It is March. The snow has melted and the soil has dried out enough to til. Time to get the peas in. It is a rite of spring passage. Like witnessing the early morning take off of the migrating snow geese at Middlecreek Wildlife Management’s lake, and watching the wood frogs mate in our tiny back yard pond as they make the water boil with their girl humping activity and bullying each other to take their turn. The spring peepers go crazy in the shallow vernal pools and the towhee has returned- we hear its song in the morning as well as a dozen other new voices that I can’t identify but glean intense happiness from just knowing they are here or are passing through. They are all symbols of change and change for the better, and hope. No one is ever sad about spring returning.
I place the hard round pale yellow peas in the ground- two inches apart. I push them slightly down in with my index finger. The goats bleat in their nearby pen, the roosters crow, the wind blows my hair around and the sun shines warmly. It always makes me sing that American children’s folk song…
“Inch by inch,
row by row,
gonna make my garden grow,
all it takes is a rake and a hoe
and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row,
someone bless these seed I sow,
someone warm them from below
til the rain comes tumbling down.”
I want to plant peas every spring. I don’t want to miss it. I miss planting other seeds throughout the spring as my husband revolves planting around his schedule. But I never want to miss planting peas. Because it is one of the first signs and rituals of spring. I think the peas taste better too when I eat them in the summer because I helped them get their start in life.
My father had a garden in our residential neighborhood yard but I did not help with the planting or the weeding. I had no interest and my father did not make me. I do remember helping with the peach harvest however, as we had a few dwarf fruit trees in the yard. I was a child who did not always know boundaries or what moderation is and can remember eating delicious juicy peaches for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks inbetween meals because I loved them so. My whole body broke out in hives because of the excess but that did not dilute my intense love of peaches- they are still my favorite fruit.
While I waited for my husband to put up the fence and rake a trench for my peas, I walked the garden with my head down, holding dandelion leaves in my mind’s eye. I held a stainless steel colander to my chest with a kitchen shears inside for the wind was so strong and whipping, it wanted to pull my tender cut dandelion leaves right out of my container.
The Pennsylvania Germans have a delicious vinegar, egg and sugar hot dressing that they put on endive or dandelion. Dandelion picking is another spring rite of passage and it contains tremendous nutrients and tonics to keep your liver, kidneys and gaul bladder in fine working order. It is free extremely healthy food, growing like weeds.
My kids loved chickweed when they were small. They picked it and put it in salads and just for shits and giggles one time, Bryce dumped salad dressing right on a clump in the flower garden and got down on all fours and ate it like his pet goats. ..upping the fun factor when it comes to harvesting wild edibles and having lunch.
Both children live in the city right now- one in Boulder and the other in Philadelphia. They say it is not forever and I want to believe that. When the kids are home, they do help with the garden. We weed the same rows and chat as conversation flows easily as well as laughter. I never MADE them garden just as my dad did not make me so maybe they will have the desire to grow their own food someday when they have a plot of ground to live on. Maybe that is all it takes, planting a seed of good living. Even if you don’t see the result right away, it can lie dormant underground until conditions are right. I am hopeful my children will go back to their roots when they have the opportunity to find a place outside the city where they can monitor the changing seasons and find simple joy in honking geese overhead and birds building nests in the rafters and purple crocuses coming up in the grass and planting peas in the spring.