Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
Every year, I pick a new vegetable or fruit and attempt to grow it from seed to plant to food. In spite of some great big failures (there’s just no way I’m going to get melons to grow in this yard), more often than not, I can delight in small successes like I did two summers ago when I grew black eyed peas.
I spent an April weekend constructing an “S” shape structure with leftover dog fencing and salvaged bamboo. My space was so limited that I knew my harvest would be modest, but I loved my artistic trellis and proceeded to plant seeds on both sides.
As those seeds turned into vines and climbed midway up their metal ladders, I planted another set of seeds to follow right along behind. Tendrils matured into long green strands grasping at every opportunity to hold on and lift those long black eyed pea pods off the ground.
When the first pods had dried on the vine, I snapped a few photos, posted on Facebook, then took them inside to shell into my Mason jar. Upon seeing the photos, one of my friends commented how she loved black eyed peas. This same dear friend had also recently lost a loved one and was grieving, tired, and lonely.
After shelling my first handful of peas, I looked at my Mason jar. I knew that over the course of the summer that I’d probably not even collect enough to fill most of that jar. I had done what I set out to do–see if I could grow them. Now, it was time to share them with someone who would appreciate the gift of homegrown goodness.
Every day I brought those pods inside, I’d crack the dried outer shells open and think about my friend. Each little pea that clinked into the jar became an opportunity to pray for her or send positive thoughts her way. After I’d finished the task, I’d put that jar back up in my cabinet and wait patiently for the next harvest. Day by day, many prayers were lifted up and many thoughts were passed along. I smiled thinking of our friendship and cried reflecting on her loss.
By mid autumn, I gathered the last of the peas. As the last one dropped into the jar, I thought about how far my friend had come since I began harvesting those prayer peas. With the holidays nearing, however, I knew that this year of “firsts” would be overwhelming. I took those prayer peas and shared them with her. I wanted her to know that I couldn’t take away her grief, but that I had loved her enough to keep her in my thoughts and prayers while giving her the time she wanted to mourn and heal.
What I cherish about gardening and homesteading is the opportunity it affords me to share my love for others by preparing healthy food and preserving family traditions. It is more than just a gift; it is my way of honoring how much I value the person by giving them a piece of my garden, a piece of Creation, a piece of myself.