Today was wet and blustery, and I couldn’t force myself out to do some serious work, so I sat and shelled Broad beans instead. it took about four hours, and I ended up with three piles. One for storage, one with insect damage for eating now, and then the really trashy ones, which will be fed to the ducks. The picture below gives you an idea of how much I got from a patch of about 8ft x 4ft.
Here they are spread out on the windowsill, to finish drying.
The repetitive work gives me time to think, and as I was working with beans, and this years beans arrived in the post, I was thinking about their place in my polyculture experiment. It occurred to me that my choice of bean was made using the same process that I would undergo when I am consciously using Permaculture Principles, but without me actually thinking about it. Permaculture thinking.
At the heart of what I try to do is to add as many layers of use (functions) to all levels of a design. From the whole, down to individual plants, as I believe that the only way that we can get to ‘Reduce consumption, and redistribute surplus’, is to hammer home the principle of ‘every element should perform more than one function’, and that the more functions that we can add, the more outputs we gain from the same space, allowing us to use space to meet our needs. The selection of the Broad Bean species mirrors that approach. I wanted a source of protein, and felt that broad beans were the most appropriate for my climate, and for use within this particular polyculture. The broad bean also added Nitrogen fixation, by virtue of being a legume. I wanted biomass, which the broad bean provided. I then looked at the available varieties, and saw that there was a variation in height between varieties. I wanted an overwintering bean, to give my beds some protection and as biomass was important, was looking for a tall bean. As the root system mirrors the above ground mass, and is roughly equal to it, a larger above ground plant, should give me more roots left to decompose later. The height was also important for use within this polyculture, as the Rye/Spelt will be getting pretty tall leading up to midsummer, and a short bean may not get enough sunlight. The two common overwintering beans are The Sutton, and Aqudulce, being 18 inches, and three feet tall respectively. My catalogue also noted Bunyard’s Exhibition, at 4 ft 6 inches, but listed it as for Spring Sowing. I was going to choose Aquadulce, when I spotted a seed packet of Bunyard’s exhibition that stated that it was suitable for Autumn sowing, which confused me slightly. A bit of internet research showed some sellers saying that it was OK to overwinter, and others stating that it was a Spring planted bean. here in Lincolnshire, the Winters are colder than much of the UK, so a borderline hardy bean may not be the best choice, but it’s the one that I’m going for. If I plant more than I need, and save seed from the survivors, I should eventually, by that selection process, end up with a fully hardy strain of Bunyard’s Exhibition. Outputs are: protein source, able to be stored without electricity, bee forage, nitrogen fixer, high biomass above and below gound, winter ground protection, tall enough to survive in a polyculture of tall plants. If I’m totally honest, another output is the fun that I get from experimenting. That’s a lot of functions from a single element, and all done sub-consciously. To paraphrase Bruce Lee, the art of ‘Thinking without thinking’.
Of course, that’s assuming that at least some of the plants survive the Winter. If not, I still get some extra biomass, just not as much as from a mature planting.
The uploader seems to be working again, so I thought that I’d post some extra pictures. The bed below is one of the Spelt beds. It has some bladder senna shrubs as part of the polyculture, and some Tagetes ‘lemon Gem’ just to give some addtional functions whilst the groundcover establishes.
The next picture is of a single Spelt plant, which already has more than twenty tillers.
Here is a close up of the ground cover seedlings mentioned in my Polyculture Update post. The larger seedlings are the chicory, and the smaller ones are the Wild White Clover. At the moment there looks to be too much chicory, but that’s easy to rectify.
The Rye/corn beds have changed very little, other than more of the Crimson clover is flowering. You may be able to see the earlier pictures, by following the link to the Polyculture Experiment Pictures, on my face book account. I haven’t tried it, to see if it works yet.
The next stage is to sow the Broad (Fava) beans, later this month. I will soak them first, to ensure that I am only planting seeds that have already germinated, and may grow them on in modules for a short while.
All of the best