THERAPY – BRAIDING GARLIC

Garlic Braids 2020

I spent my Sunday handling the garlic crop, which loves our mountain garden. My husband plants bulbs in the ground in the fall then we leave the mountains for the winter. By the time we return in late spring, the crop is ready for harvesting. Several years ago, I discovered how to braid the bulbs with stalks as an edible decoration. Also, I believe hanging them this way allows for them to remain usable for months. Dry circulating air keeps the cloves from drying out.

We use them throughout the gardening season and beyond. Usually I start running low on garlic toward the end of winter.

Here’s how to do it if you should grow your own or find them at a good price at a farmer’s market.

Harvest garlic with leaves intact. Lay them in a cool and dry place—we used our porch and placed them on newspaper. After approximately two weeks, the green on the leaves begins to brown. Robert chose the bulbs with the biggest bulbs for planting in the fall. The rest I prepared for braiding.

Clean the bulbs. Remove any lingering dirt before you braid it. In some cases, you may be able to remove the dirt and other residue by brushing it away with your fingers. I used both my fingers and a slightly damp cloth. On some of the bulbs, I removed several layers of outer dry skin to get rid of dirt. Do not remove all the outer layers.

Trim the garlic. There are usually long, scraggly roots attached to the bottom bulbs, so cut those to approximately ¼-inch. Also trim away any of the leaves that are scraggly looking.

Soak the garlic stems. You want the bulbs’ leaves to be pliable so they’re easier to braid. There are two ways to do this, but most importantly, do not get the bulbs wet during this process. You only want the leaves damp enough to be flexible. You can wrap the leaves in wet towels and leave for 20-30 minutes or longer. I tried this the first year, and it didn’t seem to get them pliable enough. The second year, I used a different method, which I liked much better. Fill a bowl or sink with lukewarm water and soak the garlic so just the leaves are submerged. Soak for 15-30 minutes until they are flexible.

Select three largest bulbs and crisscross them. It is suggested that for the best braids, you use twelve bulbs. I’ve used less than that to good effect. As you’re sorting the ones that you’ll use, set aside the three largest bulbs to serve as the start of the braid. Lay them on a flat surface with one bulb in the center, one to its left, and one to its right. The center bulb’s leaves should be pointed at you, while the other two leaves are crisscrossed over one another to form an X over the center bulb. It helps to secure the place where the bulbs overlap with a piece of twine. Make sure that the piece of twine you use is long enough to knot over the bulbs with enough excess that you can secure additional bulbs that you place in the braid.

Start adding bulbs. Place a fourth bulb over the existing bundle, so it matches up with the center bulb. Use the excess twine to secure the fourth bulb to the stack to make it easier when you start to braid. Next, take two more bulbs and align them with the two diagonal bulbs in a crisscross fashion.

Begin braiding. With all of the bulbs’ leaves lined up, it’s time to start the braid. Make sure that you’re grabbing the two sets of leaves for each section as you begin braiding. Take the two leaves from the right side and cross them under the middle leaves, so they become the centerpieces. Next, take the two leaves on the left and cross them under the middle leaves. Repeat using twine to secure as needed. I only used twine on the fourth bulb and then at the end.

Add more bulbs. Once you’ve started the braid, you can add three bulbs. You should line the leaves up with the existing ends of the braids as you did with the second set, so one aligns with the left section, one aligns with the center, and one aligns with the right. Start braiding again for one or two passes and repeat the process until you’ve added all of your bulbs. I’ve used as few as six bulbs so I could give braids as gifts.

Finish braiding and secure the entire garlic braid. After you’ve added all of the garlic, you should continue braiding the leaves until you get to the end. Use another piece of twine to tie off the end and secure the entire braid. I then used the twine to help me hang the bulbs.

Note: The first year I braided garlic, my husband only had green twine. I used it, but it was very conspicuous in the braids. The next year I made sure I had brown which blends in better with the leaves.

The “recipe” for braiding garlic, along with many other gardening tips and recipes, can be found in my book, From Seed to Garden Growing, Harvesting, Cooking, and Preserving Food.

PROTECTING THE GARDEN AND STILL BE ORGANIC

Pests can ruin your vegetable crop, but they can be controlled if caught early enough. Here is an excerpt from From Seed to Table on dealing with them while still remaining as organic as possible.

The definitions on organic gardening differ. At its most basic level, it means gardening with native plants, using natural fertilizers and pesticides, with the addition of composted materials. I’m not going to label our gardening efforts as organic, even though we might qualify under some of the more loosely interpreted definitions. We plant vegetables that are well suited to the environment where we live. We prepare the soil using organic materials, such as compost and mushroom manure/compost, supplemented with sand to help loosen the clay loam, such as what we had in western Pennsylvania. However, we do use Miracle Gro® on our seedling plants to help them grow faster and stronger, but we do not apply Miracle Gro® on the garden. For pesticides, we use natural concentrates including rotenone—if available—pyrethrins, spinosyn A and D, found in Captain Jack’s Deadbug Neem® oil concentrate, and bacillus thuringienis (BT) for general purpose caterpillar control. These natural, organic products are diluted with warm water according to instructions that come with the concentrates. We spray the cole family of plants and beans every two weeks or as needed, based on damage from cabbageworms or bean beetles. We don’t pick those vegetables until at least a week after spraying. All of these natural pesticides break down quickly after a couple of days in sunlight. Rains will wash them off, so it should be reapplied after a substantial rainstorm.

Here’s a chart to help determine what types of pesticide work well for individual vegetables.

VEGETABLES

PEST

CONTROL

Beans – bush and pole (green, yellow, purple), lima and butter beans Bean beetles, caterpillars, aphids, white fly, stink bugs, leaf miners Pyrithins, Neem oil, Captain Jack’s Deadbug (spinosyn A & D)

 

Tomatoes – all kinds and colors Hornworm, aphids, white fly, stink bugs, fungi (early and late blights, powdery mildew), leaf miners

 

Pyrithins, Neem oil, spinosyn A & D, except for fungi use copper octanoate concentrate (copper soap), or mancozeb (manganese and flowable zinc concentrate

 

Peppers – sweet and hot Stink bugs – white yellow blemishes on pepper Pyrithins, Neem oil, spinosyn A & D

 

Cole family – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collards, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi

 

Cabbage worm or moth Pyrithins, Neem oil, spinosyn A & D, or BT
Cucumbers – all sizes Cucumber beetles, aphids, white fly, fungi on leaves

 

Same as tomatoes
Squash – summer/winter Squash bugs Same as peppers
Spinach Leaf miners Same as peppers

#FREE Downloads – May 12-14, 2020

THE ART OF COMPOSTING

CompostHere’s something you can start at home without much effort. You might have all the ingredients right at your fingertips.

We start with either a plastic or metal garbage can for the outdoors bin. But for the kitchen I’ve used many different containers with a air-tight lid, until recently. When visiting a friend, I spotted a stainless steel container on the counter top that blended right in with the kitchen appliances. I was happily surprised when she told me it was her compost container complete with a lid with air holes and a carbon filter  to capture smells.

stainless steel compost

Stainless Steel Compost Bin

 

Here’s an excerpt from Seed to Table on composting.

Composting

I’ve been composting kitchen waste ever since I had a small rooftop garden in my efficiency apartment in Ann Arbor in 1979. Since then I’ve composted on a twenty-acre homestead, in an urban backyard, and behind the shed. It’s a simple process and begins with finding a container with a sealable lid to keep in the kitchen for the food scraps.

It’s not a complicated process, although many folks hesitate to begin because they believe it’s difficult. If you simply follow a few basic instructions, you’ll be rolling in the black gold of the gardening world as quickly as the tomato plants begin sprouting green fruit.

