Sunday, October 25, 2015

Potatoes and Other Things

This has nothing to do with today's subject but let me introduce you to our newest member of the menagerie, his name is Duke. With Kirk setting traps, our older cat spending long hours hunting, they just could not keep up with the influx of mice so Duke entered the scene. He is already catching mice at his tiny size. One day I watched him kill a mouse in the morning and another in the evening. Don't know how many he scores a day but it is impressive for so small a kitten. My advice would be if you want a cat to cuddle, go to the shelter; if you want a mouser, find a barn cat's kittens. They have the instincts to hunt or their parents would not have survived. Our cats of course have a back up of cat food to keep them healthy but I would not choose a shelter kitten for a barn cat job. They have the wrong resume. Duke is beyond spoiled as the grandkids seldom let his feet touch the ground. Good thing the three oldest are in school most of the day and there is just our three-year-old grand daughter left at home or the kitten would not get any work done.

Gardens are coming to a close here up north and ours for the most part came to a halt back on August 22 when we had a killing frost. Yes, even a bit early for here. I thought with all that I had learned the past 33 years gardening in our old home, same altitude, same growing zone, that the learning curve would mainly just be the change in soil. Boy was I ever wrong. Things that I could grow before like Brussel Sprouts just don't stand a chance up here. I even tried two different varieties. My first thought was they are a cool weather crop and hence should do pretty well up here? I've tried for two summers and they don't even come close to developing. Corn is another huge struggle and I have not gotten a crop in two years. I've not given up on it. I do love my corn and I have a few ideas to try. What I have learned from observation of the last couple summers is that we have far cooler nights and that halts growing until the temp raises in the morning. That means not only short season but cool season crops, really cool weather crops have to be found.

My sister has a kind of bean I am unfamiliar with that did well for her and she lives at a even higher altitude but I think their nights are warmer. She promised to send me some and said if I like them she will send more for seed. Like the taste I'm thinking is less important than if they will grow in a survival situation.  My dried bean experiments that has been going on for 6 years is taking a very different turn but I'll talk more about that later.

Short season, really cool weather crops will take priority and cold frames, tires, and row covers are going to have to be a big part of our plan. The greenhouse frame will have to go up next summer and since the tomatoes and peppers did well up against the house on the south side, we will work on a frame that can cover that area also. Anything that tempers the cool weather and holds warmth is going to be a biggy.
Since it is the time many will be digging their potatoes I thought I would update you on my experiments. I would not have my tators so early in September with the unusually warm weather we have had after the killing frost but when I dug up a few hills for eating, I discovered some rotten were rotten. I was shocked! My potatoes don't even rot when I hit them with a shovel while digging. They just scab over and remain firm. I'm blaming the ghostly pale, BIG fat worm lurking amongst my crop. Anyone know who it might be? He looked like a pretty shady character and I didn't like the look of him. The bites out of the potatoes were pretty good sized and I wasn't about to take a chance loosing the whole crop, so I dug.

At the encouragement of my sister, the same one with the beans, I tried Pontiacs since I LOVE red potatoes but they failed. I put Dakota's back in and they gave me a puny crop. They did better last year but not a terribly impressive show. The King George potatoes came through as they have through disease, drought, hail, and every other adversity. They even produced potatoes on plants that did not blossom last year. I never knew that was even possible. I get some pretty big ones too with quite a few per hill. More than anything else I've grown.
                                               Photo is of a King George Potato
I was thinking when I stabbed a few Dakotas, "Now these are going to turn to mush and I will have to put them in the mulch pile. There are too many of them to have for supper." Hmmm......" What shall I do to not waste them?" Here is where the brain fart enters in. "What if I took all the damaged potatoes and made potato flour from them?"  You know this brain never rests.  I hurried, washed them, boil the potato pieces, cut them up into smaller pieces, dried them in the dehydrator, put them through the blender to chop them up even littler, and I will put them through the wheat grinder when I get it out to grind wheat. The guilt of wasting food is gone and I am feeling pretty smart. Something I savor whenever possible. Especially since I have been doing some carpentry work lately and that always leaves me feeling and looking pretty dumb.

I have decided to halt my potato diversity plan for now and move on to my next experiment in the form of figuring out how to work with true potato seeds. Something the plants don't produce every year. Some of you don't even know what that is probably. I sure wondered what the clusters of green balls that produce where the blossoms were? That is them, true potato seeds. Potatoes that I had saved, put in the ground, saved some from that crop, and put in again produced the potato seeds. Not sure if that was what it takes or if the weather was just right but I plan to find out by keeping records. I've been wanting true potato seeds to begin my next experiments because of the  "What ifs?", which send surges of panic through me. "What if we were in a survival situation and my potato cropped failed? What would we put in the ground the next year to get a crop?" It isn't like you can keep tiny potatoes in storage for years. There were thousands who starved to death in Ireland from a potato famine. It could happen again as history repeats itself.

Don't know how long true potato seeds last but surely longer than small potatoes. I can see I have more research to do but now I can begin to learn for I have some seeds to grow into plants and begin the next phase of experimentation.

It is my understanding from research that it is the true potato seeds which harbor the genetic crosses that become new strains of potatoes. I'm not at the moment interested in producing a new kind of potato as I only have one kind that is doing well but I am hoping that the seeds remain viable for a few years giving me a back up safety system. First I have to plant them and see how long it takes to produce plants large enough to put in the garden. Well actually first I had to try to remove the seeds from the green firm balls. I'm hoping unlike peppers and cucumbers that there isn't a specific age development at which you have to do this. I just picked a few off of plants that were dying and a few more off the ground where they had fallen.

I followed directions that recommended you put the balls in the blender with water and chop them up. This left me with a mess, too much pulp per tiny seeds. Wondering how to separate this mess I put them in canning jars and waited to see which seeds floated, they are the bad ones, and which seeds fell to the bottom. The seeds just didn't want to fall because they were held up by all the pulp. I shook the jars now and then and tried skimming off pulp from the top. There were just too many seeds that ended up coming with each scoop and I felt wasteful. There has got to be a better way. If you know of it please share. I dried the seeds and pulp that I wasn't able to separate both ended up on parchment paper together and I figured the pulp will just rot away when I plant the seeds. That is plant them next spring under grow lights. Answers just don't come quickly when it involves gardening. It takes years to sometimes to find the answers and gain the skills needed.  It is one area I would gladly pay to be an apprentice to speed up the process. There are just so few that have the knowledge in my area
 Have any of you tried working with true potato seeds?

No comments:

Post a Comment