September 27, 2015
The potatoes are done. What a haul. We have:
- 2 – 5 gallon pails of Yukon Gold (have a nice yellow flesh. They are great for cream soups or mashed potatoes.
- 2 – 5 gallon pails of Fingerling or Banana Potatoes (Small thin potatoes that hold together well after cooking so perfect for soups or stews but also delicious roasted.)
- 4 – 5 gallon pails of Russet potatoes (brown skinned oblong potatoes with a dry flesh that are perfect for baked potatoes, French fries and potato pancakes)
- 6 – 5 gallon pails of Red potatoes (red skinned round potatoes that are a good all round potato)
- 1 small pail reserved to use for seed potatoes next year.
The harvest was spectacular in both quantity and quality. The potatoes are huge with no scaling. However, some of the bigger ones have hollow spots inside. One of my new favorite ways to use potatoes is in a delicious Creamy Zucchini and Potato Soup. Double bonus, it uses potatoes and zucchini, both which I have plenty of. It’s vegan, and rich and creamy without using any cream.
We dug the potatoes a bit differently this year – with the backhoe. Seems like an odd choice of implements but the small backhoe on our little Kubota BX25 worked pretty good. It was not my favorite way to do it. The noise of the tractor spoiled the perfect warm fall day and I would prefer not to burn fossil fuel to get things done. However, I am not the one who does the digging in the family, so who am I to complain. Ken’s digging job was a lot easier on his back, and the 50 hills were done in short order. In addition, the backhoe resulted in fewer damaged potatoes than fork digging.
After the digging was done, I spent a relaxing afternoon brushing the dirt of the potatoes and putting them in pails ready to be brought into the basement. Quiet, meditative work, with no tractor noise. Hanna and Sox took advantage of the beautiful sunny day and sat alongside me as I worked.
(Yes, I know my sweatshirt is inside out.)
After bringing the pails into the house, they still needed to be transported down to the basement for storage. We have a dumb waiter with a pulley system planned for the house, just for this purpose. However, it is not yet installed yet. But the hole in the foyer floor is there, so we tried it out. Ken hooked a rope with a hook onto each pail and lowered them into the basement. I was in the basement and unhooked the pails. The pails end up right where the root cellar will be. What a slick system. No pails to carry up and down stairs. The finished system will make use of pulleys to raise and lower pails. A bit more advanced, but not much. Sometimes simpler is better.
The potatoes will be stored in the root cellar which is the process of being completed. So far the wall framing is up and the ventilation system is in. Will post the details and pictures once it is completed.
So if harvesting potatoes with a backhoe made sort work of a hard job, how did the pioneers dig all those hills they would have planted to feed a large family? My ancestors, sturdy Ukrainian stock, did it the old fashioned way – by hand with a potato fork. However, are some in the area who used a horse to dig potatoes.
This weekend the Prairie Mountain Regional Museum held a demonstration with a horse drawn potato digger. My sisters Laverne and Sheryl went to watch (and take a few Babushka Fur Baba pictures). It wasn’t at all what I expected. I was expecting one horse pulling a single furrow plow which would turn over the hills. Instead it was a team of horses pulling a 1930’s vintage potato digger. The digger scooped up the soil and the potatoes and soil would bounce along a metal conveyor belt resulting in the soil falling away and nice potatoes falling off the back of the conveyor belt. Volunteers would then pick up the potatoes. An early version of the modern potato diggers.
The system was super slick and in no time flat they could dig a thousand hills. The time consuming part was picking the potatoes up. We enjoyed the demonstration and lending a hand picking the potatoes. With 14 – 5 gallon pails of my own, I wasn’t in the market for any more potatoes but was glad to help out for a good cause.
The Prairie Mountain Museum is a great hidden treasure. They have a huge building which houses a fabulous collection of horse drawn implements, cutters, carriages and sleighs. As well they have some old restored houses and a wonderful huge garden. In the fall they sell potatoes, carrots, squashes, onions and a variety of pickles.
We plan to attend next year’s harvest. Next time I will come prepared to help by dressing in old jeans and bring my work gloves.