The Joy of Picking Beans

It's a peaceful hour of quiet and solitude. There's more to picking beans than you might think.

| July/August 1976


Reflections on life down on the farm.


Picking beans is not my favorite pastime. The sun is hot. The bugs bite. My arms break out in a rash. My back aches and all that bending makes my knees creak.

Nevertheless, I do it. A lot. All through July and August. When the garden is still muddy from an afternoon rain ... and when the vegetable patch is so dry and cracked that it needs a good dousing with the hose.

Because if I've learned anything about them, it's that there's just one sure way to keep green beans bearing week after week after week right through the summer. They need to be picked. Every day! (Oh yes. They need water too, and if they don't get it they'll stop bearing. But more important than that, they need to be picked. )

So every day I pick them. I pull back the bush and I pluck off the pods that are filled with fat beans and I pick off some of the long, thin pods in which the beans haven't even formed yet. And I do all this harvesting gently, in respect to the bountiful plants that will—I know—supply me with beans all summer long if I'll just take care of them. (If I'll just, that is, pick them.)

I approach my task with the same—which is to say "little"—enthusiasm each day. (I don't look forward to picking beans.) I dawdle. I wait until mid-morning, when the sun has warmed the soil and dried the dew in the garden. I stall until the milking is done and the chickens have been fed and the baby calves are ready for their morning siesta in the pasture. I put off going out to that dratted bean patch as long as I can. And when I do go, I go reluctantly ... dragging my feet all the way to the garden.

And then—once I've left the noise of the radio and the telephone and the family's conversation behind—the magic begins to happen. The garden starts to weave its spell around me and the bean patch claims me as its own.

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