Today was THE day.  The day the beans may have been dreading.  Or maybe the beans didn’t care.  Or maybe we were dreading the hour of work involved.  It was the day to: pull up the bean plants.

Before it all begins...

Before it all begins...

You may wonder why today was the auspicious day.  How can you tell when the beans are ready to be pulled?  Here is one of the secrets:  you pull the bean plants from the ground when you surmise that the weather is going to get cold.  You do not want to be pulling beans when it’s 45 degrees.  You do not.  Your fingers will become chilled and your attitude, as well.  (It’s even worse to wait until too late for carrots and brussels sprouts.  Brussels are the worst.  You DO NOT want to be cutting off the little green nubs in the frost.  One must “do the dirty” as late as possible in the growing season, but just before the temperatures plummet.  We are thinking the temps might plummet soon.  Time to pull.)

Single wisp of bean-flower still remains on vine

Single wisp of bean-flower still remains on vine

You can’t gauge pulling-time by the abundance or lack of flowers on the vine.  On a lush September day like ours, the vines still sprout purple flowers.  One must harden her heart before pulling out the vines.  The secret life of beans and humans involves timing.  Knowing when to plant, when to harvest, when to pull.  (And sometimes we’re still learning those secrets!)

Here are some bean facts for you.  Do you know what a green bean is?  Simply the unripe fruit of any kind of bean.  Thus, we could have green beans which later become garbanzos, kidneys, pintos, navy beans.  Certain modern-day varieties have been specially bred for their fleshiness, flavor or  sweetness of pod.

Our beans this year are rattlesnake beans.  They are relatives of the pinto beans, distinguished by a tender texture and strong, almost tangy flavor.  Or so some folks say.  The same folks say that rattlesnake beans have been so named because of the curious curling growth habit of the bean pods which resemble coiled snakes when fully mature.

Hmmm….well, I hadn’t seen too many snake-like creatures in the bean fences until TODAY!  When pulling out a handful of leaves around a certain post, look what remained–

aLook at the eye on that rattlesnake been, will ya?
Look at the eye on that rattlesnake bean, will ya?

So you pull and you pull and you pull.  You either pull re-hashing mental stories and thoughts about all sorts of internal drama, or maybe you simply pull feeling the weight and heft of the bean plants as they whoosh out of the dirt and are tossed in a big pile.  (I tried both kinds of pulling, mindless pulling and mindful pulling.  The mindful pulling felt better.)

Huge pile of bean leaves and roots and stems

Huge pile of bean leaves and roots and stems

You pull the plants and look for the secret beans which have hidden hither and yon.  Some have grown fat and undignified and tough and you toss those into the woods for the deer and raccoons and chipmunks and skunks.  Others are slender and pirouetting on the vine like ballerinas.  You pop those in your mouth right away because they’re so tender and delicious.  You work.  And work.  And work. Always amazed that pulling beans takes so much time.

Yum!

Yum!

It thunders nearby.  Rain is coming!  Hurry now.  Gather an armload of bean leaves and toss them beneath the oak tree for the animals to munch.  Cluck under your breath because there are so many stems and leaves still caught in the chicken-wire fence.  It would take another couple hours to remove every renegade stem.  The fence doesn’t look very dignified at the end, but it works for next year. 

The bean fence lies coiled and packed away 'til next June

The bean fence lies coiled and packed away 'til next June

The rain downpours just before you finish the bean-pulling.  A couple hours later, in between showers, you resume and pull up every last bean.  Then you and your husband wrestle the stakes of the bean fence out of the ground for storage in the shed.  One of the wooden stakes breaks off in the ground.  Guess we’ll need to replace that, come 2010’s planting season.

And now, for a last dinner of rattlesnake beans!  So good.  Nothing like a fresh bean.  Nothing like good organic garden produce.  And that’s the secret life of beans and those who love ’em.

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