Monthly Archives: May 2016

lashing together bean poles

A Tall Bean Frame Tale

Planning my new allotment garden space has been exciting. Last Autumn, as I pored over seed catalogues filled to the brim with tempting produce, I had some decision-making to do. Whilst the garden space available is quite extensive, I always manage to have more ideas than I have space (or time!), so choices had to be made.

I’m aiming to garden organically and I’m also planning on doing a bit of seed-saving. With this in mind, I sought out seed companies selling ‘old-fashioned’ open-pollinated varieties of vegetables.

A particularly useful online catalogue was ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’ as they only sell open-pollinated varieties. They also give lots of really helpful information about seed-saving. However, the best thing about The Real Seed Catalogue is their wonderful selection of heirloom and heritage vegetables that are not available in many (or any) other places.

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’ caught my eye and my imagination. This was a ‘must have’, a real piece of history. I learned that in the 1830s after the US Federal Government introduced the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee people took some of these beans with them when they were driven out of their Georgia homelands on the long forced march known as ‘The Trail of Tears’. This variety of bean has then been grown and passed on down through the generations. How fascinating … and amazing!

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans germinating
My first sowing of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ climbing French beans – they’ve hatched!

“A very rare bean,” it says on the brown paper seed packet. The beans themselves are small and black and I am growing them as French beans – they are the tasty green, pencil-thick pods. But as well as eating them in their fresh green state, I will also grow them on to be fully ripe (hopefully!) and save some of the dried beans to sow next year as well as using them as dried beans for Winter soups. The Real Seed Catalogue describes this variety as “incredibly prolific”, so I am hopeful for a good crop. This is the plan!

However, to grow climbing beans, you need something for them to climb. I’d decided to build an old-fashioned tall bean frame from hazel poles. I built a similar tall frame for my very tall peas earlier this Spring – you’ll see it in one of the photos below.

I am anticipating the bean plants growing around 6-8 feet tall (that’s around 2-2.5 metres, if you’re metric 😉 ). Then I needed to add a generous allowance, for tying the bean poles together at the top and for planting deep enough in the ground at the bottom, for the bean frame to be wind-proof on our rather exposed northern hillside. The hazel poles I’m using are around 12 feet (3.5 metres).

Building a bean frame with hazel rods
Setting up the upright poles of the A-frame for the bean frame

I selected two pairs of slightly heavier-duty poles to make my initial A-frame – they’re around 2.5 inches (6cm) in diameter at the butt end. I tied each pair of poles together at the top, measuring and marking each pole at the 8 feet point. The poles are lashed together with thick cotton string. I used a figure-of-eight lashing to hold the poles tightly together but also allowing a degree of flexibility for manoeuvering the A-frame into place.

I’d measured out the row and marked where the frame was going to stand. I had to amend the exact position of the frame as I had been so busy looking down at the soil, I found when I looked up, my bean frame would have stretched half-way into one of the plum trees! Whoops! So, a bit of jiggling and re-measuring was needed.

tools for building the bean frame
Essential tools for planting the bean poles deep enough in the ground: digging iron and lump hammer

Using a heavy digging iron and a lump hammer, I made holes 18 inches (45cm) deep, then pushed the legs of each of the A-frames into place and refirmed the soil around the poles. Climbing very carefully on the step ladders, I added the ridge pole and lashed this in place at each end, making sure the A-frames were (fairly!) perpendicular to the ground. When you’re working with green timber, sometimes it isn’t always exactly straight, so allowances have to be made. These poles were all cut in late Winter, ready for use this Spring.

Next, came the side poles. The bean frame is 2 feet (60cm) wide and 7 feet (2 metres) long. The side poles are placed at 1 foot (30cm) intervals along each side of the A-frame. The side poles are thinner than the A-frame poles, only about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3cm) in diameter. I didn’t tie the pairs of side poles together initially; I started off by leaning them in their places along each side and resting them on the ridge pole. Then it was back to the digging iron and lump hammer, as I made more deep holes to plant the side poles into.

Building a hazel frame for climbing beans
Arranging the side poles along the bean frame with the main A-frame and ridge in place

Eventually, all of the side poles were planted in their holes. Then it was back to climbing carefully on the step ladders to tie the side poles in place onto the ridge pole. To finish, I added a cross-brace through from corner to corner and lashed this in place at about 3 feet (1 metre) from the ground.

lashing together bean poles
Lashing the cross piece in place on the bean frame for added strength

It certainly seems quite a strong structure and I know the tall pea frame has stood up well to some strong winds already, so I am hopeful for my tall bean frame too.

