Tag Archives: Lima beans

Monday Morning in the Bean Patch

I went out to my bean patch on Friday afternoon, and looked very sorrowfully at the beans hanging there. It looked like there was a lot there that were ready to be picked, but I knew it was going to have to wait. I was getting ready for church retreat and there was just no way that I would be able to get to my patch yet that afternoon.

“Maybe I can scurry out here in the morning,” I thought hopefully. “We don’t need to be at camp until 11, so maybe I can squeeze that in before we need to leave.”

The thing was, I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for our church family for brunch on Saturday morning.  Friend Torre was spending the night with us, and she would help me put the dough together when we got home, and all I would need to do would be to roll out the dough and put the rolls in the pans in the morning.

Friday night was hotter than all get out at Mardela Springs camp.  Certain Man took a big chicken house fan along to try to move some air, and we milled about, sweaty and sticky in the big room.  It was noisy with the hum of the big fan and the conversations that went on between the adults and the playing of THE LITTLES.  We ate hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream and lemonade and tea and finally came home around nine.  I had gotten Friend Normie to stay with OGN and Cecilia, because they really do not like going to Church Camp under aesthetic conditions, much less ones that are noisy and hot, and I was so thankful they were already in bed when we got home.  Torre and I got the dough mixed up and into the refrigerator, and I went to bed.

In the early, groggy minutes soon after five the next morning, I was aware that I had a really insistent headache.  This is not my usual malady.  I almost never get headaches, but I did that morning and I tried to go back to sleep, hoping to sleep it off, but then I remembered that I had cinnamon rolls to make, and that I wanted to pick them thar’ beans, and so I decided to get up and get moving and see what I could get done.  I came down to the kitchen, got some medicine and a cup of coffee and sat on my chair for a bit.  I was soon feeling rather muchly better, so I got the cinnamon rolls started and worked at straightening the kitchen, looked for a recipe for sticky buns that didn’t have milk, got Cecilia up and showered, got OGN her breakfast, and kept my eye on the time.  Then I started the icing cooking on the stove and called Friend Normie and told her we weren’t going to be gone before at least nine-thirty.  I fed BL, iced cinnamon rolls, and inverted the sticky buns onto a hard flat surface and called Eldest Daughter to see if she could pick up the cinnamon rolls and sticky buns to take them over to camp.  Whew!  She could!  That was a big load off my mind.

I kept thinking and thinking about the Lima beans hanging on and thought about just giving them away to someone who would pick them.  But it’s been a slow year in my bean patch, and even though we’ve had some good eating, I haven’t frozen a single bag of this year’s crop.  This wears hard on this Delaware Grammy’s heart, but as  the time got shorter and shorter until our intended time of departure, I realized that there was no way that I was ever going to make it out there before we left for Mardela Springs.  I decided to just wait and see.  Maybe we would be home before dark –?

We weren’t.  And it doesn’t work very well to pick Lima Beans by the light of the moon or the beam of a headlight or even the steady beam of a LED light, plastered against a sweaty forehead and held in place by a big piece of elastic.  I gave it up for the night and went to bed.

Sunday morning came, and it was off to camp again.  There was the usual last mad flurry of activity where church members cleaned up and then Daniel and I delivered non-perishables to the church, took some leftovers to a local homeless shelter for veterans and pulled into our driveway at about 3:20.  We unloaded our ladies and emptied our mini-van, then dropped the van off at a repair shop for a Monday morning appointment and came back home to catch some rest.

“Maybe I should go pick those Lima Beans,” I said to my weary spouse as we walked to the house after parking his pickup in the pavilion.  “I know it is Sunday, and all that, but I also think I am going to lose quite a few the way it is.”

“Well, you don’t want to go do it now,” he said.  “It’s too hot!  Besides, you should take a break!”

“You’re right,” I said, “but do you think it would be okay to do it later, after it cools off?”

“I guess you can do what you want,” he said, without enthusiasm.  And headed up the ramp into the air conditioned coolness of the farmhouse at Shady Acres.

I followed him in and did some serious thinking.  I thought about my Daddy.  I thought about hay down in the fields on  a Saturday night, needing to be baled, but his unwavering commitment to NEVER doing unnecessary work on Sunday.  I thought about how he would leave everything sit over the Day of Rest, and then get back to it on Monday.  I thought about how he would leave his farm on busy June evenings to be the superintendent for Summer Bible School at a little country church in the rural Frederica/Felton area and how hard he worked to bring children to Bible School.  I thought about people who had no religious sense of obligation, who planted and cultivated and harvested whenever it seemed like a good time, who thought that Daddy was foolish to sacrifice so much for “so little” in monetary rewards.  I remembered Daddy saying to us children, “Always remember that God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.”

