Seriously, green beans. Chill out.

What the flying figgity lawdamn cuss word?

Neglect your green beans for a few days of margaritas, a modicum of partying in the back with visiting friends…

and partying in the side…

…and maybe the other side, too…

The point is, leave your green beans on their own for just a little while and they will hide out in the shadows, multiply, get full of themselves,

AND BEGIN TO BELIEVE  THEY ARE ZUCCHINI!

Wiggle wiggle it.

Green beans. Don't be alarmed.

To put this into perspective, I have man hands.

 

Hand on the left = grown 6'5" man. Hand on the right= me. So don't mess.

Hand on the left = grown 6’5″ man. Hand on the right= me. So don’t mess.

So these beans, nearly as fat as my man fingers and twice as long, are not goofing around! These are some meaty beans. They got some junk in the trunk. They are, however, still delicious–surprisingly, not pithy or stringy at all. I’ll cut them up tonight with a batch of beets I harvested today, too.

wpid-20140731_111150.jpg

See? My hands are so big, I can’t keep them out of the picture.

In other news:

1. Screw it. You win this round, weeds.

She is of zero use pulling weeds.

She is of zero use pulling weeds.

2. Gladiolas wpid-20140731_111558.jpg

3. Bell pepperswpid-20140731_111533.jpg

4. Who knew squirrels would dig up your onions? And for no reason other than squirrels are assholes.

5. Speaking of assholes, Paris Hilton the Cat is gone. Her family has moved to West Virginia and now there is a poop-in-my-garden-box sized hole in my heart. Sure, she was a mean-spirited, filthy, spiteful, pink-collared, entitled, brat of a cat, but she was my Nemesis. I guess you could say: Paris Hilton, you completed me.

Once.

 

 

 

Vegetables Not Lawns.

On my walk this evening, I snapped a few photos of other front yard vegetable gardens in my neighborhood. Our town, Athens, OH, is forward thinking and a group of concerned citizens petitioned the city to make made front-yard gardens (and chickens, but not in the front yard) code-legal within city limits. This isn’t the case for a lot of people trying to do some good for themselves and the world by growing food instead of grass.  It’s a shame, particularly as front-yard gardens can be beautiful as the following examples show us:

Vegetables and Perennials. Beautiful.

Vegetables and Perennials. Beautiful.

 

The "Flying Rabbit" Garden around the corner.

The “Flying Rabbit” Garden around the corner.

Lovely, right? Kale, tomatoes, all sorts of goodies...

Lovely, right? Kale, tomatoes, all sorts of goodies…

 

It’s silly, our obsession with front lawns. Particularly as they’re just a throwback to the English aristocracy we worked so hard to be free of. Grass lawns were, and are, pretty much useless–nothing more than a symbol of land-ownership and, thus, wealth (just like those fake designer jeans we all wore in Junior High). They’re a waste of water, a waste of energy, and need pesticides, poisons, and fertilizers to stay appropriately “Hey, look at me, I’m a wealthy Englisher, I am.” Worse, they’re a waste of space we could be using to grow healthy, fresh-off-the-vine fruits and vegetables. Also, front-yard gardens are lovely. They’re interesting, creative, and people–trust me–will stop to take a look.

One final bit of inspiration: .

http://www.offgridworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/foodscaping.jpg

This is a neighborhood in Geneva, Switzerland. Every home grows food instead of a lawn, often planning their crops in consultation with their neighbors so they can all share with each other. It’s called “Foodscaping.” Brilliant.

If you don’t like green beans then don’t even bother reading this post. Unless you’re a good person. Then you should read it.

I picked the first crop of Blue Lake bush beans today. It was a touch overwhelming, because that’s the way it is with beans: one day they’re nothing but pale blossoms swinging gently in the breeze, then BAM, you’re drowning in beans.20140707_111037

So here’s everything I know about picking green beans:
1. You should pick them when they’re ready. Which is harder than it sounds because everyone knows what beans look like in the cans but on the vine they come in all different sizes. How small is too small? Where’s the cut-off? Should you save it until the next picking? Pick it now? There’s no definitive answer (other than, “pick them when they’re firm.” Umm. The only time a green bean isn’t firm–no matter how small–is when it’s a flower).

 
2. You should not pick them when the plants are wet because fungus.

 
3. It’s very easy to accidentally pull the whole plant out of the ground if you don’t snap the stem of the bean off cleanly. So either use two hands to twist the bean off or else look around to see if anyone’s watching and then shove the plant back in the ground and give it some water.

 
4. No matter how thoroughly you search the plants, no matter how diligently–or ruthlessly–you pick them, you will NEVER EVER FIND ALL THE BEANS. They will hide in the shadows, blend in to the surrounding stalks, disappear in the tangle of leaves, sometimes even in packs where they will grow sallow and fibrous and sad, like sullen teenagers smoking cigarettes behind the dumpster.

