Potatoes; My Curious Reaction to Pandemic Gardening
A potato bin. Yup, that was the first thing I designed and built for my new garden. It was the first thing I could think of that I needed to do as I pulled the tools and wood out of the garage to set up a make-shift workshop under our deck. It seemed, at the time, like a logical thing to do. I’ve always wanted a potato bin. I’ve always been curious about how they work and intrigued at how many potatoes I could grow in such a small space. And now with my garden project, it was possible.
So, I got to work. I researched potato bins, their size and construction, reviewing suggestions and techniques for irrigation. I came up with my own design, one that fit my space and needs. Then, I built it out of 2X4s, of course, and some cedar wood pickets that we happened to have on hand. The finished bin is now halfway full of potatoes that seem to love their new home. But, now, looking back on this I wonder, how did I get here? Maybe this wasn’t such a logical task after all, pushed forward by the pandemic and my emotional response, turned into action that, in hindsight really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
First of all, a potato bin starts out at ground level, but as the potatoes grow you add layers of dirt, attaching more boards as you go. My bin will be about three feet tall when the potatoes start growing out the top. The theory is, and this is the one I’ve always wanted to test, that I should be able to open the boards at the bottom, at some point in the near future, and pull out potatoes that are ready to eat. And this thing I’ve built, out of scrap wood, could produce as many as 100 pounds of potatoes. If that is true, this is a very compact way of growing lots of food, which is where I get really excited. So, I wanted to know, does this work? Is it true? Could I get 100 pounds of potatoes out of this wood square bin I built? How cool would that be?
I know enough about myself to know that I’m in general a very curious person. I’m also solution focused and highly creative. Although, my artistic side does not like to sit in one medium but expands out into all areas of my life. And, so, when I was thinking about growing food, the potato bin was a solution to that objective, and it was filling a curiosity about potato production mixing with my artistic inclination to build things by hand.
And so, maybe this is the answer to – how did I get here? The answer to growing lots of food was rationally – I NEED a potato bin. I could also get philosophical on you and say that I have Scottish and possibly some Irish blood and so I have ancestral reasons for building a potato bin, especially in a crisis. And so, in my more quiet moments all of these things run through my head. But, right now, today, I’m staring at a potato bin that is flourishing, and I’m wondering, what am I going to do with all of these potatoes? Because this is the thing, I don’t eat potatoes.
I think many of us are doing things that, perhaps, don’t make a lot of sense to the outside world, or even to ourselves right now. Being in a world crisis like this pandemic, shapes our actions in ways that we aren’t fully aware. I’m more connected to the events of my childhood, for example, and I’m remembering when I was young and would go out and dig the first new baby potatoes of the season, boil them in water and drop them into my mouth in their buttery goodness that can only be explained as, well – YUM. But, in a pandemic, when things are unknown and my creative energy and curiosity are funneled into thoughts about survival, the outcome is things like my potato bin. I think this is what happens when things are unknown. We react based on a whole mixture of our personal life experiences as well as things like genetics that are influenced by the lives of our ancestors. The result is a fusion of conscious and unconscious forces as well as social and existential concerns and here I am, growing potatoes, in a bin I designed and built and continue to watch over like a mother hen. These potatoes will feed somebody, I have no doubts, and they are in my garden, right now, growing like you would not believe.
It’s also curious that the potatoes are the most robust plants in my garden right now, climbing up out of the soil with vigor and purpose. They are making my garden alive while the smaller plants build themselves up more slowly. I’m proud of these potatoes, and I lean on them a little to remind myself of the success of my garden, even if their very existence is a bit curious. Sometimes I do things that, from the outside, and perhaps even in retrospect, don’t seem completely rational. I am a human being after all with a healthy mix of the spices of life, measuring out my emotions that sometimes spill onto the countertop and have to be cleaned up and then balanced, with logical thought too. This is who I am and my example of this is, my potato bin.