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1/3/2013

For hundreds of years, Native Americans in the Southwest Desert have been eating the beans of the mesquite tree. Last summer, we decided to give them a try with some of our own mesquite beans milled into flour. We harvested fifteen gallons of beans from mesquite trees that abound on our land, dried them, and milled them into flour. We spent about two hours picking ripe beans from the trees around the shop and the orchard perimeter. Then we dried them about six weeks on a screen spread on sawhorses in the shop.

     cochise valley growers sign 

Friends of ours, Dan and Roxanna, have recently purchased a hammer mill for processing mesquite beans. They offer a brief but excellent training on picking and drying mesquite beans.

It takes a hammer mill to efficiently mill mesquite beans because they are seriously hard. Dan and Roxanna offer custom milling for people like us who pay them a comparatively small fee for turning our mesquite beans into tasty and healthy flour.  They also process beans harvested and sold to them by neighbors. The flour is available for sale at local farmers markets.  

        Cleaning Mesquite Beans  

After we picked and dried our beans, we brought them to the local community harvest festival where Dan and Roxanna had set up their hammer mill. We gathered around the sorting screen and culled stems and other foreign matter that would spoil the flour.

          Hammermill grinding mesquite beans  

Their son, Justin, operated the mill and bagged up the resulting flour. We came home with over ten pounds of sweet, slightly nutty, golden mesquite flour. The taste and nutrition available in the flour makes the work well worthwhile, however.

This remarkable native flour has no gluten, a low glycemic index, high protein content, and all kinds of essential vitamins and minerals.Because there is no gluten, you will want to limit the percentage of mesquite flour to about 25% of the required flour. For muffins, cookies, and great yeast-raised pancakes, we use 75% organic whole wheat flour and 25% mesquite flour. There are recipes available for cookies using 100% mesquite flour. While they are delicious, they are also expensive and have only local accessibility though our local health food store.  But used in any good recipe they offer great flavor and a super nutritious result.  

          Barbara bagging mesquite flour 

This morning, I tried out Barbara’s recipe for Mesquite Pancakes. I’ll soon be on deck for B-n-B guest cooking for a few days while Barbara is out of state and I wanted a practice run. The results were incredible. I credit the quality of the mesquite flour and the recipe. I just put the stuff together.

Barbara’s Mesquite Pancakes 

     Stack of mesquite pancakes

Ingredients: 

Honey (or sugar) – I used a bit less than 3 tablespoons of honey

Dry Yeast – 2 level teaspoons

1 1/2 cups milk (we use soymilk and it’s great)

2 eggs

1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil

1/2 cup Mesquite flour - (harvested from our trees and milled by a neighbor)

1/2 Wheat Germ (we use raw, but roasted is fine – make sure it’s fresh)

1 teaspoon salt

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – you’ll use 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups

1/2 cup warm water

Assembly: 

Wake the yeast by measuring 1/2 cup warm water (NOT too hot) into a large bowl (at least three quarts) and adding 1/2 tsp honey and 2 tsp yeast. Stir to dissolve the honey and set aside until mixture is bubbly.

While the yeast is waking up, measure out the remaining ingredients in separate containers – one for wet and one for dry.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup milk or soymilk (warmed slightly), 2 eggs, 1/3 c oil, 2 T honey.  Mix ingredients to break up the eggs and begin the blending process.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 c whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 c wheat germ, 1/2 cup mesquite flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend with a whisk.

When the yeast is awake, blend liquid and dry ingredients in the bowl containing the yeast until thoroughly mixed. Add flour (up to 1/2 cup) a bit at a time until the batter is thickened to your preference.

          Mesquite batter 

Place the bowl of batter in a sink filled about 2 inches deep with hot water to encourage rising. Cover with a plate and allow batter to rise until bubbly and increased in volume. Be patient, this could take a half hour or so. Don’t stir down!  

