Right now, downstairs in our fridge, we have what is technically known as a mess of beans. No one knows why the “mess” is the unit of measurement for beans, but it is, and that’s what we have, because Day Five has been garden-intensive.
Cicero said, and I paraphrase because I very carefully forgot all the Latin I once knew, if you have a garden and a library, you’ve got everything you need, and he should know. He spent a fair amount of his life exiled from Rome for one reason or another, and he stayed sane by reading, writing, and gardening, right up to the time he fatally annoyed Marc Antony. I’m pretty sure that’s not the point of my day.
My day has been spent among the bean vines, which have surged up their trellis and crested, a green wave, over the railing of the back deck. There’s something so welcoming about bean vines, in a Little Shop of Horrors kind of way. The tendrils latch onto clothes and skin. “Stay with us,” they say. “We’ll protect you with our leaves. You’ll be able to pick beans from your hair; our blooms will be your jewelry.”
It’s tempting. Today has been temperate, even cool, compared to the past month. The garden smells wonderful, rippled by breezes and gently warmed. The first thing I do is eat three or four of the little yellow pear tomatoes, right off the vine. (Just ONE of the benefits of a completely organic garden.) They taste like sunlight would taste, I think, sweet and slightly spicy, warm and mild. I pick all the ripe ones, because Suzanne is home, and no one likes a pear tomato better than Suz.
I move on to the regular tomatoes. The slugs have been here, so the lower tomatoes have great big bites out of them. Grrrr. Somebody actually drank the slug beer, so I vow to get some more and pick the tomatoes higher up, even the ones that aren’t quite ready. They’ll ripen better not being eaten by molluscs, so into the basket they go.
The jalapeños come next, and they’re ready for picking, too. Nothing much bothers a pepper, at least not these, so I have fat green and red pods lying on top of the yellow tomatoes. The little Scotch bonnet, a gift from Susette, has about ten peppers on it, in various stages of not-quite-ripe. I’m a little terrified of Scotch bonnets anyway, so I leave it alone, concentrating on the beans.
Back in the early summer, in dire need of a trellis, I grabbed a section of our old deck railing that we kept for some unfathomable reason. I jammed it in the ground at the front of the bed and leaned it against the deck at the back. It looked pretty, but I worried whether it would work. Normally, I build elaborate and unstable creations out of rebar and chicken wire, but this year, there wasn’t time. Let this be a lesson to me. Sometimes quick and dirty IS better than slow and premeditated.
The trellis keeps the bulk of the beans at an easy picking height, but they hide under their heart-shaped leaves. Picking them is a treasure hunt. Of course, the bean vines are also home to a vast array of spiders, and I’ll happily tolerate them here. They eat the bugs that eat the beans, and so, presumably, do not need to bite me. I give a large black-and-yellow one a wide berth, nonetheless. I do not need a bean that badly.
And so our beans went from vines to ready for dinner in less than an hour. I sat in the swing and snapped them, feeling all peaceful and summery, and then cooked them in my grandmother’s bean pot. If I have a garden and a library, I’m going to be okay.