I am lord of beans

Last year’s beans. (PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown)

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Minnesota, will grow lights become less expensive or more expensive?

My query has nothing to do with pot. Age 43 seems like a bad time to start doing pot. But it’s a great time to get really excited about growing beans, which is where I’m at these days.

I don’t have a great spot in my house to start seeds before frost, so I start my beans outside. It’s a dangerous game of chicken between me and frost. As a result, I tend to plant too many seeds out of sheer anxiety.

It says right there on the packet of seeds that you’re supposed to thin the plants when they get to a certain height. They told me to do it. And yet, when I started pulling up little baby bean shoots near the taller seedlings my son Doug protested.

“Why do you get to decide which ones live and which ones die?” he asked.

“Because Burpee says so,” felt like an insufficient answer.

To be clear, my son was messing with me. He’s a teenager, not some pie-eyed little kid. His job is to test the limits of the artifice we call society to see what’s true or not. Whenever I say things like, “der, uh, I guess, um, yeah,” he wins. I presume there is some sort of online celebration on an app I don’t know about.

You have to thin the seedlings so that the strongest ones do better, I told him.

“That’s not natural selection,” he said. So he WAS paying attention in science class.

“So you want me to let the bean plants to fight it out … naturally?”

“Yes,” he said. Apparently that’s how bean plants handle matters in the wild, wherever they’re from.

I did some research and found that beans are native to Mesoamerica and South America. Indigenous Americans have been cultivating them for thousands of years. But they still grow wild in parts of Mexico. The tendency of beans to climb is an evolutionary response to limited sunlight. The higher beans climb, the better their changes of survival.

That’s why my little bean shoots popped up so quickly this spring and why I had to murder the smaller ones in a horrifying botanical pogrom.

My son George jumped in. “It’s natural selection,” he said. “Dad selected.”

This is an argument now.

“Are you saying that dad is God,” retorted Doug.

“I’m not God,” I said.

“He’s the God of beans,” said George.

“Not all beans,” I said. “Just these ones. Because I planted them.”

Then I realized the door I had opened. I might not be God, or even a god. I was not Lord, but I was, in the medieval sense, “lord” of a fiefdom granted me by the divine right of kings. Three squares of dirt, where beans work for me in exchange for protection. I am entitled to take from them whatever I wish. Through generations of conditioning, they will give all I ask.

Is this fair? Is this right? Then again, are not such questions threats to the ancient order of things?

Anyway, if legal pot brings down the price of grow lights I might be able to grow them inside next year. That will reduce the number of dead baby beans. As almighty lord of nearby beans, that’s a relief.

By the way, the beans are growing well this year. Could use some rain, but that’s not my area.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Saturday, June 10, 2023 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.


  1. Kathleen says

    Love this post!

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