How to Plant, Harvest & Store your Homegrown Garlic

When Fall roles around you know it's time to get your garlic planted and that's just what we did the other day. A week ago, we placed an order with SeedsNow for our fresh, organic garlic! 

We ordered 1 lb. of each heirloom variety they carry in stock.
 I began breaking apart the garlic bulbs while Erick amended the soil. This year, we're using one of our large 8x5 raised beds to grow garlic in. That's a whole lot of garlic! Something tells me, we better start looking for more ways to preserve garlic other than in oil or pickled and canned. ;) 

Planting Garlic:

Garlic can be planted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked, but fall planting is recommended. Bulbs will grow bigger and more flavorful when you plant them in the fall.  Plant 6 to 8 weeks before your first hard frost.  

Keep the papery husk on the cloves you are planting.  Pick a sunny spot, with soil that is well drained. 

Put your garlic cloves, about 2 inches deep, 4 inches apart in an upright position. (wide ends down)

Caring for your Garlic:

If you live in the pacific northwest like we do, or any northern state, apply a layer of mulch or straw if you are over-winterizing. If you are growing it in the springtime, mulching isn't required.

Try cutting off any flowering shoots when they first emerge. This will help the plant put all of it's focus on the bulb instead of the flower resulting in larger bulbs.

If you see any leaves begin to flower, add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Water regularly during flowering period. 

Check out this huge worm Erick found while amending the soil in the raised bed. One of our chickens got quite the afternoon snack!

Harvesting/Storing your Garlic:

Harvest your garlic when the tops begin to die and fall over. Harvest before the leaves are completely dry.  Lift the bulbs gently with a garden fork.  Leave the bulbs in a shady, but airy location for two weeks.  You can dry them upside down. Just make sure that they have good air circulation. This is key, and ensures even drying.

Your garlic will be cured when the papery husks are dry.  Bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, for several months.  Remote all dirt, roots & leaves. Keep the papery wrapper on—but remove any dirty parts.   The flavor of your garlic will increase as your bulbs are curing and drying.

Make sure you save a few cloves of garlic from each head to plant again next year!

Our Hike Through the Iron Horse Trail Tunnel

We decided to take a break from our chores around the house and gardens for another family hike. We drove almost two hours east of us to the Snoqualmie Tunnel off of I-90 East. 

The weather today had been beautiful for the entire drive, funny that we were choosing to spend this lovely day in a tunnel. 

We walked 6 miles in the pitch black tunnel. With only a head lamp, and a glow stick for Noahh to hold, it was a very exciting walk.  It was damp, completely dark, and very cold inside. 

Noahh did great through the tunnel. She held her glow stick and kept snuggled underneath her blanket. She stayed awake through the entire walk and it didn't seem to phase her a bit, being in the darkness like that.  She really loved playing with her glow stick. 

It took us just over an hour to get through the tunnel, one way. When we came out of the darkness and into the light we took a look around and really just enjoyed the site. 

It was crazy to look back and see the mountain that we just walked through.  What a beautiful place this was. 

We found a clearing just outside of the tunnel and sat down in the long, tall grasses for a picnic lunch. 

The view was breath taking. What an awesome day for a hike! 

This is why I love living in the Pacific Northwest. Such a wide variety of scenery and one can never get tired of traveling and exploring. Washington state is so pretty, no matter what the season. 

I think he's so handsome. Even with his adorable head lamp. 

After thirty minutes or so of fueling up on our sandwiches, we packed up and headed back onto the trail to go back into the tunnel.  

We brought along this DeWalt flashlight, but found the whole experience of hiking through the tunnel much more exciting using just his headlamp. After all, it being a dark and mysterious place was what made this hike so much fun.

Inside the tunnel, water falls from the ceiling so some areas can be quite slick and wet but it just adds to the adventure. 

Another hour or so in complete darkness wrapped up our adventure and we were headed back to the car.  6 1/2 miles, in the dark. What a hike! Can't wait to go back. 

