll update how it goes.

Holey Socks, Batman!

Can you see where the hole was? Hint- it is the bumpy lumpy patch by the heel...it was my first try- I'm sure I'll get better.

I have been knitting socks for about 4 years- I make them for myself, and the kids and DH (by the way, if you see an acid green pair, they are for his birthday, and I kind of lost them) I also make them for gifts for other people I love, but don’t go hinting around about buying a pair- I’m happy to teach you to knit socks, but I it doesn’t make sense to make them for money rather than love.

It takes about 8 hours of work for a sock- usually it is work while I am doing other things, watching softball practice, or swimming lessons, or waiting at the dentist. I usually have 1 pair of socks going at all times, and it helps my mental health and concentration, so I do it at staff meetings and trainings and car rides. So on the one hand, it is borrowed time- I am rarely just knitting, but on the other hand, it is a lot of time to invest in a sock, so when a couple of pairs got holes, rather than toss them, or turn them into puppets, I decided they needed to be darned.

Not right away, of course. Projects need to marinate, for a while, sometimes.

When I was a kid, my mom had taught me to darn by kind of weaving across a hole, which is one way to do it, http://zigzagstitch.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/how-to-do-it-darn-socks/   In my research I found a different process, sometimes called swiss darning, sometimes called duplicate stitch, where you kind of trace the  stitches at the bottom of the hole, then create new ones where the hole is, then connect them to the old stitches at the top of the hole. Kind of amazing, and prettier than a woven patch.  It appeals to the witch in me- making something out of nothing. The muggles will never figure it out!

Here’s a link to darning with duplicate, with a demo on something that actually needed darning,http://www.hjsstudio.com/darn.html and another http://bellaknitting.typepad.com/bella_knitting/2007/08/duplicate-stitc.html, that just shows duplicate stitch as decoration, but was the best demo of where your needle should go, and when.

I’m not killing the slugs, I’m inviting them for a beer, then they die.

Homegrown, organic beautiful, and eaten by me, not by neighborhood gastropods.

We have been having such a wet June (global weirding, or is this normal?) that the slugs are having a field day. My strawberries are getting ripe, and the slugs have been eating half of them. Now, I’m a generous soul, if the slugs would eat some berries, I wouldn’t mind so much, but they seem to eat half of each one.
My MIL has taught me the solution- cheap, grocery-store-type beer in a saucer at ground level. She saves her margarine tubs for this, but I’m too snobby for margarine, so I use salsa containers. You have to bury them so the rim is just at ground level- the slugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide coming off the beer, then they drown in it.

The Boy checks the trap the next day- "EEW! there's beer on my hand!" Our take, a couple of slugs and a spider. Collateral damage- sorry spidey.

I will also set out board traps- pieces of scrap wood on the ground- the slugs hide under them during the day, so I can scrape them off into the compost pile. My friend Schnied’s mom feeds slugs to her goldfish, but I think these slugs are too big for my fish.

There’s been a radio ad recently that just curls my hair- a major pesticide company telling me I need to kill the bugs that are eating my precious garden crops. It just makes me mad- they want me to dust poison on the food I want to eat. Grrrrr. With beer, they die, but it is their choice. And not all of them die…maybe I’m still conflicted.

I’ll add new beer to my traps before we leave for the weekend. Last year, we barely had slug damage, I think, because the garter snakes stepped up to the plate. I realize that for some people, snakes are worse than slugs, but garter snakes are slug eating machines. And you hardly see them- we’ve got great ground cover, which is good snake habitat.

Let’s move the compost bin

Conversation in the faculty lounge turned to compost the other day. I mentioned that the worm guy http://www.flickr.com/photos/vhayward/2917500802/  recommended moving the compost pile every six months to avoid tree roots growing up into the pile. One of my colleagues insisted that she was not going to take the time, not going to “get a sub so I can flip my compost pile twice a year!”   I didn’t argue with her- there is no arguing with some people, but honestly, you don’t need to take a day off work.

3 steps (maybe 4…)

1: lift bin off of old pile.

It's easy to slip the bin up off the pile, then scoot it a few feet over.

2. Put the most recent additions into bottom of bin in new location.

That's not compost yet, that's just gross. Needs more time.

3. Use finished/almost finished compost on plants.

There are still some identifiable chunks in here- leaves, of course, and flower stalks.

(4 might be add water to new pile, depending on what hasn’t broken down. I dipped buckets out of the fish pond, which also helped empty the fish pond.)

