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This Year's Peas

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OK, peas and I, we go a long way back. We've had our good year (somewhere around 2003) and our bad years (too many to name). We've fought rabbits and mostly lost. We've tried trellising of all sorts, elaborate and almost nonexistent, decorative and ugly.

The truth is, peas are worth fighting for. Not snap peas or snow peas--I'm talking the real peas. The kind in shells that you can't eat. The kind that are fat, sweet garden nectar of the gods. The kind you have to work for. The kind you can sometimes buy in stores, but they are starchy and not very tasty. The kind if you're lucky and get to the farmer's market early, early, early, you might be able to find fresh and sweet. Yes, those peas. If I could only plant one thing, it would be those peas.

This year, St. Patrick's Day came and there was a six-inch crust of icy snow over the garden. So I wasn't going to plant them on time. The next weekend, I was feeling sort of already bummed about this year's pea crop when I decided to look up biodynamic planting and make sure the planetary alignment was right for planting peas. I mean, I will try anything to get a good crop of peas. Lo and behold, it said not to plant anything for another two weeks. As much as I want peas, I also love a good excuse to procrastinate. And so I waited two weeks.

Two weeks later, the weekend came and it was lovely, warm, and sunny. I was feeling kind of relaxed, and my straw-covered garden looked so lovely and inviting. I got out the hoe and remembered what I've learned lately from The Rodale Institute about how any sort of tilling is bad for all the living things in the soil--it's like tearing down the houses they spent all winter building. So I decided to try a new approach, one inspired by Manitoba Fukuoka in The One-Straw Revolution: He coats the seeds in clay and sprinkles them on the earth the way nature would.

I sat down. I sat on the straw and gently brushed some away and inserted each pea with my thumb in my soft, dark, wet, and fragrant soil. Except where I hit a rock or a worm, they went right in. Interestingly, taking the slow, thumb-pushing approach, I got four whole rows of peas out of two packs. Normally I would have overplanted and dropped them all in too close together. Hmmm, I thought to myself. This is getting interesting.

Next, I went inside I went to my Gardener's Supply catalog to get the most basic, practical, functional, and most importantly MANAGEABLE, trellising I could find. Turns out, they have a new biodegradable netting that you can put on a frame, and when the peas are done (yes, I'm applying positive thinking), you just put the whole tangled mess on your compost pile. Now we are talking! Easy cleanup! I ordered some.

And then it snowed.

Fortunately, my peas weren't up yet to get frostbitten! So now I'm just waiting. Waiting to see what happens. I thought about putting up a "pea cam," but something tells me it wouldn't be as interesting as a chick cam. So you'll just have to wait with me. But I have a good feeling about this year. In fact, I've got a "peas-ful" easy feeling.

I'll keep you posted.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com

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