Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sprouting Beans

Weather: Mornings five to ten degrees warmer.  Last snow 2/28.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas, rose stems; leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle, alfilerillo, June grass.

What’s gray: Salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach, apricot, apple, sandcherry and sandbar willow; purple aster leaves.

What’s yellowed: Yellow on globe and weeping willows fading.

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds; ground squirrel run across the road near the wash-out.

Weekly update: Planting beans inside a dirt walled kiva in the middle of winter is an audacious ritual that depends on elements beyond anyone’s control. In the best of conditions, outdoors, it takes lima beans seven to ten days to germinate. Indoors, it’s best done when temperatures can be kept at seventy degrees.

The Hopi did it every year at Powamu, and forecast their planting season based on it. The trial was a partially valid test of seed viability. When I planted ten seeds this January, a few days before the Hopi planted them in 1893, only two germinated. Five were one variety. The ones that sprouted were Hopi Gray lima beans. Native Seeds said Maasi Hatiki was "sometimes sprouted and used in ceremonies."

The first requirement is dirt. Legumes require rhizobia bacteria to grow to convert nitrogen from the air into soil fertilizer. Gardeners buy chemical inoculants to mimic the process. Andrew Stephen said, the Hopi used sand from a "particular mound." I used soil that had been sitting in a pot on the back porch for years.

Warm soil is the second necessity. Men slept in each kiva during the two weeks of Powamu to keep the greasewood fire continuously stoked. They closed the hatches with mats to keep in the heat.

Stephen watched men in several kivas bring in a stove. They realized it was cheating, but they were plantsmen curious to see if it would make a difference.

Stephen must have grown up in a rural part of Scotland. He stopped by every few days to check their growth like any farmer or gardener or botanist. The wonder was anything happened.

On the third day, the beans in kivas with stoves were "peeping through already," but not in the ones "that depend on the fireplace." My seeds had begun sprouting underground, and shrugged off some of their dirt. I recovered them.

Mine didn’t actually show signs of emerging until day six, when the arch of the stem was exposed.

On day seven, the seedling finally emerged, with the first leaves clasped around the second like a fan dancer dislodging them from the soil. At Walpi on that day, forty vessels were planted in every kiva, and all were "sprouting vigorously." The forcing didn’t accelerate the natural process.

Reilly, Ann. Park’s Success with Seeds, 1978.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons.

Photographs: Native Seeds Search, Tucson, Hopi Gray lima bean.
1. Day 6, 25 January 2015, seedling beginning to emerge.
2. Day 7, 26 January 2015, first leaves leaving ground.
3. Day 8, 27 January 2015, second leaves opening.
4. Day 9, 28 January 2015 second leaves open.
5. Day 11, 30 January 2015, roots.

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