I picked a basketful of peas this evening, and sat outside shelling them. One and a half hours and many black fly bites later, I had one and a half cups of shelled peas in my bowl.
While I was shelling, I thought about the history of those peas—the sunny day in February when I bought the seeds; the frigid day in late March when I pushed them one by one into the icy mud with my planting stick. Then there were the weeks when I stared at the bare spot in the garden where the peas were supposed to be and felt certain that the seeds had all frozen to death.
By the time the little seedlings emerged, all kinds of weeds had made a head start, so I pulled them out. There was a dry spell in May when the growing pea plants had to be watered daily. Then the rains came, and with them avalanches of new weeds to pull. Overnight, the pea plants grew to maturity and needed supports, which I provided. Finally there came the cute little pea blossoms, and then the real thing, sweet and delicious.
It takes me half an hour to shell half a cup of peas, which probably signifies a yield of a pea a minute. But if I count the time expended beginning with that trip to the hardware store to buy seeds, through the planting and weeding and harvesting, my rate is probably closer to an hour for every pea.
More peas are out there ripening even as I write. Should I devote these waning summer evenings to picking and shelling, or should I rip up those pea vines tomorrow, and feed them to the goats?