Ann Bailey: Potato planting, part two
While I'm cutting potatoes for planting, I like to muse about about the thousands that have gone into the garden ground during the past century.
One of the perils of early deadlines is that if I write about plans, sometimes they remain just that – plans.
That’s what happened when I wrote in my April 3 column that I aimed to plant potatoes on Good Friday . I had every intention of doing that when I wrote it earlier that week, but didn’t end up executing my idea because the week before Easter was filled with work during the day and church services at night. I kept moving forward my plans to make a quick trip to Grand Forks to buy potato seeds, and then it was Easter. After that, the weather turned cold and wet.
The upshot is that I did not get the potatoes planted on Good Friday or the next Friday, or the next. On May 1, a Saturday, a month after Good Friday, Brian, Ellen and I finally got them in the ground.
During the time between when I had planned to plant and did it, I had plenty of days to reminisce about family potato planting stories, and will share another one of my favorites. The story, though embarrassing for me, is too funny not to share.
Here it goes: When I was a young adult living in Grand Forks, my dad asked me to pick up a 50-pound sack of red potatoes for him at an East Grand Forks potato company.
I went to the warehouse office and told the receptionist I wanted to buy a bag of potatoes. She paged one of the warehouse workers, who met me in the office and asked what kind of potatoes I wanted to buy. I told her “New Orleans,” which is what I thought my dad had said.
Turns out that there were no red potatoes with that name. Confused, I asked the guy what other kinds of potatoes they sold. He began listing them off, and when he came to “Norland,” I realized my mistake.
I had to laugh, as did the guy who got them for me, and later, my dad when I delivered the potatoes to his farm.
I think about that whenever I see the red seed potatoes. These days, because Brian and I don’t plant the quantity of potatoes my dad and grandfather did, we buy about 40 seed potatoes at a garden center.
Before we plant the potatoes, we sit down on the front steps with a paring knife and cut chunks, each with an eye, and throw them into another bag, which we take to the garden where potatoes have been planted for 110 years. While I'm cutting the potatoes I like to muse about the thousands of spuds that generations of family members have put in the garden ground during the past century.
We bought enough potatoes for our 2021 crop to fill out a long row, which should yield us enough of the produce to last until Thanksgiving, when we will likely use the last of the crop for our holiday dinner.
Whether our potatoes will be ready for our annual July 4th celebration this summer will depend on our growing season weather. The nights since we planted have been cold, and there are no signs of life yet visible in the row. But when temperatures warm, they will pop up quickly, and I hope that with sun and rain in good measure, the potatoes will be big enough to eat by the Fourth.
If not, I’ll have plenty of words from my April 3 column to eat.
Ann Bailey is a Grand Forks Herald reporter who writes a personal column twice each month.