On looking for shortcuts (and not finding them)

A new garden day dawns over Greenhouse #3.

One of the (perhaps not terribly) surprising things that happens to new gardeners is learning how long it actually takes to accomplish something.  What appears straightforward (harvesting and then shelling fresh peas) is actually a sneaky time-thief that makes a person sigh with exasperation.  A half HOUR to shell two cups of peas?

It sure makes you think about the industrialization of our food system.  Frozen peas, either in baby form or those starchy large ones, are a bit of a modern miracle.  Who are all those people bent over those pea vines?  How DO they do that, if not by hand?  And how in the world do they shell them all?  If you think about the true labor involved if you were to pick and shell them by hand, no child’s plate would ever have uneaten peas.

Lincoln shell pea

But yes, that’s my back bent over the pea patches.  I grow the main 3 types:  shell, snow and sugar.  I would say shell were my favorite…by far, even if they take forever.

Lots of things take forever.  That greenhouse in the foreground of the top photo is a perfect example.  I often find my happiest days generally have me either eight feet up a ladder or on my knees in the dirt somewhere…and it’s a bonus day if I end the day having done both.  But even those days get tiring.  I was on the ladder one 90-degree day recently with the hammer drill setting the wire-lock channel to yet another greenhouse bow and it occurred to me:  is there an app for this?

An app for pea-picking might also be in order.

14 responses to “On looking for shortcuts (and not finding them)

  1. Ah yes, I was prepping strawberries for the freezer and imagining a machine pulling off all those tops, how do they do it? Also finding that the first processing of *anything* seems to take longer this time of year, I’m a little rusty/disorganized.

    And jealous of your peas, not having a good year (and my pea-loving dog is NOT helping!).

  2. We make shelling peas a family event. Last night, me, my wife, my teenage son and my preteen daughter shelled almost 5 cups of peas. Lots of work, that’s for sure. I mentioned to my wife that there are pea shellers on the market and she commented about how that’s no fun. So for the time being, we will shell peas by hand.

  3. Mmmm fresh peas, most of them are eaten garden side here.
    2 Questions: Have you ever used a Dutch Oven for a crock when making sauerkraut? I have an Amish recipe that calls for just cabbage, water and salt and I just picked four heads of cabbage to try it out. I like the idea of small batches to process small harvests. Less big production, more enjoyment. Do you have a link to a blog entry of yours about making sauerkraut?

    • Hi Liz: do you have any big glass jars around? I completely second your small-batch approach; most of the stuff I make is in my 2 gallon crock (so, that’s 3 heads tops if they’re big). You can certainly make kraut in practically anything, but I would probably save the dutch oven for cooking 🙂 Anything glass or ceramic is a safe bet. I saw some very large glass cookie jar things at Target recently and have just used one to make my first batch of elderflower syrup…turned out great. A half-gallon jar will work; you can set a small-mouth jar filled with water inside it to hold the cabbage down below the water line to ferment properly. While I do document the kraut I make here, I would go check out Sandor Katz’ site on fermentation. But really, anything that can hold cabbage can make kraut.

      • Thanks! I found a large, glass cookie jar at Walmart for cheap and it is working. I was worried that light may make a difference, but put it in my laundry room closet to keep it out of the way anyway. I used a gallon zipper bag filled mostly with water to weigh it down and it covered the top just right.

  4. Could be worse, could be pecans.

    Now those are work. 😉

  5. I just got one of those Target jars, and one with a spout for vinegar! I keep reading about growers in California who must plow under their crops because they can’t find field labor to pick them. If people had to do the real work, Americans wouldn’t throw away as much food, I believe.

  6. Generations of backyard inventors have patented shortcuts to chores like this.

    Google found me the following pretty easily:


    Seems like the sort of machine that would be fairly amenable to treadle or bicycle power, in the very long term.

  7. Anonymous Homesteader

    Wondering if you had any first hand (or second hand) knowledge of all the radiation readings/explosions that were reported last week?

    • What in the world are you talking about, AH? Something at Palisades? All I know is the NRC (nuke reg agency) is upstaffing the plant. Do not know about any explosions; thought that the problem was a leak in a runoff tank.

  8. Anonymous Homesteader

    First place I saw it was here: http://www.naturalnews.com/036158_nuclear_explosion_Indiana_radiation.html
    I have been trying to find more info – trying to find out if it’s legit.

  9. Sara, did I ever mention my pea-loving cat? I remember tirelessly shelling what was one of my first harvests and leaving the bowl on the kitchen table while I prepped food. Then I retrieved the peas to cook them and there was a substantial divot in the center. Sigh. But you are right; it is simply rustiness I am complaining about…and it is usually with the strawberries too when first making jam. Do you have a strawberry huller? Looks like a big tweezers. Can’t work them without it. Find one; it’s about $3.

    Fritz, well congrats on the production line! I wish I was so smart. And your wife is quite right: how fun would that be??

    Liz, you are on the right track; let me know how the kraut turns out. And putting it in a cabinet is perfect for keeping it dark. I am not sure how much light hurts it anyway but who knows: maybe the beasties are just shy and like to multiply with the lights off, not on.

    Cohutt, are you near a shelling station? My girlfriend sends me pecans from her yard trees (in TX) every year…preshelled. She takes them somewhere and they do them at a buck a pound or something. Apparently they do something with the shells so it’s actually a money maker for the outfit. But yes, hickories and walnuts up here are work too!

    Stef, yeah, and here they’re sawing down fruit trees. Sigh. Do you know how expensive it is to grow one of those trees? Anyway, yeah, my worthless catalog of PotterysaleBarn has all kinds of spouty things in it right now complete with little moisture catchers below. Snore. But indeed spouts are fun I think.

    Oy, Joel. Yet another thing to do with my time. (heh) But you are right; I do love backyard Rube Goldberg-y contraptions. Makes me laugh because of course by the time you rounded up and put all the parts together pea season is OVER.

    AH, still no knowledge of what’s going on. Palisades is scary enough (just got downgraded again for some leak). Don’t need the bombs going off too!

  10. While picking and shelling my own peas, the same questions have run through my mind: how the modern pea industry plucks and shucks its peas. My harvest this year, while heads and shoulders above last year’s whopping three pods, is still pathetically small compared to what I was getting in my Adirondack home. This drought isn’t helping! So, every pod is a treasure, even if I have to crawl among the miniature vines to find them.

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