Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to grow garlic

Yesterday we harvested the garlic... already! The garlic harvest usually indicates to me that summer is winding down and fall is on its way, but it seems too early this year. It is one of my favorite garden tasks, you tug on the stock and a whole garlic clove is unearthed, kept safe for a whole year by dirt and hay. It is so flavorful and healthy, don't you love it?

In this blog, I will tell you how to grow killer garlic! It is easy to do, low maintenance and very rewarding.

Growing Great Garlic


This is when you will want to go to your farmers' market and start talking to your farmer about the different varieties of garlic that she/he grows. You may be surprised at the difference in taste, bulb size and clove size. We grow German Extra Hardy, a monstrous variety with incredible flavor. The flavor is so intense that you cannot use it raw. The bulb is much bigger than what you would buy in the grocery store, but only has five to eight cloves on it. The other variety we grow is called Phillips. It is smaller and milder, and has a pretty purple shell. So ask around and find out what will work best for you. Do not go to the grocery store to buy your seed garlic. It is not local and therefore is not right for your growing conditions.

How much to buy: Estimate the number of garlic bulbs you go through in a month and multiply it by 12. This is how much garlic you go through in a year and how many bulbs you should grow. You should also have a few extra growing to plant the next year. Ask your farmer about how many cloves there are per bulb. You are going to plant the individual cloves, so figure out how many bulbs you will need to buy... plus some for your winter pantry!

Garlic Preparation: You will need to prepare your garlic for the garden. The first step is to find a good movie to turn on at the end of a long day. You will need to carefully break apart the bulbs so that each individual clove still has a papery shell. This shell is the garlics winter coat, so try not to crack it. This task is easy to do as you're watching a movie or listening to a book on tape!

Garden Preparation: Pick a place in your garden that is well fertilized and that has fairly good drainage. The garlic that you plant will be there for almost a whole year, so don't plan on using this plot next year for something else. You will need the soil to be soft enough to press the cloves into the ground about an inch, so rototill or use a garden fork to loosen the ground. You will want a little more than 1 square foot of garden space per garlic clove. You will also need a whole lot mulch. We use hay; while it is cheap, there are grass seeds in it, so you can expect a lawn the next year. Straw is more expensive, but a better choice for the home gardener as there are no seeds. Other choices are leaves or dried grass clippings.

Getting Dirty: Plant each clove pointy side up. Press the clove into the soil with your thumb and forefinger until it is 1inch below the surface. Plant the garlic 8 inches apart in rows that are about 18 inches apart. Once you have planted all of your garlic, cover the rows with 4 inches of mulch. This will keep the garlic cool and will keep out the sunlight so that they do not start to sprout before winter comes.

Early Spring:

As soon as the snow starts to melt you will see your garlic emerging through the mulch! It is pretty amazing to see green when all of the world is white and brown. When the snow is gone, make sure that all of the garlic has emerged through the hay, and help the ones that can't make it by moving mulch out of the way. Mulch again in the places that need it so that you won't have to weed quite as much.

Sit back and watch your plants grow!

Early Summer:

Garlic Scapes: You will notice that a curly stem is starting to grow out of the top of your plants. This is called the garlic scape. It is the flower of the garlic plant. Cut these off before they stand straight up. You can puree them with olive oil and salt and use it as a garlic spread for sandwiches or garlic bread!! Yum!!

Fertilize: This is also when we give the plants a boost with compost tea. Mix good compost with water and let it sit for a day. Mix it up well and water your plants at the base with the tea. It gives your plants a good boost.

Last week in June:

Harvest: When most of the leaves have fallen and turned brown, it is time to harvest! All you need to do is go though with a garden fork, loosen the soil around the bulbs, and pull! Wipe the soil from the roots and hang the garlic plants up in a place that is warm, dry and dark. We put them in the attic. In about 2 weeks, cut off the stems an inch above the bulb, snip off the roots and wipe with a dry soft brush... Now they're ready to enjoy! Store them in a cool, dry, dark place and they will last 9-12 months!

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's time to shear!

