The Great Black-Eyed Pea Adventure
Our neighbor, Mr. Bunker, planted his large field (about 5 acres) in black-eyed peas this past Spring. It was no small amount to purchase the seed and pay to have the ground plowed and planted. He had every right to keep it all to himself for his family and to have a cash crop. Instead, he graciously opened up the field to our community to come and tend it and reap its harvest together along with his family. We greatly appreciated his offer and spent many hours over several weeks in the Summer sun weeding and then picking the beans when they grew to maturity. It was a great opportunity for our community to learn what it means to come together for a common cause and share God's bounty as a group. It was also the first major crop for the community to cultivate, so this was a new experience on multiple levels.
I learned many things through the experience. The women and children devoted several community work days towards weeding and tending the field, which turned out to be rich times of work, fellowship and getting to know each other better. Working in the field introduced me to the joys of blisters from the Blister Beetle; and I received my first wasp sting, not to mention the potent burning sting of the Stinging Nettle plant. It also forced me personally to come out of my own little homestead world to focus on a larger cause, and required additional discipline to go out into the field even when I didn't "feel" like it or when I was really busy with other things.
The Lord did a little weeding of my own heart during this process as well. The Bible says we are to mortify (kill) the flesh (Rom 8:1-13), the carnal (non-spiritual) man of sin, which means we need to examine ourselves for sins of the flesh. At times when I was tired or really hot and sweaty wanting to quit, I had to reel myself back in and remember to be thankful for this opportunity and provision, and to work for Christ's sake and as unto Him and nobody else. Just as with God's grace, this provision was being offered undeserved as a gift; but I still had to beat down the flesh and submit myself to what was required to persevere to the end (the harvest). The field was so big it felt very overwhelming at times, when the weeds were growing so fast it was impossible to keep up with them. I could usually only get through one half to one row in a one to two hour time period. During the times when it was just me in that big field, my flesh would say, "It's just too big. You're not making a bit of difference. The weeds are going to take over this field, and there won't be any beans left to harvest." It was easy to forget that other members in the community were out there at different times doing the same thing, and we were all in it together. I also found myself at times to be even a little resentful that the entire community couldn't put in more time and were jeopardizing the crop and some deserved more than others because of the different investments of time. The Lord had to remind me (strongly) that this was a REALLY good opportunity to step outside of myself and practice meekness and selflessness. I had to repent of that and remember it was not for myself but for the good of the community. I was saddened and surprised at how quickly my flesh had wanted to take over my spirit.
When it came time to harvest, there was plenty for everyone; and I learned the beans that weren't picked could be turned back into the soil to nourish it. So no part of the whole process was wasted -- another reminder that even when I don't see the big picture, God does, and is in control and all knowing of every aspect of the situation. I believe the spiritual weeding of my heart truly paralleled the physical, and I praise the Lord for His patience with me to teach me these things. It was a valuable lesson in so many areas of my life, and I'm grateful to Mr. Bunker for his personal sacrifice in order for our community to grow spiritually and physically on individual and corporate levels.
I had not eaten black-eyed peas much growing up in California; it seems like more of a southern food. But I am now sold on growing them to harvest and preserve. Did you know it is a three-for-one crop: in that the first harvest produces long, tasty green beans; the second when they are a little dry, the moist bean could be shelled and preserved; and then at the end of the harvest when the bean pods have all dried up, you can go through again and pick the dried pods to shell and keep the black-eyed peas as a dried bean until you're ready to cook them, or use them to re-plant. Wow!
Here are a couple of five-gallon buckets from the first green bean stage harvest:
I was able to pressure can over 20 quarts:
And here are the dried beans we harvested. It doesn't look like much, but this represents a lot of food for the two of us:
We thank the Lord again for His direct spiritual and physical provisions and lessons from the experience of this first community crop. I hope I will have grown in spiritual maturity the next time, Lord willing, and pray for God's blessing on Mr. Bunker and his family for their sacrifice and love for the community.