Autumn: Potato Harvest in the Field

The foliage is dying back and the air is crisp, autumn is sneaking down our hillside and it can be seen in the hedges which are turning from deep green to russet brown. 

The harvesting of potatoes #growing

As the foliage of the potatoes yellow, turn brown and crisp up ready to blow away in the first bluster of a northern wind we have been dipping into the tyres for the occasional early taste of potatoes. Nothing compares to coming home from work and taking a trug in hand and walking up the hill with a hand trowel to harvest some spuds. This is the beauty of growing in tyres, there is no back breaking bending or forks slicing through large spuds to cries of, 'Blast', 'Bugger' and 'Not again'. Even using a potato fork, a blunt nosed mole that delves into the soil, does not always stop this and where there were small holes you find large gouges that you can drive your finger into and make the potato into a finger puppet.

Harvesting potatoes

The great thing about growing in tyres is the watering can be controlled, the feeding and even the blight/backleg can be controlled easier. Tyres also create some insulation for the spuds and the variety we plant, Isle of Jura, is less susceptible to wireworm attack in the tyres compared to open ground and the yields are much higher. So, all three of us, excited, bickering and talking to the neighbour over the hedge make our way to the tyres and start the slow process of excavating potatoes. For the digging up of potatoes comes with the same excitement as treasure hunting. Little D refers to it as a 'treasure hunt', he scrapes and dusts away the soil to reveal golden orbs in the dirt. There are cries of, 'There's another potato', 'It's by your foot, no the other foot', and, 'Look at the size of that'. Now the hedges are tall we wonder what our neighbour makes of all of this noise. We are a mish mash of overlapping voices and gesticulating arms as we hold up proudly potatoes bigger than our fists and smaller quips of spuds no bigger than our little fingernail. That is the gamble with potatoes. We actually bemoan when one tyre only gives us a harvest of half a trug -- that's not the floral trug in the above photo but a plastic five gallon trug. That's how much we have come to love not just the growing of potatoes but the harvesting of them and the talk that comes with it. Even the bickering is fun, 'Let me do it', 'No, it's my turn', 'Oooh you fibber'. We still wonder what our neighbour makes of this.

Harvesting those main crop spuds.

We spread them out on a fallow bed, allowing the sun to dry the earth on the potatoes but these spuds have come up clean and clear, no sign of blight or rot, not even much wireworm damage. The courgettes we spot whilst harvesting, mammoth todgers in the undergrowth -- we even refer to them as that and again, no wonder our neighbour looks at us weirdly -- have come off worse in open ground, the ends nibbled by hares. Which brings tears to our eyes. We'll have to net them next year or learn to eat hare. In the end we fill three large hessian sacks with spuds as the light wanes and Carol carts them down the hill, hurting her back -- a case of tight buttocks which she cries about from the lounge sofa but is coaxed back to life with promises of meat and potato pie and homemade red cabbage.

Drying potatoes.

As the light wanes, as autumn creeps closer to the house, we spread the still damp potatoes out on the kitchen floor on sheets of old newspaper. They fill half the kitchen and block any access to the larder and the Welsh dresser. We sit and consider how much we have spent growing these spuds, and we are in the lead not because of money and cost per pound but because when we bake these, fry them, mash them we are awash with 'oohs' and 'aahs' that are missing in the run of the mill shop bought varieties and keep our neighbour amused.


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