Friday, 29 January 2021

For the Love of Earth

 Hello there friends and philosophers,

I have been struggling to figure out what to post, as information seems to be coming at us so fast these days, and everyone has a different opinion about what they hear. I have a lot of different opinions about what I hear too, and finally, it occured to me that by not sharing, I'm effectively censoring myself.  Besides, opinions are meant to be simply a waymarker on the path we are taking, just like footprints, so I'll take step here, and you can decide if you like the boots I'm wearing, or the earth upon which I trod.

Yesterday was the Bell let's talk mental health day, and some of the things I was listening to reminded me that the surest way to support your mental health is to have meaningful work.  I take issue with anyone who arbitrarily divides certain classes of work into essential, and non-essential - what is essential for the body is not the whole of what is essential for the mind or spirit, and denying the importance of some kinds of work is just another way of negating someones life experience, which can have disastrous consequences.  It is important for everyone to decide for themselves what "essential" means to them.

My mother's maternal family grew and marketed vegetables in southern Pennsylvania. I guess you could say they were one of the "lucky" families that made it through the depression with food on the table and a secure place to live, because of their rather default lifestyle. When my grandmother married, and moved to Ontario, she continued to grow a large household garden - not because she was afraid of food shortages - but because it was the only rational way to do it, if you wanted to can and freeze enough to feed your family through the winter. She was ever so relieved when Green Giant figured out how to mechanically process frozen peas that didnt taste like starchy cow fodder. Though they were never as good as garden peas, hand shelled and picked at peak sweetness and tenderness, frozen peas from the grocery store were a reasonable compromise that liberated a lot of time and effort. For reasons of her own, my mother went back to that tradition of shelling and freezing garden peas...its not logical or even "essential" perhaps - modern canning factories can do it more efficiently - but it feeds a part of her soul, and,  in having taught it to her daughters, she keeps a kind of experiential knowledge alive, that has value to us as a family.

Coming into this financial catastrophe that, despite popular belief, is not sitting on our doorstep - it's been an unacknowledged house guest for years - I find that I am taking for granted the enormous wealth creation that has been in my hands, all these years, simply by growing my own food. I'm glad for opportunity to finally understand the value of what I have.

Every time an item is sold, and transferred from maker, to marketer to retailer, to consumer, not only does the government usually take a cut (sales tax) but the initial price that the maker receives becomes a smaller portion of the final cost of the goods. It's almost like inflation, but in real time, on real goods. Each middleman performs a service that is essential to the process of getting that product to the buyer, including advertisers...but what if you didnt have to get it to the buyer? What if some things you could make for yourself?

This is the flip side of consumer economics - saver economics. It hasn't been popular in part because of interest rates being so low for the past two decades. When my parents were first married, it was possible to live off of the interest your savings made for you. Taking out a loan was serious business, and you paid dearly for the time it took for you to pay the money back, and become self sufficient again. Money and time are linked by interest rates. Ironically, at a time when minimum wage is the highest it's ever been, the value of our time, as defined by interest rates, is at its lowest. When your debt doesn't grow, but your pay check does, it sort of looks like a good time to take out a loan; a blank cheque on life, as it were, no matter how artificial the circumstances.

I would not be surprised if the Bank of Canada is now getting close to implementing negative interest rates, as the European central banks have been doing since 2016. Negative interest rates take ownership and savings and make them out to be a liability. Add inflation and you dont need highway robbery to bankrupt people.  

Our essential tools need to be justice, not welfare. Justice slices away untruths and inequalities that otherwise make it impossible to protect an individual's right to properties, or to work for their own benefit. Welfare is a moral sanction that justifies our  tolerance for inequality. 

 It is unethical to take more than you have to give - moreover, it is unsustainable to life on earth - yet that is the financial leadership of first world countries, who would have you believe that deficit is the inevitable truth of humanity's productivity. Think about it: if you agree that the debt our country is carrying is a natural consequence of the most evolved economic system we could possibly facilitate, it means that human beings are parasites, incapable of supplying to their own needs. 

This is grossly untrue. 

I know this from experience because I know what productivity looks like before it becomes drained by the system. I grow my own food. I trade for some things, and I support small business, which is the ethical form of capitalism, and the backbone of democracy. 

  The future will never look exactly like the past, yet the past holds a mirror to our future that defines how far we have come, and in what direction.  

So where are we going, and what will life on earth look like in the future? Well, it's up to all of us to ask this question: Do you smell life in back door deals behind corporate counters, or in back yard gardens, under rotting leaf mulch?  Can you feel it growing abundantly in nurtured soils, or in dirivitive market shares? Can you taste it in nutritious, homegrown vegetables, or in lysol cans? Where do you see life?  

