A week (and some) in pictures

Our first (pink) watermelon. It's hard to know when they're ready, and melons left in the garden too long invariably get devoured by the hungry Chunky family.

Our first (pink) watermelon. It’s hard to know when they’re ready, and melons left in the garden too long invariably get devoured by the hungry Chunky family.

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round bars of soap! I used a pringles can for a mold, then just peeled the cardboard off.

round bars of soap! I used a pringles can for a mold, then just peeled the cardboard off.

The hardnecks are much less prone to rot in our climate, apparently

The hardnecks are much less prone to rot in our climate, so we’re taking another stab at dry storage.

Behold: The mid-summer potato harvest! We're putting in a fall crop in a week.

Behold: The mid-summer potato harvest! We’re putting in a fall crop in a week.

The cukes got a bit rambunctious and knocked down their trellis.

The cukes got a bit rambunctious and knocked down their trellis.

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Garlic, Corn, Cukes and a Poem

Bonus Points: I also froze a couple quarts of stock today. Stock is not photogenic.

Bonus Points: I also froze a couple quarts of stock today. Stock is not photogenic.

Today, I confirmed what I had long suspected: Arkansas is no place for garlic. We may be the only people in Lee County who grow it, which should have tipped us off. Several weeks back, we hung thirty heads or more to dry on the porch. It’s the only dark place with any air circulation that we could think of. Ideally, you hang your garlic someplace cool, dark and dry with plenty of air circulation, but we had to settle for just dark. Cool and dry don’t exist here in the summer. When I cut one head off of a bundle recently, about half of it smelled horrible and the skins had gone to brown slime. Most of the garlic inside was fine after a few rinses, but it was worrying. We were off on vacation a day or two after that, so I put it out of my mind.

After summer school today, I cut down three more heads and they were all as bad as that first one. I asked the oracle (internet) and it yielded a bounty of suggestions. We’ve decided to try a few different methods for putting up our garlic just to see what works for us.

  1. We packed half-pint jars and poured boiling vinegar over raw heads of garlic. These should keep for several months (one source said a year) in the refrigerator.
  2. We packed more half-pint jars and poured cold vinegar over raw heads of garlic. These should keep for slightly less time in the refrigerator, so we’ll eat them first.
  3. I vacuum-packed and froze the remaining garlic.

Word on the street is that frozen garlic tastes right but loses its texture. Garlic packed in vinegar is supposed to taste close to fresh garlic. We’ll see.

In addition to garlic, we’ve recently found ourselves swamped with cucumbers and corn.

The cukes seemed to fly out of our garden like missiles for a week or so there. We’ve already eaten some of the quick-pickles that Sean whipped up and stuck in the fridge before we went to NC and they are wonderfully crunchy. That crunch is something you just can’t get with canned pickles. I wish we’d made more. We canned seven quarts of dill pickles already, and if the cukes keep up the good work, we’ll put up plenty more before we’re done.

The corn came from a friend. M invited us over to pick some of her sweet corn a few nights ago and we couldn’t resist. We nearly filled the trunk! Her husband put in more than an acre and it’s just for their personal use and for giving away. I have never tasted sweet corn so sweet. We couldn’t resist biting into it in the field, and that first syrupy crunch gave us enough of a rush to keep us picking until we were fixin’ to drop. Pulling the ears from the stalks made a satisfying crunch, and it left my hands sticky and my neck itchy from where the tall leaves had brushed my skin. We shucked and blanched the corn on the cob, then cut it off into a bowl. I tried to vacuum seal several bags of it but the corn was too juicy! The machine couldn’t seal the bags because the vacuum would pull all the liquid up to the edge. I have been freezing the corn on trays prior to vacuum-sealing, which is working well. Putting it up is a lot of work and we bit off more than we could chew, so we gave away bags of the stuff today to the women we work with at school.

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Sunrise Run Poem

I saw a buck in velvet
still in the green puddle of his shadow
that shattered on the gravel

I never saw him move
only saw him hanging over a field of sorghum
like the moon hangs in the sky

Got any summer plans? No. But I’ve got a canoe.

Summer’s here and time is measured in drops of sweat and changes of damp clothes. Last night, the heat woke me from a sound sleep for the second time. It’s stifling when you can’t open the windows for fear of the blackflies.

It’s cool and bug free on the lake. and the moon has been enormous and golden, floating like a reflection in the sky full of glittering water beetle stars. In the evenings, we’ve seen the sun set twice over the water and it’s filled a part of me that I didn’t know was drained. We’ve explored some of the coves and creeks nearest to the boat dock by day; we’ve seen herons, turtles and a snake that slipped through the water silently. We’ve managed to cram four people into the canoe and not flip it, and to mostly avoid sunburn. I don’t have summer plans, but I do have a canoe, and I could pull a Huckleberry Finn from here.

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It’s only fifteen minutes from sitting on the couch to floating on the lake. Bonus points: the canoe has a built-in cooler.

A neighbor is delivering a round bale of old hay sometime this week and we’ll use that to mulch the garden. It’ll be a tremendous help for keeping the garden moist and minimizing hose-dragging. We had a soaking six inches of rain last week, but the summers here are not wet, and dragging a hose around in the heat is a torture I’d prefer to reserve for my enemies only, when possible.  We’ve managed to clear the weeds around the cucumbers (we’re getting several every day now) and in some of the aisles, but we have a long battle ahead of us. Little green tomatoes and winter squash are appearing on the vines, and we’re looking forward to blackberries in a few days. Cabbages and some garlic came in today, and carrots and turnips yesterday. We’re moving into the hot months where nothing new is planted and we just weed and harvest and try to keep the bugs and coons from eating everything we grow.

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We brought in our first batch of garlic today. Drying isn’t really a thing here, but we’re hoping for the best.

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I was taught to not pick up hitchhikers, but his pack looked so heavy and he seemed harmless. I gave him a ride from my cabbages all the way to the woods.

We’re heading up to Forrest City to watch a World Cup game at the Mexican restaurant this evening. If we’re lucky, we’ll pick up a few pullets in Wynne to keep poor Freckles company. In other livestock acquisition news, Sean is seriously scheming to buy a feeder pig and drag it to North Carolina for a luau in a few weeks. His Granny is turning 90 and we’re going to help celebrate. My partner is seriously nuts. Who does that?!