Thursday, June 16, 2011

In Defense of Summer's Magic...

Summer vacation is upon us here in Southwest Virginia. Kids home 24/7...need I say more? The house is alive and wild, noisy and happy, bubbles being blown on the front porch and squirt guns squirting through screen windows...literally as I typed this my daughter just turned on the stereo and it was playing, "School's Out For Summer"...really loud, whereby I asked her to turn it off. Really off. Not that I don't like the music, just not when I'm writing. Of course, my son, coming out of his room every 5 minutes, where he's supposed to be cleaning, wearing 2 pair of underpants on his head, is not very helpful to my clear thoughts department anyway....ah, heck....where was I again? The kids are now in here playing checkers, so bare with me...

Where was I?! Summer energy! Vibrant and wild...so much going on...so many flowers in bloom, all competing for attention. Recently I expanded a circular garden out in front of my very village home, with just shy of an acre of land attached to it, most of which taken up by the house itself. Previously, the circle garden had some perennials in it I had dragged from my New York garden, where we moved from 3 years ago now. I had added a rose bush the first year we were here, that has produced a huge assortment of small, pretty bright pink non-smelly roses. Pretty, but unsatisfying and disappointing in the smell department. The blooms of the pink coneflower were a thrill, and the size of the tiny oregano plant which is now the size of a 5 foot shrub is amazing, yet the garden was still mostly boring.

We had discussed the idea of putting in raised beds in the back yard to house my herbs and tomatoes, but since the beds are supposed to tie in to the deck we have yet to build on the back of the house, I couldn't see spending the time making beds we would move again in a year. Therefore, the expansion of the circle out front was a no-brainer. So, enlarging of the circle began, digging into the concrete like solid dry clay surface *dirt* to get down into the wet red clay sub-*dirt*. Honest to Pete, in 3 years, I haven't seen a speck of REAL SOIL. Needless to say, my friends at Lowes must love me. Umpty bags of *soil* products and hours of soil amending later, the circle is twice its original size, I have a sunburned back and we have the fabulous Mohawk Victory Garden alive and well, housing a mass of herbs, new Mr. Lincoln roses which are THE BEST smelling roses ever-, my grape tomato plants now have a home in the soil, instead of sad little porch pots, and the entire arrangement has taken me one step closer to "living in the country" again :o)

Of course I couldn't just expand that garden. Nearby, the flower beds across the front of the house started looking pretty sad as well...so mid-project, I started digging those up too. Since I was in the dig-zone, I kept at it and dug everything that needed digging at the same time. Once I got my dig on, there was no point stopping. I don't think I have ever been that dirty before, not even back in mud pie making days....or when skiing down a mud slicked hill in the woods behind my childhood house with my earth shoe sneakers on, caked with 4 inches of mud...

Naturally, I needed more soil amendments...so off I went...and while shopping, found several new plants who wanted to come home with me. Okay. Let's define several. Several is the word I use when I don't want to say I filled the double decker cart full until there wasn't anymore room. Details, details. Some women buy shoes. I buy plants. Once a year. So there.

Enter the arrival of said new plants...all of which have since found their home, nestled in *new dirt*. They might actually grow now. A little behind the ball, as I always am, I tried to get bulbs to put in as well, so I could have some spring time blooms next year...daffodils, tulips, etc. Of course the few leftovers at the store were pretty much dried up and deadish, and even with the 50% off, I couldn't be tempted. I am all for rescuing a half dead plant, and will often shop the 75% off cart, finding something I can save, but I know defeat when I see it. Walk away from the dead bulbs, lady. OKay then. ...So, no bulbs went into my flower beds-for now anyway. Fall will find me doing the bulb thing, with fresh juicy healthy bulbs.

