Mornings are perfect for pickin’ beans... sunsets for breakin’

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By Cheryl Steenerson

It must be the old park ranger in me but I do love a good sunset. It is such a peaceful scene, with nothing but friendly conversations between feathered friends, hopping from branch to branch.

The hay field lays clean and green in the foreground. After the raking and baling, dried brown shoots, nourished by the sun and rain, once again give me my verdant rolling hills.

Far beyond, cattle graze on the uplands, seen only through a break between the trees.

Closer in, one lone dog among the acres, keeps watch over the farm, while two more lay at my feet. All of this, from a simple sunset.

I am such a country girl.

It is the most delightful time to just sit on the porch and do something I truly enjoy, break beans!

Oh come on, you knew it was coming. I can’t sit still for long; it’s the beginning of harvest time!

For a truly good harvest, the secret is in the timing. The only trouble is finding that time. I am so lucky to be able to start my off the farm work late.

I don’t have to be there until 9 a.m. I can get a lot accomplished between 6 and 8, and mornings are by far the best time to pick.

You should pick before the sun has time to heat up the fruits. I use wooden half-bushel baskets when I pick. They let the air flow.

Thankfully, I have a second refrigerator to store my beans for the day, but an air-conditioned room will suffice until you get home from work.

The squash is coming on too, and that’s another one you should always pick in the morning.

Over the years, I have come to prefer to keep my squash laid out on newspaper in a cool room. You can keep them in the refrigerator, but after a day or so they get rubbery. They still eat good, but I just don’t like it like that.

I do bell peppers the same way.

Every Saturday at the stand, I am still amazed to hear people say they’ll just put that not quite ripe tomato in the windowsill. Arrrggghhh! It makes the skin tough and the inside will get mushy faster.

Store your tomatoes on newspaper or paper plates, on the kitchen counter or some other cool place.

If you want to speed up the ripening process in the kitchen just put them in a paper bag and roll down the top.

Tomatoes let off a ripening gas and the bag captures it. Never, I repeat, never store them in the refrigerator or in the sun.

The refrigerator makes the pulp mushy and once they’ve been plucked from the vine, they just cook in the sun.

If you haven’t started or finished laying down mulch on the garden soil, I suggest you get to it.

These high temperatures are sucking a lot of moisture from the ground. Mulch reduces that moisture loss.

It also keeps weeds from popping up, causing you to spend time hand pulling or tilling.

I’d much rather spend my evenings on the porch with a cold beverage in hand, beans on my lap and dogs at my feet.

Now get out there and watch that garden grow!

I can almost guarantee you won’t be the only one checking to see what’s almost ready to pick.

The wildlife are lining up like it’s a free buffet at Dollywood.

Happy growing!