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2016 – June Update – Leon and the Beanstalk

New Video For Keyhole Frame Builders

xbeanstalk2By W. Leon Smith

This update is coming on the first day of the month and includes two elements, one of which is a departure from our normal issuance.

The sub-heading will go first, the video. Last night we uploaded a YouTube video designed to perhaps assist, or make even easier, the putting together of the frame portion of our keyhole garden kits. We have assembled several of the keyhole garden kit frames recently and began to tweak what we determined to be the easiest and fastest way to do the assembly. Information about this link will be included in future instruction sheets delivered with each kit, but we thought we would mention it here, as an introduction. To access the link, just click on the “Extras” menu tab (above right) and the first listing is Easy Frame Construction, which takes you to a page that includes the link to click on to view the video. The video is just under 15 minutes in length. We hope it is helpful. We are simply sharing how we do it.

Now to the “departure from our normal issuance.”

We have guests tour our experiment station quite often and have attempted to answer thousands of questions over the years. Recently I was asked something never asked before. “What was the first thing you ever planted?”

xsundawgHere is that true story, which I have entitled “Leon and the Beanstalk.”

It is strange that some things come full circle, like this year’s super abundance of green beans in my keyholes. I realize that I over-planted them because of the time it is taking out of each day to harvest them, and then to find people who want to take these harvests off my hands (our freezer at home is full of them). Anyway, this relates to the story:

leonbeansZoom back in time to 1960. I was living in a small city in Central Texas, Hamilton, on Cage Street in a fairly new brick house with lots of friendly neighbors. I had just turned seven (May 29 birthday), had graduated the second grade in school, and was occupying my time playing baseball, both in the yard with neighborhood kids and on the local Kiwanis team, roller skating daily with friends (both boys and girls) on our long driveway slab, fishing very early in the day with my dad on The Leon River (not named after me), and catching crawdads in Fuller’s pond with a friend. My sister, a year-and-a-half younger than me, was very much into “jacks” and her “hula hoop,” while my interest lay more with my Duncan yo-yo and trying new maneuvers on our swing set, contortions it was not designed for.

x-bookBoth of us liked to peruse and read stories in an encyclopedia-type collection of books known as The Bookshelf For Boys and Girls. Although I was familiar with the story, I had just gotten through reading Jack and the Beanstalk. I have always had a penchant for over-analyzing things, usually to my discredit. I just couldn’t get Jack’s magic beans out of my mind.

My mother, who was about three months away from delivering my little brother, was in the kitchen preparing to cook my favorite dish, brown beans and cornbread, and left the opened sack of pinto beans on the cabinet to go outside and take clothes off the line. With a lot of guilt, I snatched one of the beans, hid it in my pocket so as to not get in trouble, and went outside and planted it in a grassy area of the lawn, thinking that later in the day I might be surprised with what might come up. Who knows?

xholycowThe meal of brown beans and cornbread tasted great, as usual, but I was very worried that she might have missed the bean I had stolen and I hoped it didn’t make a difference in her cooking of them. Nothing was said.

I checked my planting for a couple of days and noticed no change, so the episode began to pass. Then suddenly, about a week later, I stumbled upon the plant as I was walking by in my black tennis shoes while carrying my baseball glove. There it was, poking out of the ground wearing a small pinto bean cap. Each day I noted its progress. The beanstalk grew about three inches high before it was eventually mistaken for a weed and got mowed over. However, for me, that direct tie to nature never went away, which I guess could be deemed the moral of the story in encouraging youths to get involved in keyhole gardening. However, my interpretation of the story changed, as well, and continues to be changed to this day. When I grow beans, it is me that is the giant at the top of the beanstalk, growing riches among the various stalks as I look down on them. The giant is the hero of the story. Jack is more of a pill bug or caterpillar just crawling around down there.

The beanstalk proudly provides weighty treasures (its pods) and appreciates it when I pick them off, allowing the beanstalk some elbow room to continue to produce even more riches as it fulfills its lifelong dream. It is a magical partnership.

x-cropsThe responsibility for me, as the giant, is immense, what with hundreds of beanstalks my keyhole gardens now offer. Tending them is a chore, but an enjoyable one, nonetheless.

Anyway, to answer the question that was asked, the beanstalk was my first plant.

Right now, I am caught in a dilemma. My green bean plants are producing like crazy, constantly putting on new flowers and making new beans; however, I need that space to get my summertime black-eyed peas and okra in the ground and just about now is the time to get it done. I will probably compromise and share in what I pull up (maybe potatoes and chard).

On this page appears a photo of today’s picking (several bags of green beans, plus tomatoes and crook-neck squash). The gardens are looking lush, except where some chard has just about run its course and where potatoes are almost ready to dig up (the tops of the plants are turning brown signaling approximate time to pick). The beans were planted in waves, so the first in will likely be the first out. Tough decision.

I will try to let you know what I did by providing another June update in a couple of weeks.

Oh, one last note. If your display allows seeing the wide background image on this site, the keyhole garden in the foreground, with plants erupting on both the right and the left, is filled with beanstalks.

KEYHOLE CROPS GROWING WELL IN HAMILTON, TEXAS

x-gardensThis ties into the above story, sort of, in that the location of my first plant was in Hamilton, Texas (located in Central Texas) as a youth. James McInnis, who has several keyhole gardens made from our kits, sent some photos. He is from Hamilton. When I asked if I could post some of them he replied, “Please help yourself. I have one more not in the photos (the red one) producing well and we are overrun with veggies.” Click on the image to enlarge.

 POTATOES HARVESTED

xDSC_0007To continue the update (now June 5), I decided to go ahead and harvest some of my potato crop. I wanted to use that area to plant black-eyed peas, which I have done. Here are a few of the potatoes I dug up.