Of all the plants that came home with me, one plant made a huge impression. HIS name? Lancelot. He is "defender" variety of Purple/Blue Larkspur. In a word: AMAZING. Now, seriously, he didn't come with an actual personal name, but this plant deserved one. As soon as I came upon it in the store, there were no other plants for me. It was WOW factor, BLINGnooooo! I was determined to save him. I got out my plant tape/ribbon and gently bent him back into original position, tying him to a trellis taller then him, at various intervals so he might never have to face the "bends" again ;o) I am happy to report he is vibrantly healthy and happy again, full of new blossoms and blooming like a champion!....Now the dilemma: Now that Lancelot is anchored, he is still in his original pot from the store and will become pot bound. Oh dear! I am now considering somehow transplanting him to a larger pot, while still keeping him tethered to the trellis. That will take some maneuvering. He could have gone over to the Victory Garden location, but quite honestly, I wanted him in a position of prominence in the front porch area where he is close to where we sit and I can completely enjoy his presence as he defends our home :o) He is definitely a tribute to the magic of summertime.

And talk about summer time energy. Lancelot has it going on...and reminds me of all that is new and fresh and exciting. It's good to have reminders like that to prompt the brain, stimulate the senses, making us remember to slow down and take in simple beauty, before it slips away with the season. Similar to appreciating the summertime with the kids at home. No, I am not going to get much quality writing done, and I'll be lucky to even get to jump on the Thought Train successfully between now and back to school, but no matter. The kids are home NOW and it's time to PLAY. RIGHT NOW, is happening--summer energies vibrating big and bold and colorful with youthful fun, with the laughter of children and flowers. It's a beautiful place, this planet we live in, be it in the country, village, or city. Butterflies flitting about wherever you go reminding us of all the transformation going on in front of us, if we stop to see it. Little winged messengers there to shout, "HEY! Don't forget to stop and smell the roses!"

Even the not so smelly ones in village gardens. ;o)

BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED :o)

cheers!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Hard and Soft (neck) Of It All...

Warmer weather arrived for a brief visit over the weekend. Warm enough to drag the plastic laundry baskets of thousands of left over garlic that didn't make it into the garlic field this past fall, out to the front porch for a breath of fresh air and a sorting out.

With the baskets full sitting in the room just of the kitchen and constantly smelling garlic 24/7 makes it difficult not to *think garlic*, want to eat garlic, cook with garlic, etc. Garlic is a tricky little messenger that way ;o)--as in, "Hellllooooo....it's not too early in the day to have some of me....."

I mean, really. It's lunch time somewhere, even if it is only 9:23 a.m. and I'm consuming roasted garlic/potato/cheddar/bacon/corn chowder. (When they come out with a savory garlic breakfast cereal, I am all in. Hmmm...I think they call that *chex mix*, and when taken with orange juice, at breakfast, makes for a dandy start to the day ;o))

Anywho...while it's a shame when time doesn't allow for all garlic cloves to be planted, on the plus side, with so much garlic at our finger tips next to the kitchen, we ate far more garlic than usual this winter. I would like to think that is why I escaped most of the kid germs floating about the house the entire winter. A miracle! Containing vitamin C, it helps boost our immunity naturally, fights off high blood pressure and reduces fat cell production! Gotta love that. Chopping the garlic and letting it sit ahead of cooking time increases its health benefits, *activating* all the good juju in it. Try chopping a bunch ahead of time and placing in an airtight container in the fridge, removing to room temp when you need it, which makes cooking prep time much faster. Hard or soft neck, it's all good.

Out on the porch for the sorting event, it was the garlic squeeze-fest, seeing which varieties made it through the winter and which didn't.  Most of the Music and German Red hard necks were quite dried out, or spongy, with green shoots peeking out the tops and tiny root toes sticking out the bottom. They were fully aware it was time to go in the ground for spring planting. But, since we are fall planters, the ones unsuitable for cooking went to the recycle bin, after a good squeeze (garlic hug) to check to see if they were still fresh enough for use, prior to their toss.Some of the soft neck varieties like Red Toch were fresh and hard as rocks still, good for almost a year for shelf life. These tasty morsels will get us through to harvest time in June when the fresh garlic will be plentiful again.

Several thousand garlic squeezes later, my hands and arms were in a bit of distress. Embarrassed to say that here it is 4 days later, and I till feel like I was in a boxing ring or did some kind of push-ups marathon. My muscles tell me that this fall, when we plant, to make sure we get in the ground all the garlic we need to ahead of time!