I thought and thought, and knew that I was going to wait to pick beans until this morning.  Daniel wondered about what I was going to do, and I said, “I’m just going to get out there in the morning, first thing, and I’m going to pick those beans, and what I lose, I lose.”

Through the early morning while I changed the washer, made beds, showered Cecilia, fed breakfast, and did meds, I thought about my bean patch.  I had sent some fervent prayers Heavenward, begging for protection and that the patch wouldn’t have too many dried and ruined bean pods.  Maybe God would choose to bless the decision to wait until this morning, and give me an overabundance of beans for my freezer.  The longer I thought, the more excited I got to just see how God was going to make this my best picking ever.  Or at least this year.

I put Cecilia on her bus after telling OGN that I was going straight to the bean patch immediately after she was gone, and headed out for my garden.  I got a five gallon bucket from Certain Man’s stash, and contemplated taking the second one that I had convinced myself I would need, but then decided that I would just come back for it.  I left it down where it was easily accessible, and started down my first row.  The dew was heavy, and the sun was warm.  Even with the cooler temperatures, it was still a hot, wet job.  I picked the first five feet and got about that many beans.  Five.  There were almost no dried, brown ones, but neither were there many that were full and ready to pick.  I searched the plants high and low and wondered if I would even get enough to make this worth my time.  The second five feet yielded another ten or so, but also had wilted, green and yellow pods hanging lifelessly from the stems.  The leaves were mostly full and lush, and there were plenty of blossoms, but there were almost no beans to pick.  I looked at the bottom of my five gallon bucket and it wasn’t even covered.  I wondered about my optimism and hope for a good picking this morning.  I couldn’t say that there were terribly many that went to waste, so far at least, but there just wasn’t the abundance I was looking for.  I thought about how I was planning to give God the glory for a great crop, and about how encouraged I had planned to feel if I hadn’t lost very many and had a better than expected picking.  I wasn’t to the point of feeling resentful, but the temptation was growing in my disappointed heart.

And then in my pocket, my cell phone began to ring.  I checked the screen and saw that it was from my brother, Mark, Jr.  I wiped my fingers off on my t-shirt and swiped the screen.  The voice on the other end was subdued, but warm.

“How are you doing?”  We exchanged pleasantries, talked briefly about my bean patch, his bean patch and how nobody’s bean patch seems to be doing well this year. And then he said, “What I really called to tell you was that I got a phone call this morning that I’ve been sort of expecting for a long time, but I still don’t know how to deal with it.  (—-) took his life last night.”

In that millisecond, time stood still.  Around me, the dew still hung on the bean leaves.  The cicadas made their crazy noise and the crickets chirped.  I felt the sucker punch of denial and sadness and shock and regret settle in my stomach with a sick, sick feeling and I tried so hard to not believe what I had heard. (—-) was a childhood friend, born between Mark, Jr. and me.  He often spent the summer days at our farm, playing with Mark and turning brown in the sun.  He was allowed to go without his shirt and he could make those offensive noises with his armpits and he showed off his skill often to the point of sometimes being obnoxious.  I remember his skinny, sinewy arms and his shock of blond hair.  He loved to tell stories and among our family treasures was this one.

His father had taken to doing a little farming in the fields beside their big white house, and one of the crops that he planted was some corn.  Young (—-) watched the corn with great interest, and lo!  And behold!  There came a day when it sprouted tassels out the top the way corn is supposed to, but this phenomenon had never been observed by him before.  He came striding down to our house with the air of something to tell.

“You’ll never guess what!” He said with great excitement.  “My dad planted all of his corn upside down!  The roots are growing straight up in the air!”  He paused a bit for effect and then said, shaking his head with disbelief, “How dumb can you get?”

Life so often disappointed him.  He never married, and had a succession of failed relationships, failed enterprises, and failed dreams.  He often told my brother, “You’re the only friend I have.”  Mark was always kind to him, lending mowers and other equipment to him, always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, always trying to speak Jesus into his life, but also sought to give him the space he often desperately seemed to fight for. And now he was gone.  The thought hung heavy in the morning air.

“I know he had choices,” Mark was saying now, and I brought myself back to the bean row and his voice.  “But on mornings like this, I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for the home that we had, for the parents and the upbringing we had.  Sometimes it just seems like there are some people that are just so shortchanged on so many counts.”

