From wishful thinking, or a false sense of security, the solar-powered electric fence is supposed to keep deer out with a low wire to discourage smaller critters. That low wire is a pain because despite sprays of herbicide I don't kill all the grass. The lower wire is more prone to slacken and contact the ground, making a joke of the system.
Nothing short of a board will prevent turtles and terrapins from sliding under the bottom wire and making a meal of my cantaloupes. I help them out of the garden when I see them but they sample more than one and the damage is done.
When I discovered how well some squash keep into winter I decided to double-down on varieties not well-known in the South. A Kansas friend, known as the “Pumpkin Lady,” hooked me on a squash that can be used as a regular squash when immature or as a pumpkin substitute if allowed to reach full growth at about three feet in length. Yep, three feet.
Despite my love of squash the vegetable I most enjoy is butter beans. Most in my family over-cooked butter beans to mush. I prefer well-done butter beans with some texture to them. Natural thickening of the juice comes with long cooking but corn starch thickening is simple if you like thicker soup.
Supper isn’t supposed to be a heavy meal anyway and in my opinion few things are as satisfying as a supper of cornbread, onions and butter beans. Then, there are butter bean burgers or fritters.
My grandmother canned tomatoes, corn, peas and okra, but for a cooler kitchen she dried some. As butter beans dried on the vine, but before the shell opened, she picked them in the morning, washed and dried them, then hung them in a flour sack by a wire to protect them from mice.
She picked tender green beans, cut away the stem end, rinsed them and ran a darning needle and thread through the middle of them (not end-to-end). To secure the line of beans she wrapped the string around the beans on each end and tied off her string. Her wash room walls were were lined with lengths of strung green beans and peppers like Christmas Tree garland. Keeping one mess of beans per string frees you from having to undo a long line of them every time you want beans for supper.
Strung dried green beans are called “leather britches” and you can hang them anywhere, even in the attic. To prepare leather britches take down what you need, rinse them, put them into a pot of water to cook for a few minutes, toss that water and start over with fresh water and seasoning meat if you prefer. The same instructions apply for dried butter beans.
I haven’t made “leather britches” since helping my grandmother string beans as a small boy, but I think I'll give it a try this summer.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.