Not that I don't like sharing my house with the garlic gang, or giving them all squeezes, but...the moral of the story is that it's good to plant both hard and soft neck garlic in your garlic patch, to have the variety of flavors, but to also have the longer shelf life that soft neck garlic offers, once the hard neck has done its thing.

Once you grow your own garlic and run out of fresh, and are forced back to the grocery store to use the typically tasteless, imported, expensive garlic they have available, (UGH!) brings a big wake-up call, as in Hello! you need to either grow more garlic, so there's more to eat over the winter, or you need to grow hard and soft neck to get you through to the new harvest.

Well, it's lunch time somewhere, and speaking of roasted garlic....it tastes really good squozed out on crackers....

ATTENTION COLD GERMS!!--

 FEAR ME!!

Cheers from the garlic patch...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Green Garlic Therapy In Captivity...

So much for the daily blogging concept. It was good in theory. I was compelled to play by the rules. But, life happens. Also known as weekends home with children. :o)  

Some warm weather did finally appear, which sent us running for the outdoors. Rake in hand, ready for a full session of grass maintenance therapy, I went at it like a beaver building a dam in a lumber yard. After umpty hours of said ground grooming, blisters on hands and stiffness in parts and pieces I have not felt in a year since the last free for all yard fest, I had had enough. All that fresh air and sunshine later caused repetitive eyelid closures at an embarrassingly early hour of the evening. I think I went to bed after my kids. I can't be sure.

Anywho, winter air has returned. It's cold and I am frozen once again. Fighting off last week's fresh batch of kid germs, trying not to succumb to a "spring time" cold, suffering from fuzzy brain. Seriously considering making a GARLIC necklace to wear to ward off illness... 

Currently in my mud room there are several thousand garlic to choose from for making a spiffy garlicious necklace all vampires would be leary of. Those little stinking roses that did not make it into the ground, that now give their deliciousness willingly to my overly saturated garlic meals every night. More is better!

... Life happened back in the fall and we had to choose between finding time to put all or most garlic into earth, or fix 10 leaks in new roof and new ceilings of our humble abode. Hmmm.....perhaps it was the fact that we had no more buckets and every single one of my mixing bowls was now doing double duty...perhaps it was the cats playing around in the mixing bowls, as if they were fish ponds...perhaps it was the soggy wet curtains hanging from the bedroom window....in any event, we chose to spend a month fixing every stinking little hole in the house. Literally starting at one corner of the house and moving all the way around, riding in a cherry picker, toolbelts strapped on, one month later, we were buttoned up. 9 holes fixed successfully out of 10 were outstanding results I think. The 10th hole--the dreaded never ending indoor shower in the middle of our mudroom hole is a badge of honor now. It reminds us where we started when we took on this monstrous labor of (insanity) love renovation and how doing the work ourselves the right way, the first time, is definitely key to coming through a renovation with your mental faculties in tact. Well, the jury is still out on that, but...

Here, in southwest Virginia, as spring competes with winter on a daily basis, the robins have returned, the grass is beginning to green a teeny bit, and the garlic is just starting to peek through the soil. Early to mid June we hopefully will be blessed with harvesting about 16,000 new garlic of 21 varieties, if the new varieties introduced last fall faired well. While at the Saugerties Garlic Fest in New York, we picked up about 10 new varieties to add to our selection. Overall, the weather here through the winter was quite favorable concerning the garlic, so we should have a decent yield. Hopefully the fall of 2012 will find Country Girl Garlic being planted minutes from the house instead of 2.5 hours away. Search for land we will, and hopefully we will find a little slice of heaven to get us out of Dodge, and playing in the dirt a little closer to home.

Speaking of Dodge...living in "captivity", here "IN TOWN", is something of an acquired taste, for this country girl. After 2 years, 2 months and 2 days, I can't say I have actually acquired a taste for it. But like any food you are served, you make the best of it. Add salt, pepper, GARLIC...whatever it takes to make the meal more pallatable. 16,000 garlic on my front porch did make it a bit more pungent, but I still have a hankering for the wide open green and the big sky country. Looking out any window and seeing neighbors and homes in such close proximity makes me a bit claustrophobic.