Cook in your favorite greased pancake griddle or frying pan. Turn once when bubbles are breaking and brown on the bottom.

Serve with honey, syrup, fruit compote, applesauce, or your favorite preserves. Soooo good!



3/13/2012

Dave L HeadshotA couple months ago, a good friend who operates a very successful bed and breakfast here in the Arizona desert asked if we would be willing to accommodate guests when she wound up with double bookings. As a favor to her, we agreed. Then the wheels started turning and our mindset about our homestead changed a bit.

While our fairly frugal budget and our current income permit us to live simply and well, it is pretty much a no-frills operation here. We decided we could use some more consistent extra income here at the homestead to make visiting our kids and grandkids easier.

 

 Guest House with Ristra  
We really didn’t have much to do to make the Bear Cave attractive, in a rustic sort of way. We hoped to attract those who enjoy the outdoors, built-by-hand living, and good farm cooking. I trenched in some Ethernet cable from our straw bale house to provide internet access for those guests who wanted to maintain contact with the outside world. Stuff stored in the Bear Cave was moved and we relocated our computers to the main house.  

 Guest House Bedroom 

Our little 320-square-foot Bear Cave, now referred to as the Dragoon Mountains Guest House, sleeps four with a double bed and by pulling out the trundle bed. We lived in the Bear Cave while we built our straw bale home and loved it. We believed our guests would feel the same.

 Recliner and Day Bed
A comfortable recliner, a wicker-seated rocking chair, and the trundle bed doubling as a couch with pillows and bolsters provide relaxed reading for those who just want some time to wind down.

Winding-down, serenity, and plenty of quiet are really some of the big attractions.  Recently, I read and listened to two separate accounts on the importance of quiet.  One was an article in the Dec 9, 2011, New York Times by Pico Iyer titled “The Joy of Quiet.”  The other was an interview on NPR’s Diane Rehm program with Dr. P.M. Forni discussing his new book, The Thinking Life.

Pico Iyer, educated at Eton and Oxford, now lives in Japan. He refers to himself as a “global village on two legs.”  Dr. Forni is a professor at Johns Hopkins and writes and teaches on Civility and Ethics and their role in our social world. Both articles are worth reading and listening to in their entirety.

In his article, Iyer suggests that we people are moving away from what has become a barrage of input. He says that the average American spends 8½ hours per day in front of a screen and that the average American teen sends or receives 75 messages per day. Think of the people you see in markets, cars, parks, or wherever with eyes or ears glued to a communication device.

Iyer contends that Americans are getting tired of the constant deluge of input. He cites an advertising CEO as saying that the upcoming market among young people will be for stillness. In the article, he mentions a California resort that offers lodging for over $2,000 per night and features no TV, WiFi, or telephone. There must be an easier and cheaper way to locate the ‘off’ button.

Dr Forni’s book title speaks for itself. The subtitle is “How to Survive in the Age of Distraction.” Forni warns of the perils of not taking time to just think. He writes, “If we agree that life is important, then thinking as we go through it is the basic tribute we owe it.”

 Sunrise from Guest House
We asked family and friends that had visited us as unpaying guests what they valued most about their stay at our homestead. Most said the combination of silence, serenity and scenery made them want to come back. The ability to sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea and look across the valley at our many mini-mountain ranges, our Sky Islands, was very meaningful to them.

 Guest House Kitchen
While many of our guests enjoy at least one meal prepared by us, most like to find their own rhythms for meals and choose their own diets. We stocked the guest house with basic kitchen utensils – plates, cups, glasses etc – and installed a propane range (a drop-in designed for RVs that I enclosed in a plywood box), an under-the-counter fridge, and a microwave. They’re good to go.

 Cochise Stronghold
On the other hand, hiking, biking, and rock climbing around our homestead appeal to many. We have had competitive racing cyclists stay here for winter cycling and lots of birders and hikers.

