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

Salmon and The Pianist

Last night after a day on the lake and an evening run in the thick Arkansas air, I was pooped. I hopped on the net to scope out my favorite restaurant in Asheville, Table. We are making a pit stop there on our way to the beach next week, and I am hoping to spend my minimal waking hours there eating some bougie food. After scanning menus at Table and the Admiral (which we have never tried), I really felt like cooking.

Poached Salmon with Sesame-Nori Jous, Candied Turnips, Summer Squash Chips and Wasabi Cukes.

Poached Salmon with Sesame-Nori Jus, Candied Turnips, Summer Squash Chips and Wasabi Cukes.

Our garden provided all those yummy veggies!

We ate dinner and watched the Pianist, which neither of us had ever seen before. I’m not going to give a full review of a 12-year old movie, but here are a few feelings/thoughts: To start, I felt a little guilty about eating such a lavish meal while watching people starve. After about two hours, my dinner stashed away in my tummy, I couldn’t believe that we were watching yet another scene of Adrian Brodey running for his life between hideouts. It seemed over the top. I said something to Keely, and she informed me that it was based on his memoir. I felt like a jerk. Right before that moment I was almost ready to turn the movie off. It was just too much to watch. Of course,  in the end, the beauty of his music saves his life when a German soldier takes pity on him after hearing him play. This was the main theme I took away: The power of art to communicate humanity between almost any people. I am no artist, but I try to make food beautiful.

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?!

Garden foods

The garden is still going strong, but so are the weeds. We have been pretty busy the last few weekends, with the BBQ and my trip to Texas the week before that. It is a relentless battle, but the booty is well worth it. We are transitioning from more spring-type veggies (lettuce, broccoli) to more summer time goodies (carrots, squash, cukes). We got our tomatoes and peppers in a little late, so they are still a month or so off.

We have enjoyed lots of meals lately that were almost entirely grown here at home. Check out the garden veggies getting ready to be roasted and all the glories of pizza night.

Green garlic. Yum.

Green garlic. Yum.

 

Carrots, turnips, new potatoes, fresh garlic and onions, garlic scapes and cauliflower  all from the garden.

Carrots, turnips, new potatoes, fresh garlic and onions, garlic scapes and cauliflower all from the garden.

Homestead Pizza! All home-grown toppings: roasted cauliflower, pulled pork, garlic scapes, mizuna, summer squash and fresh basil

Homestead Pizza! All home-grown toppings: roasted cauliflower, pulled pork, garlic scapes, mizuna, summer squash and fresh basil

Delicious cucumber salad to go with our pizza. Our first two cucumbers of the season.

Delicious cucumber salad to go with our pizza. Our first two cucumbers of the season.

My happy-as-a-little-clam Keelio!

My happy-as-a-little-clam Keelio!

Portrait of the farmer with lettuce

I have missed the pace of summer. When the weather is like this, I go outside in bursts to do chores, swimming through a bathtub of hot and humid air, wading through a sea of glittering, waist high grass, watching for snakes. When I walk through the door, the world is bright and hot and loud and flashing like the Vegas strip, but clean: bluebirds scudding from tree to wire to bending weed, the sprinkler tiktiktikking, flowers thick and logy with perfumed dew, Cappy pompously hollering at everything that makes a sound, grass so green and sparkling that it hurts to look at it, pigs chatting and slapping themselves down in the mud. My skin is instantly slippery with sweat and the dirt turns to mud on my arms and legs. When I come in, I rinse. Sometimes I rinse in the shower three times a day, just to get the salt and grass off and ease mosquito bites. It keeps my skin from itching right off my body. In the house it’s cool and dark and quiet except for the ceiling fan tapping out a slow count to mark the time, which wouldn’t seem to pass at all, otherwise.

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you might think I’m vain
so I beg your pardon
but selfies with lettuce should be a thing
because I look my best in the garden

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