Garlic. Season. Has. Arrived.
Last week was the dirtiest week of farming to date. Starting Monday morning, we got up and, for hours, pulled garlic.
Pulling garlic goes something like this. Fill the truck up with lugs and drive out to the field. Start on a band with a pile of lugs to your name. Start to pull garlic. Do not break any stalks – if you do, you must use a garden fork to dig up the lost bulb so it doesn’t get left in the field to spring up next season. And garlic doesn’t want to leave the ground. You need to bend down (or really squat down if you don’t want to destroy your back) and yank the plant out with both hands.
You pull about seven to twelve at a time, and then brush off the dirt, pull of the weeds, and pile them vertically into a lug. The leaves of the plant need to shade the bulbs to prevent sun damage. You can also pull up a dozen, lay them on the ground, and then pull up another dozen and lay their leaves on top of the previous bulbs in a wind row.
Do this for a hundred lugs. Then for sixty more. And then repeat for hours , and then days, and then weeks. By the third day your wrists, legs and back may get sore. Suddenly sleeping eight hours isn’t quite enough. You skin and clothes smell like body odor laced with garlic. You walk into the morning meetings knowing that there will be five items on the list, and two are pulling and hanging garlic.
Hanging garlic is second part of this process. We drive all this garlic down to the tractor shed or the implement shed or the lower barn. Then we take the piles of garlic strings we sorted earlier this season and start to bunch the plants. Other folks stand on (or are just taller than me) and hang piles of garlic throughout the sheds. Places where tractors and farm equipment used to sit are now floor to ceiling with hanging garlic bunches. It’s like a jungle when you walk inside.
Keith grows Rocambole garlic, a hardneck garlic known throughout the city (or at least New York) for its quality. Keith has his own method of sizes the bulbs, which range from $2 a bulb to $1.25 a bulb based on size. Colossal, Super Jumbo, Jumbo and the rest. We pulled a ton of Colossal out of the field, and everyone is pretty stoked about it.
Garlic is fun and challenging and sweaty and smelly, but it’s totally satisfying. Suddenly I can pick up lugs and weight I could never lift before. Thursday was by far the filthiest day to date – garlic picking and hanging, water wheel transplanting with days old, rancid fish emulsion, Florida Weaving tomatoes (which stains your hands a thick, troll-green color), and then some Deer Stopper, which is rosemary and rotten eggs, essentially. Gross. But still, in a bizarre way, awesome.
But the payoff is totally worth it – at market on Saturday Matt, Matthew and I made bank, and Keith was quite pleased. So many people emerged thrilled to see our garlic – one man even called his wife from the stand in his elation. It’s such a cool thing to witness.
There will be lots more to tell soon – even after two days off, it’s still exhausting to think about. But next up is some updates on Wagner Farmstead, stories of squash and potatoes, and more about our farm.