dried beans, from start to finish

Remember when Almanzo and his father did the threshing in Farmer Boy?

All winter long, on stormy days, there would be threshing to do. When the wheat was threshed there would be the oats, the beans, the Canada peas. There was plenty of grain to feed the stock, plenty of wheat and rye to take to the mill for flour. Almanzo had harrowed the fields, he had helped in the harvest, and now he was threshing.Farmer Boy

Having grown a few dried beans three years ago, I remembered what I was getting myself into through rose-colored glasses.  This year we planted five or so long rows of dried beans–all I can say is I’m glad our survival doesn’t depend on us getting beans threshed in a timely fashion.  And, I have a deeper appreciation for those who had to do it long ago. Here’s how it played out for us in 2013.

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In late September, hearing that it was going to “rain,” I pulled all the bean plants from our big garden next door and brought them home in the back of the car. This was probably one of my wisest gardening decisions ever, as “rain” actually turned out to be the first huge (early) storm of the year. Many of the farmers around here were caught off garden–whole fields of corn were flattened.

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Our beans, however, were snug inside our garage on tarps, with fans blowing on the them ’round the clock.  As you can see, the beans were picked in varying stages of readiness, as my friend, the internet, had advised was best to do in the event of “rain.”

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A few weeks later they were considerable drier, and it seemed like it was time to try “threshing.”

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Being without flails, a la Almanzo, I consulted the internet again and tried a couple of different methods.  Perhaps if all of the beans had been crispy dry enough our efforts would have had better success.  Swinging the beans around in a pillowcase or burlap bag netted a few measly beans.  We also spread them out inside a folded tarp and jumped up and down on them (great fun), and I think I also hit them with a shovel, with slightly better results. It was mid-hunting-season, and the manpower at my disposal was a combined weight of 60 pounds–we decided to take a break of several more weeks.

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Then, this past weekend I called in the big guns–Cowboy, armed with a 55-gallon barrel of water, and the two oldest kids, Jr. and Bug.  In the better part of a morning we knocked out the rest of the job and then cleaned the garage out to boot.

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Yesterday I finished picking through the beans, and we now find ourselves the proud owners of 5 1/2 quarts of beans. I have a couple of months to decide if I’m going to try and be Almanzo again next year.

Have you ever grown dried beans before? Was it worth the effort?

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3 thoughts on “dried beans, from start to finish

  1. It did seem like a lot of work. Way to go, to you and your crew. I really like the whole barrel and water technique. It looks like it saved a lot of time and man power. Well except for cowboys man power. You did things a little different then I was taught and I am wondering how you chose this method & why? I was always taught to pick the pods off the vines, then shell the beans, then let the beans dry or dry them yourself. Leaving the vines in the ground so they can be tilled back into the soil in the Spring. Peas/Beans are a cover crop that regenerated the soil & the fresh pods are a great energy and vitamin source for livestock or a compost pile. What kind of beans are those? They are very beautiful and colorful, I’d like to try some next planting.

    1. I pulled plant and all because the storm was coming — it was just quicker. When we did the water barrel we did pull the pods off the plant first and that helped a lot. The first time I grew dried beans I only pulled the pod, but they and the beans inside had already dried (it was much easier that way).

      I think the red/white beans are cranberry beans maybe–they were the only dry beans available in the seed section at the store–Ed Hume brand I think.

      The black/white beans were called “yin-yang” from territorial seed company, but only a few of those made it.

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