It's warm, the bugs are buzzing, and the sheep are BAAAAA-ing! It's time to shear! What an adventure that was! I took a course through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension on how to shear a sheep. With a lot of guidance from a very patient expert, I proudly sheared my first sheep, and watched as 20 other beginners did the same. It was a very large, 160 lb. beautiful yearling with thick brown wool. Her legs seemed longer than mine!! She emerged with barely a nick (though some others weren't so lucky!) and I emerged with a sore body, and the courage to go home and try it on my own!

This is Ramona, my momma sheep, with her full coat. I sheared more than 7.5 lb. of wool off of her!

I asked Gramp if I could use his old electric shears, he let me borrow them along with hand clippers. It took me about two weeks to finally say "Okay, Okay, It's time!!!" I had Andy and my very brave friend Paula help. I delegated tasks immediately and we went to work.

The first step of shearing a sheep is to flip them onto their rump so they're sitting like a teddy bear using my legs as a support for their back. In this position, they are fairly comfortable as long as my feet are in the right place. Then you clear the wool from their belly and hind legs. This wool is discarded as it is usually the dirtiest wool on the sheep.

After the belly and hind legs are cleared... well, that was as far as I could get using the conventional method that I learned at the course. There is a lot of maneuvering that needed to be done that was really easy when I had the expert to show me how to move into position, but that I couldn't get just right while on my own. So Andy (he's so good to me!) held the sheep in position while Paula kept the clean wool from falling on the ground as I sheared the rest of the body.

Once the sheep realized what we were doing, they loved it! After their new (very fashionable might I add) haircuts, they were put out on pasture. Well, they do look a little silly, but they feel much better. I now have about 20 pounds of beautiful white wool to process into yarn that will be the sweaters, socks, mittens and hats that keep us warm for years to come! I will take the course again next year and will shear these girls again, hopefully the right way! Until then, they're making a fashion statement that I'm proud of!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2010 Farmers Markets

This week was the first week of outdoor farmers' markets in Farmington. It was also the first EVER Farmington Farmers' Market! This year there will be three farmers markets in the small town of Farmington. The Sandy River Farmers Market will be held on Fridays from 9am-2pm and Tuesdays from 2pm-6pm. The new Farmington Farmers Market is held at the court house parking lot on Saturdays from 8am-Noon.

The first Farmington Farmers' Market was wonderful! The weather was perfect, there was no wind, and we had a lot of shoppers come through, we couldn't have asked for a better first market. Unfortunately I didn't bring the camera to the market, so I couldn't get any pictures. There should be a wide variety of vegetables, baked goods, meat, milk (a little later on in the season), eggs, seedlings, honey and other agricultural products as they come in season.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Breakfast Menu....

This morning I ate poached eggs with sauteed onions and spinach over toasted and buttered rye bread.. YUMMY!! All ingredients fresh, which makes it so much better. The eggs are great right now, they are very rich and vibrant due to the fact that the chickens have been scraping around the flower gardens eating bugs and whatever else they can find! The rye bread was made out of Maine Organic Rye and Wheat flours, the homemade butter was a gift from a friend (Mitra Luik at Aloha Rainbow Farm, no butter available to buy, but yummy chicken and duck eggs!) the onions were almost the last of what we stored in the fall, and the spinach was harvested last night out of the greenhouse. I should have taken a picture, but it's too late! So here is a picture of Richards beautiful, fresh, clean eggs instead. We now have greens available including green spinach, red veined spinach (bordeaux spinach), salad greens, baby bok choi, and arugula at the Farmers Market located at the West Farmington Grange Hall (beside the West Farmington Post Office) on Saturday mornings from 10-noon. The market is really picking up as customers with spring fever are craving fresh food!

If you are interested in having local food all year long at a discounted price, we still have space available in our 2010 CSA. Please contact us at or give us a call at 779-4858. We'd be happy to send you some more information.

Also, one more fun tid bit...

