Planting Potatoes

As soon as the frost was out of the ground, we planted potatoes. We were a large family with nine children. At any one time, seven or eight of us were living at home. We needed a lot of food, so we grew a lot of potatoes at two potato patch sites. The potato patch was plowed, disked, and dragged. Then Dad hitched up the large black hors, Dolly, to the plow and made a shallow furrow the length of the patch. Dolly and plow were turned around and made another furrow about 30 inches parallel to the first.

Then my siblings and I planted the first furrow. Dad used the second furrow as a marker to guide the horse and plow. We prepared the seed potatoes before heading out to the newly readied patch. Most every year, the seed potatoes were the healthy-looking potatoes in the basement bin that had been set aside for planting.

We cut the seed potatoes so that there was an “eye” left on each section that could be planted. “No eye, no potato plant,” Mom told us. We learned that the eye was where the roots would come from. I thought it was quite a miracle, those roots developing from that “eye.” Seed potatoes were put in a milk pail and hand carried to the field.

We placed a cut piece of potato in the bottom of the furrow and covered it with two inches of dirt. We were exhorted several times: “Don’t plant too deep, but deep enough.” Three barefoot boys, and later Catharine and Rita, joined in the annual ritual. We moved down the furrow, dropping the pieces into the plowed furrow and covering the potato with dirt by hand.

One might think that the work of the day was done when the last of the potatoes were in the ground. Not to be.  Dad said, “Boys, we gotta go fix fence.”



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