Living in captivity means adjusting to many things. It has opened my eyes wide open to the things I took for granted when I did live out in the country. Such freedoms exist out in the wide open that just can't even be approached in a town setting. The lure of sidewalks and pavement for bike rides, the close proximity to grocery stores and take out food for lazy nights, and the concept of neighborly cookouts and kids having other kids to play with all pale in comparison to peace, quiet, tranquilty, bird songs, trees and woods, visible wildlife, enough room to run and shout, bang a drum, or sing out loud, stargazing and the most amazing views of those most magical things called sunrise and sunsets, and how being able to see them gives you that sense of rebirth every morning and appreciation every evening, before you rest your head.

The magical part of country living is how much it lets your spirit be in connection with what is real. There is an awareness of seasons passing, of daylight moving, of nature speaking to us in the quietude that does not exist in a car filled, always moving, noisy village. In the country you can hear yourself think, there are no huge distractions. A loud bluejay is a welcome friend gifting a song message to you that you welcome without knitted eyebrows. The convening with nature is blissful, even when it comes in the form of pigs to herd out of your garden with a broom and a fly swatter, horses to stop rolling on their backs in your garlic patch, or hungry cows to get out of your corn. Nature's way to teach us is so much more quiet and subtle than here in the big city.

I continue to look at the huge important lessons I have learned over the last 2+ years living in town and can completely recognize the need to have this town living experience for all the growth oportunities it has provided to us. We have new appreciations we did not have previously, greater tolerance for differences, greater love as a family unit, greater patience to mankind. All good stuff.

Growing garlic out of town for this currently in town family is green therapy. It keep us real. It keeps us connected to the land and the earth, when we feel so far away from it all. It's the seeds of our future, our dreams, our goals. It's what carries us through and gives us strength to keep on keeping on, when we can reflect upon how hard we have worked to keep it all going and how easy it would have been to let it all go. Garlic shows us what we are made of, the depth of character we receive from playing in the dirt. It keeps us dreaming of days running barefoot through tall grasses, chasing butterflies, catching lightning bugs and watching sunrise and sunsets together, dogs and cats running free, kids playing outside til the last of twilight, going to bed with green feet and happy faces.

Garlic is our family vehicle.

I look forward to the day we ride it out of town!


                                                                                                     .....Bloom where you are planted...

Blessings,
Country Girl Garlic

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hidden Gifts in the Garlic Patch...

Stardate: Friday, 18, February...

So I laid in bed last night, not falling asleep, listening to my bunkie snore.

Naturally, I began thinking about the obvious thing: chickens.

I thought about how I wish I had a few running around the back yard so I could go out and pick fresh eggs in the mornings for the famous House Special Breakfast known in these parts by anyone who has ever lodged here at Big Diamond Motor Lodge and Garlic Boutique. In between thinking about how to keep the chickens from getting eaten by all the local stray cats that hang out on my front porch, I was chewing on what to blog about today. Oh, the pressure. ;o) Not really, but having never been at a loss for thoughts, it is quite a competition about what gets released from the brain archives.

Speaking of cats, glancing out my window just now, I see it is breakfast time for flea infested strays, Itchy and Scratchy, more commonly referred to as No Tail Kitty and Baby Kitty, by the resident cat lovers here. They are a father/daughter pair of cats that have adopted us for our kitty kibble buffet, left out daily for their enjoyment. Quite often shared with the raccoon family and the occasional opossum, they all manage pretty well to navigate the food and water. I must admit I am not pleased when the raccoons wash their feet in the water bowls, but you can't blame them for wanting hygienic conditions.

And so, chickens! I had chickens when I was a kid and loved them. I remember going in the chicken coop when I was little, smelling the sweet hay and hearing the little humming clucks of the 7 chickens that lived there. It was magical to me then-amazing egg laying machines. Leaving little egg presents for us made every day like Easter morning. I remember thinking it was even better than playing Huckle Buckle Beanstalk, because I could never find what my siblings hid, but when I looked for eggs, I was always a winner!.... (Go ahead and google Huckle Buckle if you have no clue what I am talking about!) There weren't many games I won at, since I was the youngest. It felt good to go in there every day and come out with a basket full of fresh eggs.

