Thursday, 23 August 2007

Quiet Mousie, the Entrepeneur...REAL Country Living and Runner Beans...

Few things in life can be so satisfying as harvesting (and better still, eating) your own freshly picked, home grown garden produce totally free of chemicals.

So it is a rewarding sight indeed at this time of year to see the bed filled to the brim with goodies that we have painstakingly nurtured from nothing earlier this year. We need to be patient now. It will be some months before we can pick the leeks, calabrese, purple sprouted broccoli, green pointed cabbage and sprouts. In between we have sown lettuce, radishes and rocket, quick growing and ripe for the picking when the leaves are small and tender. The slower growers need to develop thick sturdy bases ready for the winter winds that will surely rock them and test their robustness in their exposed position on the top of our hill.

Several years ago we lived at the old ‘Station House’ and had an enormous vegetable patch, more like an allotment. I cannot think of much that we didn’t have crammed into every row and the greenhouse full of exotics like chillies, aubergines and melons. When we moved house I had to ‘give in’ to the demands of full time market gardening due to my poor health. The optimistic beds we created gradually got smaller and smaller until just a few tubs of salad plants and runner beans remained.

Ah, that old stalwart... the runner bean...

For years they have been the staple of our summer diet. We didn’t particularly like runner beans when we started growing them. Their introduction was an attempt on my part to involve ‘Idle Jack,’ my eldest in the garden by capturing his imagination planting ‘giant beanstalks.’ But unlike his namesake he never even saw the first tendrils creep their way to the top of the cane before he had lost interest. For that small boy runner beans could not compete with Action Man or Power Rangers. But not so with his younger brother.

This summer I have a willing helper in the garden in ‘Quiet Mousie.’ His weekly trips to ‘Forest School’ and helping in the school garden have inspired him to show me how ‘green fingered’ he is. Forest School had also helped his fear of ‘mini beasts’ which had until this year somewhat hindered his efforts in the garden department. But his hands probe and tug at the soil now regardless of what lies beneath the soil. His favourite activity is helping me weed and water the raised beds and containers. His interest in nature and the garden is tireless and he now knows all about soil acidity and growing conditions and seed germination; his little brain like a sponge absorbing all I have to tell him and storing it in the recesses of his mind until one day he digs the first foundations of his own vegetable patch.
However one area that I won’t be able to impart my knowledge is how to avoid a ‘glut’ of runner beans. I have never mastered ‘succession planting’ with this old favourite and find over the years that however much you try and stagger the growing and planting out, the scarlet grape-like flowers and long green fingers all seem to grow at exactly the same time. By the end of the weeks we have usually given away more than we eat and are sick of the sight of runner beans.

For four weeks now Quiet Mousie has been out early in the morning with the colander picking them for me. He knows just the right size to pick them-when they are long and slender and just before they turn into thick cricket bats with fibrous strings! Still the canes creak under the weight of the beans that continue to proliferate the more we pick.
Earlier this week he sat and divided the beans into piles for a friend and our neighbours. Still there were pounds of them left. What to do with them? We already had ours for dinner. The freezer compartments are full with bags of prepared and blanched beans to see us through the autumn months. Me and Quiet Mousie laughed at how twelve small bean plants could have created the pound after pound of beans.
“I’ve got an idea mum, we could sell them at the bus shelter” He enthused.
“Hmmm, there may be something in that” I thought remembering how Primrose had sold bags of cherries last year by leaving fresh bags each day inside the shelter with an ‘honesty box.’

There is a surprising amount of people who go to the bus stop, mainly because the post box is position right next to it along with a telephone box. I hasten to add that as a bus shelter it is purely ornamental and has been redundant since about 1998 other than a gathering point for locals seeing the children on and off of the school buses that run past the edge of the village. However every evening the Shropshire Star Van lobs a large bundle of papers into the shelter as he hurtles past. We have no newspaper delivery in our remote part of the countryside, but anyone who wants a paper can come to the shelter and pick one up and keep abreast of local events.

