Trial and trial and trial and error

We try a lot of things here at Seven Trees. Different breeds of livestock, building methods, food preservation methods, and uncounted varieties of fruits & veggies. Last year we were gifted some interesting bean/pea seeds, which we detailed here, so we gave them a try. The black beans, the white beans, and the black & white beans turned out pretty much like their parent bean seeds, but two varieties looked rather different from the originals.

Parent beans on the right, next generation on the left.

Beans do cross with each other, but not as readily as other vegetables. Next year we’ll do a more scientific round of test plantings, the beans we harvested this year, and what few we have left of the original batch.

Parents on the left, next generation on the right.

The two bean varieties above turned out much lighter in our growing conditions. Did they hybridize? Is it our soil conditions? We’ll know more next year….We also plan to take detailed notes about how the plants and pods grow. A few are bush beans, most are pole. A few were edible like ‘green beans’, but most seemed to grow out like soup beans. We don’t have enough to try cooking up a batch, so that trial will wait until next year too. The one variety we tried as a green bean actually had purple pods, about a foot long, and was fairly tasty.

Another big surprise were the speckled kidney beans. We grew early red kidneys from Fedco Seeds in 2011 and a very few of them turned out speckled cream and purple. So we saved those to plant separately to see if they bred true. What a surprise to find quite a rainbow of colors in those 9 plants.

Who knew all those colors lurked in such demure pink beans!

In the picture above, the pink beans at the top are the original beans from Fedco. The speckled ones just below them are the oddballs that grew from the pink ones. The 5 groups below them all came from those speckled beans. Each plant had one color, none were mixed on the same plant. Next year we’ll grow some of each color, plus the pink originals and first generation speckled. Should be interesting!

Mangels also made it back on our trial schedule this year. We grew them a few years back, but never put them to much use (though we did find a mangel beer recipe). Now that we have a bigger laying flock, plus two hungry piggies, we decided to re-explore the wonderful world of fodder beets. We feed the leaves raw to the pigs & hens, and the roots get chopped into chunks and cooked into mash with squash and potatoes and other root veggies. They’re pretty low-maintenance, and a tiny little seed grows into a huge lump of tasty (to a pig), nutritious food. We’ll keep experimenting with these and similar varieties as a good supplement to expensive commercial rations. We’re also trying to grow our own chickens, Olivers to be exact. A mix of breeds, including Marans and Easter-eggers, that lay olive green eggs. The chicks are still feathering out, and it will be a while before we can tell boys from girls. Except for one little guy. Certain color crosses result in sex-linked chicks, so the genders can be told apart right at hatching. This guy had the ‘boy’ color pattern right from the start, and the giant comb he’s sporting at one month old is the clincher. If he grows up to have good manners, we’ll try him out in our breeding program.

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