Until recently, I did not fully realize just how connected I have been with pecans over the course of my lifetime. My first memory of pecans came when I was a young girl, slowly nibbling my Grandma Knuth’s (Kuh NOOTH) pecan sticky rolls in order to savor their gooey wonderfulness for as long as I could. She did not make them often because she claimed pecans were too expensive to bake with or liberally include in recipes. I guess pecans were fairly expensive back in the 1960’s and 1970’s – and I know they still are today.
My next memory of pecans, was more of a hands-on experience, even though I was still living in Nebraska at the time where the climate is much too cold and pecan trees are scarce if they grow there at all. My mother-in-law at the time, had a sister who lived in Tulsa Oklahoma and had a pecan tree in her front yard. She hated for the pecans to go to waste, so she picked them up and brought large, brown-paper grocery bags full of pecans to her family in Nebraska each winter. Every time I visited my in-laws, my mom-in-law, Opal, and I would sit at the kitchen table for hours, shelling pecans, visiting about life, and having a lot of good laughs. Of course, we also ate a few of the pecans while we were cracking and shelling – “Just to be sure they were still good”, she would say. With some of the fruits of our labor, Opal made some kind of peanut butter pecan cookies that were out of this world! Amazingly, she completely made the recipe up, reinventing it every time as she dumped ingredients together. As a result, each batch never quite tasted the same, but those cookies were always fabulous and just loaded with pecans!
Years later, I divorced and moved to Oklahoma. The first year I lived here, there was a bumper crop of pecans, and a co-worker down the street who had a backyard full of them, was elated that I wanted to pick them up when she offered. These folks hated having “the trashy pecans” all over their yard, so I would be doing them a favor by gathering them! While harvesting them, I learned these were Paper Shell pecans, which have a thinner shell than the Native pecans and are much easier to crack open and clean. With that knowledge, I was sacking up bags of pecans with such exuberance that I overloaded myself with pecans that I would have to shell throughout the winter months. Doing this tedious work all by myself, literally tore my fingers to shreds. So after that first year’s experience, I took my bags of pecans to a nut facility about an hour away and had them “cracked and blown” so that all I had to do was pick the nut meat out of the processed nuts and discard shell debris. Let me tell you, this new shelling method was well worth the cost! During those years when I was able to collect the paper shell pecans, it was common for me to bring my family in Nebraska fifty pounds or more of cleaned pecans. Grandma Knuth couldn’t believe how “fresh and crisp” those pecans were, and she was especially thrilled that they were in “halves and not those dried-out, little pieces” she was used to buying in the grocery store.
When FD and I married and eventually moved to Ten-Acre Ranch, I no longer had to ask permission of neighbors and friends to pick pecans from their yards, as we had several pecan trees here on the property to gather nuts from. We also gained permission to pick from the pecan orchard next door. After living here a few years, however, I found I had less time to pick pecans except for a few bags to keep on hand for squirrel rehabilitation. Squirrels absolutely LOVE pecans! And after freeing orphaned fawn Daisy to the wild, instead of taking time to gather pecans, I found myself just roaming the pecan orchard and adjoining river bottom, either walking along with her, following her from a slight distance, or searching for her. Doing this, I discovered a different kind of tranquility and beauty under the canopy of shade provided by the stately, old pecan trees. Opportunities for photographing wildlife were numerous among the magnificent pecans. Mostly though, I understood Daisy deer’s desire to venture from home to the pecan orchard and the old river channel. This new territory presented a vast area with a diverse array of plants and browse that deer love. Seeing this, I could not blame her for exploring beyond our limited property boundaries, as I often found myself needing a quiet space, away from the noise and confines of living on the outskirts of town.
So, I found it quite fitting that, when FD and I ventured out in the electric buggy yesterday afternoon, we found Daisy deer bedded down in the willow patch, just a short distance from our gate in a corner of the pecan orchard. Likely, she was keeping watch over her little buck resting somewhere nearby, while chewing her cud and doing a little resting herself. Seeing our beautiful girl in such a tranquil setting, FD and I looked at each other with big smiles on our faces. I would say we were more than a little bit giddy and elated. Daisy was the sign we had not expected to see, although there had been signs all along the way for the past month or two. Everything had fallen into place without a hitch. And just an hour before, the deal had been sealed. Daisy and her babies, and Emma and Ronnie, and future wildlife would be more protected in this area now. FD stepped gently on the buggy’s accelerator as we drove away from Daisy at a very slow pace, not wanting to disturb her or her little boy from their resting spots. We traveled quietly on west along the fence line, still smiling at each other and gazing up at the huge pecan trees all around us, all the while enjoying our first moments as the new owners of the pecan orchard.
© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…