It was freezing in the bean patch on Monday. The wind was blowing through the vines, and my stiff fingers scrambled to find ANY beans that would be worth picking or shelling. As I’ve noted before, beans are precious this year, and it was tempting to pick everything, even the ones that showed as big as a pencil eraser when held against the late October sun. It was getting colder and colder as the sun slid behind the barn and I finished the last plant, gave the patch a final check and, shivering, picked up my bucket of beans and headed to the house. I set the bucket in the laundry room, and got the early evening work done. We were invited to Jesse and Christina’s house for supper. Those beans were going to have to wait.
It was a pleasant evening in the “Big Bontrager House On Shawnee Road.” Christina had made taco soup and provided all the amenities – chips, sour cream, cheese and the ever present hot sauce for Jesse. The food was hot and comforting, and the company pleasant. Charis found a little green inchworm making its way across my blouse and there was some excitement until it was dispatched. The evening was peaceful, though. We finished supper, cleared the table and Christina dumped a 500 piece puzzle on the table. We had a great time trying to piece it all together. We finished it before leaving for home!
When we got home, all I wanted to do was collapse in my chair, but Certain Man picked up a flat cake pan, pulled the bucket of beans up close to his family room recliner, and set to work, throwing the empty shells into a trash can that he had appropriated for the job.
“Oh, Daniel!’ I said mournfully, looking at that bucket of beans. “I was thinking of just letting those until tomorrow.”
“Might as well get ’em done,” he said, in his best matter of fact tone. I knew he didn’t feel like shelling beans. His shoulder hurt from where he had pulled a muscle and then worked it too hard in his chicken house. The more I demurred, the more determined he became. “You don’t have to help me,” he said, shelling away. “I’ll be just fine.”
Yes. I did.
I got my own flat pan and pulled up a chair and set to work. It was slow, and the beans were mostly little. Certain Man mentioned the smallness and the difficulty with which he got them out. “And it’s hard not to break them,” he said, and it was the truth!
We worked our way through that bucket, and I gathered our two pans into a plastic bag and weighed it. Not quite two pounds from a big bucket. I sighed, and put them into the fridge to await the final picking of our second patch that is out behind the chicken house.
Tuesday was warmer, and I was itching to get out there into the patch and get my last picking done. The day was full with shopping for Operation Christmas Child, catching up from all the many things that always go on around here, talking to friends and trying not to fall asleep on my feet. (It’s been extremely short on sleep around here!) Finally, around 4 pm, I got out to my back bean patch. The beans were hanging thick in places, but the story was pretty much the same. Lots of bean pods, but almost no beans in them. This back patch was an extreme disappointment all summer, but in the last month it perked up, and looked promising. I kept hoping that a frost would hold off until I got the most I possibly could get, but that train had already left the station! On two different mornings, Certain Man had gone out and sprayed everything down, but the frost was severe, and the damage was beyond the point of spraying vegetation off before the sun hit it to save them from being killed off by the frost.
However, it was warmer and I was working against a deadline, so I picked away, being somewhat more discretionary about the size of the beans that went into my trusty bucket. I finished shortly before five o’clock and drove the golf cart and my generous half bucket of beans up to the farmhouse. Sister in law, Lena, attacked that bucket of beans while I got some supper around, and the evening filled up quickly. Our granddaughter, Charis, was with us for supper while her parents were looking at some furniture. Deborah was working a 16 hour shift. There was a puzzle on the sun room table calling the names of people who shall remain anonymous, and before all was said and done, Certain Man pitched in and helped Lena finish the beans. She was suffering from some serious back pain that nothing seemed to alleviate, and I was relieved to see that they were finished. I put the two nights’ worth together in a gallon sized bag and decided to do them after things settled down.
It had been a long day, and I was weary. I looked at my kitchen that was in a state of minor disarray, and wondered if I should just let everything and do the beans, but knew I needed the counter space to work on as well as the sink areas to cool the beans once they had been blanched. So I loaded the dishwasher, washed up some stray things that didn’t really fit into the dishwasher, and started in on the beans. I hauled my big pot from the lazy Susan, and filled it a little over half with water and put it on my “fast boil” burner. I washed and sorted the beans, and finally had them in my big strainer, ready to dump into my pot of boiling water.
Life just happens sometimes. And it isn’t always easy or nice, or organized or explicable. This was one of those times. I hauled my big strainer up over my rapidly boiling water to dump it in and suddenly, like someone grabbed the tip and sent it flying, my trusty strainer let me down. I’ve used it all summer without needing to take much notice, but it must have just “had enough” because it somehow reached out and grabbed the edge of that kettle, and the next sound I heard was lima beans, bouncing all over the kitchen floor, rolling in all directions and sounding like a sudden downpour of rain. I quickly righted the oblong strainer and set it down on its legs. I looked into the big pot and saw one (1) lonely bean swimming around in the boiling water. I looked at that floor where lima beans were scattered from Linda’s chair to the laundry room door, under the stove and under the refrigerator, and didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
“Well! This is a fine kettle of fish,” I said to myself ruefully. “What in the world am I going to do?” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was no way that I was ever going to throw them away. So the only other option was to sweep them up carefully, wash them thoroughly, and go through them with a persnickety look and salvage them. So I got my trusty Stanley broom and swept everything up into a dustpan, dumped them into a second strainer where I proceeded to wash and wash, and then gave them all a stern looking over, picking over, and finally got them into the kettle and blanched. I took them out and cooled them and got them into bags for the freezer. I had three more for my seasonal collection of lima beans. I wrote, “End of the Season-2018” on the three bags, and looked at the tiny beans inside and wondered how I would use them. Oh, well. I wrote “3 bags” up on my calendar on October 23rd, and tallied up the seasonal totals. My final count for the summer was 36 bags. They probably averaged about 16 ounces a piece, and I needed to be content. (I have friends ask, “How many cups does 16 ounces equal?” I would estimate almost 3 cups. But not quite.)
I took my tired self to bed and fell fast asleep. I wouldn’t need to think about picking any more beans this whole season. No more picking, no more shelling, no more washing, blanching, cooling, packaging or freezing.
On more than one count, my heart gives grateful praise.