Sunday, June 10, 2007


I am eating of the year's first harvest of new potatoes from the farm as I write.

For now I will sidestep the issues of a) eating dinner at this hour and b) eating while writing on the computer, instead of properly at the kitchen table paying full attention to my food. At this point in my re-settling--my re-learning how to live in a house and prepare food and find a reasonable balance in my life--I give myself credit simply for cooking the simplest of foods at any time of day and eating them while sitting, instead of "dining" on junk food over the kitchen sink. Progress, not perfection. I'll get my life back on track, eventually, through tiny baby steps like boiling a few new potatoes at 11:30 p.m.

Tonight I'm eating Caribe, a gorgeous variety with a jewel-like purple skin and white flesh. Don't ask me to describe the flavor: Yes, each potato tastes different; no, I can't put it in words without sounding even more ridiculous than a wine-taster. One just has to taste each one and learn to know its particular character, much like getting to know a friend. I first grew Caribe last year: previous seasons, it was always sold out by the time I ordered the "seed" tubers.

This year, I was able to get it again, and planted a bed on May 25. But wait--how am I eating potatoes when I only planted them a few weeks ago?

Actually, I'm eating from last year's potato patch. Despite carefully digging up last year's crop, and a fairly severe winter, quite a few potato plants of different varieties sent up healthy sprouts from tubers I somehow over looked in harvesting. These plants sprouted up when THEY, not I, decided it was optimum conditions for them to grow. They are now lush plants bursting into bloom, pink and white and lavender and pale blue. I gathered about 5 lbs. from the various varieties in just a few minutes of spontaneous rummaging with my bare hands the other day.

I started planting potatoes this year when these persistent plants began sprouting, showing me that ground conditions were ideal for this crop. They have their own inner wisdom about when it's time to grow. They know much more about being a potato plant than I ever will.

Other plants are volunteering in the garden. Some are apparently from seed that was planted in previous seasons, but didn't germinate until this year: A few endives and a kale in the bed where they were grown year before last (now a lettuce bed); a lettuce plant where the tenants grew salad mix last fall. A watermelon vine sprang up in the potato patch last year, from a seed from the previous year; I let it grow only to discover that it's a tasteless, all-white pickling water melon. The seeds never seemed to darken, as normal melon seeds do when ripe, but nevertheless a number of vines are springing up from the remains of last year's unharvested fruit.

Of course, there are the "crops" that sow themselves every year: lambsquarters, chickweed, dandelions. And the perennials, including the "walking onions" (a.k.a. multiplier onions, Egyptian onions, top-setting onions) which I often plant out in rows to have green onions late in the fall and early in the spring.

On a sweeter note, I picked a handful of black raspberries from a new bush along the front fence. I didn't plant it--as has happened several times now since I moved to the farm, the birds planted it, and it has evidently flourished hidden for a couple years to become the modest thicket I recently discovered. Raspberry bushes fall prey to a virus after a few years in this region; I used to mourn the demise of each patch, but I've learned to trust that while they are in decline in one area, they are springing forth anew somewhere else.

These plants remind me how trivial my job as a farmer is. It is not I who makes the plants grow--I only assist in the most rudimentary way by trying to create an environment where they will flourish. Mainly this means keeping weeds from smothering them, keeping the sheep from eating them, keeping the farm a farm instead of residential lots.

Little by little, Eden arises from this soil all by itself. Yes, I work hard at the farm, striving to grow crops for sale at the Farmer's Market. But an increasing part of my subsistence--the food I receive directly from the earth, rather than purchasing it with money raised by growing other food--grows without any real work on my part except allowing these plants to not grow in nice neat rows.

I am grateful for these persistent plants bring me surprising bounty.

1 comment:

Catlady said...

I get it... I understand.... I love caribes, blues, Yukon Gold, dislike very much the reds and russets. Like eating cardboard, in my opinion...

We've been having so much rain here... the trailer/cabin still doesn't have roof repairs. BUT - thanks to you, I've finally learned the value of a good pair of rubber boots :) Bought myself some, and now I can take Bear for his walks without getting my feet wet!!

Does that old child's poem, "rain rain go away" ever work? Gardens out there are flooded, too...