I looked at my almost empty bucket of beans and thought about how easy it is for me to expect God to do the special things or give special gifts because I am keeping my attitude right or because I am doing the right thing, and I suddenly felt so ashamed of my petty expectations and my selfish heart.  There was more than enough reason to give glory to God and to shout aloud His praise.  He had given me so much in so many ways that counted far more than a bean crop from a Delaware summer.  I finished my call with my brother, and looked at the sum total of beans in my bucket.  It wasn’t even half full.

But my heart!  My heart!  It was brimming over with praise for God’s incredible Mercy towards me in a thousand ways with every single breath.  I felt the sting of sadness for our friend and his family, and I don’t think I will ever make my peace with suicide, but I also can stand in the presence of an almighty God and lay the questions at his feet, and decide to trust Him with the things that I can never personally explain.

God doesn’t settle His accounts in September.  And God’s mercy is not measured by a five gallon bucket that is standing almost empty.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

And so, my heart gives humble, grateful praise!

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Ordinary Days of grace . . .

It’s been a day when I should have been counting my blessings, I suppose, but it has been quite a day.  Actually, my week has been less than wonderful.  Cecilia has been sick, coughing until it sounds like she is going to drown herself with whatever it is in her lungs.  I had an order for a chest X-ray, blood work and urinalysis in her big black book, so I took her in yesterday morning and got that all done and scheduled an appointment for today.

So she has been home, sitting in the sun room, listening to music and to the sounds of the open windows; birds chirping happily just outside on the feeders, Jays screaming their protests at the passing cat, traffic going along on the road, and even cicadas and crickets making their noisy addition to the late summer sounds.  I go in and out, making one sided conversation, and worrying a bit about how sick she seemed.  Then last night, I suddenly had a vicious sore throat of my own.  I decided to see how it was when I took her to the doctor today.

The good news was that she didn’t have pneumonia, didn’t have anything our of line on her bloodwork, and didn’t have a urinary tract infection.  She sat miserable and hot and silent in the doctor’s office while he listened and thumped around.

Dr. Wilson was his usual cheerful self.  He praised all that was good, then said that she had an acute bronchitis infection and that he was going to write her a prescription different from the ones that she has had over the last six weeks.  I hate to give her antibiotics so frequently, but this particular individual has behaviors that lend themselves to infections.  She won’t cough unless she is overcome by one and then she tries to squelch it.  She sits compacted together and nothing seems to induce her to breathe deeply.  Of course, this lends itself to pneumonia.  And she has perfected the art of not going to the bathroom completely while on the toilet.  Instead, she holds it until she is in bed, then she can soak through her protective underwear, down to turning the protective pad into an almost dripping mess.  She has been a little out of sorts, anyhow, though I’ve thought it was from not feeling well.  Of course she never says, and I can only guess.

I had a terribly long wait in the doctor’s office today, with my appointment being at 2:45 and not getting back into the examining room until 4:20.  Because everything was so late, I almost didn’t mention my sore throat to him, but it was hurting “worser and worser,” so I decided I would at least run it past him.  I told him that I would pay for an office visit on my way out, and he did a quick exam.  Pronounced me sick as well, and wrote out a script for Amoxicillin.

It is somewhat of a circus when I take Cecilia anywhere, but it is especially difficult when I go to the doctor.  I have my purse, her big black book and any instructions that the doctor gives me plus HER.  And she has been stumbling more and more lately so that I need to be especially careful when I am walking her anywhere.  But I organized myself after this office visit, paid my co-pay for my “appointment” and then maneuvered Cecilia through the corridor, around a corner, through two doors and got her into the van and strapped in and we were on our way to the pharmacy.

Excepting that, when I got to the pharmacy, I couldn’t find Cecilia’s prescription.  I looked and looked and looked, through my purse, through her black book, in between the pages of her book.  Nothing.  Come to think of it, he had written the prescription on my paperwork for the state, he had written it on her record, but I honestly could not remember him handing me the actual prescription.  I couldn’t say that he hadn’t, but I certainly didn’t remember ever receiving it.  By now it was five o’clock, and a good bit past closing time at the doctor’s office.  But then, there were still at least four patients after me, still patiently waiting.  So I dropped off my prescription and flew back to the office.  One of the office gals was leaving.  One was emptying trash, the office nurse was going over charts.

“Is there any chance that the prescription for Levaquin get left in Cecilia’s chart?” I asked breathlessly, as I spread Cecilia’s black book out and continued to riffle through the pages in search of the elusive script.

