Black bean flowers and babies
This morning, as I walked around in the gardens with my coffee, I thought, boy, this garden is looking mighty boring: about 65% of what is filling the garden beds now is beans. Dried beans, shell beans, green-ish beans: well, this girl loves her beans, you would think if you likewise were walking around with a hot cup of morning wake-up brew.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our food. This is nothing new of course; I am rather obsessed with our own food, and I’ve structured my life more or less around its production. The transition from food consumer to food producer though has been a fun one, sweat and aches and pains aside. But walking around amongst the beans, I thought about that alot, too: the notion of producer versus consumer. Am I one, or the other? Because in this house I am both: I am she who raises the food, she who prepares and consumes it with her family.
And it is in those mountains of beans that there’s some kind of answer for me. Certainly, there are a lot of beans (17 varieties, and yes I am crazy so please don’t remind me), so I obviously am tipping heavily toward production. But the consumer in me is the one who’s likewise craving that crazy diversity, that deep variety of choice of beans. The consumer in me was also the person who suggested that we get those Pekin ducks 2.5 months back, and it was the producer in me who produced a mass of feathers on Sunday. I wear the production hat very heavily on Bird Harvest Day. I cannot help but feel like some kind of monster when I lift that knife. This creature is NOT a “production unit,” its wrapped body in the freezer is no “production output.” Neither are those beans, but one doesn’t feel so awful about killing a bean plant.
Then I think about the birds themselves. I think I have another two or eight or twenty posts in me about becoming a Meat Bird Rancher. Let me just say that what makes me less of a monster and more of the compassionate vegetarian that I am at heart is the absolute truism that these chickens, guineas, geese, ducks and turkeys have a better life than most dogs and cats in this country. This puts them in better stead than much of humanity, frankly: their every need is met, whether that need is clean water or plentiful and nutritious food or secure shelter or a desire for dirt baths, bug-catching or garden scratching. They are fortunate creatures; this is a fortunate farm.
And the answer IS in the beans for me. The other 35% of what’s occupying the garden beds is the heart of what I am trying to do here: a little bit of this, a little bit of that; this particular week in August means beans are the biggest land pigs out there. In two months, it will be salad. Two months ago it would have been onions and peas. In other words, as both a consumer and a producer it’s diversity that I am going for: not mass units of monocrop production, no monocrops of poultry, either in terms of egg birds or meat birds. I could not look at myself in the mirror if I took away the individuality of these creatures, if I forgot about how these beans grew this year. Again, if we are going to eat meat at all in our house, I must ensure it’s been raised to standards that I would set myself, and the best way to guarantee that, for either meat animals or those humble beans, is to grow them myself too.
Gosh, no wonder I am obsessed.