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:

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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.

The horror! The horror! (Fire Blight)

the horror.

The horror.

Whelp…not even two weeks into the season and my adorable little columnar apple tree has contracted this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Blight.

the heart of darkness.

The heart of darkness.

Which I’m 99.3762458% sure has something to do with the tree next door:

 

 

 

 

 

As far as I can tell, you have three options for controlling fire blight: 1. pruning out the damage until all that’s left of your adorable little columnar apple tree is a sad nubbin left in the ground. 2. organic copper fungicide  but only if I’d thought of that about two weeks ago (for the do-it-your-selfers: combine 3 and 1/3 tablespoons of copper sulfate to 10 tablespoons of dry or slaked lime and one gallon of water. For people like me: attach hose to overpriced product purchased at Lowe’s) 3. burn the whole neighborhood down and start over. I’ll probably try the fungicide before the arson, but I’m worried that my apple growing venture has already gone to seed (ha.)

OTHER UPDATES:

ONE: Realizing that there was a bit of open sky between the fairy tree and the maple in the back part of the yard, I planted two semi-dwarf Japanese plum trees, which according to my research can take a bit of shade.

Japanese Plums

Those sticks are actually plum trees.

TWO: The rains have caused a weed-splosion. Thank goodness the kids are out of school today.

Even weeds look pretty in pictures

Even weeds look pretty in pictures

THREE: My daughter has planted her own garden box with spinach and carrots, which we put in a patch of sun just in front of the Nanking cherry “pie bushes.” (Also, where the hell did all the  cherries go? The branches have been stripped clean! Whaaaat? How? And by whom?)

Blaisey's Box

Blaisey’s Box

FOUR: Squirrels are assholes. I mean, if they’re gonna pick the strawberries, they should eat them, at least. But no. They look you in the eye while they take one bite of the berry and throw it to the ground, still staring at you when they pluck the next one from the vine.

FIVE: And this is the state of the garden, Year 2 Day 13:

Year 2, Day 13

Year 2, Day 13

Let’s talk about poop, baby…And tomato blight.

I’m feeling some pressure this year because last year’s garden was such a torrid success (TEN whole re-pins of that picture just above, people! TEN!). Particularly since last year’s tomatoes all got the blight (leaves that shriveled and fell off, black spots that eventually consumed the fruits entirely. Pure EVIL). No way I’m planting tomatoes in the same spot again. Though I have done some research on blight, and–according to those in the know at the Athen’s Farmer’s Market–the Amish farmers spray their plants with a baking soda/water solution once a week. Their tomatoes look beautiful. Trust the Amish. Which is good advice for lots of situations.

Still and all, tomatoes are overrated in our family. I mean, what do you do with bushels of tomatoes once salsa loses it appeal and your neighbors hide when they see you coming? Well. You freeze them. Except now we have bushels of frozen tomatoes stuck to the floor of the freezer because someone unplugged the freezer and they sort of melted into a pulpy mush. And then someone plugged the freezer back in without cleaning anything up. Of course. It’s a tomato glacier down there, which is to say: permanent. At least until global warming takes care of them.

So. No tomatoes (Well. Except for two plants that I’m hiding away in the back of the yard. I mean, let’s be honest here: it’s not really a garden without tomatoes). But I’m afraid that without such green, thick, tallish, luscious tomato plants behind the fence to anchor the whole composition, the garden will look like a dog with the mange.

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I’ve decided to replace the tomatoes with asparagus. Here’s the trench and the mass of asparagus roots I haven’t yet planted.  I’m not convinced they’ll grow, but I’m planting fifty asparagus plants that I hope will create a feathery hedge behind the fence and a carpet of firm and delicious asparagus spears beneath. Pretty soon, three years or so, our whole family (and our neighbors) will have eight weeks worth of stinky pee.

 

Which reminds me.

Image courtesy of shopwithmemama.com

 

In Party in the Back news. This weekend my mother-in-law gave my daughter a game called “Doggie Doo” for her seventh birthday. It’s a game where you feed a wiener dog bites of neon, slimy goop, then roll the dice to figure out how many times you get to squeeze the dog’s leash to force air into the wiener dog’s bowels and try and blow the goop out of its backside. The winner is the person who collects three turds on her or his shovel. The pooping dog was a real hit. We had the Director of the University Creative Writing Program, three grown-ass men construction workers, my oldest son’s girlfriend who gave the wiener dog mouth-to-mouth whenever the dog got, um, “constipated”,  and a seven-year old all holding miniature shovels up to a plastic dog’s butthole.

THIS IS A REAL THING. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!

I’ve married into a family not nearly as tight-lipped about bodily functions as the one I grew up in. My spouse, my in-laws, my children–it’s poop, poop, poop, all the time, poop. The other day my spouse came home from the job site to “rest” in the “restroom” for a little while (he’ll only poop in two places: home and WalMart), and my youngest daughter said, “Daddy, are you home?”

“No, sweetheart,” he told her through the closed door. “I’m just here to  use the restroom for a minute.”

There was a long pause and then she said. “Um, Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Do you want to talk about poop?”

“No!” he said. “I don’t!”

And neither do I.

 

 

 

Our Front Yard Garden. Year two. Day one.

May 15th, the first safe day to plant thy tender seedlings, so sayeth the Farmer’s Almanac. This is what our front-yard garden looks like today.

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Meh.

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But. We had NEGATIVE 22 degree weather this winter! Whaaaat? In Athens, OH, our little sub-tropical Appalachian hill town? So, you know, some things are bound to go to shit. My thighs for example. It was a loooong winter.

The pee teepee. I mean, the pea teepee went to shit. (Or whatever–let’s face it, we have kids, dogs, cats, drunk college students roaming the sidewalks, a construction worker who brings his crew home to drink beer(ssssss) in our yard, and me who’s just old enough not to give a damn anymore. So both things, pee and pea, are probably true)

DSC_0638 The quaint little arbor we made from the branches of a Rose of Sharon tree we cut down?

It went to shit. Though we probably should’ve used something better than hot pink dental floss to lash it together. It wasn’t classy. Or effective.

 

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This is one of our dwarf peach trees. Yep. Gone to poops. There was some sort of gross jelly-like orange goo all around it’s base, which is probably a strong indicator that the weather wasn’t entirely to blame. Seriously, the goo–it looked like marmalade–and it was disgusting.

DSC_0629 (Also, look close. That’s actual bird poops on the dead peach tree. Talk about adding insult to injury.)

 

 

 

 

Good news is the strawberries are doing great.

DSC_0624The blueberries have buds.

DSC_0609And the Nanking cherries have tiny little fruits clinging to the branches.

DSC_0612In a very adorable side note, my six-year-old calls the Nankings “pie bushes.” But then again, she has a rich inner life. With an imaginary mother who bakes. She also has a stuffed cat named Muffin, which is maybe supposed to make me feel guilty or something.