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Slowing down and snapping beans

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

It has been a terribly busy month so far. The past week, however, has been an especially busy week. 

Not just professionally, but in our family and home lives, we’ve had a lot going on. It seems like just as we finish one project, or an emergency passes, three more pop up to take its place. 

It’s like the Hydra was replaced by chores, but the tasks before us are no less Herculean for their banality. 

Then, into the middle of all this, came a bushel of beans. 

I didn’t have time to grow a garden this year – despite promising to – so Nicole purchased a couple bushels of half-runners from a farming friend. 

These needed to be sorted, the bad beans removed, and the good beans strung, snapped, and washed before Nicole could do her canning. 

We had no sooner sat down to do it together than she received a phone call about another family health emergency. 

She had to leave, and I had so many other projects I could have been focusing on. But the beans weren’t going to string themselves, and I couldn’t concentrate enough to focus on detailed tasks. 

Stringing beans seemed like the perfect way to stay productive, without exerting too much mental energy. So, while the toddler watched Scooby-Doo and the pre-teen played Minecraft, I cleared my mind of thoughts and started snapping beans.

Snapping beans used to be a regular summer activity when I was a kid. My Nan would sit on the front porch swing, with my aunts, cousins, and her friend Rachel, chatting and snapping bushel upon bushel of green beans. Nan would can most of them, string some up as leather britches, and cook some right away. Of course, she always sent a brown bag full of beans home with whoever was helping her too. It wasn’t just beans they grew in their garden. There were tomatoes and corn, potatoes and sunflowers, spinach, mustard, cabbage and kale. There were strawberries and pumpkins and peppers and cucumbers. And, just for me (at least according to Nan) beets, which she pickled and kept up for me to snack on. But stringing beans was a social exercise. The canning and pickling she did mostly on her own, but the stringing we did together. 

At some point while I was stringing my own little man came in to help. He made more of a mess than anything. I had to pick strings out of the save bucket, and good beans out of the discard bucket. But it made me happy, watching him help. I imagine it would have made my Nan happy too. 

Sometimes, it’s good to slow down. I’m glad we still can. 

Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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