On Peapods and Payoffs

Snow peas are coming in nicely — I just popped the first small pod into my mouth as I strolled through the vegetable garden after my Monday evening piano lesson. 

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that spring is the time of year where I’m most likely to have mixed feelings about homesteading. In spring, I come out of my winter funk and I am ready to twirl on a mountaintop a la Julie Andrews, but at the same time, I am faced with the truth that spring delivers hard, hard work. Animal housing must be cleaned, gardens weeded and prepped, seedlings hardened off and transplanted, bees set up, not to mention the extra tasks involved with raising baby animals on the homestead. Everything seems to need fixing or cleaning or extra TLC as the snow melts, and in the meantime, we’re trying to wrap up our school year. There isn’t really much time to play in the springtime.

This past Saturday, I worked in the sun all day shoveling compost and mulch and reclaiming a garden that had been taken over by weeds when I looked away for approximately five minutes. It was one of the first hot-hot weekend days we’ve had, which means all day, and I mean ALL day long, tubers and kayakers floated down our backyard river. I could hear their laughter before they floated around the bend, and I could hear them shrieking and screaming cuss words as they hit the fast and fun stretch just to the south of our property. How I longed to toss my black rubber inner tube in the water and tag along behind them! But the task at hand cried out for completion louder than my wanderlust or my sunscorched shoulders, and I focused my eyes back on the pitchfork, mulch mountain, and pile of stones waiting for realignment at the edge of the garden bed.

I share a lot of stories and photos about this marvelous homesteading, homeschooling life we are living, and even on the worst days, I wouldn’t trade it for the life I used to live, but it feels important for me to say aloud that some days are just a grind. Some days I look around here and wonder what the heck I am doing this all for anyway. Why take on the mess, the noise, the expense, the strings attaching me to this property? Why invest the sweat and tears and hundreds, no THOUSANDS of hours when I could just buy it all at Walmart?

I’m not trying to be cute or trite when I say that the “why” is ridiculously simple — as simple as a pea flower. A single pea pod eaten in the garden in my summer dress at sundown. A payoff popped into my mouth in one bite. A bite that tastes of all the seasons and all the work, the full circle systems of a homestead whose animals and gardens and humans nourish one another every day of every year. One pod made it worth it for me this evening after weeks of hustle and grind list-checking.

I’ve pursued a lot of things in life, and there was a time I would have raised an eyebrow at anyone who told me a garden pea would be one of the best payments I’ve ever received. But as I age, I better understand that value means different things to different people, and maybe for me it just means working hard, being close to animals and earth, and enjoying the bounty of good work, even on the nights that the bounty looks like a single green pod.

7 thoughts on “On Peapods and Payoffs

  1. So happy for you! I loved that life. It was so satisfying to look at those 300 jars of food on the shelves ready for winter.

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  2. Dear Stacy,

    What a beautiful post! I so admire your transition to homesteading and all it entails. Your post reminds me of the many days I spent at my grandparents farm back in the 1950’s. They were subsistence farmers. No furnace, only coal burning stoves in the living room and their bedroom, plus the heat from a wood-burning cookstove in the kitchen. The kids (my brother and me plus occasionally, my two cousins) slept upstairs with no heat, but lots of quilts as well as a feather mattress, all homemade by grandma. There was no running water in the house. The bathroom was an outhouse in the day and a “chamber pot” stored under the bed at night. Water was pulled up by bucket from the well; my job was to fill a bucket in the kitchen each morning so there was drinking water for the day. While playing outside, we could just pull up the bucket and fill a tin cup that always hung on the boards. We all used the same cup inside and outside. Baths were a small amount of cold water that was heated from a tea kettle heated on the kitchen stove and poured into a silver metal washtub. The youngest person went first and had the cleanest, but least water. Each person used the same water with just a bit more hot water added to keep it comfortable. The oldest person had an almost full tub of partially dirty water. Vegetables were all grown in their 2 1/2 acre garden. I used to go to the garden with Grandma each morning to pick the vegetables and get rid of weeds. Being from the city, I did not enjoy the hot sun, dirt under my fingernails, and constant bugs and bees. But, being with Grandma was worth all the inconveniences. Meat was butchered and stored in the smoke house for the coming winter. Another of my jobs was to gather the eggs from the hen house. I had to reach under any hens who were sitting on the nests, and I knew that they would peck my hands. Getting out of the chicken yard also meant guarding the eggs from cracking while outdistancing the angry roosters who might flog me in the back. Grandma crocheted decorative afghans and quilted bedcovers. The backings were from feed sacks and still displayed the red logos from the mill. Grandma and Grandpa slept in gowns made from these feed sacks as well.

    Growing up I did not always enjoy the life style of the farm. I was used to modern conveniences and preferred them. I have to admit, now that I am a senior citizen, I still prefer the conveniences. But, I so treasure the lifestyle I was able to participate in with my grandparents and am so thankful for the time I spent with them.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and the joy you find in homesteading. I love reading your posts.

    Love to you, Suzanne

    N. Suzanne Standerford, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor Emeritus Northern Michigan University School of Education nstander@nmu.edu (906) 249-4216

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  3. I totally understand what you mean, every year is a new adventure on how you can tweak the garden or coop to make things flow a little better or be a little less of a grind. I just went through all my canning supplies and reorganized my pantry shelves downstairs in order to take inventory and stock up before everyone else catches on at harvest that they need all these supplies to store their bounties. I thought to myself, mind you this is my brain in full gear at 12:30am, I feel like I slipped past summer and jumped into fall. Time just absolutely flies by during the short warm months around here. So much to do in so little time. I’m anxiously waiting for your ducklings to hatch under snowflake, Alex and I look forward to going out every morning and checking in the coop to see if anything has developed while we were sleeping.

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    1. You DO understand, fellow homesteading mama! And I didn’t even mention the rose chafers or June pre-frost evening scrambles 🙃

      You are so good at planning ahead — now I am wondering about my own jar stash in the basement! Before long, the giant canner will be lugged up the stairs and it will be salsa and pickles time! Now that is exciting.

      Can’t wait to hear about anymore hatching that takes place over your way. There is nothing cuter than ducklings. Come on, little ones! Our hatch should begin this weekend too. Here’s to exchanging baby pics soon! 🤞🏻🐣

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