Garlic Harvesting 2008

I recently stayed away at a four day Dance Camp. Not getting many hours of sleep (alright, two, the last night), I came home in a daze and slept five hours straight from the afternoon until dark. When I forced myself out of bed to do my nightly chores, someone in my family who shall remain nameless told me I looked like a zombie. Perhaps that was the case, since I was able to fall asleep again that night with little trouble.

The next morning, after slamming my hand down on the snooze button many times, and then ultimately turning my alarm clock off, I trudged to the barn to help with the garlic harvest, late and bedraggled after the difficult task of milking Mandy.

I came upon the whole crew of interns, family and friends working steadily on an enormous pile of freshly pulled garlic. The garlic was neatly stacked on a long, wide hay rack. Courtney, Mike, Rebekah, Daniel and our new intern, Jesse, were immersed in counting up medium-sized garlic into mounds of twenty, then lining the tops up.

When finished with a pile, they would lug the garlic to Daddy and Asa, who had the finger-paining job of using faded orange twine to tie the tops together, using loops and knots so tight that it was virtually impossible to break. After tying one group of garlic together, they tied another group to that same string, so that in the end they would have ten groups cascading down, all tied on the same string. This string of 10 garlic bunches, 200 garlic plants, was taken over to Matt who hung it from the ceiling of the barn to dry there all season. These strings of garlic will be sold later in the year as individual garlic heads as well as garlic braids hand-styled exclusively by Daddy.

This was the scene I came upon when I walked, still dreaming, into the red and white barn, huge enough to house chickens, goats, tons of hay bales, and storage rooms all at once. But before I had even lifted my body off my bed that morning, the crew had done much more.

In the Bottom Field, faced with never-ending beds of garlic, garlic, and more garlic, they had carefully hand-pulled the soft-neck garlic so as not to break the delicate stems. After pulling for hours on end, they had set the garlic in the bed of the truck to be carried up to the barn. Using expert knowledge, the crew had divided every last garlic into three piles according to size: huge bulbs–used for next year’s seed, tiny bulbs, and then everything else that was neither tiny nor huge. Then, viola, here everyone was, counting, tying, and carrying.

Before I could fall asleep on the spot, Daddy told me to start counting the tiny bulbs into piles of fifty. “Whoa, these look like medium bulbs!” he said to me in Japanese as he examined the pile. He followed up that statement by informing the whole crew of the size problem. Just then, Kazami appeared with another pile of what were supposed to be tiny bulbs. Daddy looked down at the pile, then up at Kazami. “It seems we have found the culprit! It is Kazami!” he exclaimed, while Kazami sputtered excuses.

Later, after I re-sorted the pile into big and little bulbs, I figured out that Kazami’s ‘excuses’ might have been the truth. The big garlic I had separated were too many to be done by just Kazami. It seems Kazami was not the only culprit, but one of many, that just happened to be caught red-handed.

Soon, the last soft-neck group was tied and carried to be hung up. Thousands of garlic bulbs now hung from the rafters. We were done!

But only with the soft neck variety. In the Bottom Field, the hard necks waited with glee for their time to come.

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