If you are looking for great recipes for your weekends, visit My father (a chef that is highly regarded in the state of Maine!!) writes this blog for the wine importing business that he and my mom run (T & D Imports). Every Thursday he posts a delicious recipe and suggests a wine that would be appropriate for the meal. Last week the recipes were for Marinated Pork Tenderloin in Adobado Sauce, and Maple Glazed Roasted Chicken and Vegetables... my mouth is watering and it's only 7:00 in the morning!! Until next time, Eat Well!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Yesterday as I walked past the bee hive in the blackberry field on my commute home I stopped to see what we had left. Last fall our bees were going great guns. The hive was bustling with life, a whole colony of bees stocking up for the winter. At the beginning of the winter, we noticed that there was a mouse nest in the hive, so we opened it up on a warm day, scooped out the nest, set a trap, covered up the holes so that they were only big enough for a bee to squeeze out and closed it up for the winter. But as the warm late winter days came, no bees escaped to stretch their wings and dump the trash that they accumulated all winter long. There was no warm honey smell as the sun beat down on the hive and there was no soft hum drumming when I put my ear close to its belly. Yesterday I opened it up to find a very large mouse nest made of dead honey bees and honey comb. The hive is dead. I cleaned up all of the honey comb that was clean. There was very little honey. I cut the honey comb into sections and put them in jars for the honey to run down to the bottom. I plan on making hand cream and lip balm with the wax. What a sad end to the hive that had such an exciting beginning! I plan on trying again this year with a different entrance... one that is more mouse-proof.

On a happier note, the greenhouse is flourishing with greens growing above ground and earthworms thriving below. The Seedling Greenhouse has been a success. The eggplant, pepper and tomato seedlings are germinating nicely, while the chickens in the West Greenhouse are fertilizing the soil for them. Andy and I have had two meals that have included fresh greens. Hopefully they will be ready to harvest for sale next week!

The sap has stopped running! What an early spring. Notable is the fact that on this week last year we drew off our first batch of maple syrup! Today we are done collecting and have 22 gallons of finished product! Not bad for a bucket brigade operation.

Enjoy the gorgeous weather!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sandy River Farmers Market

I should clarify what was happening earlier this winter with the Sandy River Farmers Market. There was a chance that the parking lot next to the Better Living Center (the location of our Farmers Market) was going to be developed. That is no longer the case. However, parking is becoming more and more of an issue for people who live in down town Farmington, so Andy and I believe that this issue will need to be addressed again sometime soon.

It is no secret that Andy and I would like to have the Tuesday afternoon market (for those of you who go away on the weekends and work during the day) along with a Saturday market in a location that is more visible to people who are shopping downtown on the weekends, and to tourists who are driving through on their way to Sugarloaf and Rangeley. We wanted you to take the survey to help us find out what the community wants in a Farmers Market. We believe that Farmington is a very unique town, and that it deserves a vibrant farmer's market that is family oriented with shade, music and a wide variety of healthy, local foods making it a destination location for the community. It has been a vision Andy and I have been conjuring up since we started this venture 4 years ago.

Unfortunately, we can't get many of the Sandy River Farmers Market members to agree with us. We have a lot of respect for the other vendors and believe that there are many great farmers in this area. We don't want to step on toes and we don't want to cause any hard feelings, so for now we are going to be at the Better Living Center Parking lot from May to October every Tuesday from 2-6, and Friday from 9-2.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring has Sprung!

It is officially spring in our greenhouses! Seedlings are growing very fast as they already have their first true leaves! Andy has been very busy trying to keep up with the sap that is "gushing" out of trees, but I have had plenty of time in the greenhouse to weed and water... I am loving life!!

Here are some pictures of our plants...

This is a red mizuna mustard green that is a part of our salad mix.

And this is Bok Choi. Yummy!

In about a week the greens should be big enough for us to have our first fresh salad of the year!!

We have also started 736 eggplant, pepper and tomato seedlings. We are expecting germination to occur at any time. These seedling will be put in our newly constructed seedling greenhouse that we incorporated into one of the larger greenhouses. Essentially a greenhouse within a greenhouse that allows double the protection, including a propane heater equipped with a thermostat.

Here is a picture of the seeds being planted. Yes this is my kitchen floor and yes, the seed trays are still in my house! This causes a great mess, and is very distracting for the kittens.

Andy has started 53 varieties of tomato. This is his favorite crop to grow. They are very time consuming to tend, but it is so satisfying to see the greenhouse filled with tomato plants taller then me covered in ripening red, pink, purple, green, yellow, orange and marbled tomatoes... we will have them soon enough!!!

The farmers market at the West Farmington Grange Hall on Saturday mornings from 10-noon is going well. There are more and more vegetables every week! Andy and I had baby romaine lettuce for dinner last night that we purchased from Aloha Rainbow Farm. She sells them for another local grower. They were so crisp and sweet... I think I'm going to go make a loaded sandwich for lunch!

