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Quote of the Day: Ralph Waldo Emerson

October 31st, 2010

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson






Right now those colors are particularly fabulous!

What’s your favorite color in nature?

How Do You Choose?

October 30th, 2010

I must admit I get really annoyed this time of year by political ads in the mailbox, signs on every corner, and commercials on TV (so glad I don’t have cable any more so I don’t have to hear them). Every day I open a mailbox full of fliers, and most of them are negative. I wish there were something like CatalogChoice.org for political mailings.

I wonder if these ads actually do anything, are people swayed by them? I know I’m more put off than anything, especially if the flier is negative. One local senator has been sending a flier almost every week for the past 6 months telling us how great he is and how much good he’s doing. In the small print on the back of each flier is says “This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense”. You can believe he’s not getting my vote for wasting all my tax money telling me how great he is.

The older I get and the more I read about campaign funding and revolving door politics, the less political party affiliation affects my voting choices. I agree with different ideologies from many parties and find myself not really falling into any one. I focus on areas that are important to me, mostly agriculture and food. When I try to figure out who I’m going to vote for, I spend some time online looking up who’s funding each politician and their previous jobs and spouses jobs. I find a lot of great information on OpenSecrets.com as well as a few other places. Generally I vote for whoever gets the least amount of corporate funding. If all candidates get lots of corporate funding, I usually vote for those that aren’t getting money from companies like Cargill, Monsanto, Syngenta, GE and big pharma companies.

How do you choose who you’re going to vote for? Do ads and fliers sway you to one candidate or another?

Friday Favorite: Keen Footwear

October 29th, 2010

When trying to decide what to write about for my Friday Favorites today I looked down and noticed what shoes I was wearing and knew. I had to write about my LOVE for Keen Footwear.

I have 3 pairs of Keens that I’ve acquired over the last couple years and will be replacing a few of my other shoes with Keens when they wear out. I’ve been looking for a pair to replace my gardening shoes (remember those), but I have yet to find a pair.

One of the reasons I love Keens is because of the roomy toe box. I have wider feet, so these shoes are super comfortable and I have no toe squeezing as I have with most other shoes. I also love the way the toe box is protected with rubber, this really helps the shoes look better longer and helps protect your toes, especially in the sandals & flip flops.

Keens are pricey, but they’re worth every penny. They last forever, so they end up being cheaper in the long run than less expensive shoes. The comfort factor is huge as well, my Keens are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned, all three pairs.

I’m a barefoot or free foot person, so sandals and flip flops are my shoes of choice. I’ve found myself lately on our chilly evening walks wearing some wool socks with my sandals so I can continue wearing them as long as possible. Unfortunately I don’t have a pair of Keens to give away today, but I do have the winners from last week’s Friday Favorites giveaway of Al’s Beanery Coffee. Our winners are: Kat from Food, Literature, Philosophy and Susan. If you don’t get my e-mail contact me through the contact button in my sidebar.

What kind of shoes do you prefer, sandals, tennis shoes, no shoes? Do you have a favorite brand of footwear or do you just wear whatever?

Planting Garlic

October 28th, 2010

It’s that time of the year to plant garlic. I’ve read that you should plant it around fall equinox, which I missed by about a month. I received my planting garlic the day before we left on vacation and just planted it on Sunday. I ordered 2 garlic samplers from Gourmet Garlic Gardens again this year. Each year I’ve grown garlic, I’ve tried a few different method for planting. I’m hoping this year I’ll finally be able to grow nice big heads of garlic. Mine usually end up being small, but they’re still quite tasty. I chose a free-draining area of the front garden and amended the soil heavily with compost.

I used the planting method I tried 2 years ago which worked better than what I did last year. Gourmet Garlic Gardens recommends soaking your separated garlic overnight in a mixture of baking soda and fish emulsion (1 gallon of water + 1 heaping Tablespoon of baking soda + 1 Tablespoon of fish emulsion). The following day, remove garlic from this mix and soak for a few minutes in rubbing alcohol. I used this method 2 years ago and every single clove of garlic I planted sprouted into a bulb. Last year I simply planted the garlic without soaking and about 20% of the cloves I planted did not sprout. I decided I’d go with the soaking this year.

When I plant garlic, I loosen the soil about 10 inches deep. Then I measure out my plant spacing and add a teaspoon of bone meal where I want to plant each bulb (usually around 6 inches apart). I use my planting trowel and plant each bulb 4 inches deep. Then water in well and mulch with straw or leaves mixed with grass clippings. That’s it, plain and simple, the garlic will grow in the spring. What varieties of garlic am I growing this year?

Belarus is a beautiful Purple Stripe garlic with a rich garlicky flavor and is delightfully mellow but with a little bite when raw. The outer bulb wrappers are white and thick and becoming vertically striped with increasingly more purple stripes the closer to the cloves one gets. The clove covers themselves are a deep reddish purple. If you like a lot of red, you’ll love these Purple Stripe garlics. Belarus can be a very prolific garlic in cold winter areas and grows well in states with moderate temps but probably not for extreme southern areas.

