We’ve been inspired over the years by many different approaches — biointensive, permaculture, biodynamic — and we’ve applied them in diverse growing environments, from an urban farm in Portland to a semi-tropical farm in Nepal. Currently, we’re eclectic. We experiment, adapt and stick to what works with our soil, climate and ecosystem.
For garlic, we sometimes prepare beds with the help of a small tractor but currently plant, harvest and clean all our garlic using hand tools. Fertility comes from cover crops, compost, aged chicken or pig manure, and organic supplements.
Although our garlic is not certified organic, we use no herbicides or pesticides in our garden or on the surrounding land. So far, we’ve had no trouble with insects or diseases. We have plenty of room to rotate garlic into new beds every year; that helps keep the soil and the garlic healthy.
We harvest garlic in the cool of morning or evening and cure it for several weeks in a shady, cool spot. Once it’s dry, we rub off dusty outer layers with our hands and brush dirt out of garlic beards with a toothbrush – laborious, but satisfying.
The biggest cloves from the biggest heads tend to yield more big heads and cloves the following year. We save the best seed of our favorite varieties so that we can select the garlic well-adapted to our land. Let us know if there’s a variety you’d like to see us try.
We’ve been experimenting with dryland crops, particularly potatoes, storage beans, flint and dent corn and winter squash and getting good harvest. In the coming years, we may also try some specialty heirloom grains (wheat, barley, quinoa, rye) in large enough quantities to sell. We’ll keep you posted on how all that pans out.
Liz has also been taking baby steps towards learning how to work with draft animals and may try training a yak steer to pack or pull or both. It’s a steep learning curve, but we’re weighing the pros and cons of working at least some of our fields with draft animals in the future.