Julie Fleischauer

Thursday, 6 August 2020

2020 Garlic Season

Hello Garlic Growers and Enthusiasts,
Our 2020 Garlic Catalogue has been out since August 15th, We are sold out of everything but a few bulbils packets, as of October 2nd. It has been a wonderful garlic season. Thank you to those who placed orders and dropped in at the farm!
  If you haven't already, you can email me to get on the mailing list : Julie Fleischauer or
 Our catalogue is posted under the "2020 Catalogue" page. With a short list of what is still available (everything else is sold out). (If you can't find the page and you are using a mobile device, you may have to switch to "view web version")
 This year, we have just been doing pick up orders and shipping, as the Stratford Garlic Festival was our only other venue. Golden Acres Farm is now open by appointment only. 

  If you require, we can provide contact-less pick up for your order. Regular pick-up location is around to the back of the barn, inside the large sliding doors where our drying/storage room is, in the repurposed granary room. If you have picked up garlic in the last couple years, you will know where I mean:
  Contact-less pick up will be inside the small door at the front of the barn:

 Please take note that we do not process credit cards, so please bring cash or a cheque, or prepay by email transfer. Prices this year are $18.00/pound, $9.00/ half pound, and $4.00 / bulb. There will be some 3 lb, 5 lb, and 10 lb limits on the bulk strains this year, and some of the strains will be available  only by the 1/2 pound or by the bulb. This is to encourage small gardeners, and to hopefully make more selection available to everyone. 

We've got some Silver Skins coming out of the ground today, that look fairly promising, so they will be available on the catalogue, sold by the bulb.  The Silver Skins and Creoles were planted this spring. I'm finding Spring planting just for those two kinds is often better than fall planting. I am not offering any spring shipping however, so if you want to try spring planting them, you'll have to store and cold treat them yourself. They keep really well, and cold treatment consists of putting them in the garage, or a cold space, for about a month before planting (just be careful not to freeze the bulbs in minus Celsius conditions).  Otherwise, they can be planted in the fall, with all the other kinds. I suspect that they do better in a protected area anyway, rather than the wide open field where I plant them. 

In general, the garlic did really well this year. I hope that if you've grown garlic, you've had similar success.

 Garlicky Regards, Julie

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Stratford Garlic Festival Cancelled for 2020

Vendors got the notice that the Kiwanis Club of Stratford has made the difficult decision to cancel the Garlic Festival this year.
I discovered that it may have been advertised in some media as an up-and-coming event. It was intended to continue this year; however, the ongoing social distancing rules proved too much for the organizers to humanly navigate. It takes an atomic clock to keep up with the news these days. So to clear up confusion wherever possible, I thought I'd put up a notice on my blog.

I expect we will be doing more online sales this year, through the Catalogue that I e-mail to you in August, if you've signed up or asked to be on the mailing list. I also post the Catalogue on this blog in August, under it's own page.

I very much invite customers to pick up their orders at our farm! I am positive we can come up with a comfortable solution for picking up orders in September.

 The half-acre of garlic in our field is looking pretty good so far. Only three leek moths were caught in the traps so far this season, so it looks like the pressure from those pests will be minimal. I'm looking forward to a good harvest!
All the best to you,

Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Beautiful Colour Green

 I love this time of year - when you see something green and gloriously growing, it's such a fresh new sight that you might actually take the time to marvel at it, and give it the attention that it deserves.
 The garlic of course has been up for a while, but it's finally attaining a handsome green, whereas it looked a little frosted and uncertain before. There is a really good stand this year!- I don't know how other growers made out with winterkill this year, but it's virtually non-existent here.
  I've had a few more questions than usual about spring garlic seed this spring, so I thought it'd be fun to show the difference of Spring, versus fall planted garlic:

On the left is Red Russian (a Marbled Purple Stripe) and the rest of the fall planted main crop. Center is Ail Rose de Lautrec ( a Creole) And to the right is Aglio Rosso (also Creole). Both Creoles were put in our vegetable cold storage in mid February, then planted one of the first days of April. 
This is not a perfect comparison - they are different varieties, and the Creoles were significantly smaller in bulb and clove size than the Marbled Purple Stripes to start. But, it gives you an idea of the advantages of planting in the fall.
  And, just to clarify, I don't sell Spring garlic seed. Bulbils and Creole and Silverskins are the only kinds of garlic I recommend planting in spring. The creoles and Silverskins seem to do better because their tender constitutions do not have to bear the brunt of our cold winters, whereas other, "more native" varieties of garlic, thrive in our wintry latitude. Bulbils do well either fall or spring planted, or so I've found. I wish I could plant Turbans in the spring, but keeping them dormant and in good quality is really not that easy. It's the quickest growing - fastest spoiling of any garlic. It's always sprouting by the new year. Not something you want to take a chance on for spring planting, especially since a seed slowly uses up it's energy reserves, and has less vigour in the spring. The effect is mitigated in Creoles and silverskins, because they keep the best. In the words of Bob Wildfong, Director of Seeds of Diversity Canada, "a seed is a baby plant, it needs food." When it's stored correctly, it uses up less food,but it still needs something. A dormant seed uses the food stored in it's body, which is why old seed sprouts and often grows slower, if it sprouts at all. Sometimes seeds die. (I'm talking about garden seeds now, lettuce, kale, peas, and whatever other kind of seed you can think of.) Fresh seed is always ideal.