They were not impressed.  Unfortudiously they never seem to be impressed by any of my desperation.  “I wouldn’t know,” said the one.  “She would have to look it up.” And she nodded in the direction of the nurse.  The nurse handed her the chart and she looked over it.  “Nope,” she said.  “It isn’t here.  It wouldn’t have been here, anyhow.  He always hands that to the patient.  We never see it.”

“I know, and he usually does, but when I got to the pharmacy, I couldn’t find it, and I don’t remember him handing it to me.”

“Well, you can just wait and when he comes out, you can see if he will rewrite it for you.”

So I stood in the long corridor again and waited.  Eventually he came out and obligingly rewrote the script.  “I’m sorry,” he said, “I must have just –”

“I’m sorry,” I interrupted him.  “I may have misplaced it somehow.   I just can’t find it anywhere.”

“Well,” he said then, “I’m pretty sure that I remember writing it.  When you find it (and I think you probably will) just throw it away and use this one.”

“You got it,” I said, “and thanks!”  I took my precious prescription and headed out to my car.  I looked again through my purse, in my planner and organized a few things before taking off.  Suddenly, I was aware of the office nurse standing at my car window.  She was holding Cecilia’s precious black book.

“I think you might want this,” she said cheerfully.

“Oh, yes,” I breathed gratefully.  “I really need that.  Thanks so much!”  I headed out again for the pharmacy, hauled Cecilia in with me and waited for it to be filled.  It took hardly any time at all.  And then I came on home.

When I walked in, I noticed that Nettie was shelling lima beans for all she was worth.  I had picked a very full five gallon bucket this morning and I wondered briefly if she would be able to shell them all this evening.  She did!  I was so happy.  I decided to go ahead and get them into the freezer.  Nettie had said that a great deal of them were “no good,” and I had noticed a larger amount of discarded beans among the empty pods.  Ever the snoopy gal, I had checked them and found them to truly be less than “Grade A” so I began to sort the ones that she had kept.

It’s a funny thing about beans.  Sometimes you can put a picking that looks pretty good into the blancher and it comes out looking rather sorry.  And sometimes I will think, “These beans don’t look the greatest!” and then they come out looking pretty good.  But tonight it was one of those times when the beans went in looking rather inferior and came out clearly defined as needing a heavy handed sorting.

This morning in the patch, I listened to the many sounds and felt like fall was coming on.  I wondered how many more pickings I was going to get off the 2014 patch.  An early hail storm had set things back a bit and the stink bugs are sneaking around and wreaking havoc.  I had close to a half a pound of discards in my batch tonight of five pounds for the freezer.


If it wasn’t so disgusting, it would be interesting, A bean can look almost perfect, but sometimes I will notice a small irregularity in shape and if I tear off the thin skinned outer covering, this is what the inside looks like.   While other gardener’s beans have broken records this year for production, I can honestly say that this has been my least productive year by a long shot and the ratio of misshapen “I should probably not ingest that” kind of  beans to the pretty ones  is disproportionate.

Does this mean I am going to give up?  Not pick?  NOPE!  I’m so grateful for the beans I’ve been able to get into the freezer. (21 lbs. as of tonight) and if Nettie can shell them, I can sort and wash and blanch and sort and bag them up.  I will be so glad next winter.

And now, I’m taking this sore throat and achy body to bed.  It’s about time.

And in spite of this disappointing day, My heart gives grateful praise.

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Thoughts on this October day

I turned 60 today.

I don’t quite know how I got this old this quickly.  I don’t understand how this person who feels like myself is trapped in this body that the calendar says is 60.  I’ve never minded the passing of years, to be honest with you.  But maybe I just never took time to think about the sand in the hourglass and how it would, some day, run out.  I look at the years that lie behind me and realize, with the proverbial jolt, that the years ahead are far, far less than all those happy years that I’ve already lived.

Today has been such a happy day.  Each one of my siblings wished me a happy birthday.  My far away Oldest Brother and Middle Brother called, as did Youngest Brother.  I saw Youngest Sister at Sweet Mama’s this morning and talked to Middle Sister on the phone this afternoon.  And all the offspringin’s and the ones they love have called or texted or visited.  I have a little grandson in Ohio who shares my birthday, and I even talked to him on the phone tonight.  It has been a glorious day.

