“Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.” -Oscar Wilde
In a world that is so fast-paced, so aggressive, so offended all the time, so self-absorbed, it can be hard to know…just where does one fit in? Where should your opinions lie? In which direction should we send our sponge-minded children?
So many choices, so many opportunities to take a stand or to take a seat.
And yet, as complicated as the world may seem, it is only as complicated as we make it.
And that is exactly what we do.
We make life about how big our house is or how many dollars are in the bank. We make it about driving a nice car. We make it about appearances and smart children. We make it about politics and popular opinions.
And then, we make it about how other people perceive all of what we have (or don’t have)…feel (or don’t feel)…know (or don’t know).
But, in the end, none of that matters.
In the end, we will never look back on our years and appreciate things over moments. Or opinions over memories.
Life is all about the moments. The memories. The opportunities to instill good in others. The chances to mold our little people into what will hopefully be awesome big people.
Learning to live in- and appreciate- the moment is something I’ve found that we really only achieve as we get older. I do remember times as a child cherishing certain moments and events (like the slumber party you never wanted to end). But as we age, it is only more natural that we become more aware of it. We learn to cherish the mundane. The routine. We are more aware of the passing of time, the growing of the small ones, the desire to slow down.
And finding happiness in the simple things seems to come naturally. And frequently.
At least, it does for me. (I know I’m not alone).
I find joy regularly in very simple things.
I find joy in knowing that I do not have to drive a nice car. In fact, I do not drive a car at all. We only own 4-wheel drive pickup trucks, definitely not new, and often in need of repair.
I find joy in the warm comfort of my cozy home. My very humble home in all of it’s 1000 square foot, always-something-needing-fixed glory.
I find joy in truly having no idea what is in style. Because pajamas and muck boots are always in style around here. And my husband loves me despite.
And I find joy in my children witnessing the “normal” aspects of our lifestyle: the raising and harvesting of animals and vegetables, the creating and building by hand, the weekly making of bread, the baked goods served in the early morning hours, the meat products suspended from our kitchen ceiling, the baskets and baskets of apples, tomatoes, and potatoes, the garlic hanging from the rafters, the chicken poop on all of our shoes.
These are all things that they will not realize until much later are not everybody’s normal.
Because the world does not promote these things. The world promotes fast and easy. It promotes disconnection from our food. It promotes bigger, better, modern. And someday, they will need to choose their own normal.
But for now, my kids learn to string up heads of garlic in pantyhose. And that is, for this space in time, their normal.
And that, finally, brings me to the actual topic of my post. If you are with me in finding joy in breaking apart heads of garlic even when your fingernails are worn ragged and your fingers are raw, then this post is for you.
Sure, you can grow, harvest, and store garlic without feeling said joy. But then, it would be merely a task. And then, you may as well just go to the store and buy it. Or seek out another site that simply teaches you the methods of storing garlic, while missing the madness (I mean, joy) behind it.
Garlic needs to be properly cured before one even thinks of storing it. This is typically done by hanging the plants by the stalk, bulb down, for about 3 weeks or until the stalks are completely dried out. I hang my garlic groups of 10 or so, from the rafters of our enclosed porch. There is good circulation (important) with windows and the door open, but out of the sun (don’t cure your garlic in direct sunlight), and protected from moisture.
Once cured, the first thing I do is cut the garlic head away from the stalk. I grow only hardneck varieties, and like to leave at least an inch of stalk on it (which makes it easier for breaking it open).
Next, I set about selecting the cloves that will be planted for next year’s crop. I aim for the biggest, nicest heads first as I only plant the very best. Break them open and choose large cloves. Large cloves produce large heads. Small cloves produce small heads. There’s no getting around this. Keep in mind that size varies between varieties. For example, I grow 4 different varieties. One type produces very large heads with 3-4 very large (like, ridiculously large) cloves. Another type produces medium heads with 10 cloves of various sizes. Therefore, ideal size for one variety may look different than the ideal size for another variety. (Ready to plant now? See this post).
Through this selection process, you will inevitably break open heads of garlic where many of the cloves are not worthy of being planted. Just be sure to put them in a basket on your kitchen counter to be used first before your stored garlic. After selecting 6 1/2 pounds of cloves for next season, I ended up with 1 1/2 pounds of smaller cloves destined for cooking.
Once you’ve selected and set aside next year’s crop, it’s time to prepare your remaining heads of garlic for long term storage.
First, trim the roots as close as you can to the bulb (without nicking the bulb itself); to about 1/4″ in length. I have a small hand pruner that works nicely for this. Then brush away any remaining dirt (briskly rubbing the bottom of the bulb against the palm of your hand works well).
Next, rub your hand over the bulb from top to bottom, pulling away any loose, dirty outer wrappers.
Once you’ve repeated this process for all of your garlic, it’s time to string them up and store.
The ideal storage area is dark, cool (but not too cool, or they will sprout- so don’t think refrigerator temps), with good circulation. I have a crawlspace that works nicely for food storage, but a basement works good too.
Since your garlic needs to breathe, I’ve found that old pantyhose work perfectly for this. Simply cut them off at the top, drop your first bulb into the bottom (the toe of the sock), and tie a knot above it. Drop in another, tie, and repeat.
Pretty sure I saw this idea on Pinterest long ago. It works great; when it comes time to retrieve a head of garlic, simply cut away the bottom bulb by snipping just below the knot above it. This will keep the bulb above still in the string of pantyhose.
Typically, softneck varieties will store longer than hardneck. But certain hardneck varieties such as Porcelain, Rocambole, and Purple Stripes (all of which I personally choose to grow) can store for a considerable amount of time (as long as 8 months for the Porcelain). Smaller heads tend to store better than larger heads too. I keep this in mind as I’m using my garlic through the winter months- use up the larger, shorter store garlic first.
And that is it! Garlic is one of those plants that just gives and gives. In the spring, it’s one of the first plants to emerge, giving you the excitement of the impending growing season. It gives you spring (or green) garlic, which gives your taste buds the first tease of the garlic bounty to come. It gives scapes (or, the hardneck varieties do at least), which gives you pesto. And then it gives you an awesome harvest that you can pull in by the armload. It gives your rafters conversation piece decor. It gives your basement panty hose conversation piece decor. And then, when fall has descended and the garden season is wrapping up, you get to get your hands in the soil and plant again.
All of which gives you joy.
If your joy is found in these repetetive, mundane, slow-paced-life sort of normal things.
I know that is where my joy lies.
And I know, assuming you’ve read this far, that yours does too.