We celebrated Thanksgiving at Bluegrass Farm by harvesting our potato crop. There was a lot to be thankful for.
First, we had an amazing team of friends come to the farm to help. Building a new farm is a never-ending stream of Big Jobs, and we don’t do much off-farm socializing these days, so farm visits are appreciated on many levels. Our hardworking crew was able to harvest about 1/4 acre of potatoes over a day, with time for a hearty lunch (potatoes, of course) and a beer at the end of the day.
Second, we benefited from our 2012 investment in a potato digger, which had been collecting dust in between farms. It goes behind the tractor and does most of the digging for you, which makes harvesting much easier and faster. We found that it worked better with a little bit of extra weight on the back end, to get the plow to just the right depth. Good thing everyone had a hearty lunch!
Third, we had an epic potato harvest. With this being our first year growing on this property, and a particularly cold wet summer, we’ve had our share of crop challenges. To discover a bumper crop of hefty spuds was a real boost. We grew 10 varieties, including yellows, reds, purples and fingerlings, that are now curing (drying out and toughening their skins) inside our barn. They’ll be a staple in our CSA baskets this winter.
Fourth, we were able to spend much of the day outdoors with our son and our friends’ son. As a parent of a toddler juggling a new farm business with an off-farm job and child care, I often feel relegated to the traditional ‘farmer’s wife’ role in the house, while my partner does the ‘important’ work in the field. Much of my days are spent caring for our son, keeping the house functional, helping with field work in short bursts, and frantically trying to cram all the business start-up and admin work into tiny cracks and late nights. So it was nice to spend a beautiful day outdoors on a job we could all do together.
When our toddlers had had enough, my friend and I brought them inside and discussed how we don’t mind so much doing traditional women’s work, especially with partners who also contribute to these tasks. The challenge is that there is so much domestic work at this stage that it’s almost impossible to fit in all the other stuff that is still expected of us. And, of course, that this work is still under-recognized and under-valued by our culture, which focuses on productivity and “results” over well-being and sustainability. But I was thankful to remember that many women I know are in the same boat, and that we are not afraid to question and challenge the status quo.
The next day, back in the potato field to finish the last couple of rows, my son alternated between enthusiastically harvesting potatoes (or “potis”), and playing with his shovel in the soil. After a few minutes of quiet digging, he looked up suddenly and said, “Thank you Mama.” Caught off guard, I asked, “Thank you for what?” His decisive answer: “Thank you for dirt.” Spoken like a true farm kid.
P.S.: To see the potato digger in action, check out this video of our potato harvest put together by Jason Garlough, who also contributed photos to this post. He will be paid for his work, of course, in potatoes.