Mission accomplished

Finally, green beans are in the jars and heading for the shelf –

GreenBeans_3Thirty-one pints, altogether. It was very disappointing that I couldn’t can the first and second harvest. It was just too late to salvage those beans for canning. I’m also less than thrilled about the quality of the beans in this third picking. They were bigger than I like to use and I hope they will be good. I haven’t tried any of the canned beans yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

Here is my set-up for canning green beans –

GreenBeans_1I like to raw pack my green beans, meaning that I put raw beans into the jars, rather than cook them for a bit before canning them. Since you process the beans in the pressure canner for the same amount of time whether you can them raw or hot, I feel the beans do better without the extra cooking required to hot pack.

The day before I washed all the beans and then I snapped them all into pieces about an inch and a half long, more or less, as well as removing the ends. That’s a lot of work by itself, and I find it easier to split the whole canning process into two days by doing the actual canning the next day.

In my canning arrangement above, I have my bowl of raw, snapped beans on the counter, my canning funnel, ladle, head space gauge/bubble remover, magnetic jar lid lifter and a teaspoon. I work on a clean towel to control splashes and to soften the work surface for the jars. The jars, by the way, do not need to be sterilized like when I make jam as they will sterilize in the canning process. The have been washed in hot soapy water, rinsed, and placed upside down on another towel on my kitchen table.

On the stove, on the back right, is my hot water canner filled with distilled or soft water heated to boiling. In front of that is a small pot with water heated to simmering that contains my lids. On the front left is my pressure canner filled with about an inch or a little more of water that has been heated, but not to boiling.

My process goes like this –

I place a dozen empty jars in the kitchen sink and fill them all with the hottest water that comes out of the tap in order to heat the jars a bit to avoid shocking them with the boiling water. To tell the truth, I’ve never had a problem with that. As I need a jar, I empty it into the sink and place the jar on the towel. Placing the funnel in the jar’s mouth, I grab a couple of handfuls of beans and drop them into the jar. I will then cover the top of the funnel with one hand while shaking the jar with the other to help settle the beans into the jar.

One of the problems with raw packing green beans is that they don’t “squish” like when they are hot, so you have to make sure you pack the jar as tightly as you can while still maintaining the required one inch of head space (the amount of space between the top of the water and beans in the jar and the top edge of the jar). Shaking the jar helps, but after that I still have to press the beans down a bit and add or remove beans as needed for head space (usually without the funnel in place).

After I have the beans to the correct level, with the funnel back in the jar, I use the ladle to take boiling water from the pot and pour it into the jar over the beans. It usually takes about two full ladles. It is essential to make sure there are no air bubbles lurking among the beans, as the bubbles will surface during processing and lower the surface of the liquid. You want the water to cover the beans for proper processing and storage. To help with this, I use the bright green plastic head gauge/bubble remover. You can use a chopstick (I recommend plastic, not wood or bamboo) or a plastic knife instead – something stiff that won’t scratch the jar.

I run the bubble remover down the middle of the beans in the jar and along the sides. As this disturbs the beans I just so carefully packed, I need to “re-seat” the beans. I use the teaspoon for that, as my fingers are not asbestos and the water is hot. I also use the teaspoon to remove water from the jar if I have added too much. I am careful with the metal spoon to be sure not to scratch or chip the jar.

Once the beans and water are at the proper level, I wipe off the rim of the jar, remove a lid from the simmering water and place it on the jar. I grab a band and finger-tighten it – no band wrenches allowed! Then the jar goes into the canner, sitting on the rack at the bottom of the canner. This canner holds nine pints on a layer. After placing all the jars on the bottom layer, I check the level of the water in the canner. It should be about two inches up from the bottom of the jars. I place the second rack on top of the bottom layer of jars and start adding jars to the top layer. You can see the top layer here –

GreenBeans_2If you compare the color of the beans in the jars here to the finished beans, you can see that they definitely “cook” during processing. For people who prefer their beans fresh, I can see where this could be a problem, but I actually like my canned beans.

Once the canner is full, I lightly lube the edge of the lid where it meets the canner body, and the place the lid on the canner. At this point, the pressure regulator weight is not on the canner. When tightening the lid clamps (there are six), I want to keep the lid as even as possible. I tighten opposing pairs of clamps to help with this. Again, you don’t need to break out a wrench – fingers will tighten the clamps more than enough.