So thinking about it last night, here it is a *few* years later, and I still want to get chickens. I have a book upstairs packed away about how to raise and keep them. A great glossy picture filled book of poultry know how. I was very close to getting some winged critters prior to our southern relocation. In the back of my mind, when the renovation is complete, there may very well be a petite flock in our backyard. Act surprised. Of course, we will name them after garlic varieties.

In between snores, I began thinking, if I get chickens, and was having great success with them, what if I began the Great Chicken Initiative? What if I went door to door on my street and spread the word about chickens and fresh eggs and more people decided to have chickens in their back yards. They would tell more people and so on...next thing you know, people are investing in slow healthy real food, becoming more mindful about what goes into their bodies, sharing recipes, a community of chicken lovers is born, (and I'm not talking about those fried chicken fans), neighbors begin talking, people begin to share eggs with their neighbors who don't have chickens, the number of bugs in the area (MOSQUITOES) decreases, as those little peckers love to eat bugs....there could be an actual sense of COMMUNITY....all because of a little egg....All good, All good...

Eventually I ran out of thoughts on The Great Chicken Initiative, because by then, I was getting hungry. Naturally, I began obsessing about breakfast foods and bacon and once you think about bacon, let's face it, there's no getting away from that. Finally, I side barred over to using eggs to make quiches for dinner...ignoring the rumblings from my stomach, which was not far off from the decibel levels of the snoring going on. I started inventing a new quiche recipe in my head, full of garlic and bacon, cheese and herbs....sleep finally came...

Thank goodness, you say.

I heard that.

By the way, in my dreams, I am not quite sure why Madonna was dressed like a space alien in a cardboard box covered with tin foil, while putting on a bb gun show for children and needing me to find as many pennies as I could for her to shoot.

Hmmm. Just another normal night in dream land.

And speaking of garlic....Can't say enough about the deeeelights of roasted garlic and how it creates this incredible layer of flavor to any dish it goes into. After peeling most of the outer skin off and lopping straight across the top of the garlic bulb, using the biggie gigantor butcher knife, opening the tips of the cloves up, set upright inside foil, drizzle a good amount of olive oil down inside all the crevices, wrap foil closed tightly, place in over proof dish and bake in oven 350 degrees for 45 to 1 hour. If they are soft to the squeeze when you take them out, they're done. It will smell like heaven in your kitchen. Whoopy!

SO now, you have roasted garlic, so you might as well take a 9inch pie plate, crisco the dish and add diced onions-1/8 cup-ish, as much roasted garlic as you want-squoze out tons-do not eat the outer peels! Crumble up 1/2 pound of bacon, (eat other half pound while preparing dish) and add a heaping heaping cup of sharp cheese. Add some feta with that, if you have it. Decide if you want broccoli in there or not-fresh or frozen. Mix together 1 1/2 cuppa milk, 1/2 cuppa Bisquick, 2TBSP olive oil (or bacon *juice*!), and 4 eggs. Add some parm cheese into the mix, along with herbage-s&p, definitely some oregano, and sure, some powered garlic-why not? Pour mixture over dish contents, and cook at least 55 minutes at 350. Use knife test to check if done. Take out of oven and let sit at least 5 minutes before cutting. Needs to cool a bit before eating, as the flavor comes out better when it is not eaten hot. The nest day, cold from the fridge? Oh man, there'll be a fight over who gets it for lunch. I usually top my quiche with thin slices of tomato, but not if I added broccoli. If I don't have bacon, I sub in any kind of sausage-precooked and crumbled or cut up in slices and layered in bottom of dish. Laying slices of pepperoni on top with the tomatoes and tossing in a bunch of basil and additional parm cheese on top makes for a pizza flavored deeeeeelight.

Wow. Is it lunch time yet?

That yogurt is not going to do it for me today.

