I Am Not a Gardener

I am not a gardener, even though we have a garden: A BIG garden for suburban standards. It's a plot of our backyard that's 12 feet x 22 feet. We grow tomatoes (grape, cherry and big boy), cucumbers, and green beans every year.  We also have two gala apple trees and a cherry tree planted along the back of the yard.  In addition to the "fruits" of our labor, we have landscaping (required by our HOA by-laws) - LOTS of landscaping. I do not "tinker" in the roses,  the hostas, the astilbe, the daylilies, the annuals, the perennials, the climbing clematis, the spireas, the dwarf barberry's (oh, those are SO not fun), the jucca, or the other plants we have to decorate our home and keep the HOA from sending us threatening letters. I don't even mow the lawn, unless my hubby is broken (that's a post for another day).  I am not a gardener.

Those of you that do garden or consider yourselves gardeners (BRAVO, by the way) know that having a vegetable garden is hard work.  Where we live, the work starts in March or April (depending on whether or not the ground is still frozen solid). It doesn't end until September or October (depending on when things start freezing over again).  There's tilling, fertilizing (with manure - that's a fun day), more tilling, raking, planting, pruning (for the trees), watering, weeding, watering, weeding, watering, weeding, harvesting, climbing (again, for the trees), picking, cleaning, canning and eating. It is a ton of work, and I participate in it out of necessity, not out of a passion for gardening.  I am not a gardener.

So, why bring this up now, you ask?  The temperatures here in NE Illinois have been in the 90's with very high humidity for the last week or so. Those conditions, although torturous to be out in, are prime growing fodder for the garden. All of a sudden, the first round of green beans were ready to be picked. Have any of you ever picked green beans?  Let me paint the picture for you:  1. you're in a garden - there is ZERO shade, 2. you're in a garden where BUGS live, 3. it's HOT out, 4. the plants are, at most, 18-24 inches tall, 5. all of the beans are under the leaves on these short little plants, 6. you have to bend or squat for 4 rows of beans, manually picking each bean without destroying the plant or knocking the new blooms off the plant.  It's one of the most miserable forms of torture I've ever experienced. So, my husband does it. I am not a gardener.

Two days ago, my hubby "surprised" me by picking all of the beans that were ready - only he did so at 7:30pm. Honestly, I don't blame the guy. It was cooler and the sun was setting, so it was really smart of him to pick at that time. However, that meant that at 8:30pm, I had one overflowing colander and half a large paper grocery bag full of beans to deal with. I was a tad grumpy about this. There are some surprises I like, but this was not one of them. That's because, I am not a gardener.

With fresh green beans, you cannot wait to process them for storage or they turn soft and disgusting. They need to "snap" or they're just not good. Here's the process:  1. rinse all the beans to get the dirt, bugs (remember this for later) and grass clippings off (grass clippings around the garden plants help keep the weeds down), 2. snap the ends off of each bean, then break it in half, 3. boil a stockpot of water, 4. sterilize one side of the sink with bleach, rinse, then fill with water and ice, 5. get out gallon freezer bags and label the contents and date. Once the beans are prepped, you dump them by batches into the boiling water (which, inevitably leaves me with splash burns) and leave them there  for 2-3 minutes. This kills off the bad stuff so that you can store them safely, without completely cooking them. When the timer screams at you, scoop the beans out of the boiling water and dump them into the ice bath to "stop the cooking." At least that's what all the cooking shows say. Once the beans are cooled, you stuff them into the labeled freezer bags and seal. Never try to write on the bags after the beans are inside. It's too challenging to write with a fat, permanent marker on a wet, lumpy ziplock. Next, place the bags into the deep freeze, then clean up the mess. Even with help from my guy and my youngest child, this process took over 2 hours and a cup of coffee, of course.

My youngest decided that she wanted a cup of hot chocolate before going to bed and invited her sister to have one, too. Perhaps we ought to consider turning the a/c temp up in the house, huh?  Each girl had their cup made in the Keurig, and my oldest decided that she needed marshmallows. When she reached for the marshmallows in the pantry, she screamed. Do you recall that I said "remember this for later" in regards to washing off the bugs? Yup, we certainly washed one off! I came to the rescue and found a very large earwig crawling around on the dog food container. EEEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!! I HATE earwigs. I took the container over to the garbage and tapped that nasty bug right into the garbage can.  Ta-da! Mommy - 1, Earwig - 0. Shortly thereafter, the girl's scooted off to bed and I was left staring at my now cold, half cup of fully caffeinated coffee at midnight. I knew I shouldn't drink it, so I left it on the counter and went to bed.  (I really need to watch another episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive to regain my cleaning motivation).

The next morning, per my usual routine, I grabbed my favorite mug that still had the cold, half-cup of coffee in it, and went to dump it in the sink. Much to my horror, there was the earwig floating, dead in my coffee. Mommy - 1, Earwig - game set and match.  I am not a gardener.

Galations 6:9 (NIV)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

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