Once the lid is on I crank up the heat and wait for steam to start coming out of the steam vent. This can take a while. When I have consistent steam coming from the vent, I start the timer for ten minutes. This allows the canner to exhaust the air and fill with steam. After ten minutes I place the ten pound hole of the pressure regulator weight on the steam vent, which starts the pressure building. Since I have a pressure gauge on the canner, too, I can watch for when it gets close to the ten pounds of pressure.

I mentioned in my last post that I haven’t had my pressure gauge on my canner checked for some time and converted the canner to using the pressure regulator weight. As this was the first time I have used the canner since the conversion, it was interesting to note that when the weight started letting me know that the canner was up to ten pounds of pressure, the gauge said it was twelve pounds. Usually the gauge is considered accurate enough if it tests to one pound either side of the target pressure, but this is two pounds off. If I had relied on the gauge coming up to ten pounds, the actual pressure would probably have been around eight pounds – not a good thing. I’m glad I switched to the regulator weight. No more gauge worries.

However, being new to the regulator weight way of doing things I wasn’t sure how it would go. You are supposed to set the pressure (meaning the heat under the canner) so that the weight “rocks” one to four times a minute. Well, what the heck does rocking look/hear like? Actually, it’s not too hard to figure out, although on the first batch through the canner I think the weight might have gotten a little hung up. A little tap on the side of it though and it worked more consistently. Every once in a while the pressure builds up such that the weight is lifted off the steam vent a little and shakes back and forth, which I guess is “rocking.” For the first batch I ended up watching the canner as closely as I did when I used the gauge alone, but by the second batch I had the routine down.

After maintaining the correct pressure for twenty minutes, I shut off the flame under the canner and let it cool down all on it’s own. While the first batch was cooling, I ran to the store to buy more pint jars as I had used up most of what I had on hand. I wasn’t gone too long and by the time I got back the gauge said it had zero pressure. I gave it a couple more minutes and then took the weight off the steam vent. Use an oven mitt or towel – that sucker is hot! I opened the lid and left the jars sitting in the canner for ten more minutes. Usually I just take them out, but the Ball canning book said to let them sit, so I did.

After that I used the jar lifter to take them out, taking care not to tilt the jars while removing them. I placed them on a clean towel spread on my kitchen table and listened as they sang their “pings” to me. Thirty-one pints – a good day’s work. Now I have to find room to store them.

Conversion under pressure

FInally! The pressure regulator weight arrived in the mail today. Now I can convert my pressure canner. If by now you thought I could make a simple post, I’ll prove once again that I can take a small subject and expand it to a novel, with pictures, no less. First, here is my pressure canner pre-surgery –

CannerClosed

It is an All American Model 921, old style, purchased back in the later 1970s. That thing to the right of the lid’s handle is the petcock which I am replacing –

CannerPetcockWhen using the gauge to judge the pressure, you would raise that lever on top of the petcock so that it is vertical. That allows the steam to escape through the holes in the side of the petcock. Once you are ready to start building pressure, you flip the lever over like it is in the picture, which closes the vent. Using an adjustable crescent wrench, I start by removing the petcock –

CannerPetcockRemovedI have my new steam vent and regulator weight on hand now –

CannerSteamVentWeightThe steam vent has the same threads as the petcock, so it’s a simple replacement –

CannerSteamVentAdd the weight and it looks like this –

CannerWeightInPlaceYou can see it can be adjusted for 5, 10 and 15 pound pressures, depending on which hole in the regulator weight you set over the steam vent. In this picture it would be 15 pounds. That completes the conversion, but just to show the rest of the pressure canner, here is the inside of the body of the canner –

CannerInsideYou will note that it is discolored in the bottom, up to the level of where the water usually sits. That is normal with aluminum and doesn’t affect the performance or strength of the vessel. It doesn’t bother me so I don’t resort to tactics to get the discoloration out, but the instruction book tells you how if you want to.

Sitting outside of the canner on the left are the two racks that the jars sit on in the canner. Once goes on the bottom of the canner and if you are doing enough pints to do more than one layer (nine pints per layer), you set the second rack on top of the bottom layer of pints and add another layer. This canner is not big enough to do that with quarts, but there are canners that are.

