The green bean trellises are up, and it took only 18 hours to do it.

Now, I’m not saying it took 18 hours straight. It was a process accomplished over a three-day period. Still, compared to the past two summers, that’s record time. The difference this year is that we bought “official” trellising material, rather than make trellises by hand out of twine. That’s how it was done last year, and while the trellises worked like a charm…

…it took one heck of a lot longer than 18 hours to put them all up – despite Farmer John’s selective memory. He swore the hand-made trellises were finished in one single day the first time this method was attempted, yet oh my no. Just ask Dana. I suspect she continues to have the occasional nightmare involving miles and miles of twine.

The manufactured reusable trellise material is a time-saver for sure, but it does not guarantee that we’ll ultimately bring bushels of green beans to market. Mother Nature is in charge of that department. Last year, after only one or two harvests, the summer’s oppressive heat set in and nary a bean survived it. I have a photo of dead vines on last year’s hand-made trellises, yet it’s entirely too depressing. We’ll try our best to forget about that unfortunate incident, and aim for cautious optimism as we watch the new plants climb upwards.

Go beanies, go.

It’s unusual for us to use a manufactured product for its intended use. We aren’t very mass-produced here. We don’t purchase pre-made tomato cages, for example, like one might see in a backyard garden. We buy large rolls of 6’x6’ concrete reinforcement wire to cut and form into hundreds and hundreds of cages. The cages are reused every year, of course, but then every year we grow more determinate variety tomatoes and therefore require more cages.

At the close of each tomato season, the cages are gathered and stacked in various spots around the farm, where they serve as weed staging areas until the subsequent year. And when that year rolls around, it’s guaranteed that the next tomato plants needing their support will be located at the opposite end of the farm.

This season, in a fit of attempted automation, Farmer John attached our small trailer to the tractor and had Dana and Davy stack cages into it (after first pulling off the dead weed debris interwoven in and through the wires). In the front bucket of the tractor, John piled a load of the metal t-stakes we use to tie up our indeterminate variety tomatoes.

As the saying goes, it was like killing two squash bugs with one stone. Not only was he toting the implements needed for the indeterminate tomatoes, but he was pulling along what was needed for the determinates as well. What an efficient idea!

In theory. Until the cages began tumbling off the back of the trailer halfway to their destination.

Luckily, Dana and Davy were following the tractor on foot, where they were able to gather the tossed cages along the way. I don’t know how many actually made it to the target tomato plants via trailer. (I’m guessing not many.)

Well, everything is a learning experience, I suppose. Now we know that while mass-production saved countless hours of bean trellising, there’s simply no replacing man and womanpower when it comes to schlepping cages. After the tractor/trailer fiasco, it was decided that cage transfer would be better handled by…hand. Twelve hands, to be exact.

Who needs automation?

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Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand Wednesday:

Lots and lots of Early Girl tomatoes! oodles of new potatoes — Red Lasoda and Yukon Gold; fresh elephant garlic; bunches of purple beets and golden beets; bulk 1015 onions and Red Burgundy onions; some summer squashes (our first crop has been a disappointment – but the second crop is looking good and should be producing before too long!); fennel; some bulk white turnips; and whatever else we might find ready for harvest.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm