The Last Bean Report of 2020

After surrendering momentarily to frost, Bai Juyi and Tu Fu came back up from the 6 inch plants I left. Li Bai succumbed. Li Ho — who grows closer to a sun-warmed wall — has been growing this whole time, but tonight the temps will be below freezing and tomorrow as well, and then? I’m not fighting it any more.

I just went out to tell them goodbye and thank them for everything. They didn’t leave me empty-handed, either. I have 43 beans for next year (yes, I counted them). Though some don’t seem fully matured, I’m grateful for all the green beans of the summer, these beautiful purple and black beans for next year, and the company my beans gave me during this strange year.

Night Snow
Tu Fu

I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold,
I see that now the window’s bright again.
Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick,
I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.

Time and Tide Wait for No Bean

Frost took Tu Fu early Tuesday morning even even though I had covered him (and the others). Li Bai had some damage, but not bad, Li Ho and Bai Juyi suffered nothing. Scarlet Emperor Beans ARE very susceptible to frost. I cut Tu Fu down to the original little 6 inch plant I set in the ground in June. It will go, too.

A few more beans were ready to harvest for next year.

In other climes Scarlet Emperor Beans are perennials, but not in this high valley. In other places, they’re just fodder for cows. After cutting him down yesterday, I pulled the tomatoes. A couple of days ago I cleared up a small bed and planted 16 Leper Bells — fritillaria that’s more often called “Snakes Head.” They don’t do great here, either, but…

There’s no way to escape the fury of nature, even when that “fury” is as quiet as the settling of frost on a clear September night.

Tu Fu

Cows and sheep walk slowly down,
Each villager has shut his wicker gate.
The wind disturbs the clear, moonlit night,
These rivers and hills are not my homeland.
A spring flows from the dark cliff,
Autumn dew drips on the roots.
In the lamp light I sit, white-haired.
Why do the flowers continue to bloom?

For anyone who might be interested in the structure of a Chinese poem, here it is in Chinese with a Pin-yin transcription. (I found a great website if you like Chinese poetry…



rì mù

niú yáng xià lái jiǔ
gè jǐ bì chái mén
fēng yuè zì qīng yè
jiāng shān fēi gù yuán
shí quán liú àn bì
cǎo lù dī qiū gēn
tóu bái dēng míng lǐ
hé xū huā jìn fán

The Daily Dog and Beans

My Big White Dog is sitting beside me, affecting to be unperturbed by the fact that we’re all out of rawhide pencils until Tuesday. But I know her and she KNOWS morning is NOT the time for rawhide “slabs” or whatever you would call them. “Seriously, Martha. Don’t you know what time it is?”

These things matter to a livestock guardian dog.

“If this is all we have, OK. I’ll chew them.”

She REALLY likes taking these outside and burying them. She also likes using them to play keep-away with Teddy. The yard is littered with rawhide which I often pick up (if it’s clean enough) and put back in the bag… Seriously, what OTHER advantage is there in having opposable thumbs?

Other than the prediction that it will freeze tonight and tomorrow, there seems to be nothing too harrowing on the horizon (but who ever knows?) Which reminds me that some readers have asked about the beans.

Lot’s of new growth

We’ve had several hot days in a row so the beans are doing well. But here’s a fable for our time.

During the snow storm almost three weeks ago now, one of the larger pods got knocked to the ground. I found it and thought, “Well, there are bound to be casualties.” I left it. A few days ago I noticed it had turned yellow which is what these pods do when the beans are ripe. I thought that was pretty amazing. I’d figured the pod would slowly rot and melt into the ground. I picked it up and found it was completely dry. Huh? I opened it and inside were two very large, very viable beans and one rotten one.

Otherwise, I have already harvested a few ripe pods. The beans are larger than the beans from two years ago. I won’t know until next year if that is a good thing or not, but here they are.

The larger beans are from this year.

I will probably cover them tonight and tomorrow. Much as I love winter, I’m loath to let my beans surrender.

