The Battle for Peas

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You have probably seen the bumper sticker that says “Make Peas.” If it were that simple, American armies would not be in Iraq and my days over the last two months would have been less frustrating. In recent years, the raising of peas on my land has become a raging war between me and the native creatures. Four years ago I put 31 pints of peas in the freezer for future use, the next year none. I was away for a week and came back to find the vines devastated. Over the next three years, I have not harvested enough peas to notice because the creatures nibble off the pea vines and have wiped out between five and seven fifty foot rows of peas every year.

When attacked, I have fought back. I tried mothballs. I tried fencing. Once or twice I set up rolls of hardware cloth around the pea patch, sometimes two foot widths and sometimes four foot widths. The four foot width helped, but not enough. This year, when the crop came up and depredations began, I tested various other strategies. I tried setting mouse traps and had great success – at first. I caught six voles or meadow mice in the first 48 hours, but they quickly learned to avoid them. The depredations resumed and it was two weeks before I caught another.

A defeatist might have given up but, inspired by our President, I decided to surge. I tried sprays: a pepper wax spray, a home made garlic and pepper solution, and finally a product from the Bonide people. The last of these doesn’t identify the active ingredient and talks about spraying it on lawns and flower beds. I wondered whether vegetables were not mentioned because the stuff poisons people as well as mice. I called the Bonide people and they assured me it’s safe. “It’s just castor oil,” said the lady. “Just castor oil!” I remember my mother saying that!

The sprays slowed the creatures down sufficiently that five of this year’s seven rows have survived – though much reduced. And finally, on July 4th, for the first time in four years, there were peas to be harvested.

The first day’s picking is always small and this year’s weighed in at less than two pounds. But that’s largely the weight of the pods. Remove the peas and you still have a pound and a half of pods. In other words, most of what you pick is garbage. Being statistically minded, I counted the pods: 131. The average pod contains about seven peas, so we might estimate that the harvest amounted to 917 peas. That is less than a pint of peas and provided the vegetable for one meal for two people with moderate appetites.

But, hey, pea picking time lasts a week or ten days. This year’s harvest won’t come near the product of four years ago, but should still produce enough to put aside a few pints for family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas. By then the battles of the spring and summer will be largely forgotten and the point of it all will be realized in the savoring of a product whose sweetness is available in no other way.

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