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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Nov 1, 2013

Isn’t it interesting what a forecast of several days of wet weather does for motivation?

Everyone who has crops in the field is deciding where to spend that last day of dry weather before the rain starts.

The forecast motivated me to dig up the last of the potatoes from our garden.

Mud is a great motivator when it comes to harvesting potatoes.

While my neighbors were harvesting, sitting in a cab where a thermostat controls the temperature, I was sitting in the dirt on my rear end because I believe to best harvest potatoes you have to be close to eye level (now there is a pun).

And while my neighbors were harvesting with 40-foot bean and 12-row corn heads, I was using a spade.

In a world of high tech and low tech, I was no tech.

I am fairly sure in its younger days, my spade spent much of its time digging post holes and in tile ditches.

It seems to be semi-retired now which puts it in a similar situation as me.

Digging up potatoes is very rewarding as the vines have dried, marking the spot where to dig. Talk about buried treasure.

Sitting on the ground I use the spade in a motion that is similar to a how someone would paddle a canoe, only with very small strokes.

The trick is to dig up the potatoes without having them sliced by the spade.

Sometime in the growing season, that vine either made several smaller potatoes or one or two large potatoes. Ah, the thrill of the hunt.

I did a little sorting while digging. The medium and larger ones were kept in flat box.

Golf ball sized ones went into a plastic bucket as my wife does not like small potatoes because she says they are more bother than they are worth.

While they are small, they are still potatoes and can be used like potatoes; it just takes more of them. My wife, the cook, would disagree as to how usable they are.

It gave me an understanding of what the phrase “small potatoes” means.

Marble-sized potatoes were cast off to the side and left in the garden. It was a variation of catch-and-release although it does not seem likely that I can come back to get them when they are bigger.

The potato harvest began last early last July when, in what has become a family tradition, we enjoyed new potatoes for my birthday.

After that we did not raid the potato patch so often, waiting while giving the potatoes a chance to get some size.

By early September it is time to see what is out there and it never fails to please us.

Depending on the weather, the rest are harvested in October or November, just in time to prepare for the end-of-year holidays.

We try to have them used up by the first of the year.

Every year we make changes in our planting to take advantage of things we have learned. Next year we will put more space between the rows to accommodate the tiller for weed control.

Those potatoes that were damaged by my spade today have been cooked, riced, and mashed. They are sitting in the refrigerator overnight until tomorrow.

Tomorrow the potatoes will be transformed and go where all good potatoes go, to a better place.

Assisted by flour and a rolling pin, they will be rolled into thin sheets, and then placed on a hot griddle for a few minutes.

Once cooled, the transformation is complete and those blotchy sheets of potatoes will have a name, lefse, that Scandinavian treat enjoyed by generations and generations of both Scandinavians and non-Scandinavians.

I like mine rolled with butter, but no lutesfisk. For dessert, use butter and sugar.

Definitely, it is a better place where all good potatoes go.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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