Having spent much of late July and most of August harvesting, curing and cleaning garlic, I am happy to report that the 2016 garlic crop is now ready and available for sale!


German Red Hardneck garlic

I raise three different varieties: German Red, Russian and Inchelium Red garlic.  The German Red and the Russian are both hard necked rocambole varieties (A. sativum var. ophioscorodon) and the Inchelium Red is a soft necked artichoke variety (A. sativum var. sativum).  The German Red is the variety I raise in the largest quantities.  The Inchelium Red is the only softneck and I generally braid some of it.

German Red Hardneck Garlic

German Red Hardneck Garlic

Inchelium Red Softneck Garlic

Inchelium Red Softneck Garlic

My garlic is planted in mid October, mulched heavily with dried leaves and wood shavings and left for the winter.   It begins to emerge just as the soil begins to warm in the spring at about the same time as the crocuses.  The hard necked varieties develop a scape or flower stalk which I remove when they have developed sufficiently to create a loop – if I snap them off any sooner, the scape will often continue to grow and I would rather have that energy go into bulb development.  The scapes are edible.  I use them similarly to green onions.  They are great in soups and sautés.  We are quite distant from major population centers, so it has been difficult to develop a market for the large number of scapes that are produced here, but in some places scapes are highly sought after.  Besides using them our own cooking, I have discovered that my sheep enjoy them as well.


German Red garlic

Weeding is critical and can have a major impact on the size of the bulbs, as can soil fertility.  I leave the mulch in place in the spring and this helps to reduce the amount of weeding required.

In mid to late summer depending on the growing conditions, the leaves of the garlic plants begin to die back, starting with the lowest leaves first.  When about 3 of the leaves have died back on each variety, I begin to dig a few bulbs to see if that variety is ready to harvest.  The soft necked garlic is always the first to be harvested.  I try to harvest when the soil is dry because this makes curing and cleaning much easier, but this isn’t always an option in our temperate climate.

I tie the garlic in bunches of about 20 bulbs or so and hang the bunches in our barn to cure for a couple weeks.  Then I bring the bunches back down and prepare them for sale.  The Inchelium Red is sorted by size and condition before the tops are trimmed in order to select the ones I will use for braiding.  The rest are trimmed (roots and tops) as soon as I bring down the bunches.


Garlic hanging to cure

Since reading GROWING GREAT GARLIC by Ron Engeland, I have been using a simple tool described in the book for sorting the garlic by size.


Simple tool for sorting garlic by size

It may seem ironic to put the very best quality garlic back into the ground, but by saving and planting the best garlic each year, I have continued to improve my crop year after year and have developed varieties that are perfectly suited to my growing conditions…and to receiving ribbons at the county fair🙂



Filed under Farm, gardening, Local Food

Thinking about Christmas in July


I started my 2015 Christmas cards on December 11th after getting a brainstorm to see how many I could knit.  Really, really not enough time!  (Apologies to those reading this who received a plain old paper card from me last year!!)  I highly recommend allowing yourself a bit more time, therefore I’m sharing this suggestion in July.

My favorite resource for inspiration in all things knitting (besides my fiber friends and family) is, so I went there to search for patterns and ideas and found many, many to choose from.


I already had blank cards and stamping supplies on hand, so I started a knitting frenzy and whipped out quite a few cards in a relatively short time.  One lesson I learned and that I’m reminded of while looking at this picture, is that newsprint is not a good choice for a work surface.  The print can easily rub off onto the finished card.  Better to work directly on a table that can be cleaned off or use a blank sheet of newsprint or kraft paper.

Another consideration is the thickness of the finished card and envelop.  These squeaked in under the maximum thickness allowed for standard postage rates in the US, but if I had used a bulky yarn or had applied felted ornaments on my trees, etc. they might have been too thick and required extra postage to mail.  Check with your postal service for current rules and regs.

Each knitted tree, etc. doubles as an ornament.  I secured a single crocheted loop at the top of each one and threaded the loop through a small slit in the card using a yarn needle.  The recipient was able to either keep the ornament attached to the card or pull it free and hang it on their tree.

These were really fun to knit up and were well received.  If you decide to create some yourself, I would love to see the results of your creativity.



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Filed under Family and friends, Fiber Arts, Seasons

Sheep Handling Facility

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  I’m so excited!  I mentioned in an earlier post that this was in the works and I finally got it completed and ran the sheep through it yesterday.

Here are some pictures and then I will describe what it is and how it works:

My sheep are not so tame that I can simply walk up to them and work with them.  I have to contain them in some way in order to give vaccinations, dose with wormers, weight them, check their body condition score, etc.

In the past, I hauled hog panels out to the pasture and created an enclosure where I worked with them.  This was time consuming, tough on my back and not very efficient.  As I mentioned in a blog post this March (Getting Organized…Hopefully…Yes!), I had the brainstorm to carve a small sheep handling area out of a corner of the barn.  I included some pictures of the construction in a May blog post (Update on Organizing).

