Earlier this spring, R got some garlic sprigs from a farmer co-worker friend of ours here in Utah. We made a small bed in our front yard (safely away from Loki), and planted 13 little cloves. This has been strictly a learning experience; we actually hadn’t done much research about growing garlic until after the cloves had been in the ground for awhile. After a couple of months, 11 of the 13 cloves we had planted sprouted. Another month later, they had grown almost a foot tall, and started to flower. Garlic curls at the ends where the flower bud is growing, and they looked like cute little curly q’s out of a Dr Seuss book.


The beautiful bed.



Those little flower bud ends are called scapes, and you’re supposed to cut them off so the plant uses that energy to make the garlic bulb underground bigger, instead of using it for the flower. Scapes are edible, have a very mild garlic flavor, and a little bit of sweetness to them. So R snipped all the of the scapes off (we had them with dinner that night), and harvested a couple of the bulbs to see how they were looking.


First harvest.

The bulbs were small, but looked and smelled strongly of garlic. We tried peeling one to have with dinner, which turns out to be more of a challenge than expected, since you’re supposed to dry them first. So we tied the others up to hang to dry outside in the shade. We left the remaining plants in the ground for another week or so, before we harvested those too.




Some of the bulbs are bigger than others, and quite a few of them have a purple tint to them. We washed them, cut the greens off, and set the bulbs on a rack to dry. We left the roots on for now, but at some point we will remove those as well. The rest of the plant, the greens, we will add to our mulch/compost, which will provide more nutrients and good “green compost” for our future soil. The scapes and actual garlic bulbs are what we’ll be going for in the future for not only our own personal use, but also to sell at farmer’s markets.


Hanging up to dry.


We learned a lot just from these 11 little garlic sprouts. We probably didn’t water it enough at times, and it’s not ideal to plant them in the spring. Garlic is more of a fall planting crop. We will plant some more this fall out in CO, then really let it thrive for as long as it needs. The reason our bulbs now are smaller than they could have been is they didn’t have enough time to spread their little roots. Garlic is meant to grow over the winter, and not get harvested until nearly a year later.

Living and learning!


This is only the first of many times I will talk about dirt. Since we will be growing a lot of our own food, dirt is an essential part of that equation. Our property is at 7500 feet, which while we are in the sun belt (meaning over 300 days a year of sun), it also means shorter growing seasons and lots of frost and snow. So if we have truly awesome dirt, that just gives our crops that extra boost they need to thrive in that climate. The natural soil up there is pretty rocky, and while the topsoil is really nice, dig down only a few inches and you hit clay. Not ideal for garden beds, which is why we’ve decided raised beds and creating our own dirt is the way to go.


We were able to get our first raised garden bed built and the dirt brewing a few weekends ago! We screwed together 2x6s, and made it 8′ long, 30″ wide. We happen to have a lot of rabbit poop, hay, straw, and wood chips at our disposal, which we are using to our advantage to create our own dirt. 

After we dug up as many weeds and vegetation from the bed as we could, we layered it like so:

A layer of mulch from another part of our property, which consisted of top soil from underneath scrub oak, as well as dead oak leaves and some pine needles that we couldn’t avoid.


Rabbit poop. Rabbits make amazing fertilizer, all day every day. It is high in nitrogen, yet isn’t as hot as other types of manure, and breaks down quickly. The rabbits from our “rabbit poo source” are fed a healthy diet, are free from antibiotics and medications, and are loved and well-cared for. Plus rabbit poo is some of the easiest to work with. Dry little pellets that don’t stink and don’t make a big mess.


You’re using my what for what, exactly?

Hay & wood chips. Inevitably, hay gets mixed in with the rabbit poop, but we’ve also been collecting hay in addition. We also have the benefit of straw from Amelia’s bedding.


Alternate mulch, rabbit poop, hay.

And there you go! We left it to sit in the sun and rain so everything can break down and hopefully turn out some pretty rad dirt! Some rad dirt that might someday grow our zucchini, or tomatoes, or peppers, or herbs. We’ll let you know how it looks next time we make it out there.


A cautionary tale.

So, we’re out there digging and clearing, and R digs up these little white flowers, which, when they pop out of the ground, look just like wild onions! We dig up 3 little onions, admiring the fact that our land is already producing food, and take them across the street to the neighbors (always best to get a 2nd opinion). “Cool! Wild onions!” they say. Seriously, they look like and peel just like onions. They didn’t have the smell though… that’s where we went wrong.


The culprit.

So that night R and I are celebrating camping out, cooking a big pot of soup (complete with our newly found onions), drinking a little whiskey and tequila, sitting by the campfire, enjoying our trees. The creamy potato soup we made was delicious: zucchini, asparagus, garlic, onions. Almost immediately after we got done eating, I felt weird. Not sick, just… weird. I thought maybe it was the combination of already being sick (fighting a cold), with a bit of whiskey, and lack of sleep. I decided I needed to lay down. So we curled up in the tent with Loki and passed out.