You can also see a slight bevel at the very top of the canner body. This surface is where the matching taper of the lid fits, sealing the canner without the need for a rubber gasket. This is one of the reasons I bought this canner. I’ll never have to worry about having to buy a gasket to do my canning. You do apply a lubricant to the tapered area to help it seal and to keep it from sticking. Usually I apply a very thin smear of Vaseline. Here is the inside of the lid –

CannerLidInsideAs stated, the taper on the lid fits the taper of the canner body. The lid has little stand-offs, too, so that when you store the canner you don’t have to set the lid in place so that it would seal the canner, allowing moisture or smells to be trapped inside.

CannerLidStandoffWhen you close the lid on the canner, the stand-off fits underneath the flange near the lid clamp. I think this is intended as a safety measure, to catch the lid if you try taking it off while there is still pressure in the canner. If you look closely at the first picture in this post, you’ll see a mark on the top edge of the canner body and a small arrow on the edge of top of the lid. These are alignment marks to assure you have the lid in the position determined by the machining for the best seal.

That’s about it. I have not used a pressure canner regulated by weight before, so it will be a new experience for me. Last time I saw a pressure cooker with a weight being used was back when I was a kid, so it’s been a while. Nothing I can’t figure out, though.

Pickin’ beans – a rolling experience

A beautiful day here today. The weather is absolutely fall-like right now – low 70s, mostly sunny, a slight breeze and low humidity – and this is the middle of August? I must admit that I’ll take the hottest, most humid summer day over any winter day, but if I have a choice between that hot, humid summer day and today, I’ll take today. It was so nice, in fact, that I took the day off of work.

There were a few things I wanted to do around the house today, not the least of which was to put this together –

RollingCartYep, my rolling work/garden seat is ready to roll. Now that I’ve used it here is my “review.”

First, the specs say the weight limit is 300 pounds. I’m sorry to say that I am the right person to test that. So far it has been holding up. In fact, I think the only weak point when it comes to weight might be the seat post and the metal cross strap it is mounted on. If you raise the seat all the way up and then sit on the edge of the seat, I can see where it might be possible to bend the cross strap or possibly even break the seat post weldment at that point. This shouldn’t be a concern for someone of a reasonable weight, and after a few hours of use I have had no issue with it, but I’ll be watching that.

The seat is raised and lowered by screwing it up or down into it’s mounting bracket. There is a cotter pin to keep it from coming out all the way. Also, there is a seat height adjustment lever which is supposed to keep the seat height from changing. Once you set the seat height you want, you tighten the adjustment lever which is supposed to act like a lock nut. A good idea in concept, but it does not provide enough force to keep the seat from swiveling when I sit on it. With my size, it would take something special to make that work.

On the other hand, it’s not like the seat automatically lowers if it is not locked in place. I actually found this to be a good thing. I suppose there may be times when you would like the seat locked in one position, but as I was using it I found that I wanted the seat to swivel so that I could maneuver in the garden more easily.

There is a version of a similar cart that has a steerable front end. That is useful when taking the seat out to the garden, but once you are in the garden sitting on it, you pretty much want to go straight anyways. Also, the steering mechanism has a handle, somewhat like the metal red wagons do, and I think that handle would be more in the way than a help. To drag the seat to the garden, I took an old dog leash (thanks, Holly, wherever you may be) and attached it to the front axle. It’s simple enough to lift the one end just enough to let me drag it easily by just the two wheels on the opposite end.

The “tool tray” under the seat would accommodate a few small tools, but you’re not going to pack a tool box in there. I used it to stash the dog leash while it was still attached to the seat. The tires came inflated and did not need any additional air, but they are pneumatic tires so I’m sure they will need to be topped off occasionally, and you certainly need to make sure you don’t roll over something sharp or pointy. The width of the whole seat did work in my garden paths.

How did I try it out? I picked green beans. I didn’t use it with the seat in the orientation shown in the pic, but had the seat turned sideways. It worked very well, and saved my back from the consequences of a long picking session. I’m really glad I bought it.

Up to this point I had harvested 6 3/4 pounds of green beans. With my bad back, I have had to wait to harvest more. Also, as I didn’t have the parts I need to convert my pressure canner, I wanted to leave the beans on the plants as long as I could. However, I could wait no longer. As it is many of the beans are way bigger than the size at which I would normally harvest them. If I waited any longer they would be good for nothing but dried beans. I probably spent at least two hours picking beans and would not have been able to do that without that rolling seat.

