Wednesday, September 19, was sweet-potato-digging day at Hart’s Mill. What began in June as 3 1/2 orderly rows of sweet-potato slips had become a solid blanket of tangled purple-blossomed green vines. Here and there “volunteer” watermelon and tomato vines popped out of the mass, and bees buzzed happily around the flowers.
You may have noticed that we did not send out an announcement or a plea for help. It is an unfortunate aspect of small farms that many tasks occur on a “seize-the-moment” basis. We knew they needed harvesting soon, but the 6-plus inches of hurricane rain we got Sunday and Monday moved the task to the front of the line. Prospects of wet, rotting roots were all the motivation we needed!
There was no question of taking the tractor into the muddy bed. Jeffry and I spent a good part of the very hot day using clippers (to cut vines), spading forks, and our own two hands to pull the potatoes out of the wet soil. We spread them onto a tarp as they came out, to get a start on drying. Most of the potatoes were beautifully-shaped thanks to having an unusually sandy clay soil.
Next we crated up the potatoes and toted all three hundred pounds of them to the container shed for curing (consisting of a week or so in dark, very warm conditions), which will be followed by cooler storage at home.
We grew 5 varieties. Top-to-bottom in the photo they are Hernandez, Purple, Carolina Ruby, Mahon and a mystery variety moved from Anthony’s plot in the former community garden. If all goes well they will eventually find themselves gently washed and for sale at the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market!