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Every Boy Needs to Learn to Can Beans

September 16, 2017

Every Boy Needs to Learn to Can Beans

Last weekend we had some moments of pure gold with a niece getting married at some lovely Shenandoah Valley caverns near here,

The lodge at Melrose Caverns, an old restored lovely wedding venue.

picking pole beans and canning them with two of my grandsons here,

and my youngest daughter being ordained and installed as an elder at her Presbyterian church over in Maryland.

(We forgot to get pictures.)

Busy, yes. At some points I wasn’t sure where I was, but happy to have my feet planted wherever the action was.

Earlier in the summer I shared our struggles battling bean beatles, and how a new variety we tried had helped to stem the onslaught of the little pests. We also usually plant pole beans (my husband’s favorite) later in the summer—he planted those this year on July 5. They are a lot of work to string up the lines and the poles but my husband loves his pole beans, so in they went.

At any rate, decent rains helped bring on a bumper crop and they were ready for a second picking last Saturday. I went out as soon as there was enough daylight to find the beans, I began picking—and praising my husband for doing a great job of keeping a path clear through the middle of the two rows where we could walk.

Grape arbor of beans.

We picked beans hanging down like grapes in an arbor. They are dandy beans and if you pick them before they start to get old: not tough or stringy, but robust and flavorful.

Daughter Doreen and Henry get started snapping beans.

Henry was awake by the time I came in with some beans for my husband and the rest of the family to begin breaking. At 18 months, Henry is all into whatever his older brother or grown ups are doing (no baby toys for him anymore, no sirree).

My daughters helped him learn how to snap them—sometimes he was successful and other times just kind of bent them over and looked at us with his big brown eyes like “what am I doing wrong that I can’t break them so easily as you?” His older brother was still dozing and taking his sweet time getting up.


James, left, Henry, and daughter Michelle supervising.

Later, though, when we were ready to put the beans in cans, James was all into it. I used some of my regular size jars, since I knew we’d have small hands that could get those beans into those openings.

I showed James how I smacked the beans down further into the jar by slapping the jar on my palm which he thought was pretty cool. “This is fun!” he declared and I just hope he agrees with that assessment with he’s 14 instead of almost 4.

I had to dig out the photos of his mommy helping can beans when she was just a little older than him, going on 5.

Canning beans with Michelle, left, and Tanya when Doreen was just starting to grow inside a much younger me. 🙂

Don’t you think every kid needs to learn to know where their food comes from, and how to preserve it? My sister-in-law was happy to introduce her grandson, Mason, to the art earlier this summer as well.

Mason and his mammaw Barbara. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Davis Crider)

I will be happy to be done with canning beans soon, but what a treat to have all those little hands helping. These grandmas are treasuring these times and memories.

We hope these boys will love “their” beans next winter.


Do you remember any jobs that seemed like fun when you did them at Grandma or Grandpa’s house?


Esther H. Shank’s Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets: The Prize Collection of a Shenandoah Valley Cook including basic tips and instructions on canning and preserving foods are found in this very popular cookbook! Check it out. 

Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets


From → Family Life, Food

  1. singinglady37 permalink

    I always enjoy reading your stories like this of all your extended family working together on these projects and making memories for the next generation ,

    • Thanks, Caro Claire.This morning I was struck by the similarity of the photos where I am standing by watching my two daughters put beans in cans, and in this year’s photo where MY daughter is standing by (helpfully) watching her sons put beans in cans. Each child has their own “station.” 🙂 Thanks for your note!

  2. Gender bias has no place in the kitchen, I say. Jenna loves to bake, but Curtis likes to cook. Lovely family stories, including the fact that your daughter is an ordained elder. Congrats to her!

    I loved to string beans or pick strawberries with grandma. The thought brings a golden glow.

    • I like your line about gender bias. On canning/freezing veggies, my strong memory of those activities is playing the alphabet game or “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to take along a _____”, and then reciting what each one said before you. We played that especially while shelling bushels of peas (when I was a girl).

  3. I can imagine that finding the jar that says “Boys” on the top will be very exciting next winter. And the memories of fun will continue to attract both genders as they grow old.

    Lovely, Melodie.

    • Yes it will be fun to find those 7 jars on my shelves. I don’t think James will soon forget smacking the beans down, although he was too young to do it himself. 🙂

  4. Athanasia permalink

    I don’t understand the part about your daughter being ordained. She is a pastor now? Installed?? If she is a pastor how is she an elder? Etc etc

    • In the Presbyterian church elders go through a training period–usually 3-5 meetings or classes, and then are “ordained” as elders, not pastors. They are ordained for life and even if they move to a different Presbyterian church, they are still considered ordained. Serving on the session–(which in most Mennonite churches would be referred to as the church council) comes about when you are elected to a 2-4 year term. In many churches the length of service is 3 years. That is referred to as being installed. My husband and I are both elders but we are not currently sitting on the session as installed elders. Does that help? It kind of ties into Christian beliefs about the “priesthood of all believers”–including those who are neither ordained or installed as elders or pastors.
      (To complicate matters further, recently (in the last 10 years) the governing bodies decided to distinguish between “ruling elders” and “teaching elders.” Ruling elders are what I have just described above–those who are the board or session or church council and decide on matters affecting the particular church or congregation. Teacher elders are the pastors who serve a congregation. I don’t care for the term ruling elder so I just use the term elder.)

      Thanks for asking. So, she’s just an elder. A younger elder. 🙂

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