Day in the Life of a Garlic Farmer

Saturday, October 24, 2015

It’s 6:30 in the morning. The sun isn’t up yet, but it’s time to be getting ready for another day of garlic planting. A glance out the window reveals a foggy morning. It’s going to be chilly out there. Better get an extra coat this morning, and pack a hot lunch…

For a few weeks per year, yours truly and her fab sister (aka should-have-been twin) dive enthusiastically into the muddy, grueling, long-houred, back-breaking, oh-so-satisfying, and totally enjoyable role of Garlic Farmer. We love it! There’s an organic garlic farm just across the little valley from our home, so we get to help out with everything from planting to harvesting to weeding to cleaning the heads of garlic after they come out of the ground. We’re sore and covered in dirt by the end of the day…but it’s SO worth it. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of planting that last clove into the ground with the feeling of winter in the air!

That was a few days ago. We’ve just finished the last task of the year – the planting process – and now we’re in that waiting phase of watching the weather and hoping it doesn’t get warm enough in November for the cloves to sprout. (it’s okay if they do, but harder on the young plant through the winter.)

Garlic work here is also a fascinating cultural experience. The other workers (five of them) are Bhutanese, straight off the boat, who immigrated here after living for years in a refugee camp in Nepal. Many of them cannot speak any English; at least they understand bits of it. The sing-song of their friendly chatter can be heard all throughout the day, accompanied by peals of laughter as jokes and stories are shared. I wish I knew their language. I asked them what it was, and one said Indian, and another said Nepalese. Perhaps it’s a combo… :)

They asked (with sign language and a curious compilation of broken English words) what I was studying. I said French. This launched quite a spirited discussion; apparently they find French quite fascinating! They wanted to know many things about it, and from then on I would hear periodically throughout the day: “Émilie!” (interestingly enough, they always pronounce my name like the French do) “What is ____ in France language?” 

In two days we planted over 50,000 cloves by hand, working down on our knees in the rich soil, pushing the cloves down through small holes in black plastic-covered rows. At noon everyone would stop for a break and a quick bite to eat. Ibs and I, sitting out in front of the barn, where we could enjoy the last bits of Autumn sunshine, were enjoying our sandwiches when one of the Bhutanese came over.

“Here,” he said, handing us a paper plate with something funky on it, “our food. You like?” He waited, watching us taste it, seeing if we approved. It was a unique little flatbread, sort of like a cold pancake with a spicy taste, and some Indian-like curry with potatoes and unidentifiable flavors. Not bad at all! We assured him that we liked it, and he went away all smiles, joining the other Bhutanese at a picnic table and jabbering to them excitedly (at which they all looked over at us and grinned).

The afternoon was spent in more planting. And more planting. And more planting. Until every clove was in the ground and every row was covered in straw…

At last we were finished! It is SO satisfying to look back over all the rows and know that everything has been planted for the year!

And at the end, I was hanging up my gloves when I heard a voice behind me. “Picture?” he said. It was one of our new Bhutanese friends, grinning shyly and holding up a Smartphone. “Selfie!” he added, and Ibs and I gathered round as he happily took one of all three of us. Apparently the concept of a selfie spans many diverse cultures… :)

It’ll be several months before the garlic requires tending again, so for now we will settle down and enjoy the long winter. Speaking of winter, there’s something white and fluffy and freezing coming down outside the window as I write… one of the first snows of the season!!! Pics of that coming soon (I hope).

Happy Weekend, people!

 [along our walk home from the farm]

View Outside My Window

Monday, October 12, 2015

This is what I saw when I walked into my bedroom this morning...

Is that not totally beautiful?! I think I have a pretty nice view. :)

I love Fall!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

[yours truly at 3]

I was a little girl,
Alone in my little world,
Who dreamed of a little home for me

I played pretend between the trees, and fed my house guests bark and leaves,
And laughed in my pretty bed of green.

I had a dream...

(Priscilla Ahn)

A Day for Gratitude

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy October 4th! I hope you are feeling good, warm, happy, cheerful, fabulous, chipper, and awesome...

I'm feeling blue. There is a sad piece of news on my mind today, which makes it a little more difficult to feel the above emotions, which means that I'd better set to work thinking about something else. Like what I'm grateful for. And what I'm excited about. And what I like about life (wow, this list is going to be long).

So here goes...

...It's apple season in Vermont, which means that approximately every other tree across the state is loaded down with a kazillion tart little numbers. Most of them are wild and free for the taking. This puts me in mind of sauce, cider, juice, pie, dumplings, salad, canning, baking, and generally living in the kitchen.

...An old friend from the Magdalen Islands called and left a message on Papa's phone. He wanted to know when we were coming home, and would we get to go ice skating together this winter? It made me miss him, miss the Islands, miss ice skating, miss hearing archaic French, and pretty much want to hit the road this afternoon.

...Playing Bach's Arioso on the cello is WAY more fun than I'd ever imagined!

...The temps here have finally reached freezing, so we picked all of the remaining tomatoes and are going to make them into a huge luscious salsa. I love fresh salsa. #countrylife

...Yesterday morning someone looked out the window and noticed that there was a mother deer in our backyard, and a baby deer nursing. Totally, totally cute. (to whom it may concern, regarding the venison: also yum. But I'm focusing on the cute today. Please bear with me. :)

...A local couple is moving and they gave us a brand new salad spinner. It completely made my day! I've been wanting one of those handy contraptions for eons! Salad ahoy!

...Farmer Ryan gave us a bunch of extra scallions. I've eaten more scallions this week than in the last five years combined. They have been tasty, tasty, TASTY! I've been putting them on everything, and then some.

...Curtis arrives home in 2 days, 19 hours, and a negligible number of minutes. I'm going to hug him for a week.

...A dear friend just got engaged!!!!!!!!!! And another dear friend out in California is getting married today!!!!!!!!! Now that is exciting news!!!!

Okay, I'm going to stop this list now, because otherwise I'll keep going for an hour. I feel way better! Way, way better! Now it's time to go make dinner. We'll have burritos, and since it's Sunday, everyone will pitch in and help. I'm going to saute andouille sausage and Ibs will make her famous guacamole... and maybe, just maybe, the guys will make stuffed peppers. Please, please, please, don't get me going about their stuffed peppers. Those little items are like a million bucks in a bite - too tasty for words. Think savory, spicy, melty, cheesy, rice-y, sausage-y, peppery, I'd better stop. Oooooh yeah I'd better stop. I hope the guys make them for dinner.

Happy start-of-a-new-week, folks!

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