Why I Grow Purple Beans, Part II

Back in March, I wrote what I’d planned to be a series of posts on this subject but am just now getting back to it.

As I explained earlier, my first experience with gardening was hardly an overwhelming success. Every once in a while I’d help Mom with the ongoing project of weeding the various perennial beds that she had scattered here and there around our rather large city lot. I recall feeling a sense of satisfaction from the act of liberating the desirable plants from the undesirables that held them in their grip. But it wasn’t something I ever did for fun.

Then I married Craig. His mom was from small-town Guernsey County, Ohio, and at eighteen years old had gone north, looking for work. That’s how she met his dad. He (his dad) had grown up in Cleveland–the city, not a suburb–but spent most of his childhood summers on his grandparents’ farm in Summit County. In both of Craig’s parents’ minds, a vegetable garden was an ordinary part of life. You raised certain items every summer, which you canned, pickled, or froze for use throughout the rest of the year. It wasn’t something you thought about (should I have a garden this year?) but something you simply did, like mowing the lawn.

Though that wasn’t the world I grew up in, I wasn’t put off by the idea. That is to say, I wasn’t ready to jump in with both feet, but neither did I immediately discount it. It was something I was willing to try.

When we first had a place to put a garden, we planted a tiny one. Or rather, Craig did; gardening was his project in those days. He had no rototiller–only had a spade and a hoe–and it was a shady yard, so it never got full sun. But he put in a few tomato plants, which grew ridiculously tall, possibly in an attempt to reach the light. I’ve never seen such long tomato plants before or since. He also planted some hot cherry peppers, though my attempts to pickle them were unsuccessful.

I didn’t do so well with canning tomatoes, either, since I had no equipment. It didn’t take me long to figure out you need more than just a dutch oven. We might have given our spare tomatoes to his mother; I don’t recall. She didn’t want the hot peppers, though, so sadly, most of them went to waste.

That’s why I bought a book that later became one of my most valuable possessions: the 1976 edition of Consumer Guide’s The Food Preserver. As you can see from its condition, it’s been opened a few times. We planned to move out of the city, and though I was no fortune teller, I could see a lot of gardening in my future. So, since I knew pretty much nothing about what to do with garden produce, I thought I should get some practical help.

The book has been both: practical, and a help. I don’t refer to it so much in recent years, but for a while, it was a well-used tool.

In late May or early June of 1978, when Emily, our oldest, was five months old, we moved to Ashtabula County. I called our new home The Little House in the Big Woods after the Laura Ingalls Wilder book by that name. Our woods weren’t as big as Laura’s, and the house wasn’t as small, but it was plenty small enough. This picture was taken in 1979, I think.

We were living there when I first heard of purple beans.

So what’s the deal with purple beans? I’ll tell you in Part III. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures of our Little House. They’re screenshots of scans of old photographs, so please forgive the blurriness.

This was probably taken in the autumn of 1981. The little girl is Emily. The dog's name was Herschel. I could write a book about him, but not today. I don't remember the cat's name. The stump in the foreground? That's the chopping block where we cut off those chickens' heads. Yes. We actually did that. And yes, they do run around afterward, though it's more like flopping than running.
These didn't live in our Little House; they had a smaller place out back that we called the henhouse. In this picture, they're expecting me to throw some strawberries to them. There were acres and acres of wild strawberries growing around our house. They only grew to be about the size of my pinkie fingernail, but they were tasty.
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3 thoughts on “Why I Grow Purple Beans, Part II

  1. I love learning this about you, Y. I didn’t know all that. When I was young and newly married, I made jam, but never canned a single thing. I was always afraid of it. Knowing me, I would have killed off my family with bad food.

    1. Oh yes, I definitely have my rustic side. That’s why my characters tend to be so unsophisticated. Remember the scene in Mom’s Mirror where Jonnie was butchering chickens? The way I described it was the way we did it–including hanging them on the clothesline by a leg to bleed out.
      I have canned thousands of jars of garden produce over the years, and as far as I know, I’ve never killed anyone. I don’t think.
      Thanks for stopping by my blog. Stay tuned for the next exciting adventure!

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