Originally Posted on September 28, 2013
“Organic farming appealed to me because it involved searching for and discovering nature's pathways, as opposed to the formulaic approach of chemical farming. The appeal of organic farming is boundless; this mountain has no top, this river has no end.” —Eliot Coleman
Autumn is officially here, and we are experiencing cooler weather, shorter days, and we even had a pretty good rain to wash away the built-up dust of summer.
Olive season is upon us, and if you've ever wanted to cure your own olives now is a good time to try it. Last year Carla cured a batch of olives and they turned out quite well. She picked the olives when some were turning dark ripe and some were still green. They can be picked totally green for firmer finished olives. She used the water cured method, following the directions in the UC Davis olive processing pamphlet.
This involved slicing each olive on two sides, then soaking the olives in water, changing it each day, for ten days. Once the fruit has been de-bittered, they'll need to be brined for about a month before they are ready to eat. Carla used a finish brine of sea salt and red wine vinegar, topped with olive oil. They sat in a dark pantry for 30 days before she tasted them, and they were delicious. They were much better than anything she'd purchased from a store, and she loves to eat olives. The process was not difficult, just a little time consuming, but well worth it.
The trial garden at the tool company is still producing abundant tomato, pepper, eggplant and chard harvests. David attended the Heirloom festival in Santa Rosa and while he was there he picked up some garlic seed from Gypsy Farm. David selected Bangkok (a hardneck type) and Kettle River Giant (a softneck type).
Prepping our soil for planting the garlic, in the trial garden at Valley Oak Tool Company, will involve using the Valley Oak Broadfork to open the soil to a 12" depth. This will help the garlic roots penetrate the soil and will promote healthy root growth. After we broadfork the beds we'll use the Valley Oak wheel hoe with a Three-Tine or Four-Tine cultivator attachment to work the top five inches of the soil. This will make the next step (furrowing) easier.
We'll use the furrower attachment to make the planting row. Garlic should be planted about 2" below the soil surface, and 6"–8" apart. We'll cover the the garlic seed by taking soil from both sides of the row. The furrower will leave a nice mound on each side of the planting row. The broadfork and wheel hoe are great tools for preparing the garden for planting garlic (and other crops).
Pomegranate season is also approaching. The red globes hang from their branches like such beautiful ornaments. In the spirit of putting up bounty, we thought we'd share how to open pomegranates to make removal of the arils easy. Once the arils are out, they can be eaten out of hand, sprinkled on salad, or made into juice, jelly, or grenadine.
Using a sharp knife, cut off the flower end of the pomegranate. Make a shallow cut through the skin of the pomegranate, all the way around, from flower end to the stem end and back. Make another cut, creating quarters of pomegranate. Then you'll have easy access to the interior. You can peel off the thin membrane, and loosen the arils into a dish. It doesn't take very much time to free the arils from the interior of the pomegranate, and you can be on the way to making jelly or just enjoying them fresh.
Storing Dry Leaves
We find it useful to have a few bags of dry leaves around, long past the time most of the fallen leaves have been washed into the soil by the winter rains. Dry leaves are of great use for mulching trees and shrubs. We also like to have some on hand to add to the compost pile when we add wet kitchen scraps and the like. On a good autumn day, when the leaves are crispy but not wet, rake some leaves and store them in bags in a dry place. We keep them in empty, paper chicken feed bags, and keep them under our covered patio until we need a handful or a bagful.
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden - The classic account of Hidatsa American Indian gardening techniques by Gilbert L. Wilson
Wilson recorded the gardening techniques of Buffalo Bird Woman, a member of the Hidatsa Plains Tribe in the mid to late 1800s. The staple foods, grown by the tribe, were sunflowers, corn, squash, and beans. Garden preparation and growing techniques of each crop are described in detail, along with cultural practices of the tribe. It is a fascinating book, shedding light on the ways in which a people lived, gardened, harvested, stored food, and cooked. Photographs and drawings of homes, threshing areas, storage pits, and planting diagrams are shown. A great read for anyone interested in gardening without mechanization.
Until next time, we hope you enjoy the beginning of autumn.