628 bulbs weighing 67.5 lbs. Up from last year’s harvest of 575 and 2018’s 550. Split between our immediate family households where it is consumed often, and traded for stuff, it’s always mostly gone by the time the next harvest is ready. Last year’s most unique trade was garlic for Camembert and Brie with a cheese merchant’s wife. I do meet the most interesting people on farm business.

The size of our harvest continues to creep up as we apportion a few more bulbs to the seed box each year. My current farm book goes back to 2008/09, when we planted 186 cloves and harvested 143 bulbs. Not the best year apparently.

A nice thing about garlic is the ease with which it is grown. Absolutely our most reliable and least effort crop, I was even able to do garlic through the years when I had three busy school age kids (as well as the husband) to manage. We have been growing garlic here since the late 1990s when we first moved in, a couple hundred give or take, each year. 

After much discussion on this year’s garlic patch location, (a new spot every year is a must!) Dear Husband or Resident Gardener will climb on the tractor and start plowing, fetching great shovels-full of well rotted manure compost from behind the barn to mix in. By the time they are done, the lovely new garlic patch will be fluffy for a foot down.

I do the planting, in beds two arms-length wide with pathways between. Then RG and I bring the mulch, layering leaves with sprinkles of wood ash and more compost, bedding the garlic down for the winter. The mulching often takes a couple weeks since we like to use a variety of leaves, and they don’t all drop at once. RG rigs up the fence, which is only a couple feet high since neither deer, nor horses and donkeys, like to eat garlic. The fence only needs to discourage the chickens from scratching up the seedlings on their bug hunts.

Then we get on with our lives for seven or eight months, glancing at it infrequently to see how its doing this year, until the following June when RG cuts the scapes. I pull the crop, usually in mid July, they hang in a sheltered spot for a month or so, and then I cut off the stalks, trim off the roots, and sort them into net bags for each of our households, with the nicest bulbs going into next year’s seed box. Which is what I did today.

Garlic harvest is both a yearly milestone and a mindless task, a perfect time for reflection. Each year, I think back on what’s happened since last time I worked with the garlic, and about what the upcoming year might bring. New babies, new pets, kids moving out, and in, and out again, engagements, break-ups, new romance, sickness and health, there’s always something to review, something to look forward to, and lots to be grateful for.

I tell you though, I never foresaw this pandemic! Nor did I think that I would be cleaning bulbs this year with a face mask on, so I could breathe without wheezing, as our neighbours to the south incinerate. 

But not everything has gone wrong in 2020. It’s been a very good year for garlic, for example. Maybe this harvest is mother nature’s way of helping out. Garlic is supposed to be good for warding off werewolves and evil spirits, and we all know that 2020 can use all the help it can get!