Monday, March 1, 2010

CSA 2010

Our 2010 Year-Round CSA Memberships are now for sale! We are keeping the same set-up as last year:

you can purchase a $100, $200, $300 or $400 share, we then add a certain percentage to the amount you paid. You then have a line of credit that you can use to pick up Marble Family Farms products. You can pick up what you want when you want it. You can find out more at the MOFGA website.

We are set up at the Farmer's Market at the West Farmington Grange Hall every Saturday from 10-Noon until May, when we will be with the Sandy River Farmer's Market in the BLC parking lot every Tuesday from 2pm-6pm, and Friday from 9am-2pm.

If you are interested and would like more information or to sign up, you can e-mail us at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I realized that I really haven't said much about my sheep. So I'll tell you about them now...

Every day when I feed and water my sheep (I have three; Amelia, Ramona and Beatrix), I open the pen so they can get out and stretch their legs. All winter long, though, they have been confined to the barn because it has been to icy for them to walk around outside. This morning was particularity nice because it had a damp, early spring feel to it, so I decided to take my sheep for a short walk so that they could "pronk" as my friends like to call it. If you have never seen pronking, it is when the sheep jumps as high in the air as she can and kicks her hind legs out. Or she starts running, then jumps up straight legged and lands as hard as she can. It is quite fun to watch and I can't help but laugh out loud. I brought the grain pail out to the front yard and they followed like good sheep until they realized that they were out in the open, it didn't take them long to start running around like little lambs.

I have had my sheep for about 9 months now, and I have to say that they are the sweetest animals I have ever dealt with. Tending the sheep in the morning is the only farm chore that requires me to slow down and talk softly. Sheep are very skittish and like routine and familiarity. My girls are a family (a mother and 2 lambs) and stay together. They are Corriedales, a wool and meat breed, but I don't intend to eat their babies. I didn't have them bred this past fall because only the mother, Ramona, was old enough. This fall I am going to have them all bred, and that will probably be as big as my flock will get for a few years (no lamb chops for you!). I really think that animals want babies, it's just the way nature works. This spring I am going to have to learn to shear them. I can wash, card, spin and knit the wool. Now I just need to learn how to dye it! Maybe you'll see some of the finished product at the Farmers Market this year!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Maple Syrup

It is a month early, but we have started tapping trees. Andy was as sick as a dog when he went out there and tapped on a beautiful, 40 degree day. It was a tough decision to make, to tap or not to tap was the question. But after a full week of gorgeous March-like weather and no cooling trend in sight, he could no longer wait. The trees have been tapped since Wednesday, 4 full days now, and we have gathered 120 gallons. That is enough to make about 3 gallons of syrup. Apparently the sap from early runs is the highest in sugar content, so it is the best. We will have some to sell at the next farmers market, so if you are a CSA member and were hoping to get Maple Syrup, stop in soon because it sells out quickly!

Here is our operation in a nutshell:

We have about 100 taps out, no more than 3 taps in a tree (and those are big trees). We are hoping to put more out, but we need to find more clean 5 gallon pails with lids first. Andy chooses the maple that he wants to drill based on its size, the look of the crown, and its location. He then drills a hole about 1 1/2 inch deep on the south facing side of the tree.

Then he gently hammers the tap in until it stops. Hang the bucket off of the hook, and the sap just starts running! It's like magic. The sap is clear and slightly sweet.
When the buckets are full, he goes around with a sled and collects into these giant pails that he got from "The Bucket Man". He pulls the sled down to the sap house and starts boiling. It takes a full day of boiling in 3 different pans to get the sap to the right sugar content. Today will be the first time we "draw off" the syrup, so that means blueberry pancakes for supper tonight!
Apple Pecan Coffee Cake

2 1/2 Cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Cup maple syrup
1/3 Cup canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups apple, peeled, cored and chopped.
1/4 Cup chopped pecans
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar
1/2 Cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped pecans
~ Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, Cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together and set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugar, maple syrup, oil, and eggs together. Stir in the dry ingredients, then fold in the apples and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto plate when cake is slightly cooled.
~ Stir together the topping ingredients and drizzle over the top of the warm cake.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Farmers Market

We are running into some difficulties with the location of the summer farmers market in Farmington. First of all, BLC employees and customers have lost parking spaces in front of the store, so more and more there are people who have to park where the market takes place. This is incredibly frustrating for both market vendors, and people who can't find parking spaces!! Second, depending on a few factors, the movie theatre may put up a fence at the end of the parking lot, leaving no place for our customers to park. Third, we are getting to big for the lot. We have turned down some really great vendors because we simply don't have the space. It is a shame!

