Melissa Kirkby, student at Sterling College
Tuesday, 13 Jul 1999
Craftsbury Common, Vt.
Summer returned today, after having given way to cool breezes and blue jeans for the weekend. I returned to the Sterling garden this afternoon to find the peas hadn’t sensed the chilly air the way I had; in the three days elapsed since my last picking, another harvest had matured. It hung plump and sweet from a drooping trellis.
For 40 minutes I picked peas one by one, noticing the increasing weight of the white bucket into which I was dropping them as I moved slowly down one side of the trellis, then back up the other. I joked with the cook as I delivered them to the kitchen. How many pea dishes could she think up for tonight’s dinner? I was not entirely joking, however, knowing that another eight pounds of ripened peas still hung from their plants in the garden. I had left them there, somewhat thankful that the kitchen already had an overabundance of the bright green podded vegetables, because I did not have another 40 minutes to spend harvesting.
Academically, it is a busy week for me here. At the forefront of my mind are not pea plants, but a research paper on the environmental implications of peat extraction, a mid-term exam tomorrow in boreal forest ecology, a pricing project on the marketing of organic vegetables, a problem set, and week one of a statistics research project I have not yet started. In the garden, picking peas, I tried to devise in my mind a mental schedule of how I would fit it all in. When I got back to the dorm, I transferred that schedule to paper and posted it on the wall over my desk. It stares at me and makes me cringe.
But tomorrow morning, I will not get up and tend to paper writing immediately. Instead, I will wake and go to the garden to harvest the remaining eight pounds of peas, along with the others which will have matured while I sleep. Pea picking is not written on my list of tasks, but it’s one of the things that we just do here, because it has to be done for the good of a garden, a community, a commitment to growing much of our own food.
Before coming to Sterling at the beginning of the summer, I had developed what was perhaps a college survival skill of cutting out all the small tasks and just focusing on the big deadlines, assignments, meetings, and lectures on my schedule. Tasks such as pea harvesting were overshadowed by all-important school-related assignments. How interesting it is now, to be in a place where garden tasks are as significant as those of the classroom. It calls for a reevaluation of priorities, an important step for an environmentalist, I think. The paper will get written, and of course the exam will be taken at 8:30 tomorrow morning, but the pea plants in the garden will not suffer as a result.