5. This is the most delicious way to cook those green beans:

  • STEP ONE: Saute them for a little while with some butter and olive oil (a little of both, but more butter is always better. No matter the situation.), onions, and garlic (or, if you’re me: onion flakes and garlic powder)
  • STEP TWO: Add chicken broth, enough that the beans are swimming
  • STEP THREE: Cover the beans leaving a little gap for steam to escape and cook until tender, 20 – 25 minutes.
  • STEP FOUR: A dash of lemon juice for brightness.
  • STEP FIVE: Salt and pepper to taste.

I’m telling you, so easy and SO DELICIOUS.

Finally today, in party in the back news. I have teenagers. This is what happens to the kitchen while I sleep:

1404744352696

They did this OVERNIGHT, people. Like Teenage Mutant Ninja RACCOONS!

Someone’s partying. But it sure ain’t me. Also, look closely, there’s an ironic bottle of dish soap just hanging out way way at the back.

Almost stepping on a snake is way better than the rest of my week has been.

So I’m not gardening in the front today, but partying, of sorts, way in the back of Western Pennsylvania. It’s been an incredibly tough week because teenage daughter, so I packed a pair of flip flops and some dirty t-shirts and drove up I-77 to my in-laws’ place by the side of the Allegheny River.

Heaven. At least for today.

Heaven. At least for today.

Even though Paris Hilton is probably desecrating my garden boxes as I type, my day here has gone pretty nicely so far. My seven-year-old daughter, who is not yet old enough to realize how much she has always hated me, brought me breakfast, water, coffee, cherries in a bowl, and an adorable new puppy named Forrest Gump to play with (he’s half Boxer and half Chocolate Lab. Get it?). Then she massaged my neck with her sweet little hands and took me down the bike trail to see the grassy bank where the leatherback turtles lay their eggs. Sadly, the raccoons know about the grassy bank where the leatherbags (that’s a Freudian slip, but I’m leaving it) lay their eggs, too, so there are broken egg-shells in piles here and there.

porcupine

This is after showing me its prickly behind. BTW, is it true or urban legend that porcupines can shoot quills?

Then I went on a walk.

And I saw this porcupine:

 

 

 

 

 

And I saw this useless sign:

No Parking on the ancient oil tank.

No Parking on the ancient oil tank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I saw this t-shirt just chillin’ on a bench:

Or maybe it was the rapture and I missed it.

Or maybe it was the rapture. And I missed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, messing with my Pandora music feed, I almost stepped on this:

I screamed. I won't lie.

I screamed. I won’t lie.

Dramatic Re-enactment of me almost stepping on the snake.

Dramatic re-enactment of me almost stepping on the snake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which, all in all, wasn’t nearly as bad as changing a wiper blade, in the rain, by the side of Interstate 77. Or teenagers.

 

 

 

Paris Hilton: The enemy at our garden gates.

First off, y’all should know that Paris Hilton is a cat. An adorable cat. With a pink, rhinestoned collar. Which is the first reason I’ve named this deceptively adorable cat, Paris Hilton. But the second and third reasons are the reasons why Paris Hilton is my enemy. My nemesis. The Big Bad of my garden’s 2nd season.

Reason number 2 (there’s a pun here, you’ll see why in a minute) I call the cat Paris Hilton: Remember when Paris Hilton the Socialite ordered the pilot of her private helicopter to touch down on some poor German family’s farm?

A source told Britain’s More magazine: “She gave the farmer a bit of a shock. Her bouncers even blocked the farm door so the family couldn’t go inside their own house while she was using the loo.” The star then allegedly spent another ten minutes on the startled farmer’s porch, so she could smoke a cigarette. The unnamed farmer said: “She was cold as a fish, and cursed about the weather.”

Well, just like Paris Hilton the Socialite who feels entitled to pee wherever she wants, Paris Hilton the Cat thinks she’s entitled to use my garden boxes like her own private loo. And she smokes. Okay. She doesn’t smoke. But if she did, Paris Hilton the Cat would leave her butts everywhere.

photo credit: PerezHilton.com

.

And Reason 3 I call the cat Paris Hilton: SHE WON’T GO AWAY!

So, right now I’m sitting in my garden chair, keeping watch. Paris Hilton the Cat will slink in, that’s sure, but I’ll be ready. WE WILL HAVE BEETS!

In other news:

1. I threw a tantrum, so the kids helped me weed.

2. Last night we ate homemade strawberry shortcake with strawberries fresh from the garden.

Homemade shortcakes, y'all! And real whipped cream.

Homemade shortcakes, y’all! And real whipped cream.

3. The Stella d’Oro daylilies look lovely in the strawberry patch:

Stella d'Oro daylilies

Stella d’Oro daylilies

4. The plum sticks are growing leaves. Yay!

Japanese Plum Stick. Now with leaves.

Japanese Plum Stick. Now with leaves.

5. I treated the columnar apple tree with Neem Oil. We’ll see if we lose it to the Fire Blight. (“Out, damned spot! Out I say!”)

6. We’re already on our second harvest of radishes.

It's a radish.

It’s a radish.

7. And this is our front-yard garden, Year 2 Day 26:

Year 2, Day 26

Year 2, Day 26