Because the fabled bean pod dropped from Tu Fu, I’ll share one of his poems.

Autumn Thoughs, I
Tu Fu

Jade frost bites the maple trees
and Wu Mountain and Wu Gorge breathe out dark fear
as river waves rise up to the sky
and dark wind-clouds touch ground by a frontier fortress.
The chrysanthemums have twice bloomed tears of other days,
When I moor my lonely boat my heart longs for my old garden.
The need for winter clothes hurries scissors and bamboo rulers.
White Emperor City looms over the rushed sound of clothes beaten at dusk.

Featured image: “Are you going to take MY picture, Martha?”
“I will, little guy. Look at me.”

If You Need Inspiration…

From the joints where leaves broke or froze, new vines are emerging ALREADY. I love these beans.


Tu Fu

Rain road through, now the autumn night is clear
The water wears a patina of gold
and carries a bright jade star.
Heavenly River runs clear and pure,
as gently as before.

Sunset buries the mountains in shadow.
A mirror floats in the deep green void,
its light reflecting the cold, wet dusk,
dew glistening,
freezing on the flowers.

Li Bai

On Old River Mountain
A huge boulder swept clean
by the blue winds of Heaven

where they have written
in an alphabet of moss
an ancient song.

Bai Juyi

I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold,
I see that now the window’s bright again.
Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick,
I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.

Li Ho

The autumn wilds bright,
Autumn wind white.
Pool-water deep and clear,
Insects whining,
Clouds rise from rocks,
On moss-grown mountains.
cold reds weeping dew,
Colour of graceful crying.

Wilderness fields in October — 
Forks of rice.
Torpid fireflies, flying low,
Start across dike-paths.
Water flows from veins of rocks,
Springs drip on sand.
Ghost-lanterns like lacquer lamps
Lighting up pine-flowers.

Beans and Rain

After being in a drought since December 2019, the San Luis Valley is finally getting rain and it’s glorious, even if it terrifies Bear. Teddy could not care less. We’re having bright, warm mornings and stormy afternoons.

We just had a gully washer.

The garden is thriving. The squash sex I had last week has brought a nice healthy squash into the world that I expect to eat tomorrow or Monday. Today I helped both squash plants out. They are “Sunny Delights.” Completely new to me.

Sunny Delight Squash (borrowed photo)

My Aussie pumpkin appears to be gay. It’s just sending boys into the world. That’s OK. I’m a tolerant gardener and I don’t know if there’s room for it to really get going — but if it does, I’ll help it, too.

Some of the Scarlet Emperor Beans are nearly 10 feet tall (3 meters). I spend time with them every day, I mean I literally stand in their garden and tell them how great they are, how proud I am and that I love them. Li Ho remains the shortest one. Even little Bai Ju Yi has surpassed him. OH well. Li Ho was always kind of a rebel. He might have other dreams, for all I know.

Maybe I should have had kids after all.

Clearing Rain
Tu Fu

The sky’s water has fallen, and autumn clouds are thin,
The western wind has blown ten thousand li.
This morning’s scene is good and fine,
Long rain has not harmed the land.
The row of willows begins to show green,
The pear tree on the hill has little red flowers.
hujia pipe begins to play upstairs,
One goose flies high into the sky.

Garden of the Joyous Beans

My poet beans are doing well so far, at least Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi are doing well. Little Wang Wei is struggling in the front yard having gotten a late start. He’s trying to grow in a far more exposed location. These beans like to be sheltered from the wind. I guess Wang Wei has been banished to the frontier as was the case with all of these poet beans at some point in their careers as public servants.

The tallest bean is Li Bai which is fitting as he was — and still is — China’s most beloved poet. The next tallest is Tu Fu, Li Bai’s life-long friend. Li Ho is pursuing an independent growth pattern between his two squash consorts. Between Li Bai and Tu Fu is Bai Juyi who started later but is rapidly catching up.

