Picking potatoes no more

Aivar Reinap

PHOTO: Erakogu

Baskets in hand, the family stood ready at field side this Sunday. Got to pick potatoes for the winter. The fellow from the village was there with his tractor, and for all us experienced ones it was basically a piece of cake.

The harvest was... just so. This year, the tops dried up rather fast resulting in lots of these seed sized potatoes. Enough for the winter. Even so, the decision was that this is the last time we’ll plant the big field. Enough. A couple of furrows in the back yard, perhaps, but no more. Hereby, a tradition of centuries will for us be over.

There’s no one big reason for us to quit growing potatoes for own use. In the countryside, we’ve got this decent cellar and at the flat in the city the basement is good enough to keep them fit till spring. And we do have field area. But there’s this excessive trouble growing the potatoes. Got to plough the land in spring and in the fall. Got to find the dung somewhere in the village. Get somebody to plough and cover the furrows. Then the heeling in, the weeding, and then the harvesting. Having no tractor equipment of our own, we need to hire someone and that costs money.

And then, for many a year things keep going wrong with the potatoes. Many years I was on the fields handpicking the beetles so as to save the crop. Then we have the wild swine, as yearly guests highly unwelcome. Often the summers have been rainy, spoiling both plants and the potatoes below. On several occasions, the rainy fall has made harvest a nuisance. Truth be told, can’t even remember having a problems-free year with a wonderful harvest. Though we have changed the field areas to let the land rest, and renewed seed. Desiring ecologically clean potatoes, we never sprayed them with chemicals not applied fertilisers.

On the other hand, these past years we have been eating more rice and pasta. There’s always this hurry and these get cooked faster. A couple of years ago, we reduced the potato fields from two to one, as in summer there was lots left over and had to be thrown away. We just don’t need as much anymore.  

Being this calculating type, I am well aware how cheap one gets good potatoes at the open markets downtown or from some guy in the countryside, so the trouble is surely not worth it financially. Even when buying from the store a kilogram at a time, the potato bill would not kill.

Fifteen years ago, we stopped keeping the cow. Pigs and chickens had to go before that. Just made no sense. A bit sad that for the children the country living is growing dimmer and the family traditions of picking/planting potatoes will cease. A city guy, I find comfort in knowing that firewood for the winter will be work enough, and apple juice time is knocking at the door. The cellar is packed with jams and marinated cucumbers so I’m still close to the country. But the thoughts keep creeping in about ordering the wood chopped ready, and about the delicious cucumbers, jams and juices abundantly available at grocery stores.