Well that was a long break for tea. In between August and now 20 blog entries have been written in my head and then discarded when other things came up. This morning, after trying to shift a 300kg round of hay and ripping my left calf in the process (such a clean pop of a sound!) I am forced inside and can get some words down. The jobs of today – the push mowing of an acre of lawn, the hoeing of a broad bean patch, some fencing – will be left undone.
When you’re benched, it becomes blindingly apparent that human resource is pretty much the most important element of rural living. Having lived in rather pronounced rusticity since moving to Yandoit Hills two and a half years ago I’ve come to a couple of conclusions: that being here is not a one-person job and that being able-bodied is an absolute necessity.
Happily, Mother Judy lives at Yandoit Creek Farm with me. She went away for three months over summer and my jobs tripled and the summer vegetable crop pretty much failed. (Although we’re still picking tomatoes and basil in late autumn so maybe it wasn’t a complete flop. Or maybe that says something about the weird warm temperatures we’re experiencing.) Mother Judy is back now and living down the end of the dairy where Brie once was; she moves at a pace from dawn ’til drop and radiates a contented retiree glow.
Given the unceasing roster of everyday, have-to-do jobs on even one of the 21 hectares, you want something to show for your efforts – something to elevate the whole experiment beyond mere maintenance. The land is there and so are you, physically fit (!) and mentally curious. There are arable patches here and there and you want to get some food from them. You’d like to leave the land better than you found it. Well the regeneration is a whole other (unbegun) chapter, but I have a plan for the juicy creek flats this year and that plan is garlic. And I’m not doing it alone.
Last year my good friend Karen and I tested out a garlic bed in my home vegetable patch. Karen has always enjoyed digging up her rental lawn in gentrified urban neighbourhoods to plant vegetables and was after a) more space and b) a beefy project. We wanted to see how well the garlic went, and how we worked together.
Why garlic? So many reasons. In a climate with vicious summers and limited water, it makes sense to plant a winter crop. Garlic is in most things I like to eat, it sells for a decent price so costs might at least be covered, it stores well and most people I know can never get enough of the local stuff. If we can avoid white rot and nematode infestation with vigilance, good bed rotation and luck, we might have a chance at a healthy annual crop.
So in an effort to build up some seed stock for our 2014 crop, Karen did the research on varieties and we planted a few types last year. It looked like this:
We were nicely surprised at the harvest. And 450 beautiful bulbs of garlic later we decided we definitely wanted to do it all again this year and a lot bigger. So we ate some, used some of it as country currency to get jobs done and favours granted (like storing it all in Gerhard’s excellent cellar) but saved most to put in the ground. Which we did this week, and that’s next.