Hazel frame for climbing French beans
The finished tall bean frame with the tall pea frame visible beyond it

Now it’s time to plant the beans ….

J Peggy Taylor

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country lane in black and white

Cee’s Black & White Challenge: A Different Angle

The magic of monochrome first captured my imagination when I was blogging back in 2014. I learned a lot from enjoying the black and white photography of other bloggers and Cee’s Photo Tips and Tricks on black and white photography were really useful too.

Occasionally I’ve tried my hand at the Black & White Challenge to see if I could craft my own black and white creations. This was quite a challenge for me, but also it was fun to learn more, especially about post-processing, which is how I create my black and white images. I’ve added one of my earlier B&W Challenge entries as my header image for this post.

Having recently returned to my blogging, I thought I might revisit black and white photos and create an entry for this week’s challenge. By chance, this week’s theme is an open theme, so that gave me a world of potential subject matter! I think of creating black and white images as ‘taking a different angle’ on photography so I’ve chosen that as the theme for my challenge entry.

Woodland mushroom in black and white
Another take on the woodland mushroom

This woodland mushroom will look familiar to some recent visitors to my blog – I featured my son’s original colour photo in my Fun Foto Challenge entry last week. Thinking about ‘A Different Angle’ brought me straight to this image, as I love the low-level angle of the shot. I decided to re-process it into a black and white image. This gave me the opportunity to re-hone my post-processing skills as I thought about how to best draw out the tones and textures under the mushroom.

Lighthouse from below Black-White
Standing tall above the sea

Lighthouses always make me think of the power of the sea. They are simultaneously synonymous with danger and safety. The colour version of this image also appears in a previous Fun Foto Challenge post on the theme of Perspective (unusual angles), where you can also see the steepness of the steps inside that allow visitors to climb up to the top.

Zig-zag cloudscape in black and white
Zig-zag cloudscape

In this shot, I loved the dramatic zig-zag of light that cuts through the dark clouds, with the light shafts streaming earthwards at the distant end, like a comet’s tail. Clouds fascinate me. I can watch them for ages as they constantly shape-shift, changing from sea foam to floppy-eared dogs chasing the wind. We see some wonderful cloudscapes in our valley.

Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Black and White Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Mushroom close-up

Zooming out for the bigger picture

“What’s This?” was the question Cee gave us to ponder for last week’s Fun Foto Challenge. We then had a lot of fun trying to work out what other people had posted.

For my entry, I zoomed in on some natural subjects, focusing on shapes and details. This week, I promised to post the original images so you can see the whole zoomed out picture. Here they are …

1. Woodland waterfall

Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream
Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream

This is one of the many small streams (or ‘burns’ as well call them here in The North 😉 ) that flows into the River Derwent in our local woods. I love this miniature waterfall as it cuts its way through the bedrock and pours down onto the next level below, surrounded by woodland greenery. I often find myself reaching for my camera when I see it. For the challenge, I picked out the water splash detail.

2. Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot
Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

This is one of the two pots of the “Washfield Doubles” Hellebores I have on the steps by my back door. In this photo from April 2012, it looks like I was focusing on the quantity of late snow, rather than the plant itself! For the challenge, I chose the detail of the concentric curves of the terracotta pot, its black plastic liner and the topping of clean white snow.

3. Worm’s eye view of a woodland mushroom

Worm's eye view of a large woodland mushroom
Worm’s eye view of a large woodland mushroom

As I am not in the habit of crawling on my belly in beechwoods, you will notice this photo was taken by my son! I am always drawn to the unusual angles of this set of mushroom shots so I thought it would be perfect for the “What’s this?” challenge.

I enjoyed Cee’s photo challenge. I hope you enjoy my zoomed-out photos!

J Peggy Taylor

Digging garden soil and a robin

Dig, weed, plant, grow

“Would you like to do a bit of the garden?” an elderly neighbour asked us one day last Summer. And so it was that we ended up taking on the wildly overgrown part of a large allotment garden.

Overgrown_garden
That’s our overgrown patch on the left

When I say, “taking on”, I mean that literally! It needed some serious taming! Slowly but surely, over the Autumn and Winter, a garden gradually emerged out of the wilderness. Another neighbour joked that we’d probably find lions and tigers in there. We didn’t, of course! But we did find toads and frogs sheltering in the damp jungle of densely packed thistles, nettles, bramble and willowherb.

