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December 11, 2013
No one has ever accused me, even in kidding, of being a master gardener. Now, I do raise some things—lots of flowers and even some stuff we can eat. Mostly tomatoes.
But this year for some reason I got carried away and decided I wanted a
garden. Nothing giant. So I staked of a plot in a sunny place in the side yard and my son-in-law Brad brought over his tiller to break it up for me. Actually he broke up about twice what I marked off. So when it gets choked with grass I’m blaming Brad for making it too big.
Shortly after I got my little bare spot rowed up and about halfway planted, I went early one morning to Noxubee County and met Gene Moore, who calls Shuqualak his home. He took me see 89-year-old Christiana Clark for a story I’m doing for “Mississippi Roads” about how her farm is nearly self-sufficient. And it probably could be if her son Joe hadn’t fallen in love with all the cows they’ve raised. Now
he doesn’t have the heart to transfer any of them from the pasture to the freezer. He has about 30 head of pets now.
But Joe does milk every morning. Between him and the calf, he gets to take home enough for Mrs. Clark to make butter every other day.
Across the road they already have potatoes big enough to eat. Huge onions and garlic. Tomatoes, of course.
Mrs. Clark told me of another
world that existed here in Mississippi just a couple of generations ago when things like gardens weren’t hobbies. They were a necessity of life. You had to have a garden in order to eat. She told me there were good points about those days but quickly added that she didn’t want to have to live like that again.
I envied her garden. Not a blade of grass in it anywhere. I am trying an experiment in my garden to see if some grass growing will keep the roots of the vegetables cooler, helping them grow better.
But there is one kind of bean I want to make sure I grow successfully in my garden this year. Even though I just set them out the other day, I noticed yesterday that they are already coming up.
These particular beans have been in my family for generations. Grandmother called them shellybeans. My brother-in-law, Hank, who lives in North Carolina, sent me enough of the beans a few years ago to get a stand going for myself. They’ve been in the freezer until just a few days ago. I was relieved that they would still grow.
Some of my ancestors discovered these beans in the wild when they were hired to accompany the Trail of Tears. When they got back home, they packed up and moved to northeast Mississippi, where they had found these beans. Fortunately they gathered plenty of the beans and planted them because the beans never came back in the wild again.
But Grandmother cooked them every time we went to her house. And I haven’t had them since my last aunt died.
So although I don’t have to have a garden in order to live (and I hope it doesn’t kill me to try to keep this one up this summer along with all the other stuff I have to do), I am a little excited to be reviving a part of my past with four rows of the bean that brought my family to Mississippi to begin with.
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