Monday, October 17, 2011

Gleaning Dragon's Tongue

Remember, I said I was going to try and glean as much as I could from my dried bean patch. Not that the beans were dry but that was what kind of beans they were, the soup kind.

There wasn't much to glean.
It took much longer than I thought for the Dragon Tongue beans to reach the dried bean stage and since I planted them rather late, it didn't happen. Nope, I didn't get the dried beans I wanted.

I know from last year that these purple streaked beans are sweet and yummy eaten fresh but last year I hadn't grown them to the dried bean stage where I could use them in soup. My goal being to find dual crops such as this that can be eaten in different ways, I had planned this past summer to test them as dried beans. No, the two- fresh and dried - weren't going to happen in the same year as our season is very short and my garden not big enough to raise a dried bean patch and a fresh bean patch of Dragon's Tongue.

But undaunted, even though I wasn't going to get a dried bean crop, I still went out to the shriveled mess to see if anything was salvageable for the chickens. It wasn't. But I figured I'd try seeing if any of the fatter bean pods could be opened and the seeds dried for an addition to the stew pot.

Fulfilling my goal this year to learn to use my garden to its fullest.

I began feeling pods searching for large lumps.

As I bent, my poor damaged back soon began to ache. That made me think of my great grandpa on my mother's side. He wasn't a very big man but I pictured him, like myself, bent over searching for a few beans to put in his sack or bowl.

This isn't a memory of my own but one borrowed from stories told by my Aunt and Mom for Great Grandpa died before I was born.  They tell of a sweet little man who spoke very little English and how they use to ask him if they could have something or do something and since he didn't have a clue what they were saying, he'd say, "Yah!", in his native Swedish tongue. They'd then use that as an excuse when they got in trouble with Grandma.

"Grandpa said we could." they'd chorus in defense. 

The same trick couldn't be used on Grandma as she not only spoke Swedish, they both being Swedish immigrants, she spoke English very well also. I'm told Grandma was a domineering socialite who half ran the Baptist church and how could she do that if she couldn't speak the language of her new land? 

Money was tight for these immigrants with a good sized growing family. To help make ends meet, she wove rag rugs on her hand built loom that Grandpa had put together with wooden pegs and sold them.

I know about this little detail because I have the loom. It's in terrible shape with gray weathered lumber and many of the parts missing. Maybe I should just throw it away. I keep saying I'm going to. But as I write, I'm thinking I should take another look at it and see if I can't cut it apart, saving those pegged pieces, to build something else. Something much like a scrap quilt. A quilt like this Grandmother's daughter, my grandmother, made for me and I made for our children by cutting up used clothing and sewing the pieces together to create a blanket of memories and warmth. 

Some of those quilts are pressed firm in my mind as time after time I perched on the bed, staring down at the pieces and reliving the memories they stirred. Surely, I can do something like a scrap quilt, something that would preserved the borrowed memories of my two Great Grandparents.  

I wondered as I worked sifting through the frost wilted patch, how Great Grandpa had the patience to go through the farmers fields after they were harvested, picking up bean by bean until he had a sack full to feed them to put in the bean pot when the cold winds blew.

It took me a while to make my way through the wet wilted leaves, my mind drifted back even further to Ruth and Naomi in the Bible and how they gleaned from the fields of Boaz.
You might not think I got much for my efforts as there were only enough to cover the bottom of a small bowl after I sorted them.

 But it was much more than beans that I gained from my efforts. For a little while, I took a journey back into history and felt what my Grandpa felt. Walked in the sandals of Ruth and Naomi gleaning the very last seed and with this journey, I got to know them a little better. As with many things, it was the journey, not the destination, that held the most reward.
The story might end there except, this week Cliff, in Wilder, Idaho,  contacted me and said he was raising Kinghorn Wax beans for Lisa who is the owner of Amishland Seeds. She saves rare, Organic seeds.
He reads my blog and noticed a post about my grandpa Kinghorn's beans. He wanted to know his first name and now, thanks to him and  Lisa, Grandpa's full name, Eldon Kinghorn will be included with the description of the beans in her catalogue.

Thank you Lisa and Cliff, this means a great deal to me and my family who treasure the memories of our dear Grandpa Kinghorn.

As many of you know, I'm really impressed this past summer with the yield of Grandpa's beans. My daughter found similar testimonials on the Internet, so give them a try in your garden.
But what does this have to do with Dragon's Tongue beans? Well,  I really like these three dark purple bean seeds. They are very different from the rest. What if I, like my Grandpa Kinghorn took these three beans and planted them. Just as Grandpa took a few beans that had very small black spots and kept selecting for smaller and smaller black spots until they weren't any. Only, I'd be doing the opposite. Mayby, eventually, I'd gain a crop of dark purple bean seeds.

I wonder if they would have a much higher nutrient level and higher antioxidants just like the dark kerneled Painted Mountain corn has much higher levels in comparison to the lighter Painted Mountain kernels? Something to ponder about. 

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