Fleur-de-HillofBeans

I have a bone to pick with the colloquial saying, “It ain’t worth a hill of beans.”
For the last several weeks we’ve been reaping the rewards of a hill of beans, and expect to continue throughout the winter.
When I moved to State College this past summer, one of the first things I did was transfer my Penn State Master Gardener ties from Lehigh County to Centre County. Now, many of you probably didn’t know I was a Penn State Master Gardener, have been for 21 years. Although it involves extensive training, the purpose of the Penn State Master Gardener is to volunteer in educational and outreach activities in the field of home horticulture, thus extending the reach of the University, Cooperative Extension, and the much-taxed resources of what once was called the “county agent.” Now, this is not the time or place to get into a political discussion on cutbacks in state funding, but I will say I consider Penn State Cooperative Extension the goose that keeps laying the golden eggs for all of us folks out in taxpayer land … until she’s butchered by cutbacks, fiscally forced retirements, and other such nonsense.
HalloweenWeekend White-Out
Anyway, one of the conditions of being a Penn State Master Gardener is that any type of commercial horticultural venture (ie. FdL) is kept separate. So, I haven’t been at liberty to extol the virtues of the program through this newsletter until now. Joining the Centre County group has given me an instant introduction to the gardening community here as well as a way to stay involved with Cooperative Extension. One day, I received an email from our county MG coordinator saying that varieties of edamame being grown in a PSU research plot were available to MGs for the picking. I drove several miles in the Nissan, harvested to my heart’s (and back’s) content, hardly made a dent in the field, but filled the  truck bed with a hill of beans.
The following football weekend, when we had lots of out-of-town visitors, I boiled bushels of edamame pods in salted water as a snack, freezing masses of them. Mom and I also  shelled a bunch to refrigerate, and use them in soups, tuna salad, mixed greens salads, stir-fry, enchilada wraps – you get the picture!
Edamame is translated from Japanese to mean “beans on branches”.  When harvested, these immature soybeans are chock-full of protein, carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, and micronutrients such as folic acid, vitamin K, and manganese. Plus, they’re fun to eat.
I enjoyed gleaning the edamame research plot and decided to give back to my new MG group with a selection of Fleur-de-Lys garlic for them to take home to their Centre County gardens to plant. And yes, I can almost taste it now, a steaming bowl of edamame spiked with slices of Fleur-de-Lys garlic — yum! Laurie Lynch
Llama Bean Hill: I took the hill of beans theme a step further. When I planted my own garlic in a newly established plot inside the llama pasture, I decided to hill semi-composted llama beans over my garlic rows. Not only will they add some slow-release nutrients for next spring, they’ll keep Belladonna from nosing around my garlic patch. (Llamas are very clean animals and keep their “toilet areas” very separate from their “grazing” areas.)
East Coast Connection: Remember Trig, the Brownie Points lady who lives in Tiburon, CA, and meets and greets people across the globe with her homemade ultimate brownies? Well, she was in State College and she made a luncheon date with my mom and me She told us the one ingredient she can’t find on the West Coast is black walnuts. So, she had just come from the local Weis supermarket where she went on a buying binge, emptying the black walnut display, and shipping them back to her kitchen in Tiburon.
Kutztown Connections: My job at the roofing company led me to a fellow Rotary Exchange Mom, and more recently, to a former Kutztownian. Ken Smith, who graduated from KAHS, crafts sheet metal for various roofing jobs. We started talking about K-town, and then he told me of the B&B he and his wife Ruth ran … until their Bellefonte Victorian Manor was destroyed by fire several years ago. We shared fire stories and dreams-going-up-in-smoke stories (literally and figuratively). Then, one day he brought in a beautiful scrapbook of the family’s B&B memories. Not only did I see photos of the B&B at its best, with wonderful stenciling by Ruth and lots of antiques, but I also saw photos of the fire-ravaged rooms. Of special interest, the scrapbook contained letters from many of their guests (some of whom I recognized as Kutztown acquaintances) and a testament to the family’s faith that some times wonderful things come to an end. You go on.
Hand Jive: When you’re a 50-something mom you don’t expect many positive comments on your physical features. So, I was taken aback when Marina was in middle school and her favorite teacher said she loved my hands. She said they looked like “hard-working hands,” which they were, thanks to all the FdL busy-ness. The complement gave me a new perspective. Then, this summer, when my 20-something nephew Wille blew into town, he made the comment, “Your knuckles look like they’re wearing hubcaps.” And the worst thing is, they do!  And yes, my nail-bitten fingers are atrocious. However, even though I’m working in an office instead of a field, my hands are still getting a workout.
I overheard the two other women in the office talking about “rubber fingertips” and how manufacturers seem to be making them smaller than in years past. A light bulb went off in my head. Actually, it had been flickering for some time. I go through hundreds of paper invoices in a week’s time – paper invoices which have been touched by workmen’s hands, filed on truck floors or crumpled on the dash, not the cleanest sheets of paper in the world, especially during flu season. To shuffle through piles of paperwork, I don’t use my “index” finger, which is why it’s called an “index” finger (light bulb No. 2); instead, I use my middle finger … and my tongue, which licks the tip of my finger to flip from page to page. I’ve never been especially wary of germs, believing that a healthy dose of microscopic critters toughens your system and actually helps build immunity, but with all of those office hours for thinking, I decided maybe I’d try a  “rubber fingertip”. I got the box in our supply cabinet. Why, oh why, do even the mundane things in English sound so beautiful in French and Spanish: doigtiers or cubre dedos de hule? Anyway, if these rubber tips are too tight on my co-workers index fingers, I knew it would be a BIG stretch to get one over the tip of my middle finger. I squeezed it on, with the base stretching over the tip of my finger and the rest of it airborne. However funny it looked, it worked. It’s an amazingly simple invention that I just discovered but I’m so glad I did. My co-worker showed me her old, stretched out, blackened one, and I certainly got the sanitary point. So, my working hands now sport a rubber fingertip – and I whisk right through the paperwork, hubcaps and all!
Written on Slate: “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
                                                               — Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman
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