I'm about to head out to the potato patch. Digging potatoes is one of my favorite homesteading chores. I love digging potatoes. It's like hunting for buried treasure. Plus, I could eat potatoes everyday. We often do. (My dad used to say it was my "heritage showing".)
This year we planted 3 types: an organic Russet type (I can't remember the name because I FORGOT TO WRITE IT DOWN IN MY GARDEN BOOK WHICH I HAVE JUST FOR THIS PURPOSE!), German Butterball, and Riley's Reds.
The way I dig potatoes is pretty simple: grab a big handful the dead/ dying vines and pull the vine out of the ground which pulls the attached 'taters out of the ground, too. Usually there are several left in the dirt but they are pretty easy to spot. Enter the shovel. But you have to be careful when digging with a shovel. A potato that has been accidentally sliced has lost its storage ability and needs to be eaten soon; usually within the week, or the potato will start to go bad. That's not too much of a hardship for my family.
These are German Butterballs. When sliced open, these are a pretty butter yellow hence the name "butterball".
(I'm not sure where the "German" part comes from.)
Potatoes are a very reliable vegetable crop. And here in NW Montana, it's hard to find a veggie that can actually produce an edible crop in our 90 day growing season. Across the blogosphere there have been many in depth discussions about the nutritional value of corn vs potatoes. Corn seems to have won the favor of many folks trying to provide their own food security. I guess it's because there are so many varieties and so many folks who just flat out love the taste of corn. (Bleck. I'm not a corn fan.) Corn has been an elusive crop for us. Our cool summer nights and wet springs make for rotting corn seed, poor germination rates and stunted corn maturation. But potatoes have been a dependable staple for our family. I literally plant them in the spring, keep them weeded in the first part of the growing season then harvest when the vines die back. We don't usually hill them and still have good production.
The only problem we have experienced so far has been with voles and pocket gophers.
Vole or gopher damage.
Sorry for the blurry pic. My little camera is old and starting to lose some of it's function. But you get the idea.
It was an all out battle against the tunneling creatures the first year we farmed here. We didn't want to use poison because our dogs accompany us into the garden. We'd trap a few and it seemed that more took their place. So now I just plant enough for all of us.....garden pest and people. At least that's the plan until I can figure out how to get rid of them altogether. Maybe a cat?
Ooooo. The taker's lair!