The great potato roll

Now this is the truth.    

Not long ago, a neighboring farmer had in his possession endless fields of shredded cornstalks rolled into round bales. They were cow fodder, but he agreed to part with some for a low price, so on to our place they arrived, lined up nicely at the head of the market gardens. It was spring, and Bride and I were setting up the potato beds – about four of them, each 100 feet long. I don’t have a potato hiller and don’t want one because I’ve always had better luck hilling potatoes up with straw or leaves. Keeps the soil safe from stressful swings of dryness and wet.

And, we’ve never had a problem with Colorado potato beetles since we began that practice. I figured this shredded corn would make ideal mulch for hilling up, so I cut open one big bale (about 6-by-6 feet) and started spreading it across the potato rows with my favorite tool—an old three-pronged pitchfork.  Hours it took me. Hours, I tell you.

Then out comes Bride, and we’re standing there leaning on the big bales, me sweating corn bits, and her studying the matter.“What if we roll it out,” says she. Roll it out…? “Sure. The bales are at the top of the potato beds,” she says, “so what if we cut the baling twine, give a big shove and role those bales right down over the potatoes?”

I don’t give up easy, so I studied the bales to make sure they were rolled up in such a way that they’d unroll like she wanted. They were. My old ways were toast. So we cut the twine, leaned heavily into the first bale, and pushed with all our might –and, sweet as could be, whup, whup, whup, that baby unrolled almost the full length of the potato beds. Another bale, and another, and we were done in about a minute, and went in for dinner (which she’d been cooking all this time).

How do women do that?

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About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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