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Provider bush beans

Provider bush beans

When you are planning your garden you need to plan when your harvest will begin. You don’t want to be off on vacation when the beans are ready to be picked. If you need the harvest by a certain date, knowing the days to maturity will help you decide on your planting date. It is good to know the length of harvest, also. Some crops will be picked all at once and some will be picked over a matter of weeks. My garden planning skills were put to the test this year as we planned for another wedding. Our youngest son, Luke, married the love of his life, Stephanie, on August 2. I was to provide the snap beans, lettuce, garlic, and some of the flowers. Stephanie and our daughter, Betsy, were growing the rest of the flowers. Stephanie and Luke grew all the potatoes and some of the other veggies, such as zucchini, and Betsy grew the cabbage that became the coleslaw for the wedding feast.

Normally, planning snap beans for an event is no problem for me. I like to plant Provider, a tried-and-true early variety. The problem is, when I sat down with the Plant/Harvest Schedule to chart when to plant and when to expect a harvest, the date I wanted to plant the Provider beans was right after we would be getting back from a week-long trip. That would be the trip to the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington and to Victoria, British Columbia. I did not want to worry about making sure I got that planting in. If something happened that delayed my time in the garden upon our return, I would have missed my window of opportunity. I was going to have to reach out of my comfort zone and plant another variety.

I checked the seed catalogs for a variety that took a week longer than Provider to mature. High Mowing listed Provider at 50 days and Jade at 55 days. I remember a market grower friend commenting favorably about Jade at one time, so I ordered Jade. I thought it would be good to grow some yellow wax beans, also, since the wedding colors were green and yellow. It had been a long time since I grew wax beans, but I remembered them to take longer to mature and were usually curled when I grew them in my market garden. High Mowing listed Gold Rush Yellow Wax beans with the same 55 days to maturity as Jade and they were straight beans; just what I was looking for. The Jade and Gold Rush beans were planted on May 29, the day before we left on the trip.

Provider may be listed at 50 days, but I usually begin harvesting six weeks (42 days) after planting and harvest over a two week period, with a little smaller harvest for the first and last pickings, but the yield is generally spread out. In Grow a Sustainable Diet, I encourage you to grow for yourself and learn the ins-and-outs of the crops and varieties before you grow to sell to others. Knowing the ins-and-outs of the varieties is important. At 47 days after planting, the Gold Rush beans were ready and I picked about two-thirds of the total harvest that day. Now that I look back at the seed catalog, I see that “concentrated harvest period” was in the description for Gold Rush. Luckily the caterer was willing to take the vegetables early. I also harvested some of the Jade beans that day. At 54 days after planting I harvested two-thirds of what would be the total harvest for the Jade beans. The last harvest of both varieties was at 58 days.

Since the caterer didn’t mind the vegetables arriving early, it all worked out. For Betsy’s wedding four years ago, our friend Molly catered the event and the harvest was more closely planned; vegetables arriving early would have been a big inconvenience. Even though the days to maturity are listed in the seed catalog or on the packets, it is only an approximate time. Learn what the days to maturity are in your garden for the varieties you choose. Have at least one variety of each crop that you can use to compare new varieties to, such as I did with Provider beans. Make a note of the length of harvest and nuances, such as matures all at one time, color, shape (curled beans or straight), and any other characteristics that might be important some day. This information will be extremely helpful to you if you needed to grow food for a certain event; and certainly if you needed  to satisfy customers.

yellow and green canned snap bensGrowing both colors of beans again made me want to include that in my plan for next year. My signature dish is a cold bean salad. I include cowpeas that I always have as dried beans in the pantry and green beans which are either fresh from the garden or canned. To that I add anything I can think of from the garden and a vinaigrette. I used some of the Gold Rush beans in the bean salad that I made for the rehearsal dinner. I believe next year I will can green and yellow beans together especially to have on hand for the bean salad. I was able to put up some of the extra this year.

