Category Archives: gardening

Beans and Friendship

Husband and I like to grow shell-out beans in the garden.  These are beans that form in their pods and you can let dry and then shell and store,  unlike green beans that you eat whole when they are fresh.  We use them in soups and stews.   We have grown several varieties over the years, like Vermont Cranberry Beans and Good Mother Stallard.  We particularly like shelly beans, as they are sometimes called, because some of them are pole beans and they save space in the garden since they grow vertically.  One problem with the more popular varieties, though, is that their growing season is a little too long to reach maturity here before frost.

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians were agricultural tribes who lived (and still live) on the Missouri River in North Dakota. They liked to grow shell beans, too. Many of their bean varieties were collected by horticulturists in the early 20th Century and can still be bought from certain seed companies.  Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden published in 1917 by anthropologist Gilbert Wilson, is his account of a famous Hidatsa gardener’s advice and stories about gardening in the Northern  Great Plains.  She grew huge gardens of corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers on the rich bottomlands near the river.   All that rich land was flooded with the building of the Garrison Dam and the development of Lake Sakakawea, and the members of the three tribes were moved to family allotments on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. That land isn’t very fertile at all.

We grow Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, which are fat, creamy white pole beans, and Hidatsa Red Beans, which  are smaller, red bush beans that get to be 3 feet tall and need a fence to grow against or else they  sprawl all over.  Both have shorter growing seasons.  I have never seen either of the seeds for sale locally or on the Reservation.  We got them from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our native friends from the reservation don’t seem to be very familiar with them.

I mentioned to our Arikara friend Bruce what beans we were growing, and he said he got some authentic Ree Beans (another word for Arikara)  from a woman Elder some time ago.  You can see them in the header photo.  He tried to plan them on his allotment, but the soil just wasn’t good enough.  He wondered if we would be willing to try them in our garden. I said we would be very happy to. They are brown bush beans that  seem to be very similar to Arikara Yellow Beans that I see in seed catalogs. I told him that we will have a bean feast next fall with him and his wife, and our Hidatsa friend, Leo.  I may have to refer to Buffalo Bird Woman for some recipe ideas.

Got any good bean recipes?  What are you looking forward to doing with friends once we can gather? How are your garden plans coming along?

Proceeding Hopefully

In about three weeks,  we will be in a new month and new year.  I have never gone through such an extended period of change at work, societal upheaval,  and perpetual anxiety.  I am beginning to see some glimmers of a more  positive existence,  and have allowed myself to have some hope.

It has been a few weeks since the governor of ND issued his mask mandate, and while there are still people who go maskless, the number of people wearing masks has increased very noticeably.  It is also very interesting that the number of new, positive cases has dropped precipitously since the mask mandate was issued.  Oh, I know it will go up due to Thanksgiving  gatherings, but the trend of increased mask wearing is encouraging.

Our Tortie was near death a month ago.  Now she is thriving on a maintenance dose of steroids.

My workplace is finally settling down after our move, numerous technology changes, staff turnover, and treatment paradigm shift,  with  good administrators in charge and people getting necessary things done that were neglected for a couple of years.

I try not to wallow in political news since it keeps me awake at night, but that is starting to look more positive,  too, in terms of the changes in administrations.  I also am hopeful now that the seed catalogue are arriving in the mail.

What glimmers of hope are you seeing? What are you hopeful for in the new year?

Supersize

I was impressed a while back when Margaret wrote of ordering a turkey leg quarter that weighed seven pounds. That must have been a really big bird.  A local grocery store here  sells boned, skinned, split  chicken breasts, and each half of the breast weighs  a pound. I would be afraid to run into a chicken with a chest that large.

It must be the season for supersizing. The following photo is of a leaf off of our August-planted spinach. I stationed my glasses in the photo to give a sense of how big that leaf is. There were many leaves this big in this fall crop.

I never grew spinach this big before. It was the same variety I tried in the Spring with disappointing results. I attribute the success to planting it in August in the trenches the peas had grown in, so that the soil was warm and full of nitrogen, the nights were cool, and the days weren’t too hot. I doubt I will plant spinach in the Spring again, as it just bolts to seed.

We don’t have a Costco or a Sam’s Cub in our town. The nearest are in Bismarck,  and I have never ever been in one. I know that people here love to go to those stores, but they just don’t appeal to me. I would worry that I would go off the rails and buy supersize lots of too many things that we don’t have storage for.  It is hard enough to figure out what to do with gargantuan spinach leaves and scary chicken breasts.

What are your favorite supersize and supersmall stores?

 

 

Artistic Differences

Our church has a large garden space meant for contemplation as well as growing vegetables for the local food pantry.  Yesterday was the Sunday we spend every fall engaging in community improvement projects instead of worshipping.  Husband and I and several other volunteers spent the morning getting the garden ready for winter.

