Gather Ye Garlic Scapes, While Ye May.

Garlic growers, check your garlic to see if you have scapes yet!  Ours were ready to gather and we got quite the haul.

  If this is your first year growing garlic (and as such, collecting garlic scapes), you can find some recipes here:
  Snip those scapes, saute them up and thank me later.



Garden Fresh Dried Tomatoes

  If you garden, and your garden has tomatoes, you probably go through the same stages I do each summer.  The first stage is planting.  It’s been a long, cold winter of store-bought tomatoes and MAN what you wouldn’t give for a fresh, sun-ripened one…you plant far more tomato plants than you need.  The second stage is waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting…for what seems like an interminable amount of time while your plants flower and get itty bitty little tomatoes that eventually turn into bigger tomatoes and then seem to stay green forever.  The third stage, the golden stage, is when the first handful of tomatoes ripen.  Heaven, with a healthy dose of lycopene.  The third stage is quickly followed by the fourth…when tomatoes shoot out of your ears as they all get ripe at once and if you don’t know how to preserve them in jars, you don’t know what on earth you’re supposed to do with all of them.
  Here’s an option:
Here’s what you need:
Fresh tomatoes (roma sized is recommended, but make sure they’re all one size*)
olive oil
herbs of choice (optional)
*we had both romas and pear tomatoes on the same sheet
 the smaller ones started to burn before the others were finished.
  Clean your tomatoes and then slice them in half, lengthwise.  Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil to coat before placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  If you want to season your tomatoes, sprinkle your herbs on top of them.  Turn your oven to the lowest heat setting and allow your tomatoes to cook for between 8 and 12 hours.  Basically, the time is going to be determined by the size of your tomatoes and the heat of your lowest setting.  You want your tomatoes to be cooked enough that they don’t ooze juice when you squish them, but not so dry that they’re crunchy.
  We did this with a big bag of tomatoes and I’ve been keeping them in the fridge and snacking on them.  They (obviously) take up far less fridge real estate this way, have a more intense flavor, and make it far easier to down 4 tomatoes in a sitting.
  The tomatoes are still coming in, so we’ll see how many more batches we make, but this is definitely a handy trick for extending their shelf life when you know there’s no way you’re getting through the harvest you hauled in before it starts to rot if you leave them fresh.

Back to the Great Outdoors

  No craft post this week.  The weather has finally warmed up around here so I’ve been enjoying getting outside with the boys, cleaning up our patio furniture, picking up fallen branches and sweeping off the porches.  Instead of leaving you entirely post-less I thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve taken while we’ve been running around the yard.

For whatever reason, our yard is kind of lumpy.  While he’s never been bothered by it before, G has been all over me to “fill in these holes” this spring.  I think he’s annoyed they work like speedbumps.
  Good eyes if you recognized the bucket hat I made him back in March.
  All over the yard winter browns and greys are giving way to bright, bright green.
  This is one place I’d hoped to not see green.  Our mint had gotten entirely out of control and developed a funky taste to it, so I tried to rip it out last year.  Experienced gardeners, I can hear you laughing from here.  This stuff will not die.
  I’m not unhappy about most of our herbs coming back though.  As you can see, we’ve already started using our chives!
  Most of the flowers are still just starting to push up through the ground, but not all of them.
  God bless your delusional little heart if you think anything short of nuclear war is gonna stop the dandelions from taking over the yard at the first sign of warm weather.
  Aren’t these little darlings gorgeous?  Too bad they’re growing through a crack in our driveway!
  This tree completely exploded on me.  It was nothing but buds one morning and was a riot of white flowers by that night.  5 days later it’s down to this comparatively sparse spattering of pink flowers and an ocean of petals underneath it.
  I don’t know what it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out I’m allergic to it.  My allergies have gone bonkers in the last few days…about the same time frame it has been flowering like crazy.
  …this one though…he’s not impressed.  Flower all you want plants, he’s going back to sleep.

