Garlic is a very satisfying plant to grow. Few pests attack it, it prolifically multiplies, it peacefully coexists with weeds and, in the kitchen, it is a very versatile and delicious food ingredient.
The garlic at Heart & Sole Gardens grows from parent plants that are likely well over 100 years old. We transplanted our first bulbs from an old “home place” where, although a house no longer stands, garlic and daffodils are abundant. Fast forward eight years and our garlic rows now hold hundreds of plants. This garlic, we believe, is very special. To begin our garlic tale, it is necessary to examine the history of these plants.
The property adjoining Heart & Sole Gardens, until recently, belonged to a man who had no interest in harvesting the garlic or using the land in any way. Left to their own devices, the garlic bulbs multiplied freely and now grow in clusters over much of the property. With permission from the owner, Richard and I transplanted bulbs to Heart & Sole, but we often worried about what would become of the garlic, daffodils and other heirloom plants that remained at the home place. As we learned more about the woman who once lived on this property and probably planted the original garlic bulbs, we became increasingly intrigued by her story and her land. . .
According to my mother-in-law, now eighty-eight years of age, the land adjoining Heart & Sole belonged to a woman named Laura Watson. By all accounts, Laura was a strong woman who worked her farm and raised her children. When Richard’s mother was a young child, she lived with her family not far from Laura’s home. Fiercely independent, Laura managed to provide for her children without a husband in her home. Perhaps she was a widow or maybe her husband abandoned her, but by the time my mother-in-law was old enough to notice, Laura was the sole provider for her family.
Today, a dry well, some scattered stones and rusty cans and broken glass, remnants of what was once a trash pile, mark where Laura’s home stood. Garlic, daffodils and a few other flowering plants are her living legacy.
A couple of years ago, the man who owned Laura’s property died and his heirs decided to sell the land. Richard and I worried about what would happen to our farm if someone bought the adjoining land and decided to clear cut the trees, build a commercial building or cultivate the land, using chemicals we avoid. Several months ago, I told Richard I thought Laura wanted us to have the tract of land that adjoined our farm. I could not explain the feeling I had, but every time I went to the farm, I felt a strong pull to walk over to Laura’s home place. Richard shook his head, but agreed to ask the listing real estate agent about the property. When we learned a contract to sell Laura’s place had just been accepted a short time before, we were sad, but philosophical about the situation. After all, we reasoned, we really could not afford to buy the land. A few weeks later, the agent called Richard and informed him the contract for Laura’s property was voided and the agent wondered if we would be interested in making an offer. As we discussed possibilities, I again told Richard I thought Laura wanted us to have the property. We decided to make an offer, one we could afford, but the amount was much lower than the listing price. Richard presented our offer and the owners countered with a number that was much higher than our offer. “If Laura wants us to have the property, the owners will accept our offer. If they reject it, it is not meant to be,” I told Richard when he told me the amount of the counter offer. When Richard called to tell me our original offer was accepted, I felt a shiver run down my spine. Smiling, I whispered, “Thank you, Laura.”
On the day we became the new owners of Laura’s home place, I worked at the farm for several hours. It was a hot, sunny, dry day and when I finished my work, I decided to walk over to Laura’s. I sipped from a cup of cool water as I made my way up the path that led to the dry well. Although the day was blistering hot and there had been no breeze for hours, as soon as I stepped over the property line, I felt as though the temperature dropped by twenty degrees. A cool breeze began to blow, tall grass stirred and tree branches began to sway, their leaves beckoning me forward. As I stood beside the sight of Laura’s former home, I promised to be a good caretaker for her property and I thanked her for sharing her home, her plants and, most of all, for sharing her garlic.