Touring Around with the Chickens

We've been experiencing plenty of rain here in the Pacific Northwest over the last few days and it's been really nice.  This summer has been so dry, we really needed the moisture.

Everything is turning lush and green now that everything has had a chance to soak up all of this beautiful rain we've been blessed with.  

In the afternoons, weather permitting, we're able to walk down into the gardens to gather our harvest and spend some time with the animals.  

Our "roo" doesn't seem to mind the rain one bit.  In fact, he usually can be found with his head in the mud searching for worms. That's why his beautiful "crown" is usually pretty dirty these days. 

All of the hens are doing great, and we're getting ready for the second bunch of them to start laying any time now.  The first bunch of chickens have been laying successfully now for a few months and providing our family with delicious eggs. 

I am loving how diverse our flock is. They are all great layers too!  I'm thankful for a colorful group of hens out in our chicken run.  Each one a little different, each one unique. We've had no problems with any dominance or fighting, such a relief. Everyone gets along with one another perfectly. 

This "Roo" of ours, was supposed to be a gorgeous Polish hen, but one morning a few months ago, we  came out of the house and heard his half cracking crow and laughed.  We thought the sound was coming from the neighbors, but as we got down to our chicken pasture...she, or HE...looked us square in the face and let out the silliest crow we've ever heard. So that's how that story goes. We ended up with a rooster, unintentionally, but so far we're enjoying him nonetheless. 

Birds with feathers on their feet make me smile. 

"What you looking at"?

He's turned out to be a fabulous protector. 

This little lady is also one of my favorites. She's so unique and I'm so happy she's a part of our flock. She is our Red-Shoulder Yokohama. There's something so elegant about her.  

This fluffy gal has my heart.

She's so pretty, and fluffy. 

..."A little privacy please?"  Caught in the act!

There's nothing more rewarding than collecting farm fresh eggs everyday. How thankful I am for each one of my hens. 

Hey, Hazel! This was supposed to be a post about chickens...not goats.  She was chewing on my clothes and camera the entire time I was outside with them.  Little attention hog. 

Oh "Nugget". You crack me up! That look kills me! 

As much as the girls haven't been bothered by the rain this week, I'm sure they're really going to be enjoying the sun as it starts to make an appearance for us over the weekend. 

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes using your Waterbath Canner

We've been harvesting green tomatoes from our plants now for weeks.  Some of them we are enjoying in their firm, green, tart form in homemade salsa's and sauces, but some we were wanting to turn into red pasta sauce so we needed to ripen them up. 

The easiest way we know how to ripen green tomatoes is with a banana. Something about the gases the banana releases, causes the tomatoes to ripen.  That's why you should never put ripe tomatoes in the same bowl as a banana on your counter-top. Your bananas will over ripen quickly and so will your tomatoes.  

If you've got a bunch of green tomatoes though that you are wanting to ripen for recipes that call for red delicious tomatoes then by all means, lets get those tomatoes as close to a banana as we can. 

If you've got a lot of tomatoes like I do, this is the easiest way that I've discovered to ripen them. 
You'll need a waterbath canner, green tomatoes, and one banana. 

Place a banana in the bottom of your waterbath canner. Make sure the banana isn't already very ripe. It's going to ripen further once it's combined with the tomatoes. 

Then place all of your green tomatoes in the metal rack that comes with your waterbath canner. 

Place the rack inside of the canner, and leave it hooked on the sides.  This way, it won't smash the banana that's sitting at the bottom. 

Your tomatoes will get plenty of air circulation like this as well as the gases that the banana underneath will be releasing. 

Now place the lid on your canner and let the banana work it's magic. Depending on the ripeness of your green tomatoes when you picked them, the ripeness of the banana, this process could take one day up to 2 weeks. Check the banana periodically and if it begins to ripen to the point of turning dark, replace it with a new one.  Add more than one banana if you are doing quite a few tomatoes.  

Check your tomatoes during this process as well.  
Pull tomatoes out of the canner as they ripen and enjoy.  

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