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Picked their nuts for a season

Posted by Sara on February 17, 2004

Does anyone know the meaning of the following expression used in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin:
"Well", said Haley, after they had both silently picked their nuts for a season, "what do you say?"

Haley was negotiating for the sale of Tom. Even in context I cannot attach a meaning to this phrase. Thanks for any thoughts.