If you live in the Farmington area please take this Farmers Market Survey. If you have already taken the survey, please ignore it.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Warm in the Greenhouse!

Well, It is planting day here at Marble Family Farms!

Last night we moved the chickens from the "old" greenhouse (now called the East Greenhouse) to the "new" greenhouse (now called the West Greenhouse to avoid further confusion on our part!). The ladies did a great job of picking the greenhouse clean, and leaving a lot of fertilizer! Here is the greenhouse after 25 chickens have cleaned it up for us!

And here are the chickens at home in the East Greenhouse now! We have a lot of carbon in the soil, so the high amount of nitrogen in the chicken manure should help break it down. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants will be in this greenhouse later in the spring.

So today we are rototilling and planting a 90 foot row of Beets, a 90 foot row of Spinach, 20 feet of kale, 20 feet of Swiss Chard, and 90 feet of salad greens! We are hoping that in 70 days we will have something to harvest! I can't wait for vegetables. Okay, the carrots and potatoes that we have in storage are wonderful, but you can only cook them so many ways before they get old! I need fresh, crisp greens!

Usually we have greens all year long, but this year we decided that the East greenhouse needed fertilizer in a big way, and that we wanted the addition on the West greenhouse. So we decided to take the winter off. We also wanted to get away for a while and this gave us the opportunity. It was really great to take a break from farming for a little while. We came back to it with the enthusiasm that we needed to regain. Now we are ready for a new growing season, and I know that I will never go without having at least a small plot of winter greens again!!

Here is my favorite soup recipe (although I did have homemade Minestrone soup that was even better! You can find the recipe at 4boysonly!) I thought I should post something to do with all of those storage vegetables! I always chop up potatoes and throw them in with the tomatoes. Also, a great addition is to chop up greens (spinach, swiss chard or kale) and throw them in as soon as you turn the heat off at the end... Delicious!!

Tomato-Lentil Soup with Brown Rice
The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

2 Tbl. EV Olive Oil
½ Cup Onion, Chopped
2 Small Carrots, Chopped
1 Celery Stalk, Chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
4 Cup Vegetable Broth
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Lentils, rinsed and picked over
¼ Cup Brown Rice
14 oz. Canned Whole Tomatoes, drained and chopped
½ tsp. Thyme
1 Bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste

~In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic; cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth, water, lentils, rice, tomatoes and their juices, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, until the lentils and rice are tender, stirring occasionally, 50 to 60 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Serve hot.

Per serving: Calories 378, Protein 28g, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbohydrate 52g, Dietary Fiber 22g, Sodium 763mg.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Hello again!

After the rush of the holiday season, we had a MAD DASH to get the greenhouse addition constructed. With lots of help from family and friends, Andy and I were able to complete the project before our January 7th dedline. Here are a few pictures of the construction.

We moved the gable end 50 feet forward, then put up bows every 4 feet along with purlings, coller ties, and lots of wind bracing. The hardest task, however, was securing the plastic.

On January 5th, we had a completely calm day, all of the bows were up and everything was ready, the weather was perfect with not a hint of wind. We decided to put the plastic on as soon as we could get enough hands to help. By the time we had the 60ft x 120ft piece of plastic rolled out and tied to the ropes that draped over the peak of the greenhouse, it was starting to get dark. The wind started to whisper slightly as we started heaving the plastic toward the peak and over to the other side. Well, it doesn't take much wind to move a sheet of plastic that big. Three hours, many cuss words, and only 1 gaping hole later and it was in place. It is not pretty, but it will do until it warms up enough for us to gain motivation to make it a tighter fit.
On January 7th we were on a plane to Ecuador! What a relief to have the greenhouse finished. We are hoping to plant spinach and beets by next week. It will be so nice to get out there again!