Growing Rocks and Potatoes

In Genesis when God cursed the ground He never made any mention of rocks. Thorns and thistles but not rocks. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you,” God told Adam; “In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life; and you will eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17-18)

Gardening here in New England is challenging. Our growing season is packed into relatively 4 short months. But not only that the soil here seems to grow rocks. In fact, the rocks are so bad that the locals have given our area a nickname: Delaware County Hardpan. From little round rocks the size of eggs to boulders and slabs we’ve got ’em all. And after today’s toiling and sweating efforts to dig up and transplant one currant bush and one gooseberry bush, I think “hardpan” is quite appropriate. Which is why it’s amazing to me that anything can and does grow here!

Look at all those baby currants!

Mother’s currant bush

But while gardening with rocks is irritating there’s no getting away from them. Just gotta dig them up or dig around them. That’s life here. 🙂

We were musing on this fact earlier while digging potato trenches. The sun was hot on our heads as we slaved away, the guineas were kuh-swanking away in the field, the heifers were happily tearing up mouthfuls of tender green grass and Riley was going baserk over his rope toy.

Briar and Hazel enjoying the first taste of grass this spring

Briar and Hazel enjoying the first taste of grass this spring

Most of our potatoes we ate over the winter, but there were a couple baskets that had sprouted being too close to the furnace down cellar. Of all the potatoes we planted last year none of us cared for the Nicolas. They were very prolific but they were also very small and the flavor was pretty bland. Our favorites are: Purple Suns (a purple skinned potato with deep yellow flesh); Adirondack Reds (red skin outside and beautiful pinkish-red flesh – they’re lovely mashed or roasted and have a very tender texture with a subtle flavor); and last but not least Purple Vikings (my personal favorite: purple skin swirled with pink and the flesh is snow-white. Excellent for cooking, baking, mashing, or roasting and I just love their deep, earthy, robust flavor.)

Digging trenches for potatoes

Digging trenches for potatoes

We did two rows of each variety and since the trenches averaged 14′ we planted the potato eyes 12″ apart. The only way to garden: barefoot. Feet right in the dirt.

Planting the Purple Suns

Planting the Purple Suns

In my random hunt for quotes, (I have a notebook dedicated just for quotes that I find interesting or inspirational) I found this one on gardening and thought it fitted well here to sum up. It’s the independence that makes this lifestyle so freeing and appealing even though it is a lifestyle filled with endless amounts of toil and sweat.

Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. ~Wendell Berry


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