I may someday invest in gates and chutes made specifically for the purpose, but for now, I’m happy to try out this low cost option and see how it works, tweak it if necessary and save a lot of time over my old method while also keeping my sheep much more comfortable and reducing their stress.

I used hog panels and lumber already on hand.  I did all of the construction myself, but also need to give my husband Chris a big thank-you for the custom channels he fabricated for me on the table saw and planer.  I cut hog panels to 24″ width and they lift and lower beautifully (guillotine like) in these channels to allow one sheep at a time to move forward toward the enclosure with the scale.

During the test run yesterday, I weighed each sheep, wormed her with garlic juice, checked her body condition (all except the yearlings are a little on the pudgy side) and checked her eyelids using the Famacha method to get a sense of parasite load.

The facility worked great!  It seemed to be intuitive for them.  They moved through with ease.  In the past, I have had trouble getting each sheep to step up onto the scale because the surface is different and they are concerned about their footing.  But, in this arrangement, they see that by moving forward, they are moving closer to exiting the chute and so they stepped up for their turn without any trepidation.

The chute is a bit wide.  18″ is recommended, but my scale is 20″ and the hog panels have verticals on 8″ centers, so I had to go with a 24″ wide gate.  Because the chute is a little too wide, the sheep were able to turn around and squeeze past one another.  But, I was able to easily advance one sheep at a time with the guillotine lift gates.  And, with repeated runs through the chute each time we “practice” with subsequent uses of the chute for shearing, vaccinating, etc. my flock will become more accustomed to it.

What a wonderful thing to have checked off my ‘get organized’ to do list!


Filed under Farm, Getting Organized, Livestock Handling, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Sheep

Summer is sooo beautiful


July 12, 2016 · 9:55 pm

Photos for research and record keeping

Back in 2012, I decided to take pictures once each month from 6 positions on our pasture as a record.  I was hoping to be able to document improvements in the pasture forage quality.  I think some of that is happening.  It has also been interesting to see how differently a pasture can look on the same day from one year to the next.

I have included May 1st and October 1st here, from one vantage point and through multiple years.  Both of those dates can be quite different depending on the amount of warmth, rain, snow, etc.

May 2012 illustrates the early and warm spring that we experienced that year.  May 2014 shows how long it took to recover from the ‘polar vortex’.  Rain was obviously plentiful in the early fall of 2014.


Filed under Farm, Natural world, Research, Seasons

Meeting with my Legislator

Back in mid March, I took a day away from the farm to join Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) in Madison for their Farm & Rural Lobby Day.  It was a great experience.  I carpooled with Linda and Cathy to Stevens Point and then we vanpooled with other WFU members from the central part of the state.  WFU scheduled meetings for us with our Senators and Representatives, in our case, Janet Bewley and Beth Meyers.  Policy staff at WFU had prepared really nice documents to share at these meetings on 4 priority topics: Supporting UWEX, Nonpartisan Redistricting, Rural Broadband and a Well Dispute Settlement Program proposal.  We also had the opportunity to bring up other topics of importance to us.  For Linda, Cathy and me, supporting UWEX was especially important and we each had examples of ways in which UWEX has been extremely valuable to us over the years.

We asked that our legislators let us know when they are in Price County so we could meet with them to continue the conversations.

Not long afterwards, I got a call from Beth Meyers’ staff person asking if she could come to tour my farm and learn about agriculture in Price County.  Of course I was thrilled to host her.  The day when Beth visited here, she also toured Linda and Gerry Ceylor’s Organic Valley dairy farm and had a listening session with a group of farmers in Catawba.

Just before Beth arrived here, a Channel 12 – Rhinelander van pulled in and Ben Meyer asked if he could tag along on the tour.  Turns out this meant with video camera in tow!  Good thing I didn’t have advance warning, I would have had time to get nervous.  Here is his take on my visit with Beth Meyers:


Filed under Farm, Local Food, Natural world, Policy, Sustainability

Update on Organizing

A number of you encouraged me to post photos to document my progress in getting organized.  I think this is a good way to keep me on task.  This can be the first installment.

First the office space:

All moved in.  I’ve got a punchlist of items to complete and I continue to chip away at it – going through remaining files, etc.

And the barn sheep handling space:

I got it ready to hold sheep just in time for shearing.  It currently is a sheep holding area and the punchlist for that space is to complete the sheep handling capability by adding a hog panel and gates to create a chute that we can move them through.

And here’s a project that hasn’t yet gotten rolling:

This is the garden path cleanup that I wrote about earlier.  North, East, West and South.  What a mess!  Very soon I’ll start.  Right now, I’m tilling garden beds and staying ahead of the dandelion blooms.

Happy gardening!




Filed under Farm, gardening, Getting Organized