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Chapter 7. The Bean-field 
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Post Chapter 7. The Bean-field
Summary

an unknown motive for growing beans

childhood remembrance of the field

advice on growing beans

song of the brown thrasher

the sounds of nature

sounds of the war with Mexico

self knowledge through beans

the war with weeds

the Pythagorean bean-grower

farming expenses and income

convention as fate

return to the sacred

http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendenta ... ter07.html
Walden Study Text



Sat Jul 19, 2008 12:42 pm
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To read elsewhere that he has misgivings about farming on a large scale, and then to read here that he maintained 7 miles of garden rows--wow. I'm a gardener, too, but I only plant a patch. It truly was, as he says Herculean in scope.I guess the difference is that my garden represents no economic necessity for me, whereas it did, apparently for him. He did need the money from the garden, though I suppose he could have increased his day-labor and made up the shortfall. He must ahve felt that planting would be fit better into his experiment.
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What was the meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, this small Herculean labor, I knew not. I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows. This was my curious labor all summer -- to make this portion of the earth's surface, which had yielded only cinquefoil, blackberries, johnswort, and the like, before, sweet wild fruits and pleasant flowers, produce instead this pulse.

But he is partly mystified by his attention to this husbandry, and he realizes that his work pushes him to the verge of drudgery. Drudgery was somethng he insisted we could all avoid with a little wisdom.
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7.2 When I was four years old, as I well remember, I was brought from Boston to this my native town, through these very woods and this field, to the pond. It is one of the oldest scenes stamped on my memory. And now to-night my flute has waked the echoes over that very water. The pines still stand here older than I; or, if some have fallen, I have cooked my supper with their stumps, and a new growth is rising all around, preparing another aspect for new infant eyes. Almost the same johnswort springs from the same perennial root in this pasture, and even I have at length helped to clothe that fabulous landscape of my infant dreams, and one of the results of my presence and influence is seen in these bean leaves, corn blades, and potato vines.

Another meaning of the Walden experience to him, not mentioned before, was that it united his first memories with his present life. He has a history in this place and can see himself within cyles of nature taking place there.
Quote:
And, by the way, who estimates the value of the crop which nature yields in the still wilder fields unimproved by man? The crop of English hay is carefully weighed, the moisture calculated, the silicates and the potash; but in all dells and pond-holes in the woods and pastures and swamps grows a rich and various crop only unreaped by man. Mine was, as it were, the connecting link between wild and cultivated fields; as some states are civilized, and others half-civilized, and others savage or barbarous, so my field was, though not in a bad sense, a half-cultivated field. They were beans cheerfully returning to their wild and primitive state that I cultivated, and my hoe played the Rans des Vaches for them.

Ideally, humans are such a connecting link between the wild and the cultivated. But, he would say, more typically humans see no value in the wild and want only to "redeem" it by subjugating it.
Quote:
7.7 On gala days the town fires its great guns, which echo like popguns to these woods, and some waifs of martial music occasionally penetrate thus far....
7.8 I felt proud to know that the liberties of Massachusetts and of our fatherland were in such safe keeping; and as I turned to my hoeing again I was filled with an inexpressible confidence, and pursued my labor cheerfully with a calm trust in the future.

In this mood, he could be sanguine about something which, in another mood, he would not think about favorably. His country's military exploits did not make him proud, usually. Maybe it was the distance of the music, the filtering of it to a background noise like that of nature, that gave him these benevolent thoughts.
Quote:
7.15 This further experience also I gained: I said to myself, I will not plant beans and corn with so much industry another summer, but such seeds, if the seed is not lost, as sincerity, truth, simplicity, faith, innocence, and the like, and see if they will not grow in this soil, even with less toil and manurance, and sustain me, for surely it has not been exhausted for these crops. Alas! I said this to myself; but now another summer is gone, and another, and another, and I am obliged to say to you, Reader, that the seeds which I planted, if indeed they were the seeds of those virtues, were wormeaten or had lost their vitality, and so did not come up.

He considers most most things to have metaphorical or spiritual parallels. This is for me the thrust of his transcendentalism. But I'm not sure to what extent this is a personal reflection. Did these crops of sincerity, truth, etc. not come up in him, or did he hope for a general harvest across society, and now sees that the world is the same.



Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:27 am
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Why Thoreau Grew Beans

DWill wrote:
But he is partly mystified by his attention to this husbandry, and he realizes that his work pushes him to the verge of drudgery. Drudgery was somethng he insisted we could all avoid with a little wisdom.


