Sunday, October 9, 2011

Digging Potatoes and Pulling Pumpkins

This is the time of the year when all the thinking and ordering, cultivating, planting, weeding, watering, picking, cleaning, canning, freezing, and pickling come full circle. You've done all the work starting back in January when the seed catalogs showed up in your mailbox. You've accomplished and crossed off each step on your long list. Now it's October. Time to dig for those potatoes and pull those pumpkins from their straggly old vines.

Digging into the earth in search of potatoes is as exciting to me today as it was back when I was a kid living in the country. My grandparents had massive gardens. They had to. With 6 daughters and farmhands, meals were major productions especially during haying season. When it came time to clearing the gardens in the fall, helping dig for potatoes was like going on a treasure hunt. You never knew what the shovel pushed into the ground might reveal when pulled back out. The hope was for oodles of potatoes but there were no guarantees. Of course even just one potato was well worth a jump up and down. When there were several potatoes of varying sizes a scream of joy would be worthy of the moment. Moving the earth aside with our hands, my cousin and I would scrutinize what the shovel left behind in a mound of vines and soil. We realized that in the excitement we might have missed a few!

I still feel the same way when the shovel goes into the ground around the potato plants and I'm still excited to see what's pulled back out. There's nothing like being able to see what those lumbering potato plants have been doing all summer. With their fruit of the harvest kept under wraps until the very end, potatoes provide the last surprise to many months of hard work and wondering.

Pulling pumpkins from their tired vines is fun too. Unlike potatoes, you've been able to watch them grow. You've nurtured them, making sure they were still attached to the vine. You kept an eye out for little critters trying to nibble away at them. Pumpkins are bright and orange and happy reminders that besides the economical and health benefits that go along with planting and working a garden, just as important is the magical wonder at what started back when it was still a bit cold and wet and windy with tiny seeds has come full circle all because of you-and Mother Nature.

I do think potaotes and pumpkins are meant to be the last of the garden bounty for a reason. They make you very happy. While you clear away vines and roots and leaves and shriveled plants, those beautiful potatoes and pumpkins are testimony to the spirit and soul of what a garden is as you end one garden and start to think of the next after the snow comes and goes and the hint of spring is back in the air.

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