Monday, July 25, 2011


We're awash in green beans, eating copious quantities and sending over 150 pounds (so far) to the food banks this summer. The variety is rattlesnake, an heirloom, open-pollinated so I can save seed and use it next year. We selected rattlesnake after trying a number of varieties. It is stringless and produces delicious green beans and dry beans. The beans tend to mature in clusters that separate easily from the vines, making for (relatively) efficient picking. And the green pods are beautiful, with nice purple highlights that disappear when cooked.

This season I planted more than ever before, and it's becoming a challenge to keep up with the plants. If we fall behind, the plants will decide they've produced enough seed and start to shut down. If we decide that a partial capitulation is called for, I'll red flag a row or two and we'll let those mature into dry beans.

Why "rattlesnake"? Supposedly the purple streaking looks like the coloration of a rattlesnake, but I'm not convinced. Or perhaps the rustle of the dry bean pods sounds like the rattle of a rattlesnake, but don't they all?
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Sunday, July 24, 2011


The hot weather of the past few days has forced a number of semi-flight-capable barn swallows out of their nests. The small birds stand on the rim of the nest, doing all they can to create space between one another, and some of them tumble out. Ms. K has named this one "Eddy." Eddy landed, and remains, on the pavement outside the kitchen door. For the past couple of days his dedicated parents have been finding and feeding him there. The white moustache is what ornithologists call a "grin patch." It's a target for feeding parents and will fade quickly as he gains flight and foraging skills.

Of course, "hot" is relative. We got to 96F two days ago and close to that yesterday. This morning brings a wash of cool breeze that promises to keep the day well below 90F. Our comfortable, low-humidity temperatures are not even in the ballpark compared to what the rest of the country (with 33 states seeing a heat index of 100F or greater) has been experiencing over the past week.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

hops at dusk

Rows of ripening hops, viewed from the top deck of the water tower, make a dramatic shadow pattern. We'll start picking a few varieties next week.
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

shiro abundance

Over the past few days, over a hundred pounds of shiro plums have made their way to friends and family, to Magpie, and to the food bank. Shiro are an early- to mid-season Japanese plum, maturing about 10 days after my Santa Rosas. They are flavorful and a nice luminous yellow from skin to seed, a colorful complement to any salad or baked thing.

WWOOFer Annie (below) cheerfully carried out an aggressive thinning of the shiro tree six weeks ago.

Half the crop ended up on the ground. It must have seemed brutal at the time, but the result was good-sized fruit and no broken branches.

Friday, July 1, 2011

corn jungle

The corn hides Lulu, somewhat. This patch is Roy's Calais, a flint (or Indian) corn originally cultivated by the western Abenaki in Vermont, and subsequently grown and maintained by pioneer farmers. Flint corn is used for hominy or corn meal and will be enjoyed by both us humans and our chickens. This variety is open-pollinated, making it possible to save seeds. Because it's a short-season variety, it will be through the pollination phase before my sweet corn creates tassles, avoiding any inadvertent cross-pollination.

Roy's Calais is in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. Ms. Kingbird, only somewhat coincidentally, is the new Slow Food Governor for the Central Valley Region of California.

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We're moving from trickle to steady flow. They taste like poetry as well!
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fog at dawn

This week's unseasonal rain (nearly an inch on Tuesday) set the stage for ground fog for a couple of mornings. And cleaned off the solar panels and probably germinated a lot of weed seeds.

We're now in a rapid upswing of temperatures, with a projection of 103 for the Fourth.

Weather whiplash!
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