Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's New At The Farm 8/13/08

Today I’m going to talk about earwigs and bean hole beans. First the earwigs:
Most everyone knows earwigs. They like cool, damp and moist areas and have pinchers, called forceps, on their posterior end. Now a few things you probably might not know. The common earwig is the European earwig, accidently introduced in the early 1900’s from Europe. To start the life cycle the female lays around 30 eggs two to three inches below the soil surface. After the eggs hatch the mother takes care of the young until they have their first molt; molting like a lobster where the old exoskeleton is shed and a new larger and soft shell covers them. Once the molt has taken place they leave the nest in search of food and a place to reside.
They feed primarily on dead organic matter, mites, small insects, plant shoots, corn silks and aphids. While they may do some damage to growing plants, we’ve all seen them on Marigolds, they’re an important predator of many small garden insects. They variously feed on aphids so killing them is often not needed.
Control is mainly through physical controls. ‘Physical controls’ means controlling their environment so they are not attracted to the garden. Removal of weeds, vines, leaves and anything else that creates a damp and dark environment will often reduce their numbers considerably. Don’t let vining perennials grow near the vegetable garden and keep the leaves in the compost pile a few feet away from the garden.
Toads, birds and other predators like them so they play an important role in biological pest management. Chickens and Guineas also will devour them so, again, control is often not needed.
Last weekend I decided to replace the weed whacker guards on my plum trees. I made some new guards out of black drainage pipe. I removed the old guards, those plastic spiral ones, and found the mother lode of earwigs. They had moved in because the guards held moisture and provide darkness. There were large ones and midsized ones. I left the guards off and pulled the grass back away from the trunks so I imagine they will find other homes.
And finally, no they don’t bite humans. They look like they could and would. Their forceps are used primarily for defense and in courtship. Their appearance certainly startles most people. We’ve found them in the barbeque grill and in the mailbox recently; it’s about the last thing on your mind when you’re going to use the grill or get the mail. This weather recently has been ideal for them so plan on seeing a few. If they get in your house, don’t become too alarmed. They will die shortly from lack of food.

And now for bean hole beans:
I used to eat a lot of canned beans; I never understood the deal with home baked beans until later in life. There’s nothing better than beans I grew myself, slow cooked all day in the ground, for supper on a cool and damp day. We are on our second pit which we dug a couple of weeks ago. We dug a hole about 28 inches wide and 36 inches deep. The digging was really nice as we are blessed with blue clay for our subsoil. The hole needed to be 28 inches wide to accommodate our 55 gallon drum, cut in half, for the pit and to have some room around it for the sand we put in. We placed rocks and sand in the hole to a depth of six inches. We then lowered the barrel into the hole and filled between the soil and the barrel with rocks and sand. I added another eight inches of rocks and sand to the inside of the barrel giving us around 16 inches of depth in the barrel.
I built a fire in the pit Sunday morning. I used hardwood slabwood and some soft (read rotten) hardwood I had kicking around. After 4 hours we had about sixteen inches of coals. Once we had plenty of coals I dug about a foot of coals out and went in search of the beans. Peggy parboiled a pound of beans and placed them in a Dutch oven with all her secret ingredients. On top of the beans she placed a nice piece of steak, and then covered in it tin foil and put the cover on. More tin foil and some wire to hold the lid on and into the bean pit it went. I covered the pot with coals and then 3 or 4 inches of soil and left it alone for six hours.
Just before supper time we dug up the pot and brought it into the kitchen. The reason we use two layers of foil and wire the cover shut is to keep out any coals or ashes from inside our bean pot. The beans were great and the steak was tender and delicious. While it takes four hours or so to get everything ready I’m usually around the yard or garden anyways so it’s not a nuisance at all. Peg loves it as supper is ready six hours after we bury the pot and it’s done, period. We’ll try corned beef next week and do more beans the week after so you know where I’ll be.
It’s a real easy process and pretty darn good too. I like my home raised beans the best but also use local beans once mine run out. I think there are many different dishes we could and will try with our new bean pit; chili comes to mind.
Until next week, Brian.

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