Well, that's all from the cheap seats....

I think it's interesting how little chickie eggs are like ideas, that can birth bigger thought forms, having the potential to impact globally, positively...creating community. After all, here, we have come together today over the (writing/reading) magic about an egg. What if everyone started each morning with a new egg? Giving it a little crack to peek inside to reveal what the day's positive thought might be, to see what inspiration popped out, planting a seed to begin a search for knowledge in a new direction, new growth...new possibilities every day, when we decide consciously that we can reinvent ourselves any moment we choose. All because of a little egg.

I wonder... what's in your egg today, and more importantly, how are you going to find your egg?

Feel free to look around the garlic patch...

Aloha,
Country Girl Garlic Co.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And With Her Came The Wind.........

Well, after hyperventilating about doing a blog, the better part of this morning, (and not my first go at thinking about it, mind you) it would seem that I have done it. I actually got off the pot, so to speak. Enough of that hemming and hawwing sh*t. My pulse has settled down. Somewhat. I did just make my second cuppa tea, as if that will calm me down. Is that my heart pounding? Noooooo.....

I feel like a little crab that has spent the last umpty years peeking out from under the rock and looking at all the cool things in the world. I admit to being tired of looking. I actually told someone this morning I am so bored with ME. How many times can you lift up the rock anyway? Sure, my biceps look great, but let's face it. I am not getting any -*cringe*- younger. What am I waiting for? What does anyone wait for? A personal invitation? A winning ticket? With all the stars in the sky aligned, then maybe? I just know that I don't want to be 80 and thinking about the same thing...should I blog?? Because by then, I am bound to have all that dangling arm skin going on and I would hate to pinch it in the rock when I shut it down over me in between peeks.

SO NO MORE PEEKING! Dammit....okay. the second ( or third) tea is setting in. Typing will be speeding up and typo demons will be running about misspelling everything. No worries. Dictionaries at the ready. Wow. As if that doesn't date me.

I stood in my kitchen this morning. Ice cold hands. Sweating armpits. Yah. That's pretty. I stood there thinking, going back and forth in my head, should I, shouldn't I?...I thought about a post I read earlier today at an astrology site-it asked, "what did you want to do when you were a kid?" Well, that's easy. I wanted to write.... I instantly flashed to remembering walking to school by myself, in my way cool electric hot pink bell bottom pants, one rainy morning. The road was covered in puddles, a slight mist whipping about in the blowing wind that was lurching my gigantic ugly maroon and green patterned umbrella with the curled handle I was so embarrassed to carry. But since looking like a wet dog upon arrival to school was even more embarrassing, I became one with the challenged umbrella. I stepped around puddles, careful not to get my blue and white platform wavy sole sneakers wet. My bright blue slicker was making my skin all clammy underneath. It was a warm spring morning, after a wild night of rain, and the sky was streaked with reds and pinks drizzled through the white clouds and dark blue sky in the distance over the houses on the little street I walked. I navigated my way down the street and was about to turn the corner, when I heard..."And with her came the winds".

Huh? Did I imagine that? Surely I had. But immediately, I knew that was supposed to be my first title of my first book. No ifs, ands, or buts. It was a soul level knowing at the ripe old age of 10, as a fifth grader. That idea never left me. And I have never forgotten how it came to me that day, on my way walking, jumping puddles, minding my own business.

Here I am now...more than a few years later...right on schedule for slow poke me. Hmm. I'm not sure. Maybe I should spend another 33 years thinking about if I should be a writer. LOL...now that's just funny.

I guess it's only fitting to name my first ever post in honor of that little seed planted so long ago.

*********

Well, I must warn you. I have a boatload of stuff stored in my writing backpack of epics, sagas, and everything in between. 

Believe it or not, this will all eventually have to do with garlic, the garlicious catalyst of life, love and adventure. I know you will wait on pins and needles.
Put on your safety glasses please.

Make another cuppa tea and chillax.

Take off your socks, (remove sock fuzzies), and be prepared to go virtually walking about, barefoot, through the fields of green and the tall pokey weeds, together, in this garlic patch, we call life.


Cheers!