Now that we’re nearing the end of winter our focus is shifting towards the upcoming season, but there are many loose ends to tidy up before we move on. We’re starting to run out of a few stored foods, or at least getting down to a rationed supply. This is great for varieties that don’t keep all that long in the “root cellar” as they will be consumed before spoilage can set in. But shortfalls in crops that store well mean it’s necessary to review planting plans from last year versus the new year in order to make adjustments (we’re planting twice as many beets this year as we tend to run short and we really like them).
After the near failure of this past summer’s garlic crop (see our previous posting “Our Garlic Stinks”) , we’ve been reduced to using dried cloves only, except for our Elephant garlic, a species more closely related to leeks. For stir-fry or other dishes that really need fresh garlic, this variety’s mild flavor works well enough. Its mildness means that you can use it with abandon without overpowering a dish. Right now, we are using up the last of the harvest – from 2011! That crop was harvested over a year and a half ago! The quality is starting to decline in the last few bulbs but as soon as they’re used up we’ll start dipping into the 2012 harvest. Their enhanced keeping ability means that this garlic is high on our list of garden priorities, and the fact that it seemingly wasn’t affected by the aster yellows disease is an additional plus.
Shallots/potato onions are another great keeper in our pantry. On January 19th, we used the last of the 2011 harvest. That is typical for us which is why shallots are a staple crop in our garden. Our window boxes of fall-planted lettuce are reduced to a few straggly plants, enough for a couple of more meals. January-planted replacements are making slow progress as we’ve had little sun lately. But soon spring plantings will begin in earnest as we usually plant leeks, celery, celeriac and lettuce around Valentine’s Day as the sun’s intensity increases. So the end becomes the beginning and the cycle keeps on turning.
As the heating season winds down, it’s time to use up the firewood supply in the porch and refill the woodshed with fuel so it can dry down over the summer. We have room under cover to stack a 2 year supply so our wood is always nice and dry. The end of winter is a pleasant time to be out in the woods when there aren’t a lot of other tasks pulling one in many directions at once. Also, the ticks aren’t a bother if there’s still some snow cover and a sled can be used to haul out the wood. Our other major task to be accomplished before winter’s end is pruning fruit trees. On most nice days in February and into March, you’ll find us outdoors working on one of these woody, perennial chores. Spring can’t be too far away.