When my Daddy went away to Heaven, he left an incredible legacy behind. One of the things I think about, especially at this time of year, is the beautiful lima beans he grew every summer. (I know. You all are tired of hearing about my Daddy and his pole limas!) He and Youngest Brother would work together in a huge patch beside the nursing home, and they would plow and plant and weed and spray and tie up and tie back and then finally PICK.
I never really thought about it until tonight that we girls never picked lima beans. At least not in earnest. Those of you who get the Conservative Conference’s Monthly Magazine, “The Brotherhood Beacon,” saw my Daddy’s hands on the front of the last issue. I remember those hands, even when they were old and arthritic, picking basket after basket of fordhook lima beans. We girls were good for shelling, washing, blanching and getting them to the freezer. But picking them was definitely in the Male department. And those familiar old hands did a wondrous job, indeed.
Not so, at the house of Certain Man and Certain Man’s Wife. Certain Man does everything until it is time to pick. And he will help pick. At least he did one time (which was just last week, actually). But usually it is my job. Last Summer, seeing my grief and homesickness for my Daddy, Certain Man quietly went and purchased some healthy plants and planted one row of pole lima beans down the length of our garden (I love him for many, many reasons, but qualities that cause him to do things like this sure do make it easy!).
I was so delighted. They did well at the beginning, and I got my first small bucket picked, Deborah shelled them, and I made them the way My Sweet Mama always made them.
But then the summer got hot. And I could hardly bear to be out there in the garden, picking pole limas. Especially when I was crying so hard that I couldn’t find the beans. Finally, I just didn’t go out there any more. I was comforted by the fact that everyone was saying, “This sure is a bad year for pole limas!” I don’t know about other people, but I will tell you that beans in the garden don’t get into the feezer by themselves. And eventually, they will just stop trying. Alas and Alack! Most of my beans went to waste.
This year, Certain Man planted a row again, and he has watered and watered and watered. And they are doing well. I’ve been going out there, keeping an eye on them, and trying to pick them. I duck in and around, red faced and sweating, with dirt in my sandals. I ponder the mysteries of mating grasshoppers and aphids. I squash the hornets if I am able and throw the dried up pods across the fence to the cow pasture. And I ask Daddy why he never taught me to pick beans. It always looked so easy.
“I could do that!” I would think. “Nothing to it, really!”
Well, I surely was wrong. If the light is right, you can hold the pod up and can tell the size of the beans inside, but most of the time, you just need to feel for fullness, and after a couple hundred beans amongst the propagating insect life and the setting sun, it gets pretty fuzzy. I realize now that my Daddy liked to pick beans, and probably enjoyed some of the quiet of the patch or just the good company of his Youngest Son. And he probably never imagined that someday, this fifty-some year old daughter of his would take up the art of growing lima beans. If he had, he probably would have taught me.
He taught me some pretty unusual things in my time. When Certain Man and I started to raise chickens, and Certain Man’s soft heart (Thank God for soft-hearted men!) wouldn’t allow him to cull, I called my Daddy and he came over and taught me how to cull chickens. And he taught me how to butcher chickens, too — from slicing the throat to scalding to plucking to cutting them up for the frying pan or roaster.
But he never taught me to pick lima beans. But I’m learning, I’m learning. And tonight, our little row of Lima Beans has finally produced enough that I was able to put two bags in the freezer. Wow! It feels good!
(Now if I could find some way to make my little row produce 50 more quarts, I would really be in business!)