Apart from the extra income, which we appreciate, there are other benefits. We have the opportunity to share the land we have come to love – its history, its scenery, its wildlife – with people unfamiliar with the beauty of the desert. We have made lots of new friends. People from England, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have been our guests during our first three months of operation.  

 Guest House in Spring
If you would like to quit a “day job” and spend your time on your land, you might want to consider sharing the beauty of your place and making some money and some new friends. We even found a network of guest houses that manages the financial end of things for us. If you’re curious, take a look at this website for yourself (http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/281607)  Or, if you feel you just have to come visit us to see what we’re doing, you can make arrangements there as well.



12/14/2011

Dave L Headshot“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

A few days ago, I was gifted with a real treat. My son, Brent, invited me to join him and our oldest grandson, Lydon, for a birthday outing on Lake Pleasant, a reservoir near Phoenix. While the ostensible purpose of the trip was to fish, it quickly became apparent that actually catching fish was a pretty low priority. Instead, it was a time for the three of us to enjoy a beautiful day together – being on the lake and just having a good time. What a great way to celebrate Brent’s 40th birthday!

Lydon Steering the Boat

There is something about being on the water, whether in a canoe or on a luxurious pontoon boat, that is mesmerizing. Whether floating quietly or flying over the water with wind and spray blowing, it is easy to forget both past and future and just exist in the present moment.

Watching grandson Lydon sitting on Dad’s lap and steering the boat jogged wonderful old memories for me. As a kid in the lake country of northern Minnesota, I spent hundreds of hours on the water and in the woods. My dad had a small cabin, a little one-room building the size of a chicken coop that had been hauled to the lakeshore on a machinery trailer the year I was born. From this primitive little home-base, I fished with Dad or, as I got older, by myself on the little lake. Although we often caught fish, it really didn’t seem to matter much. We would trudge back up the hill at the end of the day empty handed with smiles on our faces as wide as if we had caught our limit.

As my memory slide show moved forward in time, I recalled a few of Brent’s first fishing trips with me. One mental picture was of Brent, only a few months old, propped in a car seat in the shade while I fished for trout in an Oregon lake. Later, I remember him landing a really nice smallmouth bass while we were canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. The smile on his face became an indelible image which I’ve treasured for 25 years. Since then, we have fished together on streams, lakes, and the ocean. These treasured activities over the years provide all of us, from my Dad to my Grandson, with an appreciation of our wild places that has been unbroken now for four generations.

        Fishing Breakfast
 

Our day started, as many fishing trips do, well before dawn. After an early breakfast of serious proportions – in my case consisting of chicken-fried steak, pancakes, potatoes, and eggs – the three of us drove through the sunrise to the marina at Lake Pleasant to board our pontoon boat. I was blown away when the marina attendant brought it to the pier.

       Pontoon Boat  

This was definitely not my idea of a fishing boat. I thought back to when I was a kid in Minnesota and it was a big deal to go fishing in a 14’ aluminum boat with rock-hard seats and a 5 hp outboard. There were a few pontoon boats around then, but they were primitive affairs cobbled together by local blacksmiths or welders. Comparing this luxurious craft to those old rafts was like comparing a Model T Ford and a Lexus. I admit to some nostalgia for both the Model T and the old boats with their single-digit horsepower “kickers” moving them through the water at a very modest speed.

      Wild Burro
 

During the day, we were privileged to see a variety of local wildlife including heron, bald eagles, and, special to me, a small group of wild burros. These delightful critters are the descendents of the animals turned loose by gold miners many years ago. They have thrived and now can be seen in much of northwestern Arizona. While some area ranchers consider them pests, I regard them as a beautiful example of the resilience of life in the wilds.

          Brent and Dave
 

Beyond the enjoyment of a day on the water and the welcome wildlife sightings, the opportunity to spend time with Brent and Lydon was the high spot of the day.

