Tag Archives: beans

the jungle

I’ve dug up a few interesting farming-related articles from around the web: how high food prices can hurt — or at least not help — third world farmers, what Wal-Mart, cancer, and organic produce have to do with local farming in my hometown of San Diego, and when agricultural conservation gets contentious in New Jersey.

And finally, as promised, the optimist’s version of our two-week vacation from the farm:

In our absence, the farm went from a vegetable patch to a vegetable jungle. The quinoa now towers as tall as I do, brimming with proto-grain. Remember when, three months ago, I dreamed of a bean thicket? Well, now I’ve got one — an impenetrable green mass whose weight has managed to partially collapse its fencing. And the winter squash field — oh, the winter squash field! Green jack-o-lanterns, three times the size of my head, lie casually in the dirt. A French variety of yellow pumpkin — which looks as if you took a bright yellow globe and squeezed it at the poles, so it’s slightly wider than it is tall — bursts through the green vines with an unexpected splash of color. The textures, colors, and sizes of the squash are all different, all energizing: the ribbed delicata; the smooth, ovular spaghetti; the pear-shaped butternut; the pleasingly round kuri. (There are also a few mysterious hybrids, such as the one that’s shaped precisely like a spaghetti squash but is ribbed and dark green, like an acorn. What will it taste like? Only time will tell.)

Yes, a few of the mysteriously diseased squash plants died, but a couple of them are reminding me of… oh, I don’t know, pick some great hero, Hercules in the Augean Stables myth, or Queen Elizabeth I resolutely refusing to wed, or Mel Gibson in Braveheart, or something.

This one could not be more gallant, stolidly hanging on just long enough to put all of its energy into a small-but-perfect kuri squash:

So these are the upsides. And more good news: at today’s market in Windsor, we made more money than we ever have before. We still haven’t added up all of our numbers to see if we’ve actually paid off our investment costs yet, but I’m not going to let that dampen my spirits! Instead, I’m going to drink a locally-brewed beer and toast to all of the wonderful customers who’ve helped us out — by coming back every week to see what we have, by telling friends, and for all the little things, too, like getting excited about purple bean recipes and armenian cucumbers.

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the dance of the beans

From the moment they rear their little heads — seed noggin, leaf-ears — out of our crusty clay soil, I fall in love with beans. The way, even as youngsters, that they politely tuck their leaves down at night and raise them to greet the day each morning. The patterns that emerge from twining so irregularly around whatever happens to be in their path, leaving loud cursive loops leading up to the runner’s final serif.

Sure, there’s something a bit dark about them — clambering up each other, grabbing desperately for light, using other things to support themselves rather than developing a strong enough stem on their own. But if it’s dark it’s also beautiful: the evolutionary efficiency, the speed of growth, the brilliance of the bean’s little dance that leads it to twine around objects. It’s a marvelous adaptation. (Have you ever seen a strangler fig?  Gorgeously sinister.)

Next year, perhaps, we need to plant them further apart… there are sometimes five or six stalks to a single piece of fence wire, and I have a feeling it’s going to be tough trying to locate beans in the midst of this forest, come harvest-time. It’s practically a full-time job trying to hook errant runners onto the fencing, too.

Still, I enjoy the dance.

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Filed under Farm Beauty, Farm Philosophy