Dateline: 1 July 2008
The price of oil is skyrocketing. Inflation and fiscal foolishness is ravaging the economy. Our nation is bogged down in a foreign war that we can’t win. Our culture is morally adrift. And we are politically bereft. Powerful forces are at work in the world.
There is nothing much I can do to change those “big picture” problems. So I find myself focusing my attention and directing my efforts into areas where I can make a significant difference: on my land, within my family, and through my Christian faith.
There are all kinds of good things happening within that personal paradigm. For example, potato blossoms are beginning to burst forth in my garden.
Potato blossoms are particularly special to this deliberate agrarian. That’s because I come from a long line of potato farmers. Part of me is Scots-Irish. I’m quite certain some of my kin came here during the Irish Potato Famine of the middle 1800s. My mother’s father was a potato farmer in Aroostook County, Maine. My grandfather Kimball, from the same town, was not a potato farmer but his father was. Pretty much everybody with roots that go back in that part of the country have potato farmers in their lineage.
I spent boyhood summers in Fort Fairfield, Maine with my grandparents. Every July for something like 60 years that town has had a Potato Blossom Festival. It’s a big event for a little town way up in the top of the state. My Grandmother Kimball lived in town and I have fond memories of festival time.
I also remember the potato blossoms that were being celebrated. Miles and miles of roads, lined with acres and acres of fields, containing so many long rows of spaced and hilled potatoes, all abloom. What a sight.
Now I satisfy myself with three rows of potatoes in my home garden.
As you can see, my plants are not in full blossom yet. But, as you can also see, they sure are growing well. I planted the seed in a trench about 4” deep. I kept the weeds hoed and hilled the soil up on the sides two times as the plants grew. They are now around 42” high and the foliage is lush. Amazingly, I haven’t seen a single potato beetle!
People have commented about how good my potato plants are doing. They wonder what I’ve fertilized them with and if, perhaps, I fertilized them too much.
Well, I haven’t fertilized them with anything. I did spread leaves raked from the yard over that ground last fall, and then spread some ashes from the wood stove in the winter, and then tilled it all up in the spring. But that was it. No fertilizer was used, and no bug spray either.
So, in all honesty, I can’t claim I have any special growing wisdom or ability beyond planting and hoeing and hilling. That these potatoes have done so well is purely because of God’s grace, and I am humbled. Surely I don’t deserve potato plants like that. They are a gift and a delight that I am most thankful for.
What I like about these potato plants, besides their beautiful blossoms and abundant green foliage, is that the tubers now developing underground will feed my family through this next winter. It so happens that potatoes (and onions) are a large part of our diet. Potatoes are nutritious food and they store just fine by simply putting them in crates in our cool basement. No canning, or freezing, or drying is needed.
Potato blossoms remind me of the best days of my youth. My world was different then, before I grew up and took on the responsibilities of being an adult, a father, and the provider for my family, before I matured beyond my prime and, one day, woke up to find I had become a 50-year-old man.
I had a lot of energy, a lot of drive, a lot of focus and determination when I was a younger man. Those things are, however, now ebbing from my life, ever so slowly, but ever so surely. That sounds kind of morbid, but it's true. I don’t like it. I don’t like it a bit.
Being a husband and father is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Working my day job is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Running a home-based mail order business and chicken plucker parts manufacturing business is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Working in my garden and around the homestead to be more self-sufficient is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Everything else there is to do in my life is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Lately, though, it’s all been hard.
I am perpetually tired. I find myself struggling against the reality of minor but increasingly irksome limitations. I am tormented by so many creative ideas, by wanting to do so many things, and to achieve so many goals. But, more often than not, I spin my wheels and make little progress. It is discouraging.
I want to be a carefree little boy again—spending the summer with my grandparents, surrounded by those fields of potato blossoms, surrounded by the security and love I knew there. But, alas, there is no going back. We can never go back. We can only remember, and thank God for the memories, and press on.
At times like this, when I have made my life busier and more complicated than it should be, God impresses upon me the need to reevaluate, refocus, and, ultimately, recapitulate.
That is what I feel led to do for this month of July. It is time for a blog fast—a period of time during which I will not blog. Instead, I will refocus on the “faith” part of this blog’s descriptive subtitle.
I will, Lord willing, return to blogging here on August 2nd. I look forward to continuing our dialogue then. Here’s wishing you and yours a blessed July.