Warning: This post advocates violence (against bugs)-Growing your own garlic

  So if you were paying attention last week, you saw this “mystery garden“.

If you’re really paying attention you’ll notice I’ve changed the shape
  Well, it’s time to get back to the garden and start planting, despite the fact it’s going to start getting bitter, bitter cold soon.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re going to be planting these bad boys.
Extra special thanks to my mom for supplying the bulbs
  We take our garlic seriously.  Like, really seriously.  As in, if a recipe calls for garlic, we double it on spec.  As in, this entire garden is going in specifically because the two gardens we’ve previously been using to fit garlic in around other plants haven’t been coming close to supplying enough garlic to make it through the winter, let alone enough to give us extra to plant.  We want bushel baskets full of garlic.  This extra garden is a step in that direction.
“I’ve got the basket Mom, is it ready yet?”
  First things first, I bumped the garden out a little further.  The Mr. mentioned to me that it’s a lot easier for him to mow a garden bed with curved edges than one with corners, so I thought I’d save us both some headache and round off the side.  I got some help.
Toddler help is cute, but less effective than could be hoped for.
  Pulling the grass up from your to-be garden is a great time to break the dirt up and prepare it for planting.  Bonus points if you find a bunch of these nasty little monsters and throw them on the roof of a decrepit old building like I did.  Or onto the driveway…or anywhere else that they’ll fry or be eaten by birds.  …no comfort or aid to the enemy people.
This is what you get Japanese beetles…show you to eat my roses.
  Once your plot is prepped, it’s time to break out the measuring tape and whatever level of OCD you can muster.  Each garlic plant is supposed to be 6″ from all other plants.  I also wanted my plants a foot from each edge to avoid run ins with the aforementioned lawn mower.  I measured in a foot from the edge and a foot from the building (as much as it’s falling down, who knows how far it’ll shift onto my garden this winter…) and plunked in my first toothpick.  Measured 6″, another toothpick.  6″, toothpick, 6″, toothpick.
Dear God, do NOT do it this way
  I’m going to say right now, do NOT do your measuring this way.  Just don’t.  I got bored so fast…I wound up putting in the toothpicks for the entire back row and a single row going up the length (so a “L” shape) and then just moving them as I planted.  That wasn’t really a good way to do it either though.  I’d suggest putting some skewers in the ground at your measurements and tying strings between them to make yourself a grid.  However you do it, once you have your plot marked out, it’s time to prep your garlic.
  Break your bulbs into individual cloves.  Do NOT remove the paper that comes off around the cloves, the clove needs that to protect it from nasty monsters like the one above (you probably didn’t throw ALL of them to the birds).  They should look like this:
  In each of your marked off spaces, dig down 3″.  I find the easiest way for me is to push my dandelion root removing tool into the ground and make circles with the handle until a small hole opens up in the dirt.  You could do the same thing with a screwdriver, or a stick.  
Typically I wing it on the depth measurement, but for you I’ll use the ruler
  Make sure when you’re planting the cloves that they’re going in the right way!!
Honestly, you should be ashamed of yourself.
  Cover them up and mulch like crazy so your lawn doesn’t grow right back over the spot.
  A few notes:
  Make sure you garlic that is hardy for your area.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a relative or neighbor who is already growing garlic, you can find it online from sources like this one.
  In Michigan, the best time to plant garlic is the week around the 10th of October.  Some people say that if you can plant it the night of a full moon, that’s best, but I wasn’t waiting til Tuesday night.
  Garlic needs full sun and not a lot of water.  DO NOT water your garlic or otherwise coddle it.  It will make it weak and bland tasting.  If you want something that tastes like a potato, you should grow potatoes.  Struggling makes your garlic delicious.
  Each bulb of garlic contains about 8 cloves.  Plan your space accordingly.
  Once your garlic is in the ground for the fall you can forget about it til spring!  It won’t need any help from you til probably late May or early June (and I’ll tell you more about that then!)
  As always, I’m happy to answer any questions.  …is anybody else craving garlic bread now?