Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Great Bean Experiment - This Year's Numbers Are In
It was slightly warmer today than it has been but still didn't get above 24 degrees until late afternoon and the wind made working outside less than tolerable so I decided to finish up this years bean calculations and make a big pot of Ham and Bean soup.
The Mrs. can make her Cornbread she insists on when she get's home :)
I have to say this was one bumper crop year but I had a feeling the numbers would turn out that way. After the huge hit my ongoing bean experiment took from all the over time back in 2011 and the drought of 2012 if this year had been a bust the entire experiment would have failed. I was down to about my last 50 seeds that could be planted, all left overs from 2011's crop.
This years crop was done with only two trellis and 10 plants per side for a total of about 40 plants that sprouted and lived. I managed to get a gallon and a half of actual edible beans off those forty plants plus about another pound of seeds for next season.
With a yield like that which comes out to 24 cups of dried beans and using my ration figures from years ago of 1 cup of dried beans per person per day that averages up to some 640 plants per person for a year. That is almost double the original yield I got when I first started this experiment back in 2008. If I remember right the original yield ratio came out to approximately 1000 bean plants per person for an entire years supply.
I suspect there are several factors at work here. I have constantly been amending the soil with a never ending supply of old horse manure, wood ash, misc. compost and barn leftovers that consist of old hay and sheep manure. This year especially I added a layer of old barn leftovers so thick it acted like mulch and kept the weeds out (except for the damned MorningGlory of course). Another factor is more than likely due to my taking the seed beans off the strongest plants that produce early each year which has basically acted as a form of natural selection.
We are eating the weak :)
The most interesting aspect of this entire experiment has been the overall change in the actual plants. The bean plants that have been coming up now have thicker vines, grow overall about twice as fast as the original ones and have normal looking bean pods of green that turn brown when dried. The original bean variety had tan pods with purple veins on them. The beans inside still look exactly like they did from the beginning though.
What I might do next year is plow up a totally new section of ground and plant some beans there and in the old garden to see if my yields continue to increase or if adjustments would have to be made when planting in virgin soil. My guess is to be safe if I was starting out new I would need to shoot for the old figure for sustainability.
To expand this experiment out the logistics of planting 3000+ pole beans is kinda daunting though if you think about it. Mostly the poles would be the issue. I assume I would be planting them in a hill/row combination and using the old method of a tee-pee type stick stand. There is no way I could come up with 150 trellis like I use now on short notice.
There are also other factors to keep in mind. Protecting 40 plants is an entirely different problem and much easier than protecting a couple thousand but it helps to have a figure to start from I guess.
From the cooking angle I have been very impressed with my home grown bean variety. Just allowing them to dry in the pods I have several jars of stored beans from four years ago that still cook up nicely without any more prep than an over night soaking in cold water and a day of simmering. No pressure cooker needed to get them soft enough to eat. As a general rule of thumb I have been adding about an hour to each process for every year they have been stored. So far with no complaints.
My final analysis of this year is to consider it a fluke surplus year and continue to plan on using my old figures if/when truly sustainable planting would need to occur. The problem there is I don't even have 3000+ seeds to start with but the first year's crop would be geared totally towards the next years production anyway.
Just things to consider if you have to start using your preps today.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!