Not all of your waste from the kitchen makes good compostable material. Avoid the use of meat scraps, fish byproducts, cheese, bones, fats, oils, or grease because they attract wild animals, take a very long time to break down, and can spread harmful bacteria into the soil and infect plants.

Eggshells, coffee grounds, and vegetable matter make the best material to start the process of minting your very own black gold. We buy brown, unbleached, coffee filters, so we throw the grounds and the filter in the compost bin as well.

Once the container is filled with your kitchen scraps, empty it into the compost bin outside and cover with either brown or green organic material. Making the rich topsoil requires a balancing act between green materials and brown materials placed on top of the kitchen scraps. The green things are those still close to the live stage, such as grass clippings, food scraps, and some manures. Don’t use the manure from pets or pigs, as it will promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Chicken manure is the best kind if you can find it. The browns have been dead for a while and consist of dry leaves, woody materials, and even shredded paper. We use some of the ashes from our fireplace, too. Layering these elements, with the browns taking up the most space, leads to the decomposition of the materials. Air and water are essential in assisting in this process, but usually there is enough liquid in the compost container and in the air without watering the pile. If you notice the material in the bin looks dry, go ahead and water it.

There are composters you can purchase from shredders to rotating drums to three-stage bins. You can spend from $20 to several hundreds of dollars to make a compost bin. If you live in the extreme north, you may need to invest in the more sophisticated type of equipment to ensure the success of your compost. However, I’ve composted in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina and managed to do it successfully without expending tons of money.

We use the simplest and cheapest compost bin possible. We bought a plastic garbage can for under $10 and cut off the bottom and drilled holes all over the lid and sides to allow airflow. You can spend a little more on a galvanized garbage can, but it will be more difficult to remove the bottom. Dig a hole about three-inches deep in the soil the diameter of the can and placed the bottom into the ground, filling around the outer sides to make it secure.

Cover the bottom on the inside with the dirt removed to make the hole. Don’t pack the dirt but keep it loose and airy. You’re now ready to throw kitchen scraps on top. We cover the scraps with leaves from the yard and put the lid back on the garbage can. Every time we put new material from the kitchen into the bin, we stir or stab at the layers with a shovel. It is very important to cover those scraps with the brown material, or you will attract insects, and maybe even wild animals because the scraps will begin to smell as they decompose. The dead material hides the process of decomposing.

In the spring, I fill flowerpots with the healthy rich soil from the bottom of the compost bin to assist grateful petunias, pansies, impatiens, and marigolds. We’ll gaze upon the blossoming colors on the patio and take satisfaction in making fertile soil that originated in our kitchen and garden. Our vegetables, herbs, and flowerbed plants will all receive a healthy dose of the soil as well, and then we start the process all over again.

Earthworms are the essential ingredient for turning the scraps into rich dark soil. If I see a worm in the yard, I’ll pick it up and carry it to the bin, but mostly the earthworms find it all by themselves. If you don’t see any in your pile, buy a small container of earthworms from the local bait shop and let them loose. They eat the organic matter, and quite graciously poop behind nice dirt.

I love the symmetry of composting. It’s a way to be a part of the cycle of nature without disturbing or destroying it.

GRATITUDE FOR OUR HEROES

My thoughts on the week.

P.C. ZICK

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

The mark of a person shows through in time of crisis. And we are in a worldwide crisis right now. Those healthcare workers who are sacrificing their own health deserve more than we can probably ever repay. Their families are sacrificing as well as some nurses, doctors, and hospital personnel can’t go home or if they do, have to go rigorous safety measures just to come into their own home.

Even more than that, they are also serving as the emotional support for patients because their families can’t be there in person. I am so grateful they can play that role, and I know the families must feel even more gratitude. They are saviors.

