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One of Aaron's favorite foods, or arguably his most favorite, is potatoes. So one would think that today would be his most favorite day on the farm: the day we dug them up.
Although we didn't plant any potatoes on our journey, we cared for them at several farms. At two farms in Oregon we concentrated on covering the leaves of young potato plants with soil to encourage stronger root growth and more prodigious tubers. Digging potatoes here partially completed our understanding of the life cycle of the potato crop. Missing out on planting is a big gap we hope to fill one day. Traveling has been spectacular, but it's hard not being at the same place and watching the same plants for an entire year; however we do understand the basics by seeing crops at different stages on different farms and this knowledge is both rewarding and helpful.
The potato harvest at Juniper Hill was no easy task. Two factors were hinderances to the quantity of potatoes we harvested: 1) weeds 2) sandy soil. The massive amounts of weeds that were allowed to grow at least three and a half feet tall made it nearly impossible to find the raised beds the potatoes were planted under, let alone find the potato plant itself. Also, the plant leaves had died, so locating the withered leaves after ridding the area of the weeds was like trying to find Waldo in "Where's Waldo?" The weeds stole precious nutrients in an already nutrient deprived sandy soil, so the potatoes themselves were on the smaller side. These were no Russet Burbanks. We still managed to harvest hundreds of pounds of taters.
We harvested new potatoes, which should be eaten immediately. Storage potatoes are harvested later in the fall. Their extra time in the ground toughens their skins and readies them to last throughout a long winter. When harvesting storage potatoes, the leaves have long since stopped photosynthesizing and despite the dead looking leaves, the tubers below are fine and developing their thick skin. During the Great Irish Potato Famine, blight attacked the potato crop and when all the potato leaves wilted and died the Irish farmers believed their crop was unharmed, as leaf wilting was not an unusual occurrence. The blight didn't just cause the leaves to look withered as they always do, and nobody suspected anything was wrong. Unfortunately it hadn't only harmed the leaves but killed all the roots as well. Fortunately for Adam and Melody their tubers were all in tact below their dead leaves, it was simply a matter of locating them and then digging, digging, digging.