15 November 2011

It All Begins with Garlic

You can never have enough garlic. With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times. 
-Morley Safer

garlic in raised beds this past spring

In a way, we just celebrated our one-year gardening anniversary.  We haven't lived on the farm for a full year yet and we've barely completed our first gardening season, but the year has come in full in that it was last November that we broke ground on our future garden spot and planted garlic.  I wouldn't have realized it except that Nick tilled the raised beds and has already planted our garlic for next year.

It was last fall that we realized that we were indeed quite serious about moving to the country. We didn't know if and how the relocation would materialize, but we had faith that it would.  With that faith came the vision of a garden, and in that garden was sure to grow garlic, one of the cornerstones of our family cuisine.
garlic curing in the haymow over the summer

We came out to the farm one weekend to mark our garden beds, plant grass seed and a cover crop of clover, and build 8' x 8' raised beds for the garlic and herbs that require more drainage. We raced from the suburbs to the farm on a very autumnal Friday afternoon after work because we wanted to get all the seed in the ground before the anticipated rain the next day.

The first step was to till the ground.  My Father-in-law was generous enough to disk the dry ground first, but we still needed to till it further so he let us use his four-wheeler with a plow-type attachment on the back.  Nick suggested that I ride with him for a few passes until I was comfortable and then continue on my own so he could move onto other necessary activities in the spirit of saving time.  This made me very nervous: one, I am a bad driver in general; two, if anyone's gonna make a mistake with my father-in-laws stuff, it ain't gonna be me.  Additionally, his dog, Tilly, who is quite an obedient dog has one very annoying character flaw:  she loses her mind when anyone drives the four wheeler.  She bites at the wheels, runs in front of it, and barks her Blue Heeler head off.  Despite my requests to possibly have a different gardening assignment and the subsequent requests to put the dog in the shed, I was left to drive the four-wheeler with the dog practically having an aneurism from barking and biting at the wheels.  We all know this isn't headed anywhere good.

Before I get to the point, I have to make one important digression.  I make it a point not to annoy my Father-in-law, particularly during harvest season.  Nick, the middle-child, has absolutely no problem irritating him, in fact, they make a sport of antagonism together.  So, before we started on our gardening adventure, I established one rule.  One rule!  Don't irritate Dad.  My first-born fiber can't handle it.  Now, I've never really been a rule follower, but I set out with every intention of not breaking this one.  To make a long story short, I popped one of the back tires with the blade of the plow.  And if I have ever considered ending it all, it was at that moment.  I broke my own rule before the completion of our first gardening hour.

The whole incident occurred, basically, because I thought I was going to hit the dog.  In farm country, however, that is not the catastrophe that it is in the suburbs.  Nick's response to my explanation was something to the tune of, "Who cares?!"  My Father-in-law's was more practical: "Giana, you couldn't kill that dog if you tried."  Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.  

My plan was to never go into my in-laws house again in order to avoid the shame.  It would have been a perfect evening to spend my first farm-night outdoors too.  There was a full moon against a perfectly clear blue-black sky.  And the weather was almost temperate--a day which one can't decipher is fall or spring because of the combination of crispness and warm humidity in the breeze.  We continued planting grass and clover seeds by the light of the moon.  We were giddy. It was certainly a new breed of romance.

All in all, the event was not such a disaster.  Luckily, my Father-in-law is a very forgiving man, we replaced the tire the next day, and we learned early on that I would not be driving any machinery.

Our next season's garlic crop is already bundled in its winter coat of mulch.  Our first gardening season is bundled in its nostalgic coat of our family history.  And really, what could be a better crop to mark the passing of seasons?  It is the first in the ground each season and it's almost always the first ingredient in my pan shimmering with olive oil.  Garlic is an important cornerstone of our cuisine because it's part of me, a part of my heritage, a part of the cooking I grew up with.  We're raising our family in the glorified setting of Nick's youth, but I've brought a big part of mine in the kitchen.

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