Our pastor’s husband was instrumental in planning the layout of the garden and planting the flowers, shrubs, and trees when the garden was started five years ago. He helped clean up the garden today.  Mike is a  school administrator, but spent the early years of his marriage running a landscaping and tree service to support his wife through seminary.  He told me he is happiest climbing trees.  I realized today that he and I have very different ideas about gardens, as he is most concerned  about aesthetics, while I am far more practical.  He feels a garden should look beautiful even in the winter.  I just want everything trimmed so it looks neat and tidy and there isn’t so much cleanup needed in the spring

Mike  planted everbearing strawberries in garden when it was new. They bear nicely and the children love searching for strawberries after Sunday services.  Husband and his girl scout gardening sidekick gave lots to the domestic violence shelter all summer.  Mike was in a quandary today, as the strawberries are growing all over the place amongst the flowers and shrubs, and don’t look as neat as when they were first planted. He wanted to trim them all up and cut them back. I thought we should leave them so we could continue to have enough for the children and for the shelter.  We compromised by his trimming back the messiest ones and leaving the rest spread free and unfettered.

I am a firm believer in trimming irises and day lilies in the fall. Mike knew they had to be trimmed but lamented that the daylily foliage still looked so nice, and it was a shame to cut it down. I reminded him how disgusting and slimey the foliage was when it froze and rotted.  We both agreed that the Monarda should be left untrimmed.  I like to leave it so the stems catch snow for moisture.  He likes to leave it because the dried flower heads are pretty in a winter garden. Same result, different philosophies.

When we were all done, the garden was cleaned up for winter. We all agreed it looks quite nice.  Many of the shrubs are turning red and the Michaelmas Daisies are blooming  profusely.  Children were finding lots of strawberries to eat. It was a good day.

How do you coexist with those with whom you have artistic or philosophical differences?

Concrete and Good Boundaries

Husband and I are pretty good gardeners.  We can grow vegetables, flowers, and shrubs, but we can’t grow grass.  We have struggled with our lawn since the day we moved into the house 30 years ago.  Over the years the garden beds have become larger and the square footage of grass has become smaller. The neighbor’s and our own trees have shaded large parts of the lawn where no grass would grow. Husband’s grill area was on a bare plot of dirt and weeds. He has grilled in the mud for years. All we ever had success with was putting down bags of mulch to mitigate the muck.

Three weeks ago,  one of the secretaries at my work stopped by and handed me a brochure for her and her husband’s new concrete and landscaping business.  Both are Hispanic. She is born in California; he is from Mexico. There also is a landscape architect as a co-owner.  This was really good news, since we have approached other local masonry and landscaping companies over the years and none were interested in taking us on. They were too busy and our job didn’t interest them, I guess.

I thought long and hard about getting involved in a business relationship with someone I worked with. She doesn’t work for me directly, but we are on the same floor and I see her all the time.  What if they did a lousy job?  What if there were legal problems? What if the cost was too expensive and we had to disappoint them?  How would this impact our personal boundaries at work?  We decided to take the risk. We were desperate. Our yard really needed some sprucing up.

Ruby, Fernando, and Lorenzo the landscape architect came over.  We explained our needs, they measured and gave us an idea what they could do.  The next day Ruby helped us pick out the color and pattern for the decorative concrete. They had a proposal in less than a week, it was very reasonably priced, and we signed a contract. They were to put in a large cement patio for the grilling area, put  a cement path in a shaded area on the south and west side of the house that would encircle the deck, and replace a smaller patio that bordered our deck. They also were to replace a wooden fence that was badly in need of repair.

They started work a couple of days later, and were just about finished last weekend. They will come next week to dye the edges of the concrete a dark grey to contrast with the slate colored cement that is patterned to look like stone. (The concrete has to cure for a week or two before they can apply the dye.)  We are very happy with the work.  Both Husband and I felt such a sense of calm walking on the new concrete. The flower beds look awful with all the construction workers trampling on them, but they will rebound next spring.

Have you ever been in a business or professional relationship with a coworker or friend?  Why or why not? How did it work out?  

But You Were Supposed to Read My Mind!

Today’s post comes to us from Jacque.

Last week VS and I arranged for pick up or delivery of some plants for Anna’s memorial garden for her late husband, Tom.    We arranged for 10-ish on Sunday morning.  Things in my world have been moving kind of fast, despite COVID restrictions, so I read VS’ email to everyone about donating plants, contacted her VS about my donations, and did not read the details closely.

So at 10-ish on Sunday morning, I pulled into her driveway and called her.  She picked up immediately and said, “I’m just turning on to Scenic Heights.  I’ll be there in a second.”

To which I said, “Great.  I just pulled into your driveway.”

We both started laughing.

“This is meant for a blog post.”  I told her, adding, “I guess I did not read the email closely enough.”

