It's cold and blustery outside today here in N.W. Ontario; the wind is up, sleet, rain, and chilly by any standard for September 22nd.
"Yes, dear, I am," I say, being fearless, " I am going out to dig potatoes" -- choosing the worst possible weather in the process of course, as we mutually observe.
" I know what," suggests the smarter half, who is coincidentally and smartly canning tomato sauce --and even more smartly, canning spaghetti sauce and creating other wonderful tomato products in the nice warm house instead of being outside in the sleet, --- "perhaps you could wait for a warmer, more sunny day." An astute observation it is.
Yes, the sky is black and ominous. Sleet. Memories haunt the mind.
Maybe I'm just getting edgy here, like I do every year. Change of seasons and all that. "Lack of winter preparedness" syndrome. Little wonder. A few years ago we received two feet of wet snow October 1st. With new whacko-weather smacking everyone, why can't it snow on September 22nd too?
Surprise. It can, and it does. See above,-- sleet, ominous black sky and all.
I procrastinate, warily keeping one eye on the sky. The clock is ticking.
She doesn't object strongly enough, so to
Four rows. Four long rows.
Potato plants are funny things, they turn partly brown when they freeze, but they don't really get serious about getting all brown or falling over until it's wet, cold and sleeting. Like today. Why is that? You'll see.
It's an annual gardening conundrum, you can pull potato plants while the sun is shining and warm. Filch a few baby potatoes. Shirt-sleeve warm. Nice potato digging weather. The plants are still strong and green, give'em a yank, and up come potatoes.
"Look at that, is that a potato?" *truth be known, it's...the size of a marble. The small kind. Mini-micros.
"eh"...*sigh How can that be??
"They're not finished growing" would be the right answer. Not ripe. That's why knowledgeable gardeners wait impatiently. The juice in the leaves and the fat green parts of the plant are food energy, supposedly to be stored in the potatoes readying them to become healthy, vigorous 'seed' for next year. Surprise, in between times we interrupt Momma Nature's cycle. We dig'em up and bake'em, boil'em, mash'em, broil'em.... Pity the poor volunteered potato. We digress.
No matter..we lurked about, all summer, watching potatoes grow, ....until today. Now it's cold and wet. It's late. Isn't that just the way life is?
Now the potato plants are down and brown and soggy from the sleet and rain.
|Potatoes brown and heading down in bone-dry soil|
Everybody knows they break off. The ground is hard as rock, having been so dry--until last night, that is. It rained and softened the top inch a bit. It's not mud yet, but soon would be if it
The Big Dig
With sleet and rain and cold inspiring the gardener, do the potatoes come out just pulling the plant? Of course not! The soggy stems break off instead. Loyal gardening readers could have won a hot baked potato or an onion betting on that one. Now I have to dig for them. Tool selection. Fork? Shovel? Pick axe? No matter which tool, some potatoes invariably get poked, stuck, chipped, bonked, or sliced in neat pieces, almost ready for lunch.
We have three different potatoes; Kennebec, an early white potato, Gold Rush, a white potato, and Pimpernel, an heritage red-skinned, white-fleshed late-season potato.
|Pimpernel: a red-skinned heritage potato|
|A sample of New Potatoes: "Gold Rush"|
Dig dig... Aha!....We do find a real potato. One potato.
|a new "Kennebec" potato--a BIG one.|
I jest. Actually I dug up a lot of potatoes. Just like these. Some real biggies too, I must admit...I wonder if the cookware back in the kitchen is big enough.
The rows are still long. I lean on the fork. Saved by Momma Nature again. The sun is starting to come out....coffee time.
Is that Incoming I hear?