The Bean Screen

25 09 2010

Hello friends, family and accidental readers .

If you haven’t heard from us, it is because we have been working 16+ hour days, seven days a week for a solid month now. Today is my “day off” if you want to call it that. I’m only here as a form of procrastination in silent protest to the mound of work on my desk and “Laundry Mountain” on the bed.

I did do something slightly recreational yesterday and thought I would share it.

If you have visited our place, you know that we have a compulsive hoarder in the back.

Jack is an illustrious man with a colorful history and a brilliant personality. Unfortunately, he is physically and mentally ill. His compulsion to acquire and compile random objects continued until the day that he went to the hospital for back surgery. He is no longer able to live on his own and will likely end his days in a nursing home.

However, his legacy lingers in the form of the small sampling of his collection pictured below. As long as he dreams of coming back home his lot rent will be paid and his clutter will remain.

Jack's-Place

Shortly after Jack moved in I saw the writing on the wall and began to devise a solution for blocking some of the inevitable accumulation of that was sure to come.

Back in April of 2009 we built “Oasis 2”, a combined raised bed with a bamboo trellis to screen the view of Jack’s junk.

Finished-Oasis2-distant

Over the past year and a half I have learned a lot about gardening. I had a good run with O2 before the nematodes and insects took hold and made it clear that tomatoes, pole beans and cucumber vines were not meant to survive long enough to climb the trellis, as I had imagined.

A trip to the beach brought my attention to a lovely wild native called Canavalia rosea maritima, also known as baybean. I became enamored by the plant’s lush foliage with its large, round, waxy leaves and its beautiful lavender flowers.

Bay-Bean-Flower-Closeup

After my battles with delicate heirloom vegetables I was open to a plant that was able to thrive in the salty, sandy environment of beach dunes. I read up on the plant and learned that it is ideal as a ground cover, and is actually used as erosion control in other countries. An added bonus is that the plant produces large, tasty, edible beans that surpass soybeans in nutritional value.

As I lamented the fact that so many of my fellow Floridians do not take advantage of this local resource I discovered that Mike (our employer and friend) had picked up some beans and was growing them on trellises in his own yard. He gave me a couple of beans, which I quickly planted at the base of my bare trellis.

It didn’t take long for the baybeans to take hold and fill up the trellis. I now regret that I did not place one more bar across the top, for the plant would have gladly filled it in. That is a project for a coming day. This amazing vine has thrilled the pollinators and is threatening to overtake the whole back yard.

Closeup-bean-screen

The biggest challenge is redirecting the tendrils so that they don’t strangle out every other plant in the garden. This is a battle that I am currently losing, due to the lack of time I have been able to spend in the garden. In the right hand side of the photo above, there is a tenacious habanero plant, which continues to present me with its spicy offerings; although they are almost invisible until they turn red.

Here is a shot of 02 in all of its messy glory. We are getting lots of peppers, and AJ has taken over most of the bed with his collection of pineapple plants. At this point, I am letting nature decide what I am allowed to grow here.

The-Bean-Screen

The baybean doesn’t give a hoot about nematodes, lack of fertilization, or even the fact that it has been given two five gallon buckets worth of soil to do its thing. It is growing and making beans like crazy.

Yesterday I noticed that it was time to harvest. Here is a sample.

Bay Bean

I picked a large strainer full of these massive beans and decided that I would try roasting them.

Bay Bean Harvest

Due to their large size, they were easy to shuck and yielded almost two cups worth of the biggest beans I’ve ever cooked.

Bay Beans

I experimented by tossing them in soy sauce, olive oil, cayenne pepper and garlic salt before roasting them in the oven.

They turned out good, and AJ even ate a few!

Roasted-Bay-Beans

These beans are evergreen plants, so I anticipate many more harvests to come. The vines are loaded with pods which will be mature in a few more days.

Baybeans anyone?





Bamboo, Bamboo and more Bamboo!

10 04 2009

We got home with the bamboo on Wednesday and crashed. Thursday, after work we set up a processing center in the driveway. Bamboo is messy, branchy, leafy and sharp! I processed my pile of thin bamboo and AJ processed the big stuff. Sawzall, branch cutters and a machete were involved.

Processing

AJ deals with the especially difficult pieces.

Finishing-up

I pose with the sawzall.

Cutting

Today, AJ finished processing the big stuff, and put it under the RV to cure. Once it has dried for a couple of weeks we will treat it and use it in the new fence.

Bamboo-Curing

Here is my small stuff. It looks like a lot, but I bet Oasis2 takes the all of it.

Finished-Thin-Bamboo

This shot of Oasis2 should explain why I’m chomping at the bit to get the trellis built and the beans planted. The chaos in the background is Jack’s lot. He’s a fascinating and nice old guy; but his sense of aesthetics is vastly different than ours. This afternoon, Jack came around and sat on his trailer to talk to me while I worked. He said that he loved our gravel and couldn’t get over how great it looks. He said the bamboo brought back memories of WWII. They used it to build traps and cages for the Japanese. While we were talking the park manager came by with a notice about the Health Department citations. Jack has been ordered to clean up his lot, cover the boat with a tarp and get tags on his vehicles. I’ve been in this park too long to expect much of a change. There is only so much you can do with hoarders like Jack. I am very fond of the guy, but I do not enjoy looking at his junk. I keep my fingers crossed that the pole beans, lima beans and cucumbers fill in the trellis and obscure the view.

Oasis2-in-works

Here is the experimental stage of the trellis. I dug holes up to my elbows and buried five poles. The horizontal bamboo wasn’t long enough to span the length, so I changed plans and went for a diagonal look with three poles.

Trellis-in-process

It’s still a little crooked because I ran out of twine to tie it together. I will straighten it out a bit, and AJ said he would trim the ends for me.  I’m not very concerned since it is quite sturdy and I don’t plan to see much of it in a month or two. It’s not large enough to hide the entire mess, but I hope it helps.

Trellis-done

Here is a photo that AJ took when I wasn’t looking. I’m cutting the long pieces into small fascia, which I will pound into the ground around the raised beds.

Cutting-Fascia

Here’s The Oasis. Take a good look at this and try to take your mind off of the previous image.

Oasis041009

The ebay auctions bombed. I didn’t make enough to buy the topsoil. We planned to get it with our pay, but we did not get paid today; so I don’t know what will happen. The beans are sending out very long tendrils and really need to get into the ground. I may cash in my change jar and buy a couple of bags of soil just to get the beans planted.

Tomorrow is another day of labor. We are aching, exhausted and all scratched up.  See you on the flip side.