This was the peak of the harvest. I would usually just pull the plants up at this point because they won’t be bearing many more beans, but there are some smallish beans out there and the plants look nice out there still. I brought in 16 pounds of beans! My fridge is so full of beans I don’t think I can get anything else in there. Hopefully my back ordered canner part will come by this weekend and I will start working on putting them up. There’s a lot of work to do, but that’s why I do this.

While I was out there I harvested a couple more summer squash. I also put a little fertilizer on the tomato plants and turned the soaker hose on because I’m concerned about the progress of the tomato plants. I finally have one tomato that appears to be turning red. Hopefully it’s in good shape and not rotten on the bottom or anything. I haven’t looked at it that closely. You can just barely see the red tomato near the bottom of the far tomato plant, but only if you have sharp eyes and zoom into the picture –

TomatoPlants081313I don’t think I have posted a picture of the soaker hose in the garden. Here it is –

Garden081313

That bare spot in the near row of green beans is where I have some bunching onions planted, which is why the soaker hose is there. It then loops down to the beets, up past the cucumber plants, through the summer squash, and then has a single loop around each tomato plant. I have another soaker hose, too, and while it is too late for using it this year on the green beans, I need to get them both in place at the start of the garden, rather than wait until I have to work around plants. For as much rain as we had early in the season, the garden hasn’t gotten enough rain for a couple of weeks now, at least.

And that was my vacation day. I barbecued some chicken thighs and wrote this post, and that was enough for today. If I were wealthy I could get used to not going to the old job every day. Since that’s a total fantasy, I’m glad that I at least have as much vacation time as I do. Today was worth using up some of that time.

Weight on the way – yay!

Got an email today from the company I ordered my conversion parts from for my pressure canner. The regulator weight is shipping today. Hopefully that means it will arrive in a few days, and surely (I hope) by this weekend. I still have beans in the garden, so I am optimistic that I will be able to can at least part of my green bean crop. Yay!

Rolling, rolling, rolling . . .

I have green beans that need picking, and a back that needs easy treatment. Somehow it’s hard to put those two things together, but today I bought something that might accomplish that. I stopped at the local Harbor Freight store to pick up one of those rolling work seats for the garden. I had mentioned this before when I was talking about my back and I decided to see if it might work. I thought that it would be too wide for the garden rows, but when I saw it I could tell it would work just fine.

Lucky me, it was on sale! Not only that, I had a 20% off coupon that they applied to the sale price. I walked out of there a happy man. A lighter wallet, but not as light as I had expected. I’m anxious to put it together (of course it doesn’t come assembled) but no time left today for that. Maybe tomorrow.

Conundrum

First, let me say that it is Wednesday and it’s the first day since last Friday that my back has not been limiting my movement and activity. I can finally think about getting back out in the garden, among other things. I know there are more green beans to be picked but I think I’ll have to figure out a way to do that other than bending over at the waist, otherwise I’ll wind up immobile again.

So, the conundrum? My green bean crop, or more precisely, canning my green bean crop. To can green beans you need a pressure canner, and I have one. Actually, I’ve had it for many years, since the late 1970s in fact. I went for broke – almost literally – when I bought my canner. I wanted the best so I bought an All American, large capacity, cast aluminum canner, which was a significant investment at that point in my life. Heck, look at the prices on them today; they are still a significant investment, suitable only for someone who is serious about food preservation.

The pressure in a canner is usually managed one of two ways. The first is with a steam vent that has a weighted regulator that sits on the vent. Usually the weight will accommodate 5, 10 and 15 pound pressures, though not always. This system works by letting the steam escape through the vent tube in a controlled fashion. You know that the amount of pressure is right by listening for the number of times per minute that steam escapes from the vent with the regulator weight in place.

The other way to regulate pressure is with a gauge. The gauge displays the pressure in the canner and you have to keep a sharp eye on the gauge and keep adjusting the heat under the canner to keep the pressure in the right range. Unlike the weighted regulator that lets you know by sound what the pressure is, you cannot do something else in the kitchen while using a gauged canner because you must keep your eyes on that gauge. With many years of experience, believe me when I say that the second you take your eyes off the gauge, the pressure will go wrong.

Nowadays, a great many pressure canners have both weighted pressure regulators and a gauge, but the pressure is supposed to be regulated by the weight. The gauge is used more as a reference, particularly when the canner is cooling down and you need to know when there is no more pressure in the canner. Why don’t you use the gauge to regulate the pressure? Because they can be inaccurate, and proper pressure can mean the difference between good food and food poisoning.