Sadly, a day in the company of loving family while enjoying the outdoors is an experience that too few people know. Our day on the lake helped me to understand the happiness my Dad must have felt when he took me fishing all those years ago. As we meandered around the lake, I watched my son and grandson and could appreciate the feelings Brent now enjoys as he introduces the love of Nature to his children. I like to think that we are  passing forward a legacy of love for Mother Earth. All things considered, I am a very lucky person to have had such a day.



11/29/2011

Dave L HeadshotWinter is coming on here at our Arizona desert homestead and, even though the temperatures are dropping, we still look forward to eating fresh kale, chard, escarole, lettuce, and other fresh hardy produce all winter long with the aid of a mini-hoop house. Don’t be misled by the fact that our homestead is in the southeastern Arizona desert. Last year, one storm dropped six inches of snow on our place. The following week, another cold front brought our temperatures here at the Bear Cave down to 2⁰ F here at our 5,000 ft elevation. Down in the valley, it was below zero. It certainly gets cold enough here to zap most tender growing garden plants without some protection.

Garden Bed w Row Cover


 

Last year, we simply protected as well as we could with row cover. We found that without supports, heavy frost and snow broke down some of the plants under the row cover. While it probably didn’t hurt the nutritional value when we used them immediately, we really felt sad about the squashed greens. They looked pretty pathetic.

Scrap PVC
 

So this year, we decided to give them another layer of protection. Our neighbor had done some plumbing in a new out-building and had left a small pile of scrap 3/4" PVC out behind his shop. Our Arizona sun had baked the pieces for a number of months and they were definitely too brittle to make a hoop. Enter the PVC angled joints. With a few PVC fittings, a pair of 45⁰ and one 90⁰, we had our own version of a hoop for our mini-greenhouse. By repeating this five times, we had the supports for our mini-greenhouse.

Formula for Triangle Sides
 

Barbara, our resident math expert (among so many other things), drew out a plan using the width of our raised bed as the length of the hypotenuse of the isosceles triangle that was then used to calculate the length of the top or diagonal  sections of our “hoop”. In the above drawing, the diagonals were cut at 31".

Hoop Sections
 

This calculation gave me a very accurate measurement for the length of the angled “hoop” sections. This resulted in the top sections of PVC being cut to 31” based on the 43” outside width of the raised bed. We determined the rise of the “hoop” by estimating the height of the greens at the edge of the raised bed. In our case, we made the side pieces 14” high.

Hoops
 

We assembled five of these hoops to give us a mini-greenhouse with supports every 2 ½’. We dry-fit the joints for convenient dis-assembly and storage next summer

Connectors
 

We drove pieces of  rebar into the ground at the outer edge of the bed and slipped the end of the PVC hoop over it. We then tied the PVC hoop to the raised bed with plumbers tape and a couple short sheet rock screws. Besides allowing us to level the tops, this seems to support the hoops well enough to handle both the weight of the plastic cover and the persistent wind we have here. 

Fastening Hoop House Plastic
 

We cut off a section of 10’ wide 6 mil plastic long enough to enclose the ends of the structure. The fold in the plastic at the center made it easy to mark and reinforce the tie-off spots with 10 mil PVC tape that we had left over from running our propane line from the tank to the house. We punched two sets of holes in the tape and plastic to create a make-do grommet.

Hoop House with Tied Sides
 

Two sections of light cotton line tied with the ends out on one side and in on the other made a system that allows us to tie up either one side or both sides for picking produce or working in the garden.

Hoop House
 

On the coldest nights, we raise one side of the plastic and lay in row cover directly on the tops of the plant and roll down and anchor the plastic on both sides.  With the plastic shelter above, we don’t worry about frost, snow, or heavy rain on the row cover flattening our greens. The double layer is a bit like putting a down comforter on the bed on a cold night.

