Pecans

Pecan pie may be what every pecan aspires to be.

I have two pecan trees in my yard. Hurricane Zeta knocked all of the pecans out at one time. They’re good pecans too. We picked up half a five gallon bucket just off the porch. I’ve tried to inspire the children to pick up pecans, but I don’t think they’ve caught the vision yet.

I grew up in the remnants of a pecan orchard. At one time there were probably thirty or forty trees behind our house and the next three neighbor’s houses. By the time I was a kid there were only about seven left. Over the years some of those pecan trees were blown down in different storms. We’d play on a fallen tree for days until someone came over with a chainsaw and hauled it away. Dad used a lot of that wood to grill and barbecue.

Very often Dad required us to pick up a five gallon bucket of pecans before we could go gallivanting around town with Jared and Creed. I can’t lie and say that picking up pecans is fun, or has ever been fun. But we did it. We would sell them to the local grocery store Smith’s, where I’m sure some grandmother would buy them, shell them, and make with them a delicious pecan pie. Nowadays we would have marketed them as handpicked, and it would’ve been true since we threw the pecans with wormholes into the kudzu patch.

Pecan pie may be what every pecan aspires to be. I used to think that it was the only pleasant way to eat a pecan. Fresh pecans cracked in your hands- take two pecans in one hand and squeeze with all your might until one of them cracks-have always had a slightly bitter taste to me. I still do it out of nostalgia though, and to impress my kids, but pecans are ingredients, not stand alone snacks.

Pecans need some love, or sugar as we say in the South, to really come alive. Candied pecans, praline pecans, cinnamon and sugar pecans-they all taste great even though I’d be hard pressed to tell you how to make them.

For all their bitterness, I still love pecans. It makes me think about being a kid. I also think pecans are pretty with their dark streaked shells and their orange to yellow meat inside. I like the smell of pecans, and the oily feel of the fresh meat.

I think I finally understand why Dad wanted us to pick the pecans up. The harvest was just laying on the ground, all we had to do was pick it up. As an adult, waste bothers me. So I’ve been picking up pecans when I get a chance. When I get an afternoon where I don’t have a deadline approaching I’m going to figure out how to make something sweet out of those bitter pecans.

Gardening Tips: How to Get Rid of Zucchini

“Don’t leave your window down when you go to the Warehouse Discount Grocery. Somebody is liable to put a sack of zucchini in your car.”

As many of you know, I was volunteered to grow a garden this Spring. It’s been doing pretty good. Except my zucchini. They’re out of control. I’d like to share a few of my tips for getting rid of zucchini.

1. Take it to Church.

People at church have a hard time saying no. Even if they don’t like zucchini, they will smile and be nice. This is a good place to get rid of zucchini. Problems can arise though. People will start to notice you bringing in a grocery sack full of zucchini and they may start to avoid you.

2. Covert Charity

Before you start to lose friends at church, I suggest getting rid of zucchini through random acts of kindness. Nothing makes a thing so fun as knowing you’re not supposed to be doing it. Putting a sack of zucchini in someone’s car without getting caught is one of the most thrilling things about gardening.

You can also set a sack of produce on someone’s door step in the middle of the night. The danger in this is they may use a different door and might not discover the zucchini until they have turned bad-the zucchini, not the people. (I could have reworded that sentence to make it more clear, but I’m feeling rebellious today.) That is the paradox of gardening: you grow things you don’t particularly like and you don’t want them to be wasted.

A sack of Zucchini on it’s way to an unsuspecting family’s doorstep.

3. Sell It.

It is possible to sell your vegetables. You can put up a little booth in your front yard with a hand painted sign that may say something like, “Fresh Vegetables For Sale”. The font should be a bit shaky, similar to the “E995” signs you see for people selling cackle-fruits. That way people know you are genuine country folks and are therefore trustworthy. You may get more traffic if you misspell zucchini. The problem with a booth is you have to always be home to make the transaction, and you may end up having a lot more conversations than you are prepared to have. You would probably have to rely on the honor system.