My pressure canner has only a gauge, which was common when I bought it. To use a gauge alone to regulate pressure, it has to be checked to make sure it is accurate. Everything you will read says that this should be done yearly. The truth of the matter is that I have never had the gauge on my canner checked and it has never failed me. But I have not used the canner for many years and I do not want to trust the gauge alone. I need to get the gauge checked. Usually the recommendation is to contact your County University Extension office, and I have, but mine doesn’t currently check pressure gauges. So what to do? Buy the parts to turn my dialed pressure canner into a weighted canner.

This is pretty simple to do. With the gauge arrangement on my canner, there is a petcock that vents the canner. Once the canner is producing steam, you let the steam escape for ten minutes and then shut the petcock, which allows the pressure to build in the canner. Current models have a steam vent instead of the petcock. To convert, you need to buy the steam vent and the regulator weight. Depending on where you buy the parts, this will probably cost you at least $25., plus whatever shipping, tax, etc.

I had been planning on using the pressure gauge on my canner to put my beans up this year, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. After failing to find a local source, I fired off my order for the conversion parts to a online merchant whose web site said the parts were in stock, and were reasonably priced.  You’ll note that I harvested my first green beans on July 27th, but I didn’t place the order for the parts I need until July 30, and I wasn’t about to pay for exorbitant express shipping, either. This obviously meant that I would have to wait to can my beans, and hope that they would still be in decent shape to can. And then on the 1st I picked more green beans, still with no parts in hand.

As is almost always the case, just when you count on something being “in stock,” you are sure to be told that something has been back ordered. Damn! So I get the steam vent in the mail on Saturday, the 3rd, but the regulator weight isn’t expected in stock again until that same day, so I’ll have to wait for that part to ship, too, before I get a chance to do any pressure canning.

Do I just wait until the part gets here, or do I do something else? No, I just can’t feel good about using the gauge alone. I would if I could have gotten it tested, but not without. The only other alternative I can think of is to buy another pressure canner. Well, if I got a smaller canner, that could be useful for smaller batches, rather than having to drag out the big canner.

Off I go on a hunt, and wind up right back where I was. Yes, I could buy a decent pressure canner locally. The best price for what I would consider to be an acceptable canner runs around $89.00. Do you have any idea how many cans of green beans I could buy at the store for that much money? The idea is to be saving money, not investing in something new; something that I would probably not be able to come out ahead on in the remaining years I have left on this earth. Nope, makes no sense.

So here I sit, waiting for the company to tell me when they get the part in. I’ve sent an email to them today, hoping to get some info, but so far, nothing. I’m playing a waiting game here. I would hate to lose all the green beans I grew (except those that my neighbor and I have eaten) but if that’s what happens, so be it. At least I’ve had the pleasure of growing something.

Laid low

It is a beautiful weekend here. I’ll enjoy it, but only from the comfort of my bed or chair. Somehow I have managed to screw up my lower back and I can’t move without pain. It’s hard to do anything around the “homestead” when there is a risk that your legs will give out from the pain of doing nothing more than taking a step.

Living in my suburban world this isn’t the problem it would be if I were living in the wilderness. When your life depends on being active every day, being laid up for a few days could be disastrous. It is the risk one assumes when living an independent lifestyle.

While I know I will eventually recover, it is terribly inconvenient, and is a cautionary event that should make me rethink the way I do things. I am not sure exactly why my back is feeling this way, but I did pick green beans the other day and, I must confess, I do so by bending over at the waist. It was a fair amount of picking, and I had picked beans just the weekend before, too. The fact that I had to keep standing up and stretching to keep on picking should have told me I was pushing it.

Then again, maybe it was the 50# sack of sunflower seeds that I had to lift into and out of the trunk of my car. Or maybe it’s that I’m just plain out of shape, or that this weight on the front of me is hard on the backside of me, or maybe just a combination of all these things.

So, the idea of a roll-along seat that I can use while picking green beans is very appealing. Ideally I should do more squatting (lift with the legs) when working in the garden, but with these knees that would put me down for sure. Stretching and exercise is definitely called for.

Take this as a warning to look at the way you do things, too, and look for ways to make things easier for you. You’re not less of a woman or man for doing so and might actually extend the number of years you can be active.

More produce – 8/1/13

Just came in from the garden. It’s a rather nice day out there today. Mid 80’s are a bit warm for me, but it’s not humid and there is a breeze, so it was a good time to do a little hoeing. Of course, it’s never that simple, and I saw that the green beans needed to be picked again.

