Sunday, June 12, 2011

First (meager) Harvest

Today was our first official harvest from the garden.  Well, technically I’ve been given two very un-ripe Roma tomatoes from Rhiannon before this; she has a knack for picking not-quite-ready produce from the gardens (and stepping on squash plants, ripping up tomato seedlings, etc.).

I sowed four 4’ sections of Early Gray Peas directly into the ground earlier this spring.  Most of them survived the deluge we received last month & were just starting to show signs of heat-exhaustion (or whatever you want to call it) from the heat wave we’ve had the past three weeks.  If I had to guess, I’d say there forty plants that survived.  The plants on the southernmost raised beds did the best while the ones on the opposite side didn’t do half as well.  Not sure if it’s because the southern bed received more sun or what.
I actually have no idea if it was time to pick the peas (being a first-time pea-picker), but the leaves on the vines were starting to turn yellow in some spots and some of the larger pods were just starting to take on a yellow-greenish tinge as opposed to the bright green pods.  We also sampled many of them as we walked by lately and the larger ones weren’t as sweet and even starting to taste a bit starchy.  So I figured now was good enough. 

From the sixty or so plants I started, here’s what we got:

Two & a half cups of shelled peas.  That’s like one side dish for four people.  For one meal. 
Now don’t get me wrong…..I was happy to get them.  And I’m also painfully aware that we didn’t do much in the garden this year so I didn’t even harbor the slightest hope of having enough peas to put in the freezer.  But it was a painful realization for me.  We are so very, very lacking in the garden department. 
Rhiannon "helping" shell peas.

Can you imagine how many rows of peas you’d have to plant and keep alive until harvest to provide your family with enough to eat during harvest season as well as putting some up for the winter?  I suppose peas aren’t the best example as I’m not sure how well peas can, but you get my drift.
I know that there are many people who do manage to grow enough to get their family through a year, but in general I suspect that there are many, many more that are only providing a small part of their vegetable / fruit needs from their own garden.
I’m not knocking those that don’t have the time, money or labor (or even urge) to grow a year’s worth of food for their families as I believe any little bit helps.  Even if it’s just a few buckets of tomatoes or peppers on your patio you’re still providing more than if you did nothing.  It’s just that now my mind is reeling with the amount of effort required to attain such a garden that I wouldn’t have to buy canned stuff at the grocery.
If you've read The Little House on the Prairie books, do you remember when Laura’s teacher brought an orange for each student to take home for Christmas?  Do you remember how utterly ecstatic she was to receive such an exotic gift?  And to think it really wasn’t that long ago.
For those of us not living in Florida or California, can you imagine going to the supermarket and not being able to get bananas, oranges or grapefruits?
Or how about the fact that we can get those same fruits, or even native fruits in the dead of winter?
I’m starting to ramble on now.  But I suppose my point is that we are so very, very lucky to be able to have a grocery store that can provide us with items we would not only be unable to grow on our own land, but also be able to get those items in the middle of February.
So what happens when that ever-so-delicate web of food logistics gets a snag?  Just look at the stores during a hurricane or blizzard warning; the lines, the mobs, the empty shelves.  And that’s what happens when there is a day or two warning and the supply lines are still functioning. 

I’m not suggesting that TEOTWAWKI is imminent (although I’m not NOT suggesting it won’t happen), but I think it would be cheap insurance to sharpen up those gardening skills and keep your pantry stocked.  You have home, auto and life insurance don’t you?  So why don’t more people have pantry “insurance”?

Time to rip those pea vines out and replace them with something else.


  1. I've never had a large harvest of peas either, mostly because I too, probably don't time it right or plant them on both sides of the trellis :) Been there done that! But I refuse to give up! So we will have to keep each other in good spirits and keep trying!

  2. So true. I plant my little raised beds and realize that my 10 pea plants will provide (maybe) a couple of meals for me. I am a little better prepared in the bean area. But I also know that I have to add more beds and make a concerted effort to grow at least MOST of what I eat. Some things I just buy from local farms - like sweet corn. But it's good to be aware.

  3. Such a great post! I too have been thinking similar thoughts. This is only my second year at it and we are already evaluating what flourishes and what struggles. The problem is that we're spoiled. I want to eat that Idaho potatoe when I should eat sweet potatoes because that is what I can grow in this climate. I want my grocery store in my garden. And you're absolutely right. I don't have enough garden to supply me for a year. I still go to the market to supplement what I can't produce. I am trying to stock my pantry but I'd be in trouble after a month or so. It's amazing that we've lost those skills.

  4. I, too, have been overwhelmed at times with the amount of space, time and work it would take to grow enough of anything to last until I have a new supply the next year. Our garden area looked small until I began trying to fill it this spring. I finally finished planting (for now) two days ago. What a relief! :)