The email announcing the shipment of my seed potatoes landed in my inbox today. That annual email always makes me smile. It brings back vivid memories of the first time that I grew potatoes.
Did you know that it is impossible to buy a small quantity of seed potatoes? The smallest quantity that I could find that first year was two pounds. Two pounds of seed potatoes doesn’t sound like much but they can yield up to 50 pounds of potatoes. And all of that fifty pounds has to be harvested at once. Where would I store that many potatoes? I don’t have a root cellar or a basement. I deferred that decision until the fall and ordered my two pounds of seed potatoes.
Of course I chose the most difficult way to grow potatoes. No fancy raised beds or cute potato bags for me. No, I chose to dig trenches with my trusty shovel. Four trenches 10 inches deep sounded doable and a good workout after an indolent winter. So one April morning I headed out to my plot in a community garden. It was a glorious spring day. The sky was sunny and blue. The breeze was crisp and refreshing. A perfect day to dig trenches. After the first trench reality set in. My winter of indolence had caught up with me. I kept stopping to rest, lungs gasping for air, long unused muscles screaming in agony. It took two hours to dig all four trenches.
I had strode into the community garden with my shovel set jauntily on my shoulder. I left the garden, head bowed, dragging my shovel behind me as I shuffled slowly and painfully back to my car.
Then came the hilling. After expending all of that energy digging out the trenches, I spent weeks filling them back in as the plants grew. I came to dread my work days in my garden, on my knees dripping sweat under the broiling summer sun as I scraped soil over the growing plants. Didn’t I just do this last week? How can they have grown that much in a week? I was ecstatic when I finally ran out of soil and could stop hilling.
The rest of the summer was spent weeding and watering. I love weeding and watering. I live for weeding and watering. But all good things must come to an end. As the summer ebbed, the plants began to die, telling me that it would soon be time to harvest my potatoes.
So one September morning, I strode into the community garden with my shovel set jauntily on my shoulder. It was a glorious end of summer day. The sky was sunny and blue. The breeze hinted at cooler temperatures to come. When I arrived at my plot, I pulled up short and stared at it in horror. It suddenly dawned on me that after laboriously digging out the trenches and then filling them back in, in order to harvest my potatoes, I was going to have to dig the trenches out all over again. Carefully this time so as not to damage the potatoes. And, yes, 2 pounds of seed potatoes does yield 50 pounds of potatoes. I ended up re-digging the trenches one at a time over a period of two weeks because each one yielded enough potatoes to fill my only bucket necessitating multiple trips to get all of them home.
I swore that I would never grow potatoes again.
But a funny thing happened as the cooler temperatures of fall set in and I started cooking my favorite soups and stews. I loved being able to reach into my basket of potatoes, carefully selecting just the right one, just the right quantity, just the right weight of home grown organic potatoes. I even expanded my cooking repertoire, looking for new ways to prepare them. And when I finally reached the bottom of my seemingly bottomless basket of potatoes, I suddenly found myself looking forward to that April morning when I could toss my trusty shovel over my shoulder and head out to my garden to dig trenches and plant potatoes again.