Turkey and Dumplings
 

This is a picture of the payoff. Yesterday, Barbara opened the mini-greenhouse and picked a few carrots and some chard to put in our turkey and dumplings. What a great finale to a Thanksgiving turkey feed and a great reward for the work of building our little hoop house.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve the way we build and garden.  Many of you have offered great suggestions. We hope some of you will benefit by the mini-greenhouse plans we have shared. We invite you to visit us at www.grow-cook-eat-beans.com for more about our desert homestead experience.

 



11/11/2011

Dave L HeadshotFall is giving way to winter here at the Desert Homestead. The sun goes down early and the winter rains make for some gloomy days. During the day, Barbara keeps the house warm and inviting by baking on a regular basis. Today, apple crisp in the oven will fill the house with one of my favorite odors. But, in the evening and during the days of clouds, snow, and rain, we rely on our candles to bring a measure of joy and a feeling of cozy warmth to our straw bale house in the desert. Despite the cold and wet weather, candle burning season is great!

       First  Snow in the Dragoons
We love the fragrance of scented candles, but they are expensive. So Barbara has come up with a frugal method of ensuring that we have our much loved candle light and fragrance whenever we choose, with little cost. We do occasionally purchase scented candles and, even more likely, receive them as welcome holiday gifts from friends and relatives who know how much we enjoy them. But most of our candles are “personally modified” by Barbara.

        Candle Scraps for Melting Down
 

 After burning our purchased or gift candles until the wick is a blackened stub at the bottom of a well of unburned wax, the candles often have as much as 25% or more of great scented wax remaining. This holds true of last year’s rehabbed votives, as well. Throwing the remains away would be a real waste, so we rehab the candles.

          Melting Candles in a Solar Oven
The first step is to clean up last year’s votive candle holders. Barbara puts them on a pan in our solar oven. You can use the oven in your kitchen, of course. The pan keeps spills from the oven which could hurt the flavor muffins baked in the solar oven or your kitchen oven. What tragedy that would be! A kitchen oven set to about 275 degrees should work fine. Whichever method of melting you use, be careful. Don't burn yourself.

As the old wax melts, Barbara  removes the burned wick stubs and wick bases and pours off the remaining wax into a pint glass jar for reuse. This year she accumulated nearly a pint of delightfully scented wax just from our last year’s candles.

Note: It is important to remember that wax and water don’t mix. To clean our used votive holders, we heat them until the wax is just melted and wipe them with a paper towel. Don’t bother trying to wash them in soapy water.

When melting the wax, it’s important to remember that a solar oven can get well up into the 300 to 400 degree range. Don’t neglect your melting wax. If it begins to smoke, which it will if left too long in the solar oven, you have allowed it to get too hot.

      Before and After Rehab Candles
During the summer, we look for sales on unscented votive candles and buy a few dozen. Most of our votive candle holders are about the same size and shape, so when we get ready to rehab our candles we want to know how much scented wax will fit in our holders without submerging our new votives, not filling the holder enough, or, worst case, spilling wax over the lip of the candle holder. Barbara does a few experiments with a typical votive holder filled about a third of the way with water. She puts a new votive in the holder partially filled with water.

When the water in the holder just meets the top of the new candle, she notes the level.  She then removes the water and dries the holder. Melted scented wax is then poured into the votive holder and the new votive is placed in the melted wax.

Note: Your wax should be just barely melted. If it is too hot, it will melt the new votive, the wick might collapse, and you’ll have a mess.

       Tray of Rehabbed Candles
While occasionally  we do use tapers, especially for the dining table in the evening, we prefer our votives for a variety of reasons. We can reclaim unused wax. We rarely have to clean up wax drips from the burning candle. They are less expensive to burn, so we feel very comfortable about having candle light on a regular basis.

      Lighted Votive Candles
We try to isolate our candles by fragrance, keeping sandalwood, bayberry, cinnamon, and vanilla separate as we prepare the candles. But, I’m sure that we wind up with “mystery fragrance” from time to time. As yet, I have not found one of the rehabbed candles to have anything but a delightful scent. You can do your own custom scents by adding some beeswax or some scented oil to the melted wax. Experiment and have fun with your homemade scented candles. For us, this is all part of simple, rural living. There is no rule that says you can’t make your own scented candles in town, as well.