I lost my brother to a blood cancer in December. We were able to be with him when he was put on a respirator. We were at his side when…

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#GARDENING TIPS AND RECIPES TO SUSTAIN AND FEED OUR BODY AND SOULS

New Recipes and Updated Gardening Tips

I wrote From Seed to Table in 2013 while we lived in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 2015, we bought a cabin for summers in the Smoky Mountains of southwestern North Carolina, while returning to my north Florida home in north Florida. Since then, my husband has been learning to garden in two different zones, and I’ve expanded my repertoire for cooking and preserving the food grown during year round gardening experiences.

While self-quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided the time had come to work on revising the book. I’d been adding to a file but had put off revisions while I worked on other projects. The time seemed right to work on the revisions. There appears to be a renewed, and in some cases, new interest in planting gardens. It is my sincere hope that From Seed to Table will inspire others to grow their own food while giving plenty of tips to make the process fun and successful.

Happy spring and gardening to you and yours!

 

From Seed to Table – Growing, Harvesting, Cooking, and Preserving Food

S2T-5From Seed to Table is available in paperback and on Kindle. Kindle Unlimited members may download From Seed to Table for free.

“This is a friendly book that makes you feel like you are just sitting and having a chat with a knowledgeable modern day homesteader. P.C. Zick has adapted a sustainable lifestyle with gardening and preserving in different climates, (Pennsylvania to North Carolina mountains to north Florida) and urban to acreage. She shares her perspective in a manner that will benefit interested readers in varying locations. There are tips in there for the novice and the more experienced.” – Dr. Jennifer Shambrook, Author

From Seed to Table offers the personal experiences of home gardening from one couple. Starting with winter, the book follows each season from the garden to the table. Gardening tips, as used by Robert and Patricia Zick in their vegetable gardens in three different zones, are given along with preserving tips and recipes. The book also includes suggestions and recipes for canning and freezing vegetables. The Zicks hope some of their experience will inspire others to grow their own food and to eat local food as much as possible. While not an exhaustive reference for all gardening, preserving, and cooking techniques, it is filled with firsthand experience from an experienced gardener and a veteran cook.

IT WAS MEANT TO BE

P.C. ZICK

We recently traveled to southern California to attend the wedding of my husband’s nephew. While at my mother-in-law’s funeral, we learned of the wedding in San Diego and decided we would make the trip.

The decision to go turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made in recent years. There are times when the stars align, the heavens open, and serendipity ensues. Our visit proved to be one such time.

Since we were traveling so far it only made sense to see as many people as we could. Sixty years ago this month, when I was only four, my oldest brother married his college sweetheart, Joyce. My brother died ten years ago, but I have kept in touch with Joyce, who moved to Palm Springs several years after his death. I had been yearning to see her, so our trip would mean a chance to visit Joyce…

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Happy 2019

It’s been too long since I’ve posted here. Make sure you read this post if you’re interested in a little bit of free reading to start the new year.

P.C. ZICK

Paddling My Way to a New Year

dsc04099We spent New Year’s Day kayaking on the Econofina River in north Florida. The day was foggy, and we got lost in the reeds, but we returned home refreshed and ready to begin
2019. Nature restores me and gives me hope.

While I’m enjoying kayaking, yoga, golf, and volunteering, my writing life appears to be on hiatus. It didn’t ask me permission because the writing muse can be fickle and sporadic. Instead of crying, I’m reading–I’m making a dent in the TBR pile on my nightstand and on my Kindle–I still read from both as the spirit moves me or as my circumstances permit.

I hope 2019 has begun in a positive way for you, and I hope you’re reading as well. When I do get back in the writing saddle, it will be to finish Love on Track (Rivals in Love…

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#BringItHome and Elect Andrew Gillum

AndrewGillumIn usual circumstances, I wouldn’t endorse a candidate via my blog. However, we are not in usual circumstances these days, and are in need of fresh voices speaking for the best in all of us. Besides, in this case, I have a personal connection to Florida’s Democratic candidate for governor. And I believe the state where I’ve mostly lived since 1980 is in serious trouble with its dangerous gun laws, under-performing schools, low-paying jobs, horrible health insurance options, and nonexistence environmental protections on a very fragile state. We need a governor who can take charge and bring Florida into this century and reality.