We also found an old robin’s nest in an old blackcurrant bush. We found a small wall beside a lovely old red brick path and we found the remains of a Victorian greenhouse, complete with its own grapevine … with black grapes 😉

Garden paths were gradually relieved of their bindweed carpets and the unkempt tresses of berry-laden brambles were relieved of their luscious harvest before being shorn back closer to the boundary fence. I am a keen forager of wild fruit, so this collection of captive bramble bushes will be tamed and treasured for future fruit-picking.

Digging over an allotment garden
Digging and weeding

Then the digging began. My husband heroically tackled the heaviest digging, battling bravely against giant bramble roots. I took on the forest of Himalayan Balsam, capturing as many of the spring-loaded seed heads as I could, before they launched their invasive cargoes of seeds back into the garden.

Sweet peas and a bracken mulch

Eventually, our sections of the garden were dug over and weeded, ready for Spring planting. Though, we ended up having rather more time than we’d anticipated as Spring was rather reluctant to arrive. I’d planted out my early potatoes during a mild spell in early April – which is quite a normal time for planting early potatoes. A fortnight later, I was hurrying out to collect bracken to use as a warming mulch to protect my poor potatoes from the snow!

Early potato plants growing on allotment garden
My early potato plants are starting to grow

Happily, I can say that my mulch did its job well and the potatoes are now growing merrily.

I have a little ‘garden friend’ who follows me slavishly whenever I have a spade in my hand. A robin! Eagle-eyed visitors may be able to spot him in my header image at the top of this post.

I do have more garden tales to share, but I’ll save them for another day …

J Peggy Taylor

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: What’s This?

Zooming in on photo details can sometimes play tricks on our brains. “What’s this?” we ask. Can we guess without more context?

Here are my zoomed-in photo subjects for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. Nature was my muse … as she so often is for my photos 😉

1. What's this zoomed-in image
1. What’s This?
2. What's this zoomed-in image?
2. What’s This?
What's this zoomed-in image?
3. What’s This?

Next week I will create a post showing the original photos, so you can see my zooms in context!

You can join in the fun and see what others have spotted for “What’s This?” on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

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Bluebells in woodland

Making More Thyme for blogging …

I can hardly believe it is 10 whole months since blogging was unwillingly squeezed out of my life by other competing priorities.

As a parent, my children always come first. As a home-educating family, we find education is not so much a 6-hours-a-day activity as a way of life. So, last April, when one of our boys needed extra input to achieve what he had suddenly decided was his lifetime’s ambition, my responsibility as ‘education facilitator’ became much more intensive.

I don’t resent the fact that I was suddenly so much in demand. I was secretly rather happy … at least with the Damascene moment one lunchtime that possessed my son with an ambitious drive to learn whatever was needed to get him where he wants to be. But, his new learning momentum meant I too had to work at a corresponding pace to provide the necessary support.

I’m one of those people who always likes to try and ‘do everything’, so for a few months I persevered with my blog, burning the midnight oil and then watching the sunrise … but the limitation of time is always the factor that frustrates and sleep really is a necessity.

Thus it was that I took a reluctant sabbatical from blogging. I missed my blogging and all the wonderful WordPress folk. I thought wistfully about it for a while, but, no. I had to be firm with myself – sleep won the argument! Though, I knew I’d be back at some point – the question was only ever, “When?”

We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds

Spring has now well and truly begun springing here in our corner of the UK and I happened to be sowing another pinch of Thyme this week. That same day, a comment on a gardening post I wrote two years ago arrived in my inbox and I went to my blog to reply.

Sowing another pinch of Thyme
Sowing another pinch of Thyme

I saw everyone’s new posts in my Reader when I logged in. The yearning to start blogging again welled up inside of me, like tree sap in Spring. ‘Time’ and ‘thyme’ spun puns together in my head as I sowed my herb seeds and I thought, “Shall I? Can I?”. “Making More Thyme for blogging” germinated, like a little thyme seed.

Mole, Spring cleaning - The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.
Mole, Spring cleaning – The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.

Just like Mole in Wind in the Willows, Spring always tempts me to get ‘out there’ and explore the wider world – but this time, it’s the virtual world of blogging. So here I am! It’s good to be back – I’ll be dropping by to see you all soon 🙂

J Peggy Taylor