The other option is to sell your vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. You need the right salesman though. No one wants to buy vegetables from a guy in his early thirties. You need an older man in overalls that is prone to falling asleep in his lawn chair as your sales rep. Or a cute little kid.

4. Eat It.

This is a last ditch effort to get rid of zucchini. I’ve listed a few creative ways to serve zucchini because you can only eat so much zucchini bread before needing to go up a pant size. I can provide recipes for the sincerely interested, but I cannot guarantee that the finished product will be edible.

  • Zucchini Au Gratin
  • Zucchini Ice Cream
  • Zucchini Pie
  • Zucchini Pizza Crust
  • Zucchini Ricota turnovers
  • Zucchini Pesto Patato Salad
  • Zucchini Baked Potatoes
  • Zucchini & Sausage Omelettes
  • Zucchini Tacos
  • Zucchini Soup
  • Zucchini Fricassee

Now I made up most of those recipes on the spot. Aside from zucchini ice cream most of those sound pretty appetizing. The key to eating zucchini is using a little creativity. If you have 4o lbs of zucchini you won’t be upset if one or two recipes turn out to be a dud.

Anyway, I hope your garden is growing well. If you don’t have a garden I hope your neighbor’s is doing well. If you don’t have any neighbors…just come to church with me. I’ll bring you some zucchini.

Rabbits

The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle.

Wesley just chased a lethargic rabbit halfway around the garden and up the fence line behind the barn. The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle. He must have doubted Wesley’s accuracy with the bamboo javelin he had poised for throwing. It looked a bit like a Road Runner cartoon in slow motion.

I have seen rabbits run a lot faster. Like the time we were working in the hayfield and had just stopped to get a drink of water to keep from dying from exhaustion in the sweltering heat. Up sprang a little rabbit. My brother jumped up chased him halfway across the hayfield before catching him in dive. He was parallel with the ground, arms stretched out in front of him. The rest of us watched cooly from the shade of the truck and sipped the ice cold water from little dixie cups. Zach panted triumphantly back to the truck and held out a tiny rabbit that was visibly throbbing from adrenaline and fear.

“You boys ain’t tired if you can still catch rabbits.” Pop said as he stirred us back to work, as if I had been out there chasing rabbits along with Zach.

Not surprisingly, the best rabbit story I can offer comes from my Dad. Back during the Reagan administration, my parents and Uncle Tony were setting on the front porch of the house were I was raised. Dad was leaning against the column and drinking a Pepsi from a glass bottle when someone noticed a rabbit out next to the kudzu. That’s about thirty yards away, depending on the last time the grass was cut. Kudzu can grow about a yard a day. Uncle Tony tried to hit the rabbit with a rock, but he missed. Which is not surprising since his glasses are as thick as mine. The rabbit tensed up and sat frozen while Dad took the last swig of his drink. Then he held onto the post with one hand and leaned out into the front yard and casually lobbed the empty glass bottle over a crepe myrtle tree in the general direction of the rabbit. The bottle struck the rabbit square in the head and killed it graveyard dead.

I’ve never intentionally killed a rabbit. Even when I was conned into going hunting in the back yard with Dad and Zach. I don’t remember what exactly we were hunting, but I jumped a rabbit in the sage patch and watched him bounce away while I held my shotgun on my shoulder.

“Hey, there goes a rabbit.” I said proudly.

“Why didn’t you shoot it?” My Dad laughed.

Now that I have a garden, I can relate a lot more to Farmer Brown and Elmer Fudd than Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. I’m almost ready to start intentionally killing rabbits. I’ve taken the first step by giving Wesley a slingshot and a sack of marbles.

Thanks for reading, sharing, and for your continued Support.

Zane Wells

Gardening

I came home from a bike ride a couple of weeks ago to find Bro. Art unloading his John Deere tractor in my driveway. “Where do you want this garden?”

