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I had big plans for today, but it turns out ol’ Ma Nature did to.  Seems she picked today to give us some real spring weather, as opposed to the premature summery weirdness as of late.  Not that I’m complaining – March is supposed to be wet and cold and I would rather have normal than freakishly lovely.  I know that sounds strange, given the amount of complaining I do about winter, but I have found the recent run of unseasonably warm weather a bit unsettling.  Also unsettling was the thought that I would soon have to break out the shorts again and thus expose the world to the sight of my “winter” legs.   But as it turns out it’s cold and blustery outside today, with the kind of rain that stings when it hits you, so after a bit of poking around I retreated to the house, looking for things to do, and with my legs safely hidden from view.

I have been sorting through all of my seeds and planning the garden for this year.  I have also determined that I may have a seed hoarding problem.  Of course, what one person calls hoarding, another may call “zombie preparedness”.  I am that other person.

Sometimes you have to stop and take a look at what you have.  You know, actually open jars and stuff.  Here’s some parsnip seed I don’t remember saving, but yet there it is.  Neat.

"Thanks for getting this new and interesting thing out, I really need to take a whiz."

 Once the kitties started digging through the boxes, it was time to put them away.  And no, I couldn’t have just done it at a table.  That would be too logical.

No signs of life so far in the trays in the windows.  I look at them every night with a wee bit of excitement.  I’m sure some of you out there know exactly what I am talking about.

Out in the garden there are a bunch of things I left that made it through the super mild winter.  I’m so excited that the whole row of kale is growing again.  Because, you know, I can save the seeds…

The brussels sprouts are back too, which is pretty darn cool.  I’ve never had any overwinter so have no idea what to expect in terms of flowering and seed saving.  Plus, these were a hybrid so will be a future experiment if I do get any seeds.

And since we’re outside, I might as well show you what Mr. S was doing before it got raining in earnest….my future chicken coop!  This was the old pumphouse where they used to fill up the tractors.  After a lot of dilly-dallying about fixing the roof in the old milk house to use as a chicken palace, we decided to fix this up instead so I can at least get a few chickens in the meantime.  There’s going to be a fenced-off yard, and I figure I can stuff about eight or so in there.

And here’s the back side, because I find it so fascinating.

So that’s what I’ve been up to today – basically anything but cleaning my house.  What have you been doing?  :)

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I realized the other day I have been talking so much about our beans this year around the interwebs and in everyday life, I really should do a post on them and possibly get it out of my system.

2011′s garden experiment was to plant dry kidney and romano beans from the grocery store, just to see if it would work and what would happen.  I simply bought a couple of small bags of beans right off the shelf and planted them (although I did do a test germination run on the kidney beans.  The romanos I just winged it.  Yeah, I like to live dangerously).  To say the experiment was a resounding success would be an understatement, since I ended up with enough for a small bean-loving army to happily make its way across Siberia with.  Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  It’s probably more like what a band of hippies would use to get through a winter in Bancroft, but it still amounted to pounds of the things and more than I know what to do with.  All from around $0.50 worth of seed and an approximate 10′ x 20′ plot of garden space.  Not too shabby at all.  I wish I would have got a definitive yield tally, but we have been steadily using them and, well, I’m still sorting the dang things.  Let me explain.

Sometime around mid to late September the beans were looking good, I was letting them dry on the plants and the pods were coming along nicely although the beans themselves had a bit more to go.  We were getting the occasional rainy day, and although it wasn’t the ideal hot dry weather one would hope for, the beans were holding up and doing ok.  We then got a spat of rainy over cast days, and combined with the cooler night temperatures I began to get concerned.  A quick check and sure enough the beans were beginning to either mould or sprout in the pods.  A couple of hours later Mr. S and I had several laundry hampers full of damp, slightly mouldy bean pods that we couldn’t leave piled up lest we end up with several laundry hampers of wet, rotten bean pods.  We spread them out on pretty much every available flat surface we had, but found that they were still giving off enough moisture to form condensation wherever they lay, even with diligent rotating and fluffing.  It seemed all would be lost until Mr. S got the great idea to set up the ironing board with a window screen on it.

The whole system worked great, with plenty of air circulation it allowed us to dump and dry a whole hamper at a time and even sit to shell them to boot.  The beans themselves still needed a lot of drying before I could store them, but they were out of the pods and away from the dreaded mould risk.  Handy guy saves the day!

To dry the beans further, I ended up spreading them out in a multitude of rimmed cookies trays, lasagna pans and just about anything else I could find that would hold them, and sticking them anywhere that Ginger (the kitty in the photo) could not get to them.  I had to do this because, frankly, Ginger has problems.  I love her dearly, but she has problems.  Ginger likes new and interesting things, mostly because she likes to pee on new and interesting things.  I’m sure there’s a certain amount of curiosity involved, but I think it’s also a matter of calculating  trajectory, delivery and duration.  The very first pan of kidney beans I ever grew got Gingerized when I foolishly left them exposed and went to work, but, really, I can’t blame her.  In a kitty’s eyes they probably looked like the latest in litter box technology.  But I digress.

The pans of beans have been kicking around since October, quietly drying and doing their thing, and I have been slowly working through them and sorting out the bad ones whenever I sit down to watch a movie. I’ve been keeping an eye out for ones that began to sprout or mildew before we got them dry, or for weird shrivelled up ones that I can only assume were immature.  It’s mindless tedious work, but perfect winter movie-watching work.   And watching the jars of good beans fill up has been really gratifying.   Perfect storage food, grown in our own back yard for next to nothing.  I’m happy to say I am finally on the last pan, though.  Its been a little nerve-wracking watching Ginger’s eyes light up every time I bring a new one down.

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