Back Issue Vol: 44-2
Garlic is one of the easiest and most rewarding crops to grow, though often deceptively simple. I’ve grown garlic here in the Finger Lakes of New York since I was a child in my father’s garden and am honored to share the keys to surrounding yourself with abundance.
Dad was always a firm believer that the best way to train an animal was real work. As a kid, I always liked to take them out and take them for a walk down the road, and if dad would let me get away with that, that’s what I did. I still tend to do that, but he’s absolutely right: the best thing for training is real work and probably the best real work for them, that I can find, is picking rocks. We’ve got plenty of them around here. You know, you take a stone boat out. We generally kept a horn tie on them if nothing else but an insurance policy, but dad whipped on us very hard to manage the rope correctly.
This last week has been hot with clear skies and bright sunshine, definitely straw-hat weather. I am a keen and consistent wearer of hats, a cloth cap in winter and a straw hat in summer. In between, there are a few weeks when I’m not sure what to wear, but I do need some head covering as I have got to that stage in life when, if the growth on the top of my head was a cover crop, you’d be thinking about ploughing it up and starting again!
To grow a crop of fruit is but the initial step towards the successful termination of the enterprise. If the fruit is to be sent to market, then crates, baskets, etc., are necessary for gathering and transporting, all of which should be provided in advance of the ripening of the crop. The number of baskets required per acre cannot be given, inasmuch as the product will not be the same in any two seasons, but it is always best to provide enough, for if the supply should fall short in the busy part of the season, it might cause considerable loss.
This is a true story. I think I can recommend it to you, unless you are looking for something deep, abiding and provocative. Then I can’t help you. You see, the news is so snarling and hellbent that I need a break. So I’ve gone to the well, gone to my bag full of early adventures. And as I picked through them I realized, as my long life journey slows, that I have come a very great distance without arrivals worth much genuine note. And then there is the question of style, or manner. This writing, I insisted to myself, had to be done at a full gallop, as though I spotted the gate open and hoped to beat the others in my herd through to greener and more restive pastures…
When we first sheared our sheep, we were at a loss as to what to do with the wool. Unwilling to throw it away, we shoved it into a pillowcase under the bed until winter brought time for projects. We looked into buying a spinning wheel, but the prices were far outside of our range. I had read that the first “Saxony Wheel” was made in the 1500s by a woodcarver who undoubtedly had fewer resources than I do, even with my simple shop and few tools. Then, he had to invent the thing from the ground up, shooting in the dark, while I could look and copy from spinning wheels in the neighborhood. I am somewhat mechanically inclined, about average as a handyman, and I was able to come up with a design that is simple to build, simple and dependable to use, and takes up almost no space in the house.
Here is a plan from which you can build a batch-type column drier that will give you continuous drying. One batch of wet grain is dried while a previously dried batch is cooling in the lower cooling chamber. The fan and motor used for drying wet grain and cooling dried grain are enclosed in an airtight shed attached to the drier. Both the cooling chamber and the drying chamber are screened. The fan pulls cool air through the warm, dry grain and pushes heated air through the wet grain, allowing continuous operation of the burner.
With a professional career as a black and white artist and then as a major illustrator of the English classic children’s books – Alice in Wonderland, The Water Babies and many more – George Soper also enabled his personal passion to play a part in his artistic output by his magnificent portrayals of the working horse. His artist eye was in thrall to the power, beauty and achievement of this powerful animal which, together with the industry of all those handling the working horse, achieved so much in the agricultural and industrial development of our country, applicable in other countries also.
Before we began farming in earnest, and while I was still teaching school, we bought a house in a little country town on an acre and a quarter of land with a beautiful willow lined canal running through it. We put up a greenhouse and planted a big garden. Someone gave us a lamb in the spring of the year, and when he grew up and the time came to butcher him, my wife Liz said to me “You can’t kill that sweet thing.” I said “Okay,” after all he had looked up at me that morning with such innocent eyes, “but if we are not at peace eating an animal we know and have raised, how can we, in good conscience eat animals we know nothing about.” We decided that we needed to be in full accordance with all that eating meat entails, and so began our brief foray into vegetarianism.
The Marsden Hayrack was likely built in the early 20th century and was used in various forms until the mid-60’s. Sometimes called a “basket rack,” it wasn’t glamorous, so few pictures exist. One from 1953 shows it in the farm yard and it still had its original wood wheels and running gear. By the 1990’s little remained. I was able to bring to my shop the front axle, hounds, sand beam, tongue and one wheel. Fortunately, I was able to get all 4 sets of skeins and boxings for the wheels.
On March 1st of last year, I lost my best friend and hilarious sidekick, my joy, my precious mom, Betty Gilman. This issue features a few of my mother’s recipes that I grew up with. Mom was never a gourmet cook by any means, but her heart and soul was in loving and caring for her family. After meeting my Dad in college, she chose wife, homemaker, and mother over the accounting career she was pursuing at the time. Keeping a home and preparing a meal for her family was not only a necessity, but an expression of love.
Coming to more recent times, we might visit a pair of small farmers to whom we owe much. Luther Burbank (1849-1926) and George Washington Carver (1864-1943), were both known for their practical plant and crop innovations. Both have been viewed with skepticism by agricultural academics, dismissed as scientific amateurs since neither kept meticulous notes or conducted formal experiments. Both were too busy garnering practical results. Perhaps their backgrounds will suggest why.
All observing fruit-growers have seen trees which blossom full but do not set a fair amount of fruit; many have found their orchards unprofitable for this reason. It is a practical point to know the causes of this loss and the best way to prevent it.
Bill’s early life reads like a chapter from Studs Terkel. Born in Sacramento, by the time he was a young teenager he was on the road following the migrant farm labor camps. Picking fruit, digging irrigation canals, any work he could find to stay alive in the Depression Era West.
When Clovis Gold passed away not quite two years ago at the age of 93, he was perhaps the last of a vanished ilk: the tomato growers of Union City and Hurley, Missouri. For half a century this industry was a mainstay of these communities in addition to many other towns. Although some Ozark settlers in antebellum times believed that tomatoes were poison, this notion was about gone by 1870. Perhaps the privations of the war, and the lawless days of Reconstruction, made people desperate enough to eat those “ornamental” fruits… and find them delicious!
Rostrevor is where ‘The Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea’ and we here on the shores of Carlingford Lough had an abundance of wrack. Storms wash huge banks of seaweed up on the shore. In the past this was a valuable source of fertilizer for the land and when the wrack ‘was in’ entire townlands transported it up the valley with horses and carts. We used wrack in the alleys of drills when planting potatoes and we spread it on lea fields to give a flush of spring grass. It was noted that grazing cattle preferred the seaweed–treated sections to those heartened with farmyard manure. Perhaps it was the trace of salt that attracted the stock.
Working the land was one thing, but this arrangement was something else entirely. Trusting his nephew to care for this land and keep it in the family as it had been for a century — and grounding his faith in Daddy’s hard work and affection for this place — Uncle William set a transition in motion. It wouldn’t be a gift. Daddy would have to buy the farm, and he and Mama would need to take out a serious loan to do it. But they’d work out these details later. Another matter needed to be settled first.
After a year old, a seven hundred pound (each) steer pair can be worked slowly up to an eight hundred pound stone boat load. Remember, if you want them to pull heavy loads, or work long hours, they must be slowly brought up to speed. You are training an athlete and must work up to the heavier loads, and always start out a training session with a lighter load and “warm-up” your athlete. No runner in high school ever started out running the four-minute mile, it takes years to work up to their maximum performance.