Perhaps I can lift a corner of the veil on this mystery.

For years after his brother's death, Thoreau could not hear his name without tears coming to to his eyes, and here he is in a field of johnswort, his Golden Bough.

Remember, Will, Thoreau is recalling and memorializing the soul of his dead brother:

Quote:
Be thou my Muse, my Brother -- . (A Week)


In ancient thought, beans mediate the return of the souls of the dead
through their hollow stems. They are, therefore, as the Gates of
Hades:

"...why Pythagoreans abstain from beans...because they are like the
gates of Hades, [the stems] alone [of all plants] being without
joints,"
http://users.ucom.net/~vegan/beans.htm

"Beans contain the souls of the dead (Pliny)"
http://at.yorku.ca/t/o/p/c/26.txt

Tom



Last edited by Thomas Hood on Sat Aug 30, 2008 9:54 am, edited 2 times in total.



Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:58 pm
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Tom, thanks for your insight into this. For him to admit unawareness of his motive does make one feel that he must be feeling a strong, underlying unconscious push.
Will



Sat Aug 30, 2008 8:39 am
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About growing 'beans' and stuff like that . . . in the spring, I put a half pack of dried soup mix in a large pot, watered it, and let it do it's 'thing'.

I was surprised - I learned there were two things I was wrong about . . .

1) that growing foliage from a food pack won't give you flowers and/or vegetation - they haven't been fertilized for this purpose;

2) once I realized that the growth would indeed 'flower', I said 'well, it certainly won't give beans or peas'.

I was pleased as punch when my big pot of soup mix boomed with greenery, gave little flowers and actually popped some peas and beans.

I didn't really care if I got to eat it, so when the growth got too big and just looked like a messy hairdo, I chopped it all up and scattered it for the birds and squirrels.

Image

Image



Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:01 pm
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DWill wrote:
Ideally, humans are such a connecting link between the wild and the cultivated. But, he would say, more typically humans see no value in the wild and want only to "redeem" it by subjugating it.


I'm guilty of this, Will . . . I like adding wild flowers and greens to my gardening - the building lot here is like a big sprawl of woodland, and many of my little plots are actually wild stuff that I've 'cultivated'.

Later this afternoon, for instance, I plan to go down by the pond and come back with a hawwwwwuge bag of Queen Anne's Lace deadheads.

Sometimes I chide myself for this, but most times I do not . . . I figure I'm not destroying plants by deadheading them and I am greening up the environment by spreading them around.

As for them being 'weeds' . . . weeds, schmeeds . . . weeds are plants that are growing where you don't want them growing.

I like 'weeds' . . . if the neighbours are worried about them 'intruding' on their blue hat society garden beds, then they'll just have to put on their little gloves and 'weed' them out.

If you'd like to see pics of my gardening and the big lot where I garden, click here . . .

http://wildcity.proboards14.com/index.c ... =gardening



Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:13 pm
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WildCityWoman wrote:
About growing 'beans' and stuff like that . . . in the spring, I put a half pack of dried soup mix in a large pot, watered it, and let it do it's 'thing'.


Nice photo. I think the fine foliage plants are lentils.

Tom



Sun Sep 07, 2008 1:42 pm
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I dunno' . . . peas, beans . . . yes, I guess they were lentils. I'm not much of a veggie farmer, I don't really know what they're like when growing.



Sun Sep 07, 2008 6:18 pm
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Another thing . . . he said he rather see beans than grass . . . so why did he buy grass?

I don't understand why he would want grass. Maybe for animals to graze?

- and -

One of the neighbours advised him to cover his planting with 'chip dirt'.

What does he mean by 'chip dirt'?



Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:53 am
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He said to work at your crop 'while the dew is on'.

Does anybody know why he would advise that - is it better for the plants?

Maybe it's because the soil is moist and it's easier to dig, to hoe? I dunno' . . .



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WildCityWoman wrote:
About growing 'beans' and stuff like that . . . in the spring, I put a half pack of dried soup mix in a large pot, watered it, and let it do it's 'thing'.

Great photos! It looks like you got some herb plants there. Did you figure out what they are? I never would have thought of planting a soup mix, but why not?
Will



Mon Sep 08, 2008 9:05 am
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Oh, it's peas, beans and like Thomas said - lentils.

I've since cut it all back and put some other stuff in the pot.

It was so long and messy it looked like a bad hair day. Next spring, I'll do it again, only I'll put them along a fence so they can climb all summer.



Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:33 am
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