I have no idea how long I was asleep before I was AWAKE and not feeling well. I left the tent and wandered aways away, so I wouldn’t get sick right next to where we were sleeping, and puked up dinner. Over and over. I got really dizzy and my eyesight went blurry at one point, so I decided it would be best to be near R instead of off in the woods somewhere. I stumbled back to the tent and continued being violently ill for who-knows-how-long. It sounded like there was a very angry wild cat in my gut, making noises that I didn’t know my body could make. It was freezing cold, I was hyperventilating, shaking, and wondering silently if I should go to the hospital and that those could not have been onions.


Loki knew better.

When my sick-fest ended, I crawled back into the tent in the fetal position and moaned and coughed for only a few minutes until R was suddenly up and throwing himself out of the tent. He just barely made it outside when his sick-fest began. We didn’t say it out loud to each other until the next morning, but we were apparently both thinking that maybe we should go to a hospital (and we both severely dislike doctors and hospitals). R was thinking of at least taking us to a warm bathroom somewhere to be sick in.

Morning came; we’re alive, weak, and tired. We drove into town for breakfast. We both managed to keep some food in our bellies, and I started googling on my phone to figure out WTF we ate. A bit of research revealed that we mistook wild onions for a plant called Death Camas. Yes, we ate a plant with the word death in it. I’ll let you do your own reading up on the plant if you so desire, but the point is, it’s extremely poisonous and thank goodness we didn’t eat very much of it.

wild onion blubs 1

FYI, this is what onions actually look like when pulled out of the ground.

When we got back to Sugar Mountain after breakfast, we immediately went to go warn the neighbors, then we spent most of that day recovering. Drinking lots of water and sleeping. It took a few days for all of my residual symptoms to go away, and it took R a bit longer (I think that’s because it was in his system longer; I got sick almost immediately). So this was the big reason we didn’t get much accomplished during our first long weekend on our land. And while yes, that sucks, and we’re kinda dumb, we learned. Now we know what those things are so we can get rid of them.

I mean, both of us have worked in the woods before, we should’ve known better. As my brother told me right after this experience, “Mother Nature won that round, bud.”


Don’t make her angry.


Two weeks ago R and I had our first weekend on our new land. We hadn’t even been camping at all so far this year, and for weeks we were so excited to camp out on Sugar Mountain! Our first official nights on our land. OUR land. How cool is that?! We made some plans for our 4 days out there, some little initial things to get accomplished, threw some big stuff in the car we wanted to stash out there, grabbed Loki, left beer and cash for our wonderful amazing reliable petsitter, and off we went. We had made arrangements to pick up a non-working chest freezer from someone in town (for use as a small root cellar), and were feeling overall very productive and optimistic.


Please throw the ball.

When we arrived we discovered we had neighbors in the lot across the street from us, and while the lady neighbor was walking her dogs R went to introduce himself. They’re seasonal neighbors from Mississippi, and had recently bought their lot as well, which came with a cabin already. We spent some time with them, talking driveways, solar panels, and water cisterns over beers, between us setting up camp and getting to know the land a little better. I had been fighting a cold for about a week at this point, so wanted to at least get a little R&R in over the weekend. But we started flagging out an area to put a driveway and level spot (for a cabin), and so we started a little brush-clearing.


Amelia’s green meadow. Thanks rain!

Digging up sagebrush: not bad. Digging up scrub oak: kind of sucks. It had been raining quite a lot in the area so at least the ground was soft, but thick. The topsoil is really nice, but quickly turns to clay. The weather was on and off rainy/sunny/warm/cold, so getting a lot accomplished was a challenge. Occasionally we would have to retreat to the tent and wait out the storm. The second night we were there we got food poisoning (that story is for the next post), and we spent most of that next day recovering (and cursing onions). We had made plans to get a storage space in town, pick up the freezer, and look at a bunch of free fencing material, but none of that happened. 


Look at that, we do have running water.

Instead, we laid up in our tent while it poured rain all evening, night, and morning, and had to wait several hours into the next day to pack up our camp, due to everything being sopping wet. Packing up a wet campsite just sucks. We wanted to leave to head back to Utah earlier in the morning, but then the car was stuck in the mud, everything we had was heavy and wet, the dog was muddy, and we were fighting with tarps and trash bags trying to stash some things out there on the land until the next time we could make it out. The usual 6 hour drive home took 9 hours when we got stopped several times for road construction, and none of us were very happy by the time we finally got home. 

We knew this wasn’t going to be all unicorns and rainbows, and unfortunately it ended up feeling like a waste of weekend, but it really wasn’t. While we only got to tick one thing off of our to-do list (got our first raised garden bed brewing), we did also manage to get some numbers for some local people that do things like punch in driveways and build cabins. We learned more about our land (like that we have a tiny seasonal stream when it rains!), met the neighbors, and despite the freezing nights and pouring rain, we did finally get to camp for the first time this season. 


Nice little seasonal stream.

Things can always be worse.