10/29/2011

Homemade applesauce is one of our favorite treats here at the Bear Cave. But this year, our orchard was bare. A late hard freeze killed the new buds on our entire orchard. So, we did the next best thing to going out the back door and picking our own fruit. We drove across the valley to a great U-Pick organic apple orchard. They are the next best thing to our own apples.

       Organic Apple Tree
If it is impossible to grow your own fruit because you don’t have room, time, or inclination to maintain an orchard of your own, check out the local orchards. Benefits abound. You will be helping keep the local economy strong by shopping locally. You can see the fruit hanging luscious and ripe on the tree and know that your apples weren’t picked rock-hard green and ripened with chemicals such as ethylene or calcium carbide while being transported from around the world. The cost, economic and environmental, of transport is confined to your car on a local foray to the orchard. You and your friends, family, and certainly children, can enjoy a great outing. Local U-Pick is good for your health, your environment, and your kids. It doesn’t get much better than that.

      The Apple Cart Heads Home
Be aware that local organic apples may not look much like the waxy, shiny reds, yellows, and greens of the apples in neat rows at the grocer. Our experience with local U-Pick apples has been that they are smaller, not uniform in shape, have some bug bites on some of the apples, and just don’t appear as pretty as the commercial apples found in big box stores. So, think of the apple that tempted Snow White. It was pretty nasty inside, right? To be fair, some of the apples in stores are going to taste great. On the other hand, few will compare with the sweetness of a tree-ripened fruit, even if it’s a bit smaller. So you get generally great tree ripened taste and all the other benefits. What’s not to like?

       Sheep in the Orchard
At our local U-Pick orchard, we were treated to the extra special sight of a flock of sheep put out into the orchard to glean the fallen fruit. I don’t know that I’ve seen a more tranquil country scene than the sight of those sheep quietly munching their way along the rows of trees.  Snippets of Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze floated around in my head as I slowed my pace to that of the sheep and just relaxed into the picking. It was like active meditation.

On to the Applesauce!!

No fruit will last more than a few days in your kitchen fruit bowl. We prefer not driving a minimum of 20 miles, the distance to our closet market, every few days just for fruit, nor do we like commercially canned products. So we preserve our fruit and vegetables by canning, freezing, or drying. With apples, our favorite method of preserving is homemade applesauce made from local apples and frozen in quart freezer tubs.

     Prep Apples for Applesauce
Despite the absence of chemicals on the skins of the apples, we washed them thoroughly and drained them before coring. Our hand operated food mill nicely separates skins from the sweet pulp of our homemade applesauce, so peeling is just not necessary. That makes me happy as hand peeling is pretty labor intensive and the patented machines for coring and peeling waste a lot of apple.

Barbara and I set up a processing line. I quartered the apples while she cored. When the quartered apple bowl was full, I helped quarter.  With careful coring with a good paring knife, little usable apple is lost.

Note: If your use very sharp paring knives, as ours are, you may risk little slices or nicks in your thumb as you are coring. We just put a band-aid on BEFORE it’s needed and the coring can proceed without a sore thumb.

       Apples in the Cooking Kettle
After coring, the apple quarters are put into a large stainless kettle with enough water to keep the apples on the bottom from burning. Barbara starts with a couple inches of water in the bottom of the kettle and monitors the level as the apples cook down.  As the apples cook, the volume in the pot reduces and juice accumulates with the water at the bottom. Don’t overdo the water as it will thin the applesauce. We cook the apples at a medium low heat and stir them as they cook down every ten minutes or so. The hotter your stove, the more frequently you should stir. Don’t rush the cooking-down process as your apples could burn. Also, be prepared to have your house smell like fresh apple pie during this process, a great harvest perfume.