Thoughts on a Night Journey
Tu Fu

Reeds by the bank bending, stirred by the breeze,
High-masted boat advancing alone in the night,
Stars drawn low by the vastness of the plain,
The moon rushing forward in the river’s flow.

How should I look for fame to what I have written?
In age and sickness, how to continue to serve?
Wandering, drifting, what can I take for a likeness?
–A gull that wheels alone between earth and sky.

trans. Cyril Birch

About Plants

Teddy is sitting here looking at me with his supernatural, mind-reading, Australian shepherd, “I recognize the songs of three different birds!!!” intelligence and sending the telepathic message, “You EVER going to give me that coffee cup?” Ahead of me is a chore I’m dreading. I have to dig up a bunch of ground to plant a garden in which Li Bai, Tu Fu and Li Ho will repose for the summer along with some squash.

The baby tomatoes are jonesing for dirt, but they aren’t ready. I’ve talked to them and they are, you know, teenagers and they just say, “How do YOU know? YOU’RE not me!”

Adolescent tomato plants, what can you do? In their naïveté they expect one sunny day after another, a peaceful rosy-hued future of blooming and fruiting, but I know it could still get very, very, very cold — at least one more time.

Meanwhile, in the actual YARD, progress has slowed due to depleted funds. It doesn’t really matter. I’m the only one who lives here — well the dogs — and I don’t care that much. The dogs have adjusted well to the changes and I think the fact that I have had to do this a little at a time has helped with that.

I have yet to “enjoy” my deck, but that will happen once I plant the babies and the umbrella is erected. Meanwhile, the babies catch their daily sun from the top of the bistro table and conspire with the Genovese basil to overthrow my governance.

That’s plants for you. You carefully stick their little seeds into seed starters, nurture them with love and attention and then?

Evening After Rain
Tu Fu

Sudden winds brought rain this afternoon
to save my thirsty garden.

Now sunset steams the grass
and the river softly glistens.

Who’ll organize my scattered books?
Tonight I’ll fill and fill my glass.

I know they love to talk about me
But no one faults me for my reclusive life.

Christmas in May

Teddy and I headed out for the Refuge because it’s a cool, sunny day. You still can’t see much “spring” out there, though the five or six trees are leafing out. I was mildly (I think they know what they’re doing) concerned about “my” geese having vanished, but no, they’re still there and it would seem they have nests. They fascinate Teddy. He really DOES believe they are his job. I got to watch a red-tail hawk for a long time. Antics like that really mess with my miles per hour stats.

We really prefer going out at midday which is great 3 out of the 4 seasons, but not necessarily in summer…

When I got home, it was Christmas. There was an immense City of Monte Vista truck in my alley and two guys with chain saws cutting down the monster lilac hedge that lines my yard and the alley. I went over to talk to them and said, “Is this Christmas?” That hedge is a huge pain for me every year. I’m out there cutting it back from the alley with hand tools. It’s very hard work. Then there’s the problem of having the branches hauled away.

The two young guys with the 24 inch chain saws laughed and then kept cutting. Later I went out and saw two older guys with a huge tractor with a front shovel. They were picking up the branches and taking them to a truck parked on the street by the golf course.

Lilacs are beautiful and smell amazing, but once that’s over they are a menace to life on this planet. They REALLY like it here, too. It’s hard to tell them from weeds. They send their shoots out hoping to colonize the entire San Luis Valley starting with my yard…

Anyway, things are fine at the Refuge. We welcomed a car propelled by a grandpa with a kid in the back. More action than we’ve seen there in weeks. It was a little strange.

In plant news, the pumpkins are blooming which I think is very ill advised. The cherry tomatoes are growing and the Roma tomatoes are germinating. The Scarlet Emperor Beans are reaching sublimely to the sun. I’m going to have to plant this stuff soon.