I'm excited to see what kind of innovation will appear in gardening techniques this year. I never used to think wecould grow basil on our clay-loam soil here, but it turns out we can, if we hill it up and mix compost and a bit of sand in the soil directly around and under the basil plug. A lot is possible these days that once wasn't. We have a lot more tools,and ideas about how to use those tools. I haven't heard about a run on chicken wire and pest protection yet, but I'm sure it will hit in due course. There's a sort of irony in that farmers have felt criticized for years about how we deal with small, furry opportunists. And they say there is more wildlife in the city than there is in the country, (population by square meters, I'm thinking, which would make sense, since the  same is true of the number of people in a city).  I guess I will find out, with my city garden this year. The house I bought in Stratford was built in 1899. It's amazing to think how people lived 120 years ago. I have such gratitude for the foundation of knowledge they have built for us to stand on.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Hi There,
We've got pretty much all of our garlic planting done for the fall. 20 rows (30 inches apart) and  350 feet long, for a 0.4 acre next year! We score rows and then hill them up with a tractor, aiming to get the cloves about three inches deep. I love planting in a T-shirt in the sun - the garlic likes it too, if the last 13 years of growing garlic has shown anything. Right around the Autumn Equinox always seems to be our planting time - our clay-loam soil is dry enough to work with.

I wish you guys all the best with your planting! - whenever you plan on getting it done.
I always figure Sept 20 - October 10th is about right, but you've got to do what works for you.

Also, a little note: We are sold out of seed garlic for the season. I have some garlic bulbils available yet, but that's about it. Just a small amount of eating garlic is available from the farm. We don't have store hours, but are usually home, or you can make an appointment.

The John Deere 40 is ready to hill up the garlic row. The rows to the left of the basket have been hilled up aready. It helps with spring and winter flooding to have the soil raised over the garlic row - it keeps the ice from forming a solid sheet and blocking the air from getting at the soil. It also adds depth to the top soil, which is never a bad thing, and sheds excess rain off of the row all through the growing season.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Sizing it up Before Harvest

So, this is a question I ask myself every year:
Is this variety of garlic ready to be dug?
 I ask myself this roughly one-hundred times in the last weeks of July, and all the way into August, as I have quite a few varieties. After twelve years of growing garlic to sell, I still get nervous about when to dig.
It's a ticklish thing, you want the bulb to be nice and mature, but you want it to also have keeping quality and nice layers of wrappers so that it is salable and pretty.
The fail-safe way is to count the leaves, I think. Most bulbs will have six to eight leaves, and if about three of the bottom leaves are drying down, you can be sure it's not just a drought causing that - it's ready!
40-50% of those bottom leaves, dry or yellow, that's the clue.
If you look at the whole plant, it should be more green than yellow, because the dry leaves get smaller in appearance.

Sometimes within the row there will be some variation of when the plants are ready, even if it's the same variety, (In my case, out in the field with 400 foot long row, that variance can sometimes be caused by tile drainage, as in, where the soil was nice and the garlic did better, and so is larger, greener and later) but the variance should be pretty minimal. If a few odd plants are yellow, and the rest looks green, well, that could be diseased plants that are suffering, so don't go digging up the whole row thinking they must be ready, in that case.
Always be gentle with the bulbs. They bruise if handled roughly. It may not show up right away, but cloves that are damaged might mold or dry up later.
For Pictures and a more detailed explanation of how and when to dig, as well as some calendar dates to shoot for, see the blog archive 2015  "Harvesting Garlic" July 11.

