The 2017 garlic seed has been planted. Over two hundred pounds of our own saved seed went into the ground today. Over the next few weeks, we’ll cover the seed with aged horse manure, followed by a thick layer of leaves. Barring a freak heat wave, the seed will lie dormant all winter. Then in March, when the landscape is still fully grey, tiny green spikes will emerge, heralding the arrival of spring. By late-May the leaves will be waist high, and inevitably some passerby will ask “Is that corn?” By late-June the bulbs will be fully sized, and we’ll swoop in for the harvest, a huge job that marks the turning point of the season. It’s at that point that we select the best bulbs for seed, and our focus begins the shift to the following season.
This year’s planting crew included Dan, Steve, Donna, Judy, Francis, and myself. As I worked alongside Steve, both of us sweating in spite of the chill air, I observed that after weeks spent mainly harvesting and distributing food—of working in the Tin House more than in the fields—I always relished this full day in the freshly tilled soil. For me, planting garlic is a flashback to spring, when the fields are quiet but the work is demanding. Steve replied that for him, it demonstrates a faith in spring. Much as I hate to admit it when Steve is right, there’s no denying that planting a seed in November, at a time when everything else is dying back, is nothing if not a demonstration in faith.