“I said in the initial email I could come pick them up but didn’t reiterate it in our back and forths” she said.

And I replied, “You were supposed to read my mind.”  I needed to get out of the house to go somewhere, anywhere, and just assumed….well you know.

Tell about a memorable miscommunication or assumption you might have checked more closely.

Freeze Warning

The earliest 28° frost/freeze where we live can occur any time between late August to late September. Last Friday, the National Weather Service warned us that a killing freeze/frost could occur Monday and Tuesday nights, September 7 and 8. That is pretty early,  and all the signs were indicative of this calamity.

On Sunday, Husband and I harvested all the chard, green and red New Mexico peppers, red sweet peppers, and  any tomato that showed any inclination of ripening indoors. (Tomatoes that have been subjected to a frost when they are still on the vine should not be canned. It produces some enzyme that is contrary to safe canning.) That meant a trip to several  local liquor stores to get boxes for ripening tomatoes, as well as a search for canning jars. (There are no canning jars to be had in our town now, as everyone was scrambling to save their garden produce, too. )

We spent Monday figuring out how to maximize the canning jars and lids we still had, and to cook up  a couple dozen chili peppers for enchilada sauce. We covered bean poles with comforters and blankets, and also covered  pepper plants  and  cantelopes with old table cloths and a large tarp. So much for a restful Labor Day Weekend.

Tuesday morning dawned with frost covered roofs and droopy tomato plants. Similar cold temperatures are predicted for Tuesday evening, so we will leave everything covered until Wednesday. By then, warmer evening temperatures are predicted.

When has the weather changed your plans?

 

Bugs

For the first time ever, we have an infestation of flea beetles in the kohlrabi and cabbage. You can see in the header photo what they did to the kohlrabi leaves in just a couple of days. We very rarely have insect problems in the garden, and usually never have to apply insecticide. This time the Sevin was sprayed vigorously  on these tiny, black, flying beetles the size of sesame seeds. We will wait three days to harvest, then all the cabbagey things are getting removed.

I am both  fascinated and repelled by insects. I know we need some, like bees, but I wish they weren’t so destructive.  People here try to catch flea beetles and take them to the Badlands and put them on Leafy Spurge, an invasive plant that is toxic to cattle and resistant to herbicides.  What a wonderful use for them.  I like useful insects, but that is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

What are your favorite/least favorite  insects? How do you manage them in your garden? What are your feelings about insecticides?

The Great Pepper Mystery

Husband and I started six varieties of peppers from seed this year.  We started two sweet red peppers (Spanish Giants and Ajvarskis) and two hot chilis (Joe Parker, a New Mexico Hatch type red chili, and Chimayo, a smaller, hotter, New Mexico red Chili). We also started some Habaneros and Thai chilis for our son

We labeled them and were careful to not mix them up.  When we planted, I was certain that all the Joe Parkers were given to my secretary,  as we decided at the last minute we didn’t want them. The Thai chilis and one Habanero went to our son, and all the rest, (17 in total) went into our garden. Or so we thought. Imagine my surprise  when son sent photos of the alleged Habanero that looked long and slender like a Joe Parker. Two of what I thought were Chimayos also turned out to be Joe Parkers, and now we can’t tell the difference between the Spanish Giants and the Ajvarskis, as their tags got all mixed up when we planted. The header photo shows what I think are, from left to right a Spanish Giant, an Ajvarski, and  Chimayo. (The latter are quite easy to discern.)

Husband tried to do a taste test between two big peppers,  but they tasted similar. I decided the only way to solve this mystery is to not start any Joe Parkers next year. I should add that the peppers I gave my secretary were doing well until we had a wind storm and a big tree crashed on top of her garden.

What mystery, ancient or modern, would you like to solve?

84 Pounds of Pickles

I have never been able to do math in my head. Husband is far better at it, but last week he failed at basic math hilariously while using a calculator.

Husband found some lovely vegetables at an Adventist farm  stand.  (Adventists are supposed to be vegetarian,  but I find it humorous that some of our most prominent local  Adventists are big time cattle ranchers.) We decided to make German  refrigerator pickles with them.  The recipe called for four quarts of brine and one cauliflower,  one carrot, twelve pearl onions, two cucumbers, and two bell peppers. It all had to sit in the brine in a steel pot in the refrigerator for a week.

We have a refrigerator in the basement just for this purpose,  but we are always concerned about the weight on the shelves. Husband calculated the weight of everything and worriedly told me that we couldn’t possibly put the brine pot in the fridge because it weighed 84 pounds.

Well, that just didn’t make sense to me, and after some sturm und drang, Husband recalculated and determined it all weighed 8 pounds. The veggies are brining  away in the pot in the fridge.  Now I can finally tease him about his math skills.

How are your Math skills?  What kinds of Math are easiest for you? When have you miscalculated?