Digging potatoes

Got home from work at a decent time (after an hour commute and only having to stop for gas) and went to pick up Boobock. We got home, changed and immediately went out to set the chickens free. We keep the chickens locked up during the day, but in the evening, we let them out. They have learned that when we open the gate and start clapping at them, they can run out and over to the apple tree…which has fallen over, but still produces good fruit. There are a lot of branches on the ground, so it is hard to mow under and hard to chase chickens out from under, but they go in there and clean up the fallen ones for me and help control the apple worms. Last year, almost every apple had a worm in it, and then I got chickens. One rooster and one chicken escaped and I could not keep them in, so when the garden was done for the winter, I just let them stay out. They spent most of their time under the apple tree or in the garage, and they really cleaned up under the tree. This year, we had significantly less trouble with the worms. (I know it’s a baby moth. Still annoying.) I have been letting the chickens out when I am outside so I can herd them away from the garden, but now they pretty much stay under the tree, so I am getting more adventurous and letting them out earlier and earlier. There is nothing funnier than watching a little 3 year old boy with his “running shoes” on chasing after chickens, scattering them every which way, him wheeling around and running just as fast as his little legs can carry him, and getting the chickens to where they need to go. He feels so accomplished.

After herding the chickens, it was on to potato digging time.

This is only my third year of planting potatoes. I tried them in tires one year, and got nothing. I think that it was too hot in the black tires and I didn’t water them enough. I didn’t get one potato out of that experiment. Last year I had them in the part of the garden where I have trouble with bermuda grass, and my water hose was just not quite long enough, so again, watering didn’t occur like it needed to. I also think I put too much dirt on them when I hilled them up. I basically killed them with dirt. I didn’t know I was only supposed to hill it up 1/3 of the way…I went way way way higher. I got like 3 potatoes. It was pitiful.

So this year, I didn’t have high hopes. I only bought 2 pounds of seed potatoes from the local nursery, and I had some on my counter that sprouted, and so I thought, why not? And cut them up and planted those as well. I put them in two rows in a newish part of the garden that hasn’t been amended as heavily as other parts, but I was able to water more evenly.

The tops had died back maybe a month ago, but I had just let them stay in the dirt. They were beside the beets and onions, and so that part of the garden didn’t need watering any more, so I just left them. But I am ready to put in my fall seeds, so I knew I would be planting in that area and watering, so I needed to pull them.

With my trusty, though flighty, help Boobock, I started digging. I actually used a hoe and a three pronged rake instead of a potato fork. I would dig/scrape the soil and he was poised over the trench, yelling “I see one” every time we found one. He would pick it up and try to toss it in the bucket. Until he was intentionally missing and there were potatoes everywhere. Oh well, they are easy enough to pick up. The soil was pretty hard and clay like, and the drought has done a number on it. Some of it came away in large hard chunks…but there were potatoes in there!

I hilled up a few of the potatoes with dirt, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I used straw on the rest, and I think that the straw did a better job. I definitely saw a difference where the straw was. The ground was very hard under the potatoes, but I had a lot of them right on top of the ground under the first layer of straw.

We ended up with about 15 pounds of potatoes.

10 1/2 pounds were blemish free, and 4 1/2 pounds had a cut mark or bug bite. I put the blemish free ones in the garage to dry out a bit and let the skins toughen up, and we have the 4 1/2 pounds in the house. I washed 2 of them, and sliced them up. We grilled tonight, so we put olive oil down on some aluminum foil, then potatoes, a little Tony Chachere (a very excellent Cajun spice) and some butter, and put it on the grill.

Due to my Whole 30 diet, I couldn’t eat them (sad panda). I had one bite and it tasted amazing, but then stuck to my approved food. The rest of the potatoes better wait to spoil for a few weeks at least so I can have some…

I don’t know if it is worth it to try to can them up or not. I’ve never canned them before, as my first 2 years yielded 3 potatoes total. I think we will get through them before they start to go bad, but I might try it anyway.

Oh yeah. The chickens started coming in by themselves, and Boobock chased them round and round and round, and the all eventually found their way back inside the coop. He then filled their water, drenching himself in the process, of course. I hauled more straw in for them and shut them up for the night.

A productive evening after a full day’s work and hour commute, I would say!

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