From Field to Drying Rack


Garlic Bulbs in Drying Rack

If somebody tells you, you put too much garlic in your food. Get rid of them you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Yes indeed, we kicked off the garlic harvest.  This garlic harvest is our farm’s original garlic cultivar. A few years ago, we noticed it growing on a bank, in a small patch of long stemmed garlic plants amongst the weeds. We pulled some of these garlic plants and replanted a few of the very small bulbs and planted the tiny cloves into a prepared garlic bed. And, we’re finally got some decent sized bulbs after a few years of replanting the biggest bulbs. This old strain has an attractive bulb with distinctive purple striping.

Here’s a photo galley of a garlic harvest; as it goes from the field to the dry rack.

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Making Compost Tea

Mention that you made some compost tea, and “What is compost tea?” is a common question. Well the first thing you should know about it is that people don’t drink it but your plants will love it. So, you might think of it as a health drink of beneficial microorganisms brewed from compost for your garden plants to enjoy. Here is a 3-day brew (aerated with air not heated like real tea). Ingredients are worm castings, raw molasses, water and air. All this results in a wonderful and natural way to fertilizer the garden without dependence on chemicals.

It looks very much like brewed black tea; hence the name. The tea is dark brown tea-like color and odorless. It is not at all unpleasant. We applied the freshly brewed compost tea as a foliar feeding to vegetable plants and as a soil drench.



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Maine Mahogany Clams

Local spring garlic greens flavor Maine clams in this easily prepared meal.  Maine Mahogany Clams are ocean quahogs harvested off the coast of Maine that have a mahogany color. Every time that they are available fresh in the grocery stores anywhere around here abouts, we buy them, and being in Rural Pennsylvania that doesn’t happen too often. They are far less expensive than the more desirable and higher-priced littleneck clams, due to their size and color, so they are a great value.

Here we steamed them in a white wine and butter sauce, with some of our Spring Garlic greens (spring garlic now, and then the garlic scapes come in a few weeks) for a wonderful seafood meal.  Our Alleghany Upland garlic pairs well with the  seafood of Maine’s Down East. Note: the young garlic bulbs were removed from the greens, and saved for pickling.

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Green Spring Garlic

035We started the green spring garlic harvest. We have about 3 bushel to harvest, this first pick is for the farmers market today. Green spring garlic is harvested this time of year when the growing garlic is at the baby garlic stage (pre-scape). Last July, we harvested the garlic bulbs from our garlic field. Of course, there are always some bulbs that don’t get harvested. And, those bulbs left in ground grew plants shown here, and now it can be harvested as “green spring garlic”.  It looks and tastes like a scallion, or even more like a baby leek, than like garlic. But it has a garlic flavor, that gentle garlic heat at the back of the mouth when eaten raw. Can be cooked in any recipe, that calls for green onions, leeks or scallions, for a mild garlic flavor. Fresh spring garlic doesn’t keep very long, so we harvest it in small amounts to use within a day or two.

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Ponderous Du Jour

Potatoes-insecticide-8PARIS GREEN is described as highly toxic emerald-green crystalline. It was used in America and elsewhere as an insecticide for produce, such as apples, around 1900, where it was blended with lead arsenate. It was also used for rodent control and green paint pigment. Now, the old tin cans are collectible as antiques. It was considered back then to be perfectly safe if used as directed, probably marketed to farmers as a wonder product. Makes me wonder how the crop agricultural products in use today will be viewed a 100 years from now.

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is now considered a carcinogen by Denmark’s Working Environment Authority:

“When we see that other mammals get cancer from glyphosate, we must assume that people who are exposed to the substance can also develop cancer,” says Philippe Grandjean, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark.

And according to Natural News, DNA from GMOs can pass directly into humans, study confirms:

(NaturalNews) The idea that DNA from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is broken down in the digestive tract and rendered innocuous, a common industry claim, is patently false. A recent study published in the scientific journal <PUBLIC LIBRARY OF SCIENCE> PLOS ONE found that large, meal-derived DNA fragments from GMOs are fully capable of transferring their genes directly into the bloodstream, deconstructing the myth that transgenic foods act on the body in the same way as natural foods.

