Tag Archives: Potatoes

Cooking for the hay crew

Came across this column in the Tacoma News Tribune about shortcake suppers.  She talks about her grandmother cooking for the farm crew and it struck a cord in me because I grew up helping my mother put on the big spread for farm workers and cooking for the hay crew happens at our house too!  When I was growing up my dad had 3-4 good farm friends he swapped labor with for things like haying and chopping silage.  Each farmer had a couple pieces of machinery (tractors, mowers, wagons, forage harvesters) and they would share machinery and help each other at crucial times of the year.  The really cool thing is that each farmer did slightly different things – one was a dairy farmer – another raised beef cattle – so their busy times were not at the SAME time!

As my Dad and the other farmers traveled from place to place doing the big, shared work projects like haying and silage, the wives would always put on the big spread for lunch.  In the 70s there wasn’t many arenas where women competed – except in the kitchen.  Title IX was a few years away and most women were relegated to pink collar jobs.  But, in the domestic domain it was full-contact homemaking!  Just like the Amish women at barn-raising events, the tables would be groaning under the weight of baked goods and breads, mashed potatoes, gravy, roast beef…and dessert!  Cobblers, cakes, and PIES!

Now, my Dad was a bit of a joker and he liked to egg people on.  So, when they were having lunch at Charlie’s and Marion was feeding them he would say things like, “Well, you know, at Hank’s last week we had apple and lemon meringue pie!”  Sure enough, the next day Marion would produce, apple, lemon meringue AND cherry (with ice cream!)  It is a wonder they ever got any work done given the amount they ate, but they were also doing hard physical labor and could justify the big meals.

At our house we typically feed the helpers who work with us on hay deliveries.  Sometimes we have 3-4 of them on busy days so dinner is a big, sit down affair.  On Saturday we do a big farm breakfast for everyone who shows up by 8:30 in the morning.  Last week we had eggs, sausage gravy, fried potatoes, toast and jam.  I do this as a carry-over from the tradition when I was growing up.  And the crew is always grateful which provides a reward for the work of cooking for them.  While I don’t have other farm wives to contend with in a contest of pie-baking skills I need to be careful because occasionally a mom will ask “So, what did you feed them this week?” in a my-kid-seems-to-like-your-cooking-a-bit-too-much tone of voice.  But the fact remains, I like to cook for an appreciative audience.  The other night we had one of our former helpers who was home to visit family for the 4th call and say that he was coming over to help us for a couple hours for old time’s sake and the last thing he told my husband was  “….and I will stay for supper!”  Game on!

Whew!

It has been a while since I posted – mainly because I have had family visiting for the past couple of weeks.  Their vacation became my staycation.  We had fun, picked lots of beans and enjoyed the time reconnecting.

What is hot?

A few weeks ago, during the hot spell, things got pretty crispy.  Like most farmers and gardeners I found it difficult to keep enough water on things.  The cucs stalled, the carefully nurtured second seeding of lettuce and spinach bolted straight out of the ground and the raspberries shrivelled on the bush.  About the only thing that seemed to thrive were the SLUGS!  I have never had an infestation this bad.  They are getting about 20% of the tomatoes right now and a significant number of the cucs and zucs.

What is done for the year:

  • raspberries
  • beans for the freezer
  • strawberries
  • garlic

What’s Blooming Now?

Dahlias!  Finally they are popping out.  Every time I drive by the Silverdale Post Office and see the Dahlia Society demonstration plot blooming like crazy I lamented that my flowers were so late this year (mainly because I was late getting them in!)   Now they are coming out like crazy.  I didn’t label them as I was planting them (Memo to self: Do that next year) so all of the blooms are a total surprise!  I love dahlias because they seem to grow just about anywhere, they bloom like crazy until frost, and the deer don’t bother them! 

Other things that are coming on gangbusters:

  • sweet corn
  • zucs
  • pickling cucs
  • tomatoes
  • peaches
  • blueberries
  • plums
  • beets
  • red potatoes

The cow has had a visit from the bull this month and hopefully she is in calf.  Farmer George is coming for the hogs next week and we will be butchering chickens with the neighbors then as well. 

The rain has provided a momentary respite from the heat and the need to constantly switch water from one section of the garden to another.  I have also had the chance to get all the fall veggies transplanted.  I will have to wait and see how many cabbage and broccoli I end up with.  Again, I meant to label the seed trays and before I got around to it one of the children moved them around.   We dug all of the red potatoes to make room for them and they are taking off!

Ends and Beginnings

One challenge associated with eating local, seasonal food is that you have dry spells.  Tonight I peeled the last of the potatoes – so there will be no more mashed spuds until August-ish.  The last potatoes They were nobby and mis-shapen things, and were sprouting like crazy with a few green spots, but they peeled up fine and were yummy mashed up with some half-and-half.

 About a month ago when we were getting the garden ready for tilling we dug the last of the potatoes.  There are a wide range of ways to store spuds.  If you have a root cellar or cool basement you can put them in a burlap sack, keep them away from the apples and they will keep for most of the winter.  Lacking a root cellar you can make a root storage bin by putting a bucket or two of sand in the bottom of a rubber maid garbage can, moisten it, place a couple of scraps of 2×4 on top like a lattice and put sacks or bags of potatoes in the garbage can.  Keep the lid on, store it in a cool, dark place (like a garage) and they will keep for months.  Or, you can be really, really lazy and leave them in the garden and go out in the rain, sleet and snow during the winter and early spring and dig enough for dinner as needed.  We are fortunate to have well-drained soil so they don’t get water logged, and despite living in the “snow zone” out by Crosby we don’t get deep frost in the ground.  Granted, there were a few potatoes with wormy spots and some that were frost-burnt, but on the whole they were fine. 

So we bid the last year’s potatoes goodbye and get ready for a couple months of rice, pasta and couscous.  But, as I was weeding the garden yesterday I noticed that the beginnings of this year’s crop (Yukon Gold, Reds, and Russet Burbanks) are peaking through the dirt! Potato plants