I went through all the bean plants and picked the bigger beans, but there are still quite a few coming, so I’ll have to do this one or two times more. I wound up with another 2 3/4 pounds of green beans. I also found a small summer squash ready to pick.

I checked the cucumber plants and I have a few small cukes, with quite a few very little ones forming. I think I’ll have a good harvest there. The tomatoes aren’t growing as much as I had hoped. It could be that they just are not getting enough sun. No ripe tomatoes yet, but there are several growing. I think I saw a little bit of a reddish tinge to some, but that could just be wishful thinking.

I should set up an irrigation system out there to make sure things get enough water. I picked up a couple of soaker hoses I had stored and I have some drip irrigation hose stored in the same place. I think I should get that, too, so that I can more directly water specific plants. Rain showers tonight and tomorrow should help keep things growing along. Maybe this weekend I can set up the watering system.

The beets are not looking good. Too shady, I think, in that corner of the garden. Next year I think I will expand the garden a few feet at the far end and not count on the shadiest parts of the garden. The sparse area of the garden where the green beans would not grow may be suffering from a tree root that is sucking the water from that section of the garden. I’m not really sure what is going on there, but tonight I planted some bunching onions in that unproductive stretch. I’ll see if any of those come up. If not, then I think I will have to mark that part of the garden off limits, too.

That’s the garden report for today.

Jammed up until fall

Today was blueberry jam time. I had purchased six pints of blueberries at the same time I had purchased the sweet cherries with the intention of making jam using the Ball® Jam & Jelly Maker. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a simple recipe for blueberry jam using the jam maker or otherwise. Finally, on the Ball (www.freshpreserving.com) web site I used the “Fresh Tools” menu to get to the Pectin Calculator (under “Reference Tools”), where I was able to specify the fruit, what I wanted to make, and the pectin I wanted to use, and have it give me a recipe that I could scale to fit my needs.

I went with low sugar for this jam. I didn’t want it overwhelmed with sweet. After processing the jam pretty much as I processed all the others, I ended up with eight half pints, plus just a little.

BlueberryJamJam on an English muffin is the best thing. However, making jam from the whole blueberries does give it a bit of an odd, coarse texture, though nothing terrible. And wouldn’t you know, after making the low sugar version, I found that this might have been better a little bit sweeter. Then again, if I had made it sweeter, I probably would be thinking it was too sweet. Never a happy medium, I guess.

That ends my jam making until the fall when I think I will make some apply jelly and apple butter. The Jam & Jelly Maker would work for apple jelly, but apple butter will have to be done the old fashioned way. I need to find a place to score some free apples. Hmmm, I wonder if those apple trees are still standing on the vacant property where I once lived.

The harvest begins

The labor is starting to pay off now – produce is coming out of the garden. I knew I had a couple of small, yellow crookneck summer squash ready to pick, but when I got up this morning and looked out at the garden, I could tell that they were no longer small. Time to bring them in. The summer squash plant is doing well. Here is the plant and my squash in situ

Garden_072713_SSThe plant is looking a little droopy from the long, hot day, but that’s normal. The cucumber plants are growing but not too quickly. There are a bunch of tiny little cukes forming, too small to see without a close-up photo –

Garden_072713_cukeThe beets are looking a bit pathetic –

Garden_072713_beets

The further back you go in that corner of the garden the more barren it becomes. Just too much shade and perhaps not enough moisture.

The green beans are doing fairly well, in spite of the patchiness in some places –

Garden_072713_BeanPlants

As a matter of fact, while I was out there harvesting the summer squash, it became apparent that I had to pick the beans today, too. It’s a bit of a back-breaking job, but no pain, no gain.

Garden_072713_GreenBeansBesides starting the harvesting, I took the time to add an extension onto the tops of the tomato cages (I know it’s a little hard to see it) –

Garden_072713_Tomatoes

The tomatoes are not growing as strongly as I had hoped, but they are growing and it’s better to get the extensions on the cages now rather than wait until I have to wrestle the plants into submission just to take care of the cages. Actually, what I called an extension is actually just another tomato cage. I slip the legs of it into the top of the existing cage and then twist wire around the two cages in two corners to keep them together. It works well.

In the end I picked over four pounds of green beans, two largish and one small summer squash. A nice beginning.

Garden_072713_Produce