Since, yesterday, I shared a poem by Tu Fu (for whom one of the beans is named), I’ll share a poem now by his good friend, Li Bai for whom another of the beans is named. These two friends were often separated by hundreds of miles and corresponded in poems. It’s one of my all time favorite poems and the partner to the poem I posted yesterday. Tomorrow I’ll share a poem by Li Ho, the last of the beans. He’s a little different and the poem I will share is my #1 favorite poem. 🙂

MEDITATION ON Ching-ting Mountain

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and I
until only the mountain remains.

Li Bai

Tu Fu’s answer (from yesterday’s post)


I can’t bear a journey to the village–
I’m too contented here
I call my son to close the wooden gate.

Thick wine drunk in quiet woods, green moss,
jade gray water under April winds–
and beyond, the simmering dusk of the wild.

Tu Fu

Tedious Quotidian Update 8.23.aii

I think we need a break from these extraordinary times. Maybe I just need a break. Maybe just a good night’s sleep. I don’t know about you, but my emotions are so close to the surface all the time. Every small lovely thing brings me to the brink of tears.

It seems like the lifestyle changes wrought by the virus bring out strong emotions in a lot of people — some wholesome and some not. Watching the “Liberate” people on the news, all I could think was that what they want to be liberated FROM is not the government. It’s a sub-microorganism. They’re striking out against oppression but the oppressor is not their governor or a “Closed Beach” sign.

Last evening I took Teddy out for a walk. He needs more of those, but that’s not the point. Stopped and talked (Teddy met) the young couple who live next door. He enjoyed meeting them and eating grass. They were courageously setting out squash plants, and I dunno. I don’t even know where I want to put mine, never mind the real possibility of more frost. Then we headed toward the golf course and there was a whole train of carts filled with girls. The high school girls’ golf team (which wins championships). I’ve been walking past the golf course and around the high school in summer since I moved here, and I sense I’ve become kind of a benign legend. So it was all, “Hi! How are you!” from them, their eyes twinkling in happiness.

“It’s nice to get to play again isn’t it!”

“YESSSS!!!” came resoundingly from the carts.

In any case, I’m going to have to take the dogs out later in the evening if I’m going to walk there. It IS a golf course, after all. At one point, just before twilight, Teddy and I found ourselves on a fairway in front of a couple of young players dragging their own cart. I don’t want to do that. I sincerely LOVE that golf course and I WANT people to play golf. I’m thinking that when the cool hours arrive, we’ll just go back to the Refuge. “Just.” Ha ha ha. Like that’s consolation not the entire big world. At sunset it should be amazing. Mosquitos, but probably the wind will be blowing.

In other tedious and marginally interesting news, the new method of buying groceries is great. I went into the Big City (Alamosa) yesterday and picked up my stuff. It had been 3 weeks since the last trip. That’s good. Instead of a two hour expedition it’s a one hour expedition. Then I come home and wash all the stuff I bought, wondering if I have a dish drainer or a food drainer. Yesterday I wondered if kids in the future will wash their groceries you know, like we put our cups and glasses up-side-down in the cupboard because our grandmothers lived through the dustbowl.

But seriously. All I have to do is pull into a parking space. Call the number on the sign. Some nice person comes out with my stuff and goes over what they don’t have and what they substituted (as if I cared, which I don’t). I say “Thank you!” and load my car. I open a new “cart” as soon as I think about something I need or will need in 3 or 4 weeks (my new goal) time and add to it as things occur to me. I’m spending less on groceries and definitely less on gas (which I need to drive to the Refuge).

It really cracked me up a few weeks ago when the Buffoon in the White House said, “Gas prices are down. That probably makes you happy!” I thought, “Uh, douchebag, we can’t GO anywhere.”

The featured photo is Tu Fu, Li Bai and Li Ho, my Scarlet Emperor Beans. They spend part of each day holding audiences in various gardens throughout the estate.


I can’t bear a journey to the village–
I’m too contented here.
I call my son to close the wooden gate.

Thick wine drunk in quiet woods, green moss,
Jade gray water under April winds–
and beyond, the shimmering dusk of the wild.

Tu Fu