Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Old Familiar Ritual


A hundred pound bag of seed potatoes has been waiting in the barn for more than a week: waiting for the ground to dry out, waiting for the right combination of people to be available for the task at hand, waiting and sprouting there inside the dark bag, eager to get on with the task of reproduction. My husband had plowed and tilled the potato patch ground some time ago but this morning my younger son tilled it once more, fluffing the rich dark earth to make it easier to hoe. While the tractor clanked in the distance, I sat on the porch, listening to a recording of Patrick O'Brian's One Hundred Days and cutting the potatoes into chunks ( two or more 'eyes' or sprouts per chunk) for planting. The familiar earthy-starchy smell of the potatoes mingled with the spicy-sweet fragrance of the viburnum blooming in the front yard.

We learned to plant potatoes from Clifford and Louise who were here before us. We asked if they planted by the moon or followed the signs and Clifford allowed as how he planted when he could. "I don't live on the moon," was what he said. Like Clifford, we plant when there's a window of opportunity. And with rain, possibly even snow, predicted for the rest of the week, the window is about to close. So after lunch, it was down to the new-tilled field for the commencement of an old familiar ritual.
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Dan kept me company as I filled an old dog food bag with cut potatoes. Justin hoed out shallow trenches; I dropped the cut potatoes in at eight inch (give or take) intervals and Claui covered them with dirt. Next came the step Clifford called "strewing the fertilize," followed by more dirt to cover the fertilizer, preventing the nitrogen from dissipating into the air.
And the rain will come and the potatoes will send up green leaves. Two or three more times, we'll go to the potato patch to hoe down weeds and mound up dirt around the plant, protecting the growing potatoes from the sun which turns them green and, reputedly, poisonous.

If all goes well, come fall there'll be a glorious Potato Hunt as the plow breaks open the mounded dirt and we see what our labors have produced.

As Clifford said, 'Taters is easy made."
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2 comments:

Pat in TN said...

HA ... that's just what we did today too ... got our taters in the ground before days of rain, and maybe snow, move in. We also planted some of cool weather garden crops, and to our delight, our strawberry plants, red raspberry and blackberry canes arrived today too. A busy day and we're tired, but it's a good, good tired.

Vicki Lane said...

A perfect day for it - and I know just what you mean by a good tired. I've already taken some ibuprophen and am looking forward to soaking in a hot bath.