I had the privilege of teaching Andrew Gillum during his sophomore year of high school at Gainesville High School. I saw in him all the qualities I see today whether on the debate stage, on CNN, ABC, or Noah Trevor’s show. I recently wrote about my memories of him for his campaign. Today, I share it here as the deadline for getting out the vote is less than a week away.

Whether you agree with me or not, please get out and vote on November 6, 2018. Our future depends on who we elect next.

Memories of Andrew Gillum

When Andrew Gillum walked into my honors English class at Gainesville High School as a sophomore more than twenty years ago, I sensed something different about this male teenager. His focus on his education and his drive to be a leader within the school became evident in everything he did. I am not surprised by his meteoric rise within the Democratic party, but I am in awe of his forward movement as a compassionate leader, and his dedication to his family and community.

I watched him grow from a fifteen-year-old student government officer to become the student body president of a school with a population of 2,000. I watched him show compassion for and offer friendship to a fellow student who was challenged by a physical handicap and who was often ostracized by her other classmates. Rather than worrying about what others might say about him, he stood up for what was right and fought hard for all students. Without any doubt, I can attest to Andrew’s maturity beyond his years when still in the impressionable and difficult teenage years. He never gave into peer pressure because he had his eye on becoming a successful man who made a difference. After teaching thousands of teenagers over the years, I can’t think of another student in his category.

As I watched him give his acceptance speech after he won the primary, my eyes filled with tears of joy and pride, and I remembered a younger Andrew coming to me one day after school. He hadn’t always been encouraged by his teachers to go into honors and Advanced Placement classes, but he knew that’s what he wanted for himself. Even in the 1990s—and probably somewhat today—students were often put in tracks at a young age based on cultural and racial considerations. But Andrew didn’t believe in letting others define him by anything other than his determination to work hard and get the job done. In his sophomore year of high school, he registered for honors’ classes, but within a short time, he realized all on his own that his past years in his English classes had not given him the skill set to master more analytical essay writing required in the honors and Advanced Placement courses. He knew he had the motivation and talent to succeed but he also acknowledged he needed help.

So, one day this gangly fifteen-year-old male student stood before my desk after the final bell had rung to end the school day. I don’t remember his exact words, but I do remember what he wanted. He wondered if I would help him work through his essays if he stayed after school a day or two each week. I don’t know if I showed my shock or if I fell off my chair, but I do remember that I took notice because in all my years of teaching never had a student asked if he or she could stay after school to learn how to be a better student. Yes, I’d had coaches ask me to tutor star athletes and parents request extra help for their children, but never had a young man asked me all on his own for help. Teenage males don’t often admit weaknesses, especially to female teachers. But that’s what Andrew did.

And unlike the other students, Andrew showed up. He came, and he listened, and he learned. And he applied what he had learned to his writing. Not only was he the first in his family to graduate from high school, he graduated with a superior record of achievement. That’s the Andrew I know, and more than two decades later, I still see in him that young man willing to learn, listen, and work hard to make the world better for all Floridians. I believe he has the energy, common sense, intelligence, and perseverance to be the best governor in the history of Florida.

In fact, I believe so strongly in Andrew Gillum that one day I predict I will be telling this story about the President of the United States.

How To Attract Hummingbirds To Your Garden | Garden Variety

Hello – I’ve been remiss in posting. Life has a way of interrupting things sometimes. But I came across this blog post today and thought it was cheerful and hopeful as winter continues to blast many regions in North America. I love my hummingbirds and believe this is the best way to get these little sweeties to our yard rather than using the sugar water in feeders, which need to be changed often and attract those pesky red fire ants in the South. Enjoy!

Greetings everyone…Spring has finally arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I still have a long wait before I can actually harden off my plants, and I am eagerly awaiting that day!

Source: How To Attract Hummingbirds To Your Garden | Garden Variety