Purple Glazer is one of the few Glazed Purple Stripes available and they’re fabulous garlics that grow well in most climates, although iffy in the warmest winter areas. Their bulb wrappers show a different texture than either the main group of Purple Stripes or the distinctive Marbled group. Glazed Purple Stripes are the tall willowy maidens of the garden and are usually the tallest garlics. With good growing conditions the bulbs can get very large, 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. The inner bulb wrappers of Purple Glazers can be almost solid purple with purple clove colors and they are very beautiful bulbs of very rich color and they are a lovely addition to the table centerpiece until you’re ready to eat them. If you want to flash some stark, raving color to get someone’s attention, these garlics will do the job. Purple Glazer has that same sweet warm richness of flavor common to Purple Stripe garlics; excellent for raw eating and fabulous for roasting because of the exceptional sweetness of Purple Stripe garlics. They’re more like Red Toch or Burgundy in flavor and have a very pleasant lingering aftertaste. These bulbs store every bit as long and firm as the standard Purple Stripes, around 7-8 months at room temp after harvest.


Siberian
really lives up to its name when it comes to thriving in cold weather. A top-notch producer in cold climates, Siberian deserves consideration for all northern gardeners. The cloves are protected by an attractive light pink skin that becomes even redder when grown in high-iron soils. This clean, medium-to-strong flavored garlic will warm your soul on the coldest winter evening. Best of all, it is prized for having a very high allicin content, possibly the highest of any garlic. Allicin supports normal cholesterol levels, boosts the immune system, and enhances circulation. Harvests mid-late season – stores 7-9 months

German Extra Hardy is a large, beautiful and well-formed porcelain garlic. Its flavor is very strong and robust and sticks around for a long time. From a growers perspective, it is a tall dark green plant and is a very good survivor, usually grows healthy and appears to be somewhat resistant to many of the diseases that can affect garlic. It originally came from Germany but grows well in all but the most southerly states, where it is marginal. Being a Porcelain German White/ Extra Hardy stores a long time at cool room temp, around 10 months or longer.

Georgian Crystal is a large and beautiful porcelain garlic with delightfully robust flavor but not very much hotness. If you want a richly flavored, long storing Porcelain that won’t burn you out, this one’s for you. It grows well in most states even some years in warm winter areas, but will be marginal there in years with early hot summers. From a growers perspective, it is a large and healthy garlic to grow and appears to be relatively resistant to most of the diseases that can affect garlic. It originated in the Republic of Georgia, the former Soviet republic between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. An excellent garlic for raw eating and in pesto, salsa, etc. Harvests mid-summer – a rich yet mellow garlic that stores into spring at room temp.


Music
is a large, beautiful and well-formed porcelain garlic similar to Northern White. Its flavor is very rich and musky, strong and robust and sticks around for a while. It’s very popular for a reason. From a growers perspective, it is a tall dark green plant and is a very good survivor, usually grows healthy and appears to be somewhat resistant to some of the diseases that can affect garlic. I’m not real sure just where Music originated, but it likes cold weather and can get quite large in good growing conditions. Grows well in most states even some years in Warm Winter Areas, but will be marginal there in years with early hot summers. Harvests mid-summer – stores into spring.

Amish Rocambole may be an heirloom garlic, who knows? (a garden plant whose lineage can be traced for a 100 years or more) It was grown in Wisconsin and comes to us from Gale Waege and Keene Organics. It is a generally a vigorous grower with large foliage that is dark green and results in a pretty good sized bulb. Being a Rocambole garlic, its flavor is very strong, hot and spicy and sticks around for a long time. From a growers perspective, it grows well in cold winter areas, but does poorly in warm winter areas, and usually grows healthy fairly uniform sized bulbs. It has thin bulb wrappers that have a lot of purple and brown in them. It usually has anywhere from 8 or 9 easy to peel cloves that are of good size, with no smaller inner cloves. The outer bulb wrappers are thin and flake off easily so it is not a very good storer, but no Rocambole is – through the fall and into winter. Great taste is their claim to fame, not long storage. For those up North who want to grow their own garlic it only takes a year or two to grow all you can eat. It harvests in early summer along with most of the other Rocamboles. Bulbs are usually over 2 1/2 inches in diameter and are of good size are grown primarily for their particularly rich flavor.


I’m excited about trying all these new varieties as I haven’t grown any of them before. I always try to grow lots of garlic as we eat a lot of it. We love garlic in all kinds of dishes, I usually use a few cloves a day. It helps keep us healthy all winter long. Here’s a great article about the health benefits of garlic.

Are you a garlic lover? Do you grow garlic in your garden?

A Disappointing Harvest

October 27th, 2010

Last Thursday when we went to my parent’s house I harvested our sweet potatoes. It was a disappointing harvest because the voles had chewed on almost every single sweet potato, especially the nice big ones. They pretty much ate through our entire crop, which was really nice this year because of the hot summer.

Since sweet potatoes will cork over their wounds, I think managed to save enough that we’ll be able to enjoy them on Thanksgiving. Sadly sweet potatoes won’t be on the menu much this winter.

Have you had trouble with voles eating your harvests?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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