I’ve been obsessing over my pea patch lately, probably because it’s about the only thing I have growing so far this season. I suppose it’s kind of like being an only child.
I’ve taken to weeding the rows every day. Is it necessary? Probably not, although it’s certainly a fertile patch of ground, and the method I used to start the peas probably contributes to the weediness of it. You may recognize this as last year’s corn patch, and after that was harvested, I threw down a fall green-manure mix of rye, hairy vetch, crimson clover, and field peas. That acted as a cover crop until a couple of weeks ago, when I hacked eight narrow rows into the growth with a hoe and planted my field peas. Ever since then, I’ve been whacking back the inter-row cover crop, mainly the rye at this point, so that the peas have a chance at the rain and what little sun we’ve been getting.
“Every time she bent down, she was saving his back the same effort; every time she pulled a weed, she made his crop greater.” Ken Follet, “World Without End”
So a couple of times every day, I walk the rows with a hoe and trim back anything that’s standing proud between the peas. I’ve just been leaving the weeds where they fall, hoping it’ll act as a mulch between the rows, and maybe returning some of the nutrients. It seems to be working so far.
Like I said, I probably don’t need to do this every day, but I find it very relaxing. Working from home is great, but I need to take a break every once in a while, and having something productive and mindless to do is wonderful. My mind just drifts while I pluck up the weeds, and I end off going on strange tangents. Yesterday, I found myself thinking about a Ken Follett novel set in medieval England that I read a few years back called “World Without End.” Set in the 14th century, it goes into incredible detail about the daily lives of each class of medieval society – peasants, nobles, clergy. One character is Gwenda, described as an ugly peasant girl of 18 who was in love with the village hunk, Wulfric. Unfortunately he was engaged to the pretty but useless Annet, and poor Gwenda just pined away after her unattainable farmer. When Wulfric loses his land to a petty tyrant lord, he’s forced to work other fields, and work them alone. Gwenda can’t stand to see him work so hard, so she pitches in, weeding his fields before sunrise and heading to her own labors. “She was happy working on his land, whether he knew about it or not. Every time she bent down, she was saving his back the same effort; every time she pulled a weed, she made his crop greater.” Gwenda turned weeding into an act of love.
And so I go out there, into my “field” and tend to my “crop” as an expression of love for my family. It’s a little different than it would have been in the 1300’s, of course. Humanity was just barely hanging on at that point – the Little Ice Age had just started with five continuous years of cold, wet summers, and the poor conditions would last into the 1850s, making famine a continual threat; the Black Death was sweeping across Europe; kings and their seemingly recreational wars were commonplace; and a series of brutally-repressed peasant uprisings was just around the corner. Those people had it tough, and a single weed in a wheat field was indeed a mortal threat. Weeds in my peas are perhaps not quite so dramatic, but still, every weed that’s not there is a benefit to my family.
Hopefully I can turn this pea patch into a decent harvest. I’ve started shooting for calorie crops that I can harvest in bulk – if it fills a 5-gallon bucket, I’ll be satisfied. Anything more than that and I’ll be ecstatic. Keeping the weeds at bay seems to be the best bet for getting to that point later this summer, and if it a relaxing spell between the rows with a hoe is what it takes, then so be it.