Beans are one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden. Whenever I don't get out quickly enough to harvest I leave the bean pod on and allow it to go to seed. Certain bean plants will stop producing if you allow them to go to seed so you just have to know which bean plants you can do this with.
I planted 4 different varieties this year. A valentine bean that is a heritage variety going back to at least the 1880's (shown on the left). A rattlesnake bean that our youngest had fun watch grow, a Brown Betty Baked Bean that is used specifically for drying and a regular bush bean for eating. I think they are all so beautiful. The Valentine bean I especially enjoy as once they are cooked they loose their red colour (unfortunate really) but it's like magic to kids with no chemicals involved. This is a bean that doesn't get mushy once cooked and has a rich flavour that regular store bought beans can't compare too.
I can't say I was completely surprised by the work involved in drying my own beans but I can say that I greatly respect the time it would have taken our great grandparents to grow, harvest, dry and store enough beans to get them through the winter months! Our little guy helped me shell them all which took us a few hours and sore fingers after awhile. In the end, we were able to dry enough to make 3 cups of dried beans that I will use later in the winter for chili's and such. To dry the beans place in a dry area of the home on a cookie sheet and shake them back and forth everyday until they become hard. Do not put them in jars damp or they will sprout or mold and all your hard work will be lost.