I came home from a bike ride a couple of weeks ago to find Bro. Art unloading his John Deere tractor in my driveway. “Where do you want this garden?” he asked as he was walking off the porch with my bicycle pump.

I looked around a little surprised to see Sis. Pat and Sarah walking around and pointing in the back yard. “This trailer tire is a little low, I’ll have to check it when I get back home.” Bro. Art said. I huffed and puffed on the pump while he surveyed the property.

“I don’t need a very big plot Bro. Art.” I finally said, thinking I didn’t need a plot at all.

Bro. Art

“Well what all you want to grow?” He asked.

For a split second I thought about the vegetables that I really enjoyed eating. “I guess some squash, green beans, and peppers.” I said. “And tomatoes.” I’m not sure why I said tomatoes. I hate tomatoes. Maybe hate is a strong word, but I don’t eat raw tomatoes. But I said it clear as day. A garden in Alabama isn’t complete without tomatoes.

“Ok. I’ll plow you up this little patch right here. You can put your corn on the North end.” He said, pointing around on the ground. “You can plant your zucchini and cucumbers right here, and okry over there. You like okry?”

“Yes sir.”

Bro. Art proceeded to plow up a piece of ground about four times the size of what I thought we needed.

So that’s how I got back into gardening. Although I’ve been around gardening most of my life, I’ve never been an active gardner. I can’t remember Pop not having a garden. Up until now, my role in the garden has always been purely muscle. I once planted an acre and a half of watermelon seeds by hand. More than once I’ve stuck my finger into a rotten potatoes while digging up the same potatoes I helped plant-a feeling that you won’t soon forget. I’ve staked and strung about fifty miles of tomatoes. I’ve picked countless acres of corn. I’ve shoveled goat manure every kind of way you can imagine in the name of gardening. Now that I’m an adult I wish that I would have paid more attention to the details of gardening. Especially since I can no longer rely on the knowledge and experience of my father. Dad would have been excited to know that I’m planting a garden.

“My grandfather had a farm. My father had a garden. I have a can opener.”

Jimmy Tony

Like Bro. Art, Pop has always planted a much bigger garden than he might have needed. It is probably safe to call Pop a small scale farmer, and not a gardener. “It’s a gamble.” He told me when I asked about when to plant. You never know how much of the crop is going to come up.

Dad started a garden at our house when I was a teenager. I remember a conversation that is a little embarrassing to share with you.

“Dad, I’ll cut the grass, but I really don’t want to work in the garden.”

He chuckled, “That’s alright, I wasn’t expecting you to help. This is my garden.” I was surprised when I realized that he wasn’t upset with me. I think he knew what it was like to have to work in the garden without a choice, and he didn’t want that for his kids.

As silly as it may sound, one of the main reasons I did not want to work in the Dad’s garden was my hands; I wanted to keep my hands clean. And I still do. I don’t like lotion, or long fingernails. I think it’s a guitar player thing.

It did not take long for Sarah and I to get more than a little excited about gardening. We went to Chambers Garden Center and bought some seeds and plants. I got Better Boy tomatoes because that’s what Dad always planted.

A funny thing happened when got back home and started putting the plants into the ground. I was more concerned about the plant than keeping my hands clean. I looked down and my hands were covered in dirt. I had to laugh at myself.

Two days after I planted my garden we had a large storm pass over us, dumping buckets of rain down on my tender plants and seeds. A tornado touched down just a few miles South of our house that night. I sat in the closet with my family and listened to James Spann guide us through the storm. You can laugh if you want, but I was worried about my garden. Will this rain wash away my seeds? Did I plant to early? Can my plants withstand this storm? What if nothing comes up? I think this may be what gardening feels like.

There are somethings that I can tell you about and there is a good chance that you’ll appreciate them, but nothing can compare to experiencing them for yourself. Such is planting a seed and watching it spring up out of the ground. I wish my Dad were here to see my garden. I know he would be happy to offer advice and guidance, but I think he’d be even more proud that I did it on my own. With a generous dose of help from Bro. Art of course.