It All Amounts to ...
... a hill of beans.
Or, more precisely, a half gallon of beans. (Ok, so we ate half a jar already in various chilis. But the total harvest was about two quart-sized mason jars.) I finally finished shelling our Cherokee Trail of Tears beans this weekend.
We harvested the last of them back in early October, before our first frost. When we did that, we picked any remaining pods (ripe and not-so). They were drying out on the screened-in porch ever since. Gradually we've picked away at that pile, shelling a bowl at a time in front of the TV, on rainy days or during dark evenings.
It definitely makes sense to let them dry in the pods. They are much easier to shell that way, and then you save a step on having to dry the beans after shelling. It does take some skill, though, to deal with the brittle pods. I kind of crush it in one hand until it splits, but keep that hand cupped around it as I pull the two shell sections apart with my other hand. This helps keep the bean from dropping out and rolling across the floor – most times they'll stay in my hand. They pop out so easily once dry that you'll lose a bunch if you're not careful.
Is it lazy to wait two months to finish storing your bean harvest? I prefer to think of it as a good use of bad weather. And that kind of time management has historical precedent. In Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy (not my favorite part of the series as a child, but it is today), there is a scene of threshing wheat in the barn during stormy winter days. It also offers this compact little lesson about how I feel about our whole food-growing endeavor, in answer to young Almanzo's question about why they don't just buy a machine to do the work:
"That's a lazy man's way to thresh," Father said. "Haste makes waste, but a lazy man'd rather get his work done fast than do it himself. That machine chews up the straw till it's not fit to feed stock, and it scatters grain around and wastes it. All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?"
As there are few things I enjoy less than sitting and doing nothing with my hands, I'll continue our winter threshing and shelling, a bit at a time as the winter drags on. There are still several bags of dill, coriander, and mustard to separate from their dried seed heads and stems, and tackling just a bit at a time makes the otherwise overwhelming amount of work manageable and satisfying.