Stringing and Breaking Beans
By Chris Rathbone
By now, most of the garden harvest has been canned or frozen. So many folks were quite busy with all the harvest work this year. Seems with the shortages back in the spring many have chosen to raise a garden and preserve a lot of food this year. Many pictures have been shared of bountiful harvests and successful canning. Jars and lids have been in short supply in the late summer for sure. Fortunately, we had some already stocked up that supplied our needs. God really blessed our little garden here in Bakersville. Despite the late freeze in the spring, our potatoes bounced back pretty healthy. The half-runner beans produced great along with the prettiest corn we’ve ever raised. We spent many hours stringing and breaking beans then canning them. Corn shucks were thick this year but the corn was delicious! We shucked it, cut it off, and put it in the freezer. You need to understand that I sure don’t have a “green thumb” as the ol’ saying goes. So for our garden to produce so well it has to be the Lord blessing it for sure!
Picking beans is my least favorite part. Bending over in the bean patch is rough on an old’ man’s back. However, many wonderful memories were brought back to my mind this summer when the beans were harvested. While Michelle was at work, I tried to get as many of the beans strung and broke so they would be ready for her to can when she got home. Shucks, I even canned a few myself! (Following her instructions of course.) The sound of those beans “snapping” took me back many years.
Growing up, raising a garden wasn’t a hobby but a labor of necessity. For the most part, we grew the majority of our vegetables in our garden. Nowadays, most folks depend on the local produce stand or grocery store. I dare to say that a vast majority of people would have no clue how to even begin gardening. For us, it was a yearly family undertaking. No questions asked it was just understood that we would work in the garden from preparing the ground to harvesting and preserving the bounty. My grandmother, “Mammie” was ol’ school when it came to gardening. She did not waste anything that the Lord had provided. Everything she raised was either eaten, canned, frozen, dried, or given away to someone who could use it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was wasted.
One of my fondest memories of time spent with her was sitting on the porch stringing and breaking green beans. After the beans were picked, she would sit in her rocking chair on the porch. There were two paper “pokes” in front of her. One was for the strings and the other for the beans. She always wore an apron. She would place a pile of the unstrung beans in her lap, then throw the strings and beans in the paper “pokes”. I can just see her rocking back and forth, stringing and breaking those beans, sometimes whistling or singing, oftentimes for hours to get all the beans ready for canning. There was a small paring knife she kept handy to cut off any specks she found on the beans. Trust me when I say, she cut off every single one for she would not waste a single green bean.
Many times we sat in the cool of the late evenings on that porch working those beans and talk of many things. At the time, I certainly didn’t realize how much those conversations would mean to me later in life. As a boy, all I could think about was getting finished so I could go do something else. Now as I sit on my own porch stringing and breaking beans, all those precious conversations come flooding back.
We talked about the weather. When the train horn was pretty clear off in the distance, she would say that rain was on the way. Sure enough, in a day or two, there always seemed to be rain! There was laughter talking about funny things that had happened over the years in our family. She shared memories of how she used to cook three meals a day for the sawmill camp where she and my grandpa worked. She always shared about times when the Lord answered prayers for her and the family. “Don’t ever be doing something you wouldn’t want to be doing when the Lord comes.” she would say. Always, always, she would encourage me, “Live for Jesus, Chris, you’ll never regret it.”
Seems like every year when I’m working my own beans, there’s always something else about our conversations that will be brought to my memory. Often times a sad feeling comes over my heart because I’d like to go back and sit on that porch again with Mammie. Maybe I wouldn’t take it for granted as much as I did back then. For sure there would be a whole lot more listening and taking in what she said during those conversations. While sometimes those memories of days gone by make me feel a little sad because I miss them, there is a hope that keeps me going. The same Jesus she served is the same one I serve. Because of Him, we have the hope of being reunited one day with our saved loved ones. Most importantly, we get to see Him, the one who has made it all possible.
Jesus is always there to remind us and bless us with hope, even while stringing and breaking beans.
Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.
You can read more Good News from Pastor Chris HERE.