Yesterday afternoon, when the day had cooled a little, I was feeling up to a little excursion…
Wait a minute, that’s not exactly the way this story starts…
Yesterday afternoon my aunt called to give me the report on “what’s happening at the farm”. [She's been so good about keeping up with the watering and the weeding and the picking, all while caring for my grandparents AND her own grand-daughter at the same time. So, what's about to follow is in no way a criticism of her efforts...just want to get that out there.] The plants have been watered, the tomatoes are going to get another string tied around them later this week, and the watermelons are really growing quickly. Squash and cucumbers are being produced by the bushel. I was really happy to hear all that. She calls every day to keep me in the loop about Grandpa’s recovery, what’s happening in the family, and how the garden is doing.
But she didn’t mention the beans…and then I made the mistake of asking (using a little, tiny, almost plaintive voice), “Have you been picking the beans?”
Before I go on with this story, a primer on beans. Much of gardening is tricking plants into doing what they would do once to do it over and over again. For instance, the bean plant’s only job in life is to reproduce itself and make more bean plants. (This would be an interesting segue into a discussion about infertility…) As the beans mature, and put out blooms and then pods, each of those pods contains the progeny of the plant. If left to their own devices, the bean pods form, and then reach a point of terminal growth, at which point the plant receives a chemical signal that tells it, “Good job! You’ve made the next generation of bean plants. You can quit now.” However, if you pick the bean before it reaches that stage, the plant is fooled into continuing to put out more and more beans each season, just waiting for that signal (kind of like the way an infertile woman will fill her days with a lot of other activities, tying to get that sense that her life is complete and meaningful enough….but I digress). So, if you want baskets and baskets of beans, you have to pick them before they reach that terminal growth stage and the plant “retires”.
“Oh, Trish, I haven’t had time to pick the beans.”
Now, this is a real dilemma for me. Of course she hasn’t had time to pick the beans….she’s very busy with all the other things she’s doing for the family. On the other hand, I really don’t want the beans to go to seed. Love of aunt trumps love of fresh green beans, but….I’m only human…
Then, I ventured another step into the world of dangerous questions, by asking (in that same hesitant voice), “Has anyone watered the greenhouse…”
“Oh, Trish, I’m afraid to look in the greenhouse. No one has watered it.”
Now, this conversation did nothing to help calm my inner voice from screaming at me, “See…I told you it was all up to you!”
By the time Tony got home I had decided that, although I couldn’t garden, I could at least go and take a look at the state of the garden and the greenhouse. Promising my friend, Evan, that I would lift nothing heavier than a glass of cold water, I bullied…pleaded…asked…whined my sweet husband into driving me over there to take a look.
In some ways, it was a great trip. The watermelons are amazing, and even though it’s only been about 12 days since I was there, the garden has really changed and grown. The beans really do need picking badly, and I’m not even sure if it’s too late or not. I walked around for a bit, looked at everything, talked to my aunts, and then checked on the greenhouse.
Yeah, it was bad. A massive die-off, as a matter of fact, but I watered it just on the off-chance that some of the flowers and plants would spring back to life. But as I told myself, and continue to tell myself, the loss of 12 flats of marigolds, a nascent herb garden, and dahlia seedlings is really a small thing in the great scheme.
And I can plant again next year.