You can usually tell early on how big the harvested bulb will be, based on how thick, or big around the neck of the plant is. Although, a few varieties have odd bulb - to - plant size ratios and can have really thick necks, with puny bulbs, or vice versa. Purple Stripes come to mind, they can have large plants with smallish bulbs. Turbans on the other hand can have respectively large bulbs compared to how thin and tiny the plant looks.)
Turbans seem to keep better if they are harvested early - as in, when only one to two leaves are dry.
In some kinds of soils the wrappers of Turbans and Asiatics will also split if left in the ground as long as other garlic, so be mindful of that.
And where you put them to dry does have some importance as well. Keep them out of direct sun - that can cause the cloves - which are actually "storage leaves", to turn green, same as an onion or potato might,( they are blanched by being under ground while growing, so they are white/cream coloured and need to stay that way). Indirect or artificial lighting is fine. Direct sunlight can also "cook" them, and excessively high temperatures can also cause the cloves to deteriorate (Something called Waxy Breakdown) so try to avoid places that lock hot air into the drying area when you are choosing a spot for drying your garlic. A box fan or oscillating fan and an intake/out take are all that's needed to keep air moving in the drying shed.
I always recommend the slow way of drying garlic - with the whole stalk attached until it is cured and dry. Any home gardener can do this method, it's easy to make bundles of 8 -10 bulbs and hang them somewhere, or lay them out on racks or in open baskets. It takes about two and a half to three weeks, depending on the size of the garlic and how dry the air is, and you have a better product from it.
The flavour of fresh dug garlic is hot, juicy and simple, so it is best to wait until the whole plant is dried down anyway. Garlic tastes the best about two months after it's dug - it reaches a maturity of flavour that brings out depth and character, and then it begins to very slowly decline into the winter months, eventually tasting simple and firey again, but dry, instead of juicy.

Well, I must go out and check on a few of the early varieties again, even a day or two can make a difference in how they look. I've dug a few Turbans already, but nothing else, so I'm wondering if the harvest will be a bit late this year.

All the best with your harvest! I hope it's a good one! Julie

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Scape Season - A little late, but not unusually so

It is soon time to cut your garlic scapes, if you haven't done so already. I've been getting a few emails of people wondering if their scapes should be out by now, or if they are unusually late. By now, yes, they should be out and starting to droop into their first coil, (unless you have a softneck variety which doesn't normally produce scapes). And yes, this year the scapes in my area are late. My Porcelains are finally starting to make a soft coil.

  If you also experienced a cold wet spring in your area, then things were probably slow to get going. Garlic Harvest can be as much as about two weeks later on a wet cool year, or two weeks earlier on a hot dry year, that's just how it is. Scapes seem to track the daylight patterns better (Summer Soltice being the initiation of the scape production in the plant), but they can still be a week or so later or sooner than usual.
For Porcelain type Garlic, July 6th is my benchmark for cutting scapes - note that that is for getting rid of the scape, not for eating it, as I let my scapes get a bit woody and stiff when the main focus is for bulb quality.
It looks to me like July 6th will be a good time for me to cut my eating scapes this year, so we could be about a week late...[Correction as of July 4th, Turns out scapes really do come at about the same time every year, all this heat maybe sped them up, I'm going say they are just a couple days late this year. My Porcelain scapes are ready to eat now, and a few are a tad over mature. LOL, maybe they were late to show up, but they made up for it once they got going.]

One of my favourite things to do with scapes is to use them in a beautiful Korean recipe for fermented scape sauce. As with most beautiful things, it's really simple:
2 parts Soy Sauce (no wheat soy sauce if it needs to be gluten free)
2 parts vinegar (pickling strength 5%)
1 part sugar
Fresh Garlic Scapes
Combine the first three ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cool.
Meanwhile, cut flower end off of the garlic scapes and chop into fine pieces (you can cut into 2 inch lengths and feed into a food processor if you like, otherwise 1/8 inch (or 3 mm) pieces).
Pack scapes into large, clean, (preferably sterile) jars. You need to make enough of the soy sauce mixture to cover however many jars you want to make.
Cap the jars loosely and let sit for 1 week, at room temp.
Strain juice off. Boil juice, cool and add back to jars.
This sauce can be consumed fresh, from the fridge for a couple weeks.
  Or, you can follow this next step for preserved sauce, and enjoy all year round (they make great gifts, then you can woo even the garlic critics and get them addicted to garlic too! Make sure you make enough to last until the next garlic scape harvest!) :
After the one week fermentation period, Empty the jars into a sauce pan or stock pot, and boil down, until the sauce begins to thicken a little.
Pack hot into sterile canning jars: like you would do with jam, leave a 1/8 inch space at the top, below the lid, and fingertip tighten the canning lids. Set jars to cool with a dish towel laid over them to prevent drafts from creating a premature seal. Make sure all jars are sealed before storing.
This stuff makes excellent sauce to use on roast meat, sandwiches, with grilling, etc.

Garlicky Regards, Julie