Moving the pile adds oxygen, which will help things break down. Mine had a lot of leaves that had matted, and some identifiable avocado pits- they take a long time, but eventually, everything breaks down. I guess step 5 might be to wash your hands and get a glass of iced tea. It really is pretty easy. 20 minutes start to finish, and that includes taking pictures.

Trying to shake the million dollar coffee habit

Melitta Number 2.

John Prine has a song about a Vietnam-war-vet-heroin addict with a line that goes: “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm, where all the money goes.” I’ve got a hole like that, but it’s for coffee. Starbucks coffee, usually.

The big reason I go to Starbucks is they haveperfected the art of the “third place” a place that isn’t work or home, but seperate. I can do work there, but don’t have to. There are no projects piling up, the dishes in the sink are washed immediately, the bathrooms are sparkly clean, it is a home that is much cleaner than home.

I spend a fortune there.

With Spring on it’s way (I’m on Spring Break now, and we’ve had so little snow all winter that I’m just going to count it as sprung already) I have decided that I will find someplace cheaper for my “third place.” We have a great sculpture park nearby, the library is close and free, and there’s always our own back patio. Free wifi…well, not free, since I do pay for that, but, you know.

Trash is another problem with buying coffee “out.” I occasionally bring my own cup, but usually forget, so there’s a cup, with a cardboard holder, and a plastic lid, and a bag for the lemon cake. I can be greener at home, I think.

The problem was coffee. I have a couple of French presses, but they are kind of a pain to clean. I have a big drip machine that I use for parties, but it takes up a lot of kitchen real estate. It lives in the basement most of the year.

I used to have a cone drip thingy, which makes really good, really fast coffee, but it didn’t survive a purge- maybe the last time we moved?

So, I went to the LKGE (local kitchen gadget emporium- it’s my own acronym) and found this adorable little one- person cone. $3.50. I’ll wait while you do the math. Yes, for the price of 2 regular drip coffees, I can make my own at home. I’ll have to buy coffee and cream of course, but I will still save money, and trips out to Starbucks can be reserved for special treats, rather than everyday guilt fests.

Upcycled iPod Speakers Tutorial

This Christmas I requested mini speakers for my iPod touch- the kids came through with some little round ones. DH steered them toward speakers that have a battery, so they don’t drain so much power from the player.

However, what I wanted the speakers for was for playing music outside- I mostly hate earbuds- I want to be able to hear what’s going on around me. I wanted something portable, and cute.

Enter the upcycled jewelry box from the thrift store with holes cut in sides and rope lid with cool paint job and funky clasp… that’s a terrible name. Speaker Box 3000, aka SB3. iBox?

We’d better think of a cool name, because this could be the girl’s summer job-manufacturing and selling these. We’ll get all the thrift store boxes we can find.You know you want one!

Step 1 Find a box. Our local ARC has a ton of wooden boxes of all sizes and conditions. You might even have a box already, just begging to be used. I got our on orange tag day, so it was half price, only $2. The original Hobby Lobby tag was still on it- somebody paid 10 bucks for it…

Step 2 Find speakers. Like I said, these were Christmas presents, but I’ve seen similar ones at Walmart for around $5.

Step 3 Cut holes. there could be a step 2 and a half:  buy a hole saw, which is what I did. They fit onto a drill, and come in various sizes. My speakers are roughly 2 1/4 inches in diameter, so that’s the size I bought. It was about $8. I already had a drill, and since I plan on making more than one, I figured the $8 was worth it. I might go around looking for things that need holes cut…Anyway, step 3, put the box in some kind of vise, or clamp, or hold it steady some way, then cut the hole. You could also probably use a coping saw, but I decided to invest in the hole saw.

The hole saw is visible on the workbench- the boy was amazed by the tool. "How did you get them so symmetrical!?"

Step 4 paint the box. The girl helped- I picked the colors- kind of turquoise on top of vibrant green, with some sanding- a little vintage-y, as the girl said. Depending on the box you start with, you might decide not to paint. 

The original color was virulent pink, with a butterlfy decal on top. The girl was happy to paint it.

Step 5 Install the speakers with hot glue…. I have some foam, so I plan to cut out a block, then a rectangle for the iPod and battery case. I also need to add a handle and clasp.  The plan is to be able to carry the box around the garden, so I can weed the asparagus and listen to tunes… I’ll post a photo when the paint is dry.

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