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Bush Beans A-Plenty

Bush Beans A-Plenty

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Gardens, Recipe, Vegetable Gardens |

In addition to the joy I get from my flower gardens, I love being able to go into my own yard and pick vegetables for dinner.  One of the easiest things that I have found to grow are Bush Beans.  Unlike pole beans they do not require any special structures. They grow about 30 cm high and produce lots and lots of beans.  If you are very organized, it is worth planting new batches about every two weeks so you spread out your harvest and you can enjoy fresh beans for a month or six weeks. The big caveat with beans is that they are best planted when the soil is warm, so I waited until nearly June to plant my first crop.

Last year I purchased this package of tricoloured seeds.  Of course you can tell from the seeds whether you can expect yellow, green or purple beans.

Bush Bean Seeds

Bush Bean Seeds

I planted the seeds in front of a south facing fence that received full sun.  The seeds sprouted within ten days.

Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts

They grew with little intervention on my part, save having run the weeping hose down the middle to water them most days.

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Young Beans Plants (about 4 weeks)

Then about six weeks or so, they began to flower.  They really filled in the empty spaces in my garden quite nicely with a beautiful green ground cover.

Beans a-blooming

Beans a-blooming

At about nine weeks, we were able to begin harvesting.  I think I might have planted them a little too close together, but they seemed to do alright.

Thick with Bush Beans

Thick with Bush Beans

I was able to harvest at least three times from these plants.  The results were beautifully colourful.  The purple ones are my favourite.

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

Tricoloured Bush Beans in Yellow, Green and Purple

What to do with all those beans, especially if you plant multiple times?  Bush beans seem to freeze well and I was able to share lots with the office.  My all time favourite recipe though is for spicy Szechuan Green Beans courtesy Gwendolyn Richards of the Calgary Herald.  It smells amazing when you fry up all my favourite things: garlic, ginger in some sesame oil, then topped off with some toasted sesame seeds.

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Spicy Szechuan Beans

Interestingly, the purple beans turn a shade of green when sautéed this way.  Enjoy!

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Garden Sketch Tests Well at Beta, Soon to Launch

Garden Sketch Tests Well at Beta, Soon to Launch

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Backyard, Do it Yourself, Front Yard, Garden Design, Garden Sketch, Irrigation | 2 comments

Our design team from Denim and Steel has been working hard to implement the suggestions recommended by our alpha testers and we were pleased to present the results to our discerning panel last week. We had two returning members and two newbies to test the latest version. Overall, the feeling was that Garden Sketch tests well at the beta phase.

Opening up the App, small changes made it easier to get started.  We provided a lot less verbal direction at this phase as the instructional tutorial was now functional. We noted any user friction, seeing where our testers ran into difficulty.

Garden Sketch Live Testers

Garden Sketch Live Testers

Testers seemed excited by the variety of house shapes they could now incorporate but he biggest news was on the design tab. The colours were much brighter and our designers now had the choice of small, medium and big of any of the shapes they wished to use. We also add yielded to the public outcry for the option of a water feature and flower pots.

Garden Sketch Tester Design with Notes

Garden Sketch Tester Design with Notes

It was a lot of fun to watch our testers as the navigated. Their focus and intensity was notable and lasted at least forty-five minutes to an hour. There was complete silence as they worked to perfect their designs.

For me, the biggest surprise was how much I enjoy using the shape drawing tool to give a sense of space. I used it to represent the Pergola in my back yard because it didn’t match the shape of the gazebo.

Our goal at the outset was to develop an iPad App that would help the home gardener to map their yard, noting the existing structures, trees and plants and enabling them to make garden plans. We thought these plans could be useful by getting people looking at their gardens in a new way: is this space working for me? What would I like to change? What would my dream garden look like? How can I achieve it? Garden Sketch creates a low risk opportunity to try out different ideas and share them with your friends and family for input and feedback.

Garden Sketch is being submitted to Apple’s App Store for approval this month and we expect to announce its release in September. Stay tuned!

Here are some of the other designs we’ve been creating:

Garden Sketch Plan

Garden Sketch Plan

 

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Just Like Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Do it Yourself |

A few weeks ago, I performed an experiment to try and recreate my grandmother’s rhubarb pie that I loved as a child.  With the good fortune to have a rhubarb plant in my own back garden, I have plenty to play with.  I charted the first attempt here.   The pie was delicious but wasn’t exactly the same.  My grandmother’s pie filling was a particular texture, not the chunky version you normally get in the grocery store. My version had a pretty smooth texture, but it still had distinctive rhubarb chunks.  I wondered how my grandmother got hers so fine.

I decided I need to take the experiment to the next step.  I thought perhaps she might have grated her rhubarb, so I tried that first.

Trying to Grate Rhubarb

Trying to Grate Rhubarb

The results were not impressive.  As you can see, the stringiness of the rhubarb made the process pretty slow and did not yield very much fruit.  This was not a likely option as my grandmother was probably one of the most efficient women I’ve ever known.  She’d been a Housekeeper when she first came to Canada and later a ran a boardinghouse.  She just wouldn’t have spent her time that way.

So I decided to chop my rhubarb even finer than the first time.  I also reduced the amount of rhubarb to make the thinner pie that was my grandmother’s signature.  I cut the amount from four cups to three and reduced the sugar to one and a third cup, but kept the same amount of flour.

Finely chopped rhubarb pie filling

Finely chopped rhubarb pie filling

My last adjustment was to change the temperature and cooking time.  I reduced the temperature to 375° but increased the cooking time to fifty minutes.  My intention is to try and stew the filling and get the rhubarb to break down just a little more.

The results proved pretty effective.  Although I am not sure that anything could live up to the memory, I thought the results were pretty close.

The Final Product

The Final Product

For those keeping track, here is the final recipe:

*3 cups extremely fine cut rhubarb pieces

*1 1/3 cup sugar

*1/3 cup flour

*1/8 tsp salt

Mix together and let stand 15 minutes. Fill pie shell, dot with 2 tbsp butter and apply top crust. Bake 50 min @ 375F.

Thanks to le127 on Reddit who shared the original recipe.

Do you have a favourite summer rhubarb recipe?  Let us know!

 

 

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