Luke and Steph at table - BLOGFlowers are not my specialty, but the bride wanted zinnias and they are easy to grow and a sure thing to have in August. Stephanie likes puffy flowers and chose Teddy Bear sunflowers, in addition to the zinnias. It is usually hard to find days to maturity for flowers, but these were listed as maturing at 60 days. I didn’t want to plant them too early and miss the blooms for the wedding. Unfortunately, I waited a little too long. They didn’t begin blooming until a few days after the wedding. Not to worry, there were many more things in the yard blooming that we could add, including black-eyed Susans, tansy, and Rose of Sharon, that we hadn’t planned on. Stephanie had two sunflowers ready by August 2 and the rest of her planting bloomed while they were on their honeymoon. Besides the happy bride and groom, in the photo you can see Stephanie’s bouquet, the table centerpieces with flowers, and their dinner plates full of homegrown food.

The wedding was wonderful. It took some planning to have the produce ready at the right time, but the more you do that, even for your own dinner table, the easier it gets. If something comes up, such as the trip for us, you will have the skills and knowledge to take it in stride. I hope your garden is producing well and that you are finding time to share it with others this summer.Homeplace Earth

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Two years ago our daughter and son-in-law had a dream-come-true wedding. I’m sure many would not want to do something like this, but I think there are enough people out there who might be interested in hearing about it. I hope that by telling you what we did, it will get the creative juices flowing when you plan your own events. Betsy and Chris told us at Christmas that they wanted to be married in June. They were living in Arkansas and would be returning in May to settle near family. As the wedding plans began to take shape, we realized that this would be quite an adventure for all of us. Betsy and Chris met when they both worked at Brookview Farm in 2004. At that time, in addition to the grass-fed beef they still sell, Brookview also had a market garden and pastured laying hens and sold compost. It was their dream to be married there, so they contacted the owners, Sandy and Rossie Fisher, who gave their blessing. Thank you so much Sandy and Rossie!

When we started to think about food, we realized that probably no caterer would want to deal with us. I would contribute what I could grow and we wanted to source the rest locally. We have a friend whose unofficial specialty is hospitality, although it is playing the viola that pays her bills. Lucky for us the Richmond Symphony takes a summer break and Molly would be available. She gladly accepted the challenge, although she had never done something like this. Thank you Molly and crew Linda, Steve, and Jen! The wedding would be June 19. I got out a copy of the Plant/Harvest Schedule form and started to plan. That is one of the forms I explain in my DVD Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan and a copy is on the resource page at www.HomeplaceEarth.com. The dates of the first frost and the dates of each of the weeks in the columns were filled in. I was going to be growing the green beans and lettuce. To have lettuce and beans on a specific day and not each week before and after is quite different than when I was a market gardener and had a continual harvest. I knew that the beans that I was planning on growing would be ready to pick in about 6 weeks and I would have a good harvest, picking every few days, for 2 weeks. I planted them 8 weeks before the wedding. If everything went as planned, I would have enough to feed our guests from the harvest of that second week. If something delayed the crop for as much as a week, I would still be okay. From my 10 years of growing lettuce for the markets, I knew that I could sow the seeds in a coldframe space and plant the seedlings into the garden in 3 weeks. In 5 weeks from transplanting I would be harvesting wonderful salad. In addition to beans and lettuce, I supplied the garlic, onions, and parsley. The bean harvest went as planned and we had plenty. As for the lettuce, I had planted enough, however some rabbits had gotten in and helped themselves and the weather had turned hot and dry early on. I provided what I could and we bought locally grown lettuce for the rest. Including the wedding party, we had 150 people respond that they would attend. Of course, there are always those who don’t reply in a timely manner, if at all, and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of food for anyone else who may be around the farm helping, so we planned food for 180.

B-C eating-BLOGPlans for this wedding just seemed to flow together. Chris’s aunt and uncle planted potatoes for them. One of the best days Betsy and Chris had that week before the wedding was digging those potatoes that would become the potato salad for the wedding feast. Barbecue was a natural on the menu and Brookview Farm already had a place to cook it. The day of the wedding, Chris’s uncles cooked the pork raised by Brookview’s farm manager. Molly did a great job tracking down as many other ingredients as she could, including tomatoes and mushrooms for the bruschetta and cabbage, from local growers. She even got vinegar for the coleslaw from Virginia Vinegar Works. Chris’s cousin made the cake.

barn-BLOGThe ceremony would take place in the pasture with the guests sitting on straw bales in the shade of fenceline trees and with their friend from Arkansas officiating. Thank you Jacob! Transportation for the wedding party to the field and for the bride and groom afterward was provided by Betsy’s brother, Luke, and his oxen. The reception was in that big old barn and that’s where we spent our time that last week. It had only been used as storage for many years. It was filled with equipment, old building supplies, remnants of hay, and some dried cowpies from when a steer got loose and ran around in there. Getting that steer under control was one of the early adventures Betsy and Chris had together at Brookview in 2004. We fixed the floor in a few places and we swept and swept and swept. Finally we let the dust settle and put up the rented tables and chairs and spread the rented tablecloths.

bandanas-BLOGIn the classes I taught at the community college, I would talk about zero-waste events. In fact, that was one of the topics that my students could choose to write about for one of their papers. We needed to try to make this a zero-waste wedding. It wasn’t exactly zero-waste, but close to it. In the end Molly only had one bag of trash and I don’t think that was totally full. We rented the plates but found that it was cheaper to buy stainless steel silverware online than it was to rent it. We now have plenty for future events and it has already served another wedding. We used half-pint jelly jars for wine glasses and punch cups and pint canning jars for beer mugs and water glasses. People had been giving me their old canning jars for years, so we only had to buy a few dozen jelly jars. Betsy had brought Arkansas wine with them when they moved back and we got a keg of beer from Legend Brewing Company in Richmond. We used small flowered women’s cotton handkerchiefs for the hors d’oeuvres, taking the place of both a napkin and a plate. For dinner napkins, we used men’s work handkerchiefs in many different colors. I have to admit, it was a chore washing and ironing all those handkerchiefs ahead of time. But I only had to do it once. Both napkins (handkerchiefs)  were favors for the guests to take home. Food packaging was kept to a minimum, and we traded containers back and forth with the homegrown produce. Food waste was deposited in the Brookview compost bin that Betsy built when she worked there.

And then there were the flowers. We only had a few here to contribute but Betsy assured us she had it under control. She knew what was blooming in every ditch around and in her friend’s yards. In August she would begin teaching the classes I had just left at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and she was given permission to do some picking in the gardens there by the floral design instructor. Thanks David! The morning of the wedding, she gathered the flowers from hither and yon and her friends, many of whom had just arrived from Arkansas, made the bouquets and centerpieces. Quart canning jars were the centerpiece vases. There were some places in the barn that were off limits and some things that just needed covering. I called in every quilt I had ever made for our kids and took any from our house and we hung them up on clothesline or draped them places.  Betsy and I restyled my cotton wedding dress that I had made in 1972 and added a sash made from satin from her grandmother’s wedding dress. She dyed the sash blue to match the ties the guys wore. Chris’s mom, with help from her mother and sisters, made his linen suit.

B-C kissing-BLOG

Only a few hours till the wedding!

Casey Smith, a friend of Betsy’s from high school, was the photographer. We needed a DJ, so a month before the wedding my husband and I (Betsy and Chris were still in Arkansas) went to a local bridal event that apparently is put on each month and found one who had that weekend open because of a cancellation. Rick Ripley did a great job for us. I guess that cancellation was meant to be. You may not be planning a wedding, but I’m sure there is some event in the future you will be putting together. After all, birthdays and anniversaries come every year, as well as other occasions for celebrations. You might not have a stash of canning jars, or a friend with a barn, but you have other resources and connections. Start collecting dishes, silverware, and other things so you can avoid disposables. When you put your mind to it, I’m sure you can come up with a party that is unique to you and easy on the earth. To Betsy and Chris—Happy Anniversary! To the rest of you—have fun putting together your own special event.

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