The article goes on to say:

The presence of transgenic genes in the small intestine was also found to affect the composition of beneficial bacteria, which are responsible for protecting the gut against foreign invaders and helping the body absorb nutrients from food…
None of this is really all that surprising, of course, as the biological activities behind how GMOs are processed by the human body have never been legitimately studied. Biotechnology companies have always just claimed that GMOs are the same as real food, without any evidence to back this up, and this has been enough for the government to keep them on the market for nearly 20 years.

We are somewhat helpless as individuals to change the growing tide of new GMO crops and number of highly toxic pesticides in the world. What we can do to make individual choices about what we eat and where we buy our food.

And, to think that once upon a time green paint literally killed people. Eventually, the use of this pigment was abandoned when it became generally known that people who wore clothes dyed with the substance tended to die early. To this day the French avoid making green theater costumes. [1]

[1] Jane Austen’s World, Emerald Green or Paris Green, the Deadly Regency Pigment

Learn more:

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How To Graft

IMG_1300Apple grafting requires knowledge, skill and patience. And like all worthwhile skills, it’s best to do some study. Any special techniques that you can learn from an expert helps.  And that sums up the study guide for the apple grafting session held at the Austin Dam for the Project Based Learning students from the Austin Area High School. Sean McKeone from McKeone Orchard & Nursery in North Hollow led the group activities which resulted in 14 heritage apple trees being grafted to benefit the Austin Dam Apple Tuck and Heritage Orchard. Sean’s main point, “Paying attention on little details increases the chance of success on the grafting”.

Here’s a list of apple scion wood (grafting sticks) grafted onto rootstock during the activities: Rusty Coat, Maiden Blush, Chenango Strawberry, Twenty-ounce, Early Joe, Sweet Caroline, Yellow Bellflower and Tioga. Of local interest were the following heritage varieties; Seneca Portage, Cora Brooks, Indian Creek and Pliny the Magnificent.  Scions of special interest included the Flower of Kent (the Sir Isaac Newton apple) and the Johnny Appleseed tree from Nova Ohio.

IMG_5867In the Austin Dam Apple Tuck, there now grows a piece of scion wood that is a descendant of the Flower of Kent which grew in Isaac Newton’s garden at Cambridge. Erroneously shown with an apple of the “Red Delicious” variety, Newton’s apple is actually a green cooking apple. In the Austin Dam Apple Tuck, Sean removed the top on a Red Delicious rootstock seedling to graft Newton’s apple. So in a way, this graft symbolically straightens out some incorrect apple history.

In case you were wondering – yes, there was a Johnny Appleseed. And the last known living apple tree planted by John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed, still produces a good crop of tart, red-striped apples each fall. Growing on the farm of Dick and Phyllis Algeo near Nova, Ohio, the 170-year-old tree has long been a proud member of the family, which still has four generations living on the farm.

In the early 19th century, Chapman, by trade a nurseryman, wandered throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana planting apple trees, as well as mediating between white settlers and Native Americans and spreading an appreciation for nature. And from that tree in Nova, Ohio, the living legacy of famed orchard man John Chapman now grows as scion wood in the Austin Dam Apple Tuck.

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Jars of Tools

IMG_5821Can you identify these seeds? They are some of our favorite cover crops. Here’s a hint list. Can you match the seed with the picture above?

  1. Buckwheat
  2. Daikon Radish
  3. Crimson Clover
  4. Hard Red Spring Wheat

Why use cover crops? Here are the benefits of cover crops, in general.

  • Weed Suppression
  • Erosion Control
  • Attracts Beneficial Insects
  • Builds Soil Organic Matter
  • Increases Moisture Holding Capacity
  • Improve Soil Quality

However, each cover crop can have a specialized use. Perhaps you can think of these jars like farmer tools that can be used to fix and maintain the soil. Can you match these uses with the seeds listed above?

  1. “Bio Drills” tap roots mine up soil nutrients and break up compacted soil.
  2. “Solar Soil Charger” adds nitrogen to the soil.
  3. “Speedy Ground Cover” that is a weed suppressor and phosphorus scavenger.
  4. “Sweet Nutty Berries” that are incredibly appealing on the farmer’s table.



Left to Right: Hard Red Spring Wheat are “My Sweet Nutty Berries”, Crimson Clover is “My Solar Soil Charger”, Daikon Radish are “My Bio Drills” and Buckwheat is “My Speedy Ground Cover”. Not-shown: White Mustard is “My Bio Fumigant and Allelopathic Weed Eater”

Thanks for playing along.

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