Just as the Oklahoma heat set in a few weeks back, I noticed the potato bugs were attacking my garden in full force. This has certainly been a year of pestilence, and I have fought insects of all sorts on nearly every vegetable I planted this season. Despite using an all-natural product along with diatomaceous earth, the potato bugs persisted, and finally the plants began to yellow and the stalks laid over. Higher temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s expedited the process. The fight was over – It was time to throw in the towel and dig up the crop.
This year, I put in four different types of seed potatoes. After last year’s failures, I vowed not to plant either the Red LaSoda or the Yukon Gold again. The Red LaSoda had a strange taste that neither FD nor I cared for. The Yukon Gold simply had a very poor turnout. Not only was the yield itself minimal, but the tubers were small to boot. Still, I wound up letting myself get talked into trying the Yukon Gold once again after hearing a few people rave about having such good luck with them. So I gave them a whirl one more time, along with Cobblers, Red Pontiac and Kennebec’s varieties.
Kennebec’s had always been a good producer for my Mom. She planted a huge garden every year. I’m not sure it was something she necessarily enjoyed, but she definitely had the old “green thumb” and was quite good at it. Each year, her labor in the garden helped supplement food stores for our family of seven people.
Mom always enlisted the help of my brother, three sisters, and I to do the planting and weeding. I never much cared for that kind of work, as I was more the domestic type; my niche was cleaning house, helping out in the kitchen and watching my baby sister (I was twelve when she was born). But I was required to put in my time in the garden too and, for that very reason, I refused to plant a garden for many years after I left home. It just did not interest me in the least!
Some twenty years later, I became interested in flowers and landscaping and poured myself into making our home a showcase of beauty and tranquility. Not long after, I began to dabble with planting a few vegetables in with the flowers. After a few more years, FD and I decided to incorporate better eating habits into our daily lives to address a problem with his cholesterol. This meant eating clean meats, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. I was more receptive to a vegetable garden by this time, and when we moved from town to this ten acres, I was actually excited about having plenty of space to grow my own produce.
Back to the present, it was sunny and quite warm the morning I decided to dig up this year’s crop of potatoes. Rain was forecast to hit in a couple of days and I wanted the project complete before the ground became too muddy to work. I gathered my buckets, potato fork, and another smaller bucket for chicken delights, and out to the garden I went.
For those not savvy to raising chickens, “chicken delights” are grub worms, bugs, and weeds that are collected and thrown over the fence into the chicken yard. The ladies and roosters love scratching through the weeds and dirt, discovering these tasty delights in the mess. In fact, whenever I am working in the garden they are always lined up at the fence waiting for me to toss something delectable over to them! Oh yes, they know I AM the chicken delight lady!
No sooner had I stuck my tater fork in the ground on the first row of Cobblers, when I noticed Daisy deer standing at the gate. I was hoping she would be dozing in the canyon under some nice shade trees, back in the woods. But alas, here she was, pacing the fence and wanting to come in the garden to “help”.
I have two gardens – one has only tomatoes planted in it (several varieties), and the other garden spot has various other vegetables along with a few cherry tomato vines I planted for Daisy. Occasionally, I allow her in that pen to help herself to her tomatoes, along with ground cherries and some seed corn stalks we planted for her. She loves tomatoes, plant and all! But the last time I let her in to browse “her garden”, she also ate my bean plants! I had not considered that when I let her in and, after having to replant my beans, she will now have to stay out until they finish producing. Before you think, “Ah, poor little deer”, let me assure you, it is doubtful this will cause her diet to suffer.
Having been banned from “her garden”, Daisy finally opted to lay outside the fence, content to watch me for now. I worked steadily, digging each row and being careful to keep each type of potato separate from the others. I found the Cobblers to be a good producer, with several large spuds in the mix. The Red Pontiac did well too, although I noticed a few grubs had whittled away on the larger taters. The Kennebec’s were huge and plentiful and I was quite impressed with this variety. Unfortunately, the Yukon’s were, once again, a huge disappointment. They were small, with only a few spuds to each plant. I vowed for certain this variety would not find its way to my garden ever again!
As I hauled my buckets from the garden to dry on the picnic table that sits in the shade near our house, Daisy followed close behind, even sticking her nose in the buckets as I walked. I discovered last year that she had quite a penchant for taters. When we turned her in to the mostly spent garden as a fawn last year, she hoofed at the soil and found several spuds in the ground that I had somehow missed harvesting, and crunched them right up!
Not surprisingly, as I began laying this year’s crop of taters on the picnic table, Daisy went for a small one, grabbed it with her lips and rolled it around in her mouth. Lifting her head and maneuvering the spud back to her molars, she CHOMPED it loudly. Remembering her love of these tasty tubers, I put several of the smaller ones to the edge of the picnic table so she could have a few and, in no time, she had downed seven or eight taters! Soon, she was helping herself to other, larger potatoes, so I finally decided to put the rest of them on the back porch where she could not reach them. The poor Cobblers took a beating before I could get them all relocated. Daisy ate quite a few before she finally went to the shade near the back porch where she could watch me finish my work… and chew her starchy cud!
Next year, I will definitely be putting in lots of Cobblers and Kennebecs. The flavor and texture of both have been outstanding. The Pontiac Reds are a nice potato too. These three varieties will absolutely have a place in my garden each coming year! And I am quite sure I will have “help” with the harvest from Daisy deer as well. Something tells me that we ARE her herd, and she isn’t going anywhere. Besides, the people really need her help around the place, don’t they?
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…