Quiet Mousie carefully weighed and bagged up surplus runner beans and took three bagfuls to the bus shelter yesterday morning. It was deserted other than the doormice who have a home in there and a family of returning swallows who build two nests a year. We left a jar that was clearly labelled “THANK YOU-ORGANIC, HOME GROWN RUNNER BEANS-50P” He carefully positioned the bags and the jar so that they were alongside the ‘Egg Ladies’ boxes of eggs and twine wrapped bundles of Rhubarb.
As we drove to the post office later in the morning we checked to see whether any of the beans had sold. And as we came back from the Doctors in the afternoon we looked in again. The bags were still there.
“I hope they sell and don’t go all soft” He said looking disheartened. Then he beamed and added brightly “Still, it is early, maybe people haven’t gone out yet shopping yet?”

Late afternoon and me and the boys went to see our friend and take her runner beans. As we went past the shelter Quiet Mousie got out of the car to check whether the beans had even been moved. But they were still there. Idle Jack laughed.
“No wonder no-ones bought them...I hate runner beans! Uurrghh!” he said.
I threw him a look that told him to zip it and looked at the little one who was looking sadly out of the window. I texted Daddy, the Workaholic Hubby and tipped him off, suggesting that if the bags were still there when he got in later in the evening he might ‘buy them' and preserve our little ones feelings.

Our friend was delighted with the beans and by co-incidence showed me a jar of Runner Bean Chutney that she had in her fridge made by her Auntie Marian. We tasted it with sausage rolls and ham and it was delicious, although not to the boys taste.

As we drove back from her house a 4 x 4 was parked at the bus stop, as a man picked up his evening paper. So we pulled into the village and I sent quiet Mousie back to check for the umpteenth time on the bags of beans. He hid behind the trees until the car had moved off. He must have been gone a minutes or two and I was just about to get out and look for him when he came running over the grass verge with his face aglow, a huge smile beaming across his face and gushing,
“Mum, mum, You won’t believe this, but I’ve sold them! They have ALL gone. All three bags! That man in the car just took the last bag. And look at what I’ve got,” he directed at his older brother.
He uncurled his fingers carefully and there inside were two 50p pieces and what looked like the contents of someones trouser pocket in small coin denominations. We added it up. Short by 2p. They had obviously not expected to find such bounty at the bus stop. But I forgave them for the joy they gave to my little boy.

He clutched the money in his hand until he got home and counted it again. He went to bed talking of picking more beans in the morning and making some more money before we go on holiday at the weekend. Well Messrs Sainsbury and Marks and Spencer started somewhere didn’t they?...And I am sure when we checked on him as we retired for bed the smile was still fixed on his face as he slept...

I was wrong when I said there is nothing so good as harvesting your own produce...To a six year old selling it is SO much better...and seeing that smile on his face...priceless...

So until another day

Bye for now

PS-Below is Aunt Marians Recipe.

2lbs sliced beans- soaked overnight in water; drain; cook with salt and bicarbonate of soda. Strain and chop.
1 ½ lbs chopped onions
1 ½ pints vinegar
1 ¾ lbs demerara sugar
½ tablespoon turmeric
2 ½ tablespoons cornflour
½ teaspoon dried mustard
Salt to taste

Cook onions in large pan in vinegar until fairly soft. Add sugar and chopped beans.
Mix turmeric, cornflour, mustard and salt into a smooth paste with a little vinegar. Then add to rest of ingredients in pan.
Simmer 15-20 minutes stirring often.
Pour into clean, warm jars, cover and label.


Suffolkmum said...

That was such a heartwarming post Angel! I had my heart in my mouth hoping someone was going to buy those beans - I'm so glad Daddy would have stepped in if necessary - how lovely that he is taking such an interest in growing things. My son hasn't shown much interest at all, although my daughter has - but she is still at the stage where she wants to be permanently glued to my side! I may well give the chutney a try. BTW, would be very interested to know how much your spotty ballet/PE bags are - am just going to have a quick look on your site ....

Posie said...

Oh what a lovely blog, and I haven't grown any runner beans, the chutney sounds scrummy. How encouraging for your little one too, and what an education he is getting. Cheers, Posie

Shiloh and Genny's Family said...