          Making Applesauce        
When all the apple chunks are mushy when tested with a stirring spoon, we let the pot cool for a few minutes and move it to the island for processing. The process is simple, ladle the mushy apples into your food mill a bit at a time. We team up with one of us spooning apples and one cranking the food mill. As the bowl below the food mill fills, we dump the new homemade applesauce into a larger bowl to finish cooling before freezing. We chose not to add any sweetener to the homemade apple sauce as the tree-ripened apples made a great, slightly sweet applesauce.

         Freezer containers
After our homemade applesauce has cooled sufficiently, we ladle the fresh sauce into one-quart freezer tubs. This quantity is perfect for our consumption without getting oldy-moldy in the refrigerator. As we use applesauce with everything from waffles to hot cereal and as a fruit side with a meal, it just goes quickly. We even put applesauce in a bowl with homemade yogurt and a drizzle of honey in the evening to accommodate my sweet tooth.

If apple butter is on your list of favorites, your frozen applesauce can be thawed and combined with sugar and cinnamon to make great apple butter. So if you want a great activity, super healthy foods, and the satisfaction of preparing your own food, try picking, preparing, and freezing some homemade applesauce.



10/12/2011

Dave L HeadshotAutumn is here in the desert and it’s time to plant garlic again. We’re closing the windows on our straw bale house to keep warmth in rather than encouraging those cool summer evening breezes in the high desert. This is the time of year for hot and zesty meals and the time of year that garlic really comes into its own here at the Bear Cave, for cooking and for planting next year’s crop of tasty and healthy bulbs.

            Garlicky Beans in Slow Cooker
 

Garlic and onion added to slow cooked pinto beans is a staple here. Spicy bean burros for lunch can happen pretty regularly and make me a happy guy.  Adding garlic to stir fry, marinara sauce made from our garden produce, and salad dressings are just a few of the many ways we enjoy our garlic. Because we use garlic nearly every day, certainly every week, we keep a good supply on hand and make sure we plant and preserve enough to carry through the year. Apart from our belief that garlic contributes to good health, we know it contributes to good eating.

     Hanging Garlic
 

To ensure we have a plentiful supply of garlic, we always overplant. Last year, we went a bit too far overboard and planted 120 cloves of four varieties. Our garlic loving neighbors thank us on a regular basis. This year, we chose the best three of the four varieties and are planting 90 cloves. Should be more than enough for our use and sharing with friends and neighbors.

     Digging in Compost
 

Preparing the bed for garlic planting is pretty straightforward. We spread strained compost over a new bed. We like to rotate beds for planting all our varieties. In this case, we are putting our garlic in last season’s green bean bed.

Recently, there have been larger numbers of earthworms evident in our garden beds. YEA!  To keep from damaging even one of those welcome little critters so rare in the desert, we quit using a tiller and turn our compost in with a spading fork.

     Garlic Bulbs
 

When the bed is prepared, the best of last season’s crop is selected for replanting. Only the largest and healthiest bulbs are chosen.

       Separating Garlic Bulbs
 

Bulbs are separated into cloves until we have 90 of each kind. Care is taken to leave the skin on the cloves intact as they are separated from the bulb.

      Planting Garlic
 

Barbara lays out the bed for planting by running masonry string down the middle and laying out a steel measuring tape between the about-to-be-planted rows. She plants our garlic in rows by variety with one row in the center, on the masonry string and the outlying rows midway to the edge of the bed. The cloves are planted 2” deep and 6” apart in the row with 12” between rows.

     Frozen Garlic
 

In addition to hanging our garlic for preservation, as shown earlier, we also freeze sacks of prepeeled garlic cloves. That’s it, just peel the cloves, put them in freezer bags, and they are ready to add zest to your cooking all year long.  For more on planting garlic in the desert, please visit us at www.grow-cook-eat-beans.com and learn how one of our favorite “bean friends” fares here at the Bear Cave.





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