Oh, it's one of those times I wish you could just scratch 'n sniff the computer screen. It's garlic harvest time!

These HUGE bulbs were a pleasure to pull out of the ground; they came up easily, as though wanting to be released from the dirt. The soil was interspersed with tons of mycelium, threading its way around the garlic roots. It was just a beautiful experience, the smell of the garlic and the soil, the ease with which I pulled up the bulbs, the lovely sight of roots mixed with healthy fungus. We planted these last November.

That's a lot of garlic!

A quick rinse of the roots, then up on top of the chicken coop for drying. The coop is covered first with a layer of hardware cloth, then with a light roof of sun-deflecting panels. The garlic will stay in between layers for a month, to cure. Then they can be braided and hung and used all year!

Now the coop looks like a Tiki hut! Where's my umbrella drink?
The shallots will get the same treatment, but they don't seem ready to be harvested, yet.

The thought of garlic braids hanging, plus any preserving I might want to do (last summer the thought of canning anything just made me tired, but I'm feeling differently this year), made me wonder where to keep preserved food. Our house is tiny, maybe I've mentioned that once or twice or a thousand times before? I kept pumpkins in my bedroom last September, for heaven's sake. Seed potatoes were kept there, too. I need a better solution. 

I have one spare corner in the living room. It's where the dog sleeps, but if I install some sort of hanging rack, it won't usurp his spot. Dad has made Shaker pegboard hanging shelves before, and I think something like this would be ideal for my needs. The garlic can be hung from hooks in the ceiling. It's a cool, dark corner, and filled jars would look pretty there. 

Not my dad's; just some random pic off the internet

Anyway, more on that as it develops.

While barrowing some dirt, I came across this chrysalis, lying on a rock. I think it must have fallen off the oak tree, as we've been having some significant winds. I put it in a more sheltered spot, and hope it hatches. No idea what it is.

Which reminds me to give you a bee update. They have been going through about two cups of simple syrup per day. Yesterday, Tom went back to add more to the feeder, and got stung! So we've both had our stings for the year. I'm sure the bees will understand that we've met our 'sting quota,' and will be careful with us in the future. :)

Today, we opened the hive to see if they've finally figured out how to build straight comb, and everything looked the way it should, yahoo. The bees are bringing in a lot of pollen, which is a good sign that babies are being made, and we also saw capped brood. We don't normally see the queen, but all signs point to her doing her job. 

Here's a picture, just before we closed up the hive. This is taken from the back looking forward, so you can see the last several bars of comb. The comb near the front of the hive is complete, but this comb near the back is still being built, so you can see the layers on each bar. It's a cool shot. We only have ten bars available to the bees just now; we will add more as they continue to build and grow in number.

Capped brood on the third bar in. I love this fresh, white comb.

Walking around the garden today, I saw lots of interesting things. Blue flax has bloomed. I haven't been able to grow this wildflower in years, and I'm delighted. More forget-me-not has bloomed in the pollinator garden, as well as new salvias blooming every day. The tomatoes have gotten bushy and are starting their slow climb to 6-10 feet tall. (Actually it feels like a fast climb!) The potatoes have sprouted, too!

We didn't make this basket heart-shaped on purpose. I just can't seem to get it straight on the seam!
The new pea plants are growing beautifully...

...while the old ones, having served us well, are starting to look tired. Tomorrow, they get composted, and cucumbers planted in their place.

The strawberry wall is doing better than I'd ever hoped!

and, the slugs never seem to climb up here!

I've had two reader questions: One came from a friend who couldn't believe, with the amount of mulch we have, how much I'm having to weed. I guess I don't talk about weeding much. Margaret Roach from Away to Garden says you need to walk each bed, be it flower or veg, every week. I've come to agree with this advice. The main weed villains here are seeds that have sprouted from our trees. Two trees in particular - the Brazilian Pepper and the Chitalpa. Both have a zillion seed pods with two zillion seeds per pod and they turn up everywhere. And now in the North Garden (the new garden which was sheet-mulched last November) there is Bermuda Grass coming up, as well as Jimsonweed (or bindweed). The stuff drives me crazy. It's enough to make you wish for many bottles of RoundUp. I resist the urge and pull by hand. And that means it has to be done frequently. I only wonder how bad the weeds would be if we didn't have this much mulch? And they are easy to pull out, which is some consolation at least.

The second reader question was a request for a panoramic picture of the original, South Garden, since we posted a picture of the North Garden last week. So here you go:

In front are the leftover beets and broccoli (soon to be culled), the right side of that bed is a succession planting of carrots. Behind that I seeded collards (the nasturtiums have a head start), some marigolds, and the potato baskets on the right. Behind that is the end of the kale (still vigorous!) and to the right of that I seeded romaine. Behind that are the peas, and on the right I will be seeding cucumbers tomorrow. On the train shed you can see the strawberry pallet, underneath which are shallots, and the garlic, which is now gone. The right corner is the pollinator garden. I hope to re-create this in the North Garden, but that's a project for next weekend. Over to the left is what's left of the lawn, which has been heavily seeded with red and white clover for the bees. You can just make out the bee hive in the back center of the picture.

In educational news, I've recently signed us up for an online beer making class, through The Kitchn! It starts May 4, promises to get us brewing a gallon in 20 days, for under $100. I don't drink a lot of beer, but I think this will be fun, and Tom's always wanted to do this. (And secretly, once we've brewed some beer, I'm going to use the equipment to make vinegar.) I've also signed up for a fruit tree pruning class in June. I'm really glad to be doing this, because I hack away at our poor trees every year without knowing what I'm doing in the least. Lastly, Tom is going to take a grey-water class in May as well. Education is important and we're glad these sorts of classes are offered!

I'll end this entry with something bittersweet. I've noticed several dead birds both here in our yard and out on the trails lately. I did wonder where all the birds go to die, because we have an awful lot of birds visiting our yard. They have to die somewhere, right? Two photos are posted below, they aren't gross, in fact I'm posting them so we can admire the gorgeous feathers on these little guys, but if you get upset at stuff like this, best to leave now (I won't be offended)!


Mourning Dove on our porch

Anna's hummingbird in the open space