July 30, 2011

My Bean Team

We had a nice, sizable harvest of green beans yesterday.  It's nice to see that the entire garden hasn't been a waste this year.  Our spring was absent with a nice coat of snow on Memorial Day, and our weeds have been, well, present.  Last year we had a friend living in our basement and he seemed to come home and hoe the weeds when we was feeling irritated with his dating situation, and he was irritated with it a lot so we never had much of a weed problem.  It wasn't until this year that we realized just how much weeding he had been doing!

So, we've been a little disappointed this year.  Our broccoli and cauliflower all flowered out without ever giving us a crown.  Joe's onions and garlic flopped, which is odd because those were our crowning achievement last year.  Our corn is short still, but that's because we had to wait so long for the ground to warm up.  But somehow the house down the street has amazingly tall corn and Joe's knuckles white around the steering with jealousy wheel every time we drive past.  On the bright side, things that we've never found success with like melons and pumpkins seem to be plumping up nicely!

But back to bean harvesting!  We've been snacking on them right off the vine for weeks now, but yesterday we finally went out with a grocery bag and picked a bag full.  It felt so good to have a heavy bag full of something we grew!

While I went in and got water bowls for washing, the kids went to the pasture to grab some chickens for pest management.  I love our pest management team!  I have this vision of one of those pest control vans pulling up and the kids jumping out in matching black polos and hat, asking, "Which way to the bugs, ma'am?" and then rolling open the panel door to bring out the chickens.  Wouldn't that be cool?  I'm feeling a short film coming on!

While pest control got the situation under control,

the bean team took their places in the yard to get ready for the bean canning pre show!

I have to just stop and tell you how dear to my heart the act of breaking beans is.  My Nana (great grandma on my dad's side) lived in our home in the country for a short time when I was a kid.  My most clear and warm memory of my time with her is of sitting on the front porch with red and black plaid blankets over our laps as we broke beans.  Lots of beans.  If memory serves me, we had these tall bushel baskets filled with beans.  And so there we sat.  Me and my Nana, with the front bedroom window open and the screen popped out so we could run a radio on to the porch and listen to Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion as we carefully broke off the bean tips and pulled that little flossy thread down the length of the bean  before breaking it into thirds.  I don't have any memory whatsoever of canning those beans.  I think maybe our family froze them.  But it doesn't matter.  It was the act of breaking them there, silently by my Nana's side, sharing in a moment of content home keeping that just warms me up and wells my eyes with tears as I type.  Makes me wonder what other skills would seem less like work and more like a chance to relive a cherished memory if I had gotten more time with her.

 So we lined up our bowls.  One with clean water for washing and one for clean, broken beans.  That water got murky fast and I'm pretty sure that about 2 handfuls in we were engaged more in a dirt redistribution process than cleaning.  But we're all chemical free so I'm not all that worried about it.

Hannah Jane beaned it up the longest, washing them carefully and griping about how careful we needed to be in preserving the quality of the beans for canning.  Hilarious!

Haven was really difficult to have on the team because he insisted on handing me each bean that I broke.  This meant that I would break one, ask for another and then have to wait as he inspected it, "wetted it off" (his word for shaking the excess water off.  "It's very important, mom, that you wet the bean off before you break it.  Very important.") and give it a final look before handing it over.  Every bean was a 3minute ordeal.  I tried gabbing a few in between his inspection and wetting off process, but he would get very irritated and sternly say, "I must hand you each bean!  You know that!  Now use your patience muscle!"  When your own attempts at making concept more accessible to kids come back to you, you realize how irritating you must sound all the time.  Poor kids! "Your patience is a muscle and if you don't use it, it will never get strong.  Using your patience will make waiting for things easier just like having big strong muscles makes lifting heavy things easier!" suddenly seems like the lamest thing anyone has ever said and he got that right from me.  Oops! Anyway, I played along and eventually he got bored and make space for a new member of the bean team.

Hunter, who is a big shot x-treme biker now, popped over between stunts to wash a few beans.  He couldn't be bothered to take off his helmet and stay a while.  Nope. He's a wash and go kind of guy.

Today I started hauling jars up from the laundry room for washing, refreshing my memory on how many pounds of pressure beans need, and getting pretty excited about seeing our food storage shelves fill up again.  After our Memorial Day snow, Joe said how lucky we were to be a modern family who could just drive to Wal-Mart on a bad farming year and we commiserated about how very little food we would get from the garden.  Probably not even enough to can a thing.  So we are quite pleased to fill up those jars and can 9 pints of green beans tonight.  No, it's not much.  But it's a start.  And those beans are still growing, tomatoes will be red by the time we get back from Badasht (hopefully not before!) and the red sweet corn will be ready for canning come September!  Maybe if our pumpkins keep thriving I'll be able to can some pie filling!   

Happy harvesting, friends!  It's a fun time of year!

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