Friday, August 28, 2020

The Miracle and Mystery in Farming A Legacy

We signed the papers the week we got back from our honeymoon. The homeplace that has been in Matthew's family for the last three generations is now entrusted to us.

Wedged between main street and 150+ acres of abandoned ore mines, our little place is odd. It's in town but it feels rural. We see deer graze daily, yet we have neighbors. We deal with traffic noise, but we grow crops and keep chickens. It's strangely right for what we need and where we want to be.

Immediately after buying, we set about trying to put the house right and plant a garden. (I'll be sharing so much more about that in the coming days.) And one of the first things we planted?

Nannie peas.

You all have to hear this story. The story of Nannie peas.

At least that's what Matthew and his identical twin, Mark, grew up calling them. Their Nannie and Papa grew these peas in their garden for decades right here in Cass County. The family grew up with them on the table every family gathering and holiday meal. The tiny cream peas were a staple, and no one ever really considered what they were... they were just there. Papa bought them the first time from a long-gone feed store in the county seat, faithfully saved the seed each year, and grew and cooked them for decades. What were they actually called? No one knew. They were Nannie peas, they went alongside mashed potatoes and meat, and that's all anyone cared about.

In the 1990s, when Nannie and Papa died within months of each other, their children - Matthew's mother, included - found bags of peas from their last garden in the deep freezer. They divided them up and Matthew's mother carried a ziploc bag of the peas home. But cooking the last bag of her parents' peas? That would warrant a special occasion. And, as these things go, the peas waited in the freezer until, 25 years later, she came across them this summer. 

We all stood around and looked at the little battered bag of peas. The bag Nannie herself had shelled and packaged. Would they grow?, Matthew's mother asked. We were planting our garden and had space, but would these peas germinate after 25 years? Could they?

Miracle of all miracles, y'all, they did. The peas came back to life.

In July, we all gathered around the table as a family and had our first taste of Nannie peas in decades. The family said that the house even smelled like Nannie's. As I looked up and watched Matthew eat the fruit of his labor, I wondered how proud Nannie would be of her handsome grandson, all grown up now, growing her favorite heirloom crop and feeding her family once again.

All the feels.

After the cooler temperatures and the rain Hurricane Laura brought us this week, I expect the Nannie peas to set out one last good bloom before fall sets in. Tonight I plan to can about 10 pints of peas for the pantry, and shell several quarts more. It's a labor of love, and one I'm happy to help carry on.

It's a strange legacy, but one I'll gladly help pass down.

Hope you have a wonderful Friday and weekend, friend. If you need me, I'll be in the pea patch or the kitchen.


P.S. We still haven't been able to identify Nannie's pea, and plan to send it off to the experts at Texas A&M this fall. 

1 comment:

Betty said...

Oh I love when you can carry on a legacy! A real feel good story. Thanks Brin!