Broadbean Classroom

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Broadbean Classroom


I planted the broad beans a bit late this year.

My daughter, newly 5, has become extremely fond of internet seed purchasing, and to her The Diggers Club is a kind of sacred space in which all of our most desired and loved plants will exist for our enjoyment. ‘We can put this in the digger’s club Mum.’ It is in a similar realm as the half an acre of land we have just bought, which she has already populated with a farm, a zoo, an ocean and a food forest, all described in intricate detail and existing for her in perfect reality.


This post is not an advertisement for that venerable seed and plant saving establishment though, as we have breathlessly waited for plant mail from a variety of heirloom and organic folk online. It is, however, where I found the Crimson Flowering Broad Beans.


These fellas came in a plain white packet of twelve robust chunky seeds, and were dispatched into the newest dug patch in the veggie garden, covered lovingly by the kids with our volcanic soil, and left to do their thing. Despite the haphazard tardiness of my approach, planting them late in the season, they poked their little noses above the soil, then clambered and meandered and finally streaked skyward, unfurling, on robust ribbed stems, purplered flags of flower that my little people seemed to approve of, though without the excitement at their oddness that I felt, having only ever seen white flowers on broad beans.


Then one got sick.


Its attacker was plain to see, a terrible little grey flocky dusty type of aphidy creature that drained the living juice from my friendly brassicas last year, and proved to be impossible to thwart. I watched with apprehension and sadness as it crept, a dark tide of smothering grey, over the smallest of the precious broad beans, crumbling the head and emerging flowers into a desiccated clawed hand. The thing seemed doomed, and I waited heartsinking, for the next plant to succumb, and the next.


Then came the Great Chookpoo Weekend. The weight of half a year of pea straw and compost and chookpoo in the wettest season for decades dragged at me, filled the barrow ten, twelve times, sent the kids inside to escape the monotony and sickstink and flies.

“I’ll just be an hour, then we can go out.’ Hour, then hour then hour, nearly done, nearly done, nearly done. Then there it was, thick black slabs of concentrated plant joy, pinchnosed personstink. Distributed through all of the garden, it had then to be covered with fresh pea straw to smother the stink, fresh straw in the chookpen, chook delight as they scrabbled for the prize peas.


During the week that followed the kids enthused with me over the plants spreading and stretching, greening and thriving. Leaves darkened, the little guys visibly smiled as they sucked down all those tasty treats that the chooks had so lovingly prepared for them.


Only one denizen of the garden was unpleased. One type of denizen.


The broad bean fought back.


‘Finna look! The plant’s getting better again!’


In the space of a week, one sevenday plod of ordinariness that most of us perhaps don’t even remember living, that broad bean plant shrugged off its attacker. With the influx of nutrients, and nothing else, with that surge of nutrition and nurturing, the plant suddenly grew strong and green again, and the little grey suckers, the dusty killers of green, actually died. No more a shriveled, desiccated plant, now the tables were utterly turned. The plant thrived, its stem thickened and its flowers returned, the leaves grew in fat and green and dark with health. And the bugs died. Small empty black husks remained, as shriveled and lifeless as the plant had seemed only a week before.


I truly have seen nothing like it. My children, those loving souls who literally hug trees, who give a struggling plants a hug and a pat to make them feel better (‘I hugging the tree, Mummy, I want to hug another tree’ from my not – quite – two son, or ‘I’m just giving the plant some love to make it feel better,’ from my girl), were chuffed. Fabulous! But they quickly assimilated the miracle, used to such greatness in things, closer to the miracle of their own being, and left me to do what adults do, to think. To use head to explain what intuition says, with a nonchalant shrug, of course is true.


I have read threads from parents on the internet about vaccination, about disease protection, that have baldly stated that of course what you eat has nothing to do with health and you should just go and get those kids jabbed now. I have heard people, quite ill people, prevaricate and choose deathly medications, the best the whitecoaters have to offer, over simple nature repair. Whitecoaters have their place, absolutely, but that simple strong broad bean is a lesson in living that we none of us can afford to ignore.


What goes in makes what is. That simple. Pour in crap, and you can expect illness, poverty in your body, inability to fight back when other beings, co-evolved to do so, utilize the opportunity of your weakness to plunder you further. It goes deeper of course. Emotionally I learned this when my daughter was angry some weeks ago. She had been so since the sadness that overtook us some months ago, and was healed in an instant when I rejoined her emotionally and energetically, talked about sadness and its comings and goings, the creeping back of happiness, the impermanence of the body but permanence of the spirit. When I gave her a little time, just a small bit of one day, to nourish her with love and listening rather than stunting her with selfsadness and anger that for a time had become my only response, she grew tall and strong and green again, smiling the health within her, soft and flowing once more.

Nurture, and it will grow strong.


My alltime favourite movie, to borrow an expression, is ‘Muriel’s Wedding’. My copy of it is on video, predating even dvd, and the cover is soft and pale with age and use. It sings to me, this story, the uniqueness, the sameness, her broad bean learning, the strong dark green leaves that she sprouts in the end, and the sad lossful shrivelling that her family suffers.


‘I was a farmer,’ her father says sadly. “I should know. You reap what you sow.’

‘You reap what you sow.’


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