I’ve done some thinking this week about many things.  It’s been a season of missing my Daddy rather intensely.  I cannot always say why things sit heavy on our hearts at particular times, but it seems to me, after what is now the eighth summer without him, that the one thing that triggers it for me is putting the garden to rest for the season.  Certain Man has been taking down “them thar tomato thingies” and mowing off the spent vegetable plants.  I gathered the peppers and green tomatoes last week and made hot dog relish.  The few ripe tomatoes got put into a few last quarts of juice.

But the pole limas are still standing.  Yesterday, I picked what I am pretty certain is my last big picking from the twenty three plants that made it through this summer.  They have done exceptionally well this year.  When I finished the last bags for the freezer last night, I realized that I have seventy 3-cup bags in the freezer from this summer.  I’ve done them along, four bags here, six bags there, and a time or two there has been ten.  Wonderfully tender, vibrant green, and so, so good.  I am so grateful for the way the bags have added up this summer.

It is the eighth summer without our Dad.  When Daddy died in December of 2005, there were so many things that were the essence of him that we knew we could never replicate, never replace.  The man he was, and his influence on our lives.  His prayers.  His vibrant interest in each of us, and his steady encouragement.  We really can do nothing to fill in these spaces that were left when God called him home to Heaven.

But there were other things that we could do.  I could grow lima beans.  At least I thought I could.  I honestly didn’t know very much about it, seriously had no idea how much WORK was involved, but decided that it would be one way that I could maybe feel close to this man who was so HUGE in my life and was suddenly so gone.  Maybe I was somehow trying to capture a tangible part of Mark Yoder, Sr., and make it my own.  Certain Man was more than willing for me to try, and in the summer of 2006, at my request, he built the pole, wire and twine lattices for two rows of beans.  He asked for advice and got healthy plants from the experts.  He did the planting and the weeding and slowly the plants grew and blossomed and began growing beans.

I was impatient for beans.  The first ones I picked made barely a cup in the smallest pan I had.  They were so good, and Certain Man and I shared them, delighted with the first fruits of our labor.  Then I checked and rechecked and finally decided that I could actually do a real picking.  I think I got a basket.  They were little and piddly and wonderful flavor, but clearly not ready.  I’ve thought so much about that summer as I’ve picked big, full pods of limas off of my plants this year.  The truth was, when I barely got anything in those first pickings, I grew more and more discouraged.  My grief was so deep and terrible, and when I was in the bean patch, I missed Daddy with an ache that often had me wiping tears on my sleeves as I searched for the beans.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I had to feel each bean to see if it was ready, and the task seemed interminable.  I found myself more and more just staying out of the patch, not thinking about the passing of the days.

And then we had a hard, killing frost.  The leaves on the bean vines shriveled and died and the pods that I had never picked hung brown on the vines.  It looked like thousands of pods; good, good lima beans that had gone to waste.  I hated the sight so much.  Certain Man finally took them down, put the garden to rest, and I didn’t have to look at them anymore.  I didn’t know if I could even try to raise limas again.

Certain Man is not a man who allows me to wallow.  He understands grief.  He’s certainly had his share, and honest emotions are treated with gentle kindness.  But he dislikes moping almost as much as he likes lima beans.  And he had built those really good supports and I’m not sure he even asked me the next year if I wanted to have pole limas or not.  Had he asked, though, I probably would have said “yes.”  Spring always does that to me, and there is a hope and a deep belief that this year things will go better than they ever have, that the garden will stay weed-free, that there will be not produce left go to waste, and that no one will resent anything that might grow there.  Anyhow, Certain Man planted limas again in the summer of 2007 and things went a whole lot better.

Each year I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with our patch of beans.  I often think of Daddy while I’m out there picking, but I seldom need my sleeve for more than wiping sweat off my face.  The memories are warm and good and they often make me smile when I remember the man who probably picked thousands of bushels of lima beans in his time.  I remember his eyes and the laugh lines around them.  I remember the way he would sit on his chair and shell beans with drive and attention.  I think about how he liked to get a pan for the grandchildren and rope them into helping.  I remember his delight in a pot of lima beans, made by Sweet Mama, exactly the way he liked them, and the way he could put them away at a meal.

There are life lessons here, I know, and over the summer, there have been many life applications for this old gal that came from the bean patch.  But on this night, of the milestone birthday and realizing that Dad only had 16 years left when he was my age, and thinking about being faithful in small things and leaving memories behind us, and how, no matter how much people may want us to stay and think they need us, we don’t really have a choice as to when God calls us home– all these things somehow feel like they really have to do with the lessons I’ve learned in two rows of pole limas in a small garden patch on a Delaware Poultry farm.

Common, ordinary days that are touched with Heaven.


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