Maybe we should try that with the huge abundance of butternut squash we seem to have.

toady said...

Lovely blog Angel. My daughter used to love watering with her little can and of course picking and shelling peas in my Mum's garden.
Love the bean selling story I bet his face was a picture.

Have a lovely time in Greece, can I carry your cases?

Chris Stovell said...

Yo do 'suspense' SO well - I was really concerned for your youngest!! Glad it had a happy ending. I've complained on this forum that strong winds and salty air destroy anything that dares to raise its head above the ground (me included at the moment!) but my neighbour managed to grow some runner beans and proudly gave some to us... I could see at a glance that we were not going to eat the leathery, sinewy giant beans we were presented with but had to say how lovely they were! Hope there is no repeat performance this year!

Thank you for the suggestions about my shoulder. I think it might have been started that I do my main work on a laptop away from the distractions of the internet. I've now raised the laptop and bought a separate keyboard which I hope will improve my posture. Thank you for thinking of me. Cx

Elizabethd said...

Oh for a thousand ways to cook the runner bean! We have a glut too, but no good trying to sell them here. The French find them 'bizarre'!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

What a lovely picture your son's face must have painted. His entrepeneurial skills show no bounds. He will go far. And as for M&S and Sainsbury etc, they'd better watch out - Angels son is about.

Love Crystal xx

onceinabluemoon said...

Hi, Country Craft it will be your house, for the good old plate of warm winter vegetable soup then?...please can I place my order right now....
Love your blog you have such a lovely way with words,i have enjoyed reading it very much....and will look forward to further updates on your runner beans...
PS thanks for comments left on my blog...honestly if I could fit you in the case I would ...especially if the veggies are, on you....we have already been to WW cottage ,this blog of mine was just a memory of it..few weeks ago now.... and I'm sure WW would love to meet you too..
Now I'm away to write my order for your veggies.......

elizabethm said...

lovely blog and so glad your son's patience was rewarded. we produced a great glut of runner beans last year and i don't even like them much. only grown 4 plants this year which is much better but now might not have enough for the chutney recipe which sounds yum.

Blossomcottage said...

Runner Bean Chutney is just one of the best around I love it, I never seem to make enough, I will give your receipe a try this year.
love Blossom

muddyboots said...

do you know, l just love runner beans & runner bean chutney. l used the delia smith recipe which is very similar to yours. ooohh yummy yummy!!

Faith said...

Oh I love it when kids do things like that. I've often stopped when I see kids running a little roadside stall. SM said everything i wanted to. I was so glad that he 'really' sold them (not just to Daddy).

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

That was brilliant and heart warming and lovely . . . well done to your young son and if he ever wants to do beans by mail order I will be his first customer - I haven't had any runner beans yet this year, or last year, or the year before . . . .

I used to grow runner beans with my Dad so also brought back lovely memories for me.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I always had a little garden with nasturiums and marigolds...and all my boys does teach loads ...including patience. We have an Aunty Beryl in the village who makes tons of runner bean chutney so I have never made it...but I know one jar doesnt last long the boys eat it like ice cream. Hope you have a lovely time in Greece..have you started Precious bane yet?

Pondside said...

Very nice to get a new chutney recipe - I could eat chutney with just about anything.
Lovely that you young one has such a good 'farming' experience!

@themill said...

Lovely post. I think he must get his talent for commerce from his mum! Make the most of the enthusiasm - the youngest son used to love being in the garden getting his hands dirty, but at 15 seems to want to do no more than sit on the mower! Will do it quite happily for other people tho' and earns a fortune into the bargain.

Chris at 'Chrissie's Kitchen' said...

Well, snap, Angel! Pop over, do, to catch my own rendition of bean chutney! Our beans started late but boy, are they in full form now.

Lizzie x

Pipany said...

I haven't had runner bean chutney since my mum used to make it! Well done to your son though Angel and I have been keeping up with your blogs where I can. Hope you are well xx

mountainear said...

So happy for your son. How enterprising.

And yet another mention of Green bean chutney! I'd never heard of it before this August. must make some - probably next year - this seasons crop are a washout.