March 2017

It’s March 16, 2017, and as I write this, I can hear the wind rattling our 80 year old windows as it blows snow from the production fields, across the wildflower meadow, and onto the gravel driveway the boys are halfheartedly trying to shovel off.

This means the wind is blowing in the normal direction, which wasn’t the case two days ago, when a nor’easter blew in from the ocean and, with 65 mph gusts, blew everything in the opposite, including our giant and ancient Norway spruce at the corner of the house.  We watched the tree’s drooping branches bend against its grain, and what was normally swaying and graceful in the “right” wind became jerking and awkward in the storm.

“Jerking and awkward” also describe the boys’ progress on the driveway.  There’s only two shovels between four boys, and none of them really have the desire to even fake a solid work ethic.  The only thing that’s keeping them outside at all is the fact that tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, which in our good Catholic house means Shamrock Shakes from McDonalds. There’s no way my 12 passenger prison bus is getting out of the driveway without some serious snow removal happening first, so unless they want to forfeit the liturgically questionable minty dessert tomorrow, they need to keep on keeping on.

It is deeply annoying to me that the boys have to shovel the driveway at all.  Here, in mid-March.  After all, St. Patrick’s Day is the day I was taught you plant your peas.  

Now, before any New England readers scoff at this, wondering what Sun Belt nonsense I’m spewing, let me make my case.  This bit of planting lore was handed down to me from my mom, a midwesterner to the core, the sixth generation of her family to have lived- and planted!- in Michigan.

I got my love for growing things from my mom.  The house that I grew up in (the very same house she had grown up in, actually) was bounded on all sides by gardens.  She and I would “walk the grounds” whenever I visited from college. She would point out each plant by name, and we would mark the passage of time by how tall her flowering almond, planted as a single, slender twig, had gotten, or by how far her monarda had spread into the sundrops. From my mom I learned how to love growing things, and so when she would head out to the vegetable garden in late winter, package of peas in hand, I would take note.  Michigan winters tending to be more bitterly cold (though less snowy) than they are here in New England, my mother’s perseverance bordered on madness.

When I’d ask her why she was braving freezing temps to go hack at the frozen soil with her shovel, she would say, “Plant your peas by St. Patrick’s Day”, as if this was perfectly obvious.  

Now, as a mother myself, I wonder if this bit of planting lore wasn’t passed on through the generations by women on the brink of winter-triggered insanity. As much as I love my children, I am feeling a Jack Torrance sense of unease about spending so much time indoors with them.  It’s claustrophobic in its intensity, this need to get out, to put my hands in the cold wet soil, to plant something and watch that agricultural miracle unfold before me.  I’m not lying, if there wasn’t snow on the ground, I’d be out there right now, teasing small holes into the frozen soil, feeling the wind scrape across my face and blowing the smell of indoors out of my hair. I would be there with a long line of farmers beside me, ghosts of half-crazed men and women desperately clutching their bags of pea seed, stubbornly looking for a sign that life goes on, has gone on under all that snow, and will continue to go on, sending out pea shoots and tendrils and flowers and pods into a warmer, more verdant future.

The wind is still shaking my ancient windows, and I can feel drafts pouring out from them.  On those drafts are carried the voices of my children, still lukewarmly shoveling the driveway.  I’ll wrap this up and then wrap myself up and go help them. If I can’t have the green of pea seeds tomorrow, at least I’ll have a Shamrock Shake.

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Interested in getting peas (and a whole lot more) every week? There are still spots open in our 2017 CSA program.  Click here for more information.