Monday, October 6, 2008

Black Beans and Winter Squash

I'm not sure what possessed me this morning, but after a lot of hemming and hawing about whether my beans and squash were ready to harvest, and wondering how to go about harvesting the beans, I decided this morning that the time was NOW. After the several inches of rain the other day, the bean understory had become dank and slimy, with all the dead leaves turning into compost. I was afraid the bean pods themselves would begin to rot, and compromise the viability of the beans. Or maybe it was the fact that I kept seeing the hint of gopher activity in the bed, like gnawed pods, and snipped stems. And the squash, having grown themselves into shady tall-grass (weedy) spots around their bed, were nestled into moist retreats without hope of drying.

I clipped all the bean stems in my 20-foot by 5-foot bed, and laid them on a tarp. With all the forecasted dry weather, they should air dry and then be ready for shucking soon. This action reminded me of the saying, "Make hay while the sun shines," or do things when it makes most sense to do them. Some individual vines had 20 or more pods on them. I felt excited seeing all those future beans. I'm not sure about quantity yet, but I am sure that I out-produced last year by a long shot. I plan on weighing my harvest, so I'll post it another time, and compare with what John Jeavons says is possible in a 100 square-foot bed.

I also had the pleasure of conducting a winter squash scavenger hunt, digging through the understory of grass, cornstalks, pole beans, and squash vines to find all the lovely mottled and swollen fruits. I knew there were a lot of them, but I was surprised, even so, by the quantity: 12 butternuts, 6 spaghettis, 10 or so acorns, 4 delicatas, 6 kabochas, and 3 of an unknown buttercup-type. Wow! It's a decent amount of squash, certainly all we need for the season, enough for us to eat squash when we want it, up until the fruits go bad. Some of the butternuts are truly large, probably 5 pounders! (All the spaghetti squash are that size, but we both find them less desirable...) I became further enamored with our squash because of the fact that this same 100 square feet has already produced a delicious and abundant corn harvest, and an ongoing supply of string beans. Now that's stacking functions!

On to the winter garden projects...tomorrow I will plant my garlic in the raised beds around the patio. And we received our RainTree Nursery catalog today. It's already time to dream about long-lived perennials that we will plant next spring.

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