Planting Potatoes
With A Little Girl

Dateline: 21 June 2007

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I do not have a lot of regrets in life but I do have a few. My number-one regret, by far, is that I planned my family.

Marlene and I have three boys, ages 12 (almost 13), 16, and 19. That three-year spacing did not happen by accident. The birth of each child was “scheduled” according to my plans. We stopped having children after three because I didn’t see how our house would accommodate, or my income support, more than three children.

Marlene was willing to have more children. We should have had more children. God would have provided. I realize that now. I thought I was being wise by planning my family and limiting it. But my wisdom was worldly, and I was clearly being selfish. Don’t anyone tell me I wasn’t being selfish, because I know I was.

Had I been less selfish, more faithful, more trusting in God’s provision, and more obedient to His calling, we might have had a girl, or two, and that would have been pretty special.

I was reminded of this for a couple of months early this year as Marlene took on the job of watching our neighbor’s little girl while both her parents worked. The little girl is four years old.

I was initially reluctant about having Marlene watch this little girl. My wife is, after all, so busy with her different projects and managing our three boys. And the boys are so rough and tumble (frankly speaking, they can be savages). Nevertheless, for a few days a week, the delicate little girl came to our home.

It turned out that my boys were gentle and patient with the little girl. They demonstrated a facet of their character that we rarely see at home. It was refreshing and encouraging to watch. My sons helped Marlene by entertaining the little girl, and keeping a protective eye on her. They lavished her with their attention, and she loved them for it..

For Marlene, watching the child was like having the little girl she never had. Marlene put the four-year-old to work helping to fold clothes and make meals in the kitchen. She was an eager and surprisingly good helper.

When it came time to plant potatoes in the garden, James and the little girl came out to see me. I asked her if she wanted to help. She nodded her head enthusiastically. I showed her a small seed potato cut in half and explained that the flat side goes down. I told her a big potato plant would grow out from the little piece of potato, and the plant would make lots of big new potatoes. She listened intently and I thought to myself, what an amazing story.

Then James took charge. He told me he would show her how it was done and they would work together to plant the potatoes. So I turned my attention to marking and furrowing two more rows, but I was watching and listening, and I eventually went to get my camera.

The picture at the beginning of this story shows James and the little girl planting potatoes. Here’s another picture:

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I was so pleased to see my youngest son patiently instruct and encourage the little girl. He even made a spacer stick for her, as shown in this next picture:

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The two of them slowly but surely planted two 75-foot rows of potatoes. Then they took a break and went back to the house for a strawberry smoothie. Or, as the little girl says, “smoovie.” I finished up planting the third (and last) row, then hoed soil over all the rows, and headed back to the house to see if there was any of the cold, sweet, blended yogurt-and-fruit drink left for me (there wasn’t).

Marlene stopped watching the little girl a few weeks ago, when the farm market season started. But the little girl will be back (she lives just up the road) and she will get to see the potato plants that are now growing out of the pieces of seed potato that she and James planted. When we dig potatoes in the fall, we will give some to her parents. She will see and taste the harvest.

For the little girl, it was her first experience planting potatoes. It may have been her first experience planting anything. Her parents do not have a garden. I wonder, how many modern children in America grow up having never planted a potato, having never seen and tasted the fruit of their efforts, having never participated in the amazing story. Way too many, I suspect. And that is a pity.


I must admit that four-year-old girls were once something like aliens to me. When the little girl in this story first came to our home, she was shy and reticent around me. I wondered if she was old enough to talk. She soon realized that I was not an ogre. By the time her last day at our house came, she was not only carrying on conversations with me, it didn’t seem like she would ever stop talking. It was a cute thing. It was a delight.


Lord willing, my children and their wives will, in their time, be less selfish and more fruitful than I. Lord willing, I’ll live long enough to see a good mix of grandsons and granddaughters. Lord willing, I’ll have a healthy body and sound mind and be able to share my life with them, to listen to them, to create lasting memories with them, memories like, maybe, planting potatoes, and then going to the house for one of Grandma’s fruit smoovies.


CLICK HERE to read the follow-up story to this one: Digging Potatoes With a Little Girl


Anonymous said...

‘Never regret what you have let go”
Life is, in many ways, a series of choices.
It is, I suspect, in our nature to not always choose wisely. We are bound to wonder if a particular choice was the right one.
In some instances we may become convinced in time that a choice we made was the wrong one.

If only we had chosen the other path, the road ‘more traveled’.
Or the road ‘less traveled’.
A different love, a different career.
Eschew such doubts.
Do not allow the smallest seed of regret to put down roots in your soul.
It will bear a bitter fruit.”

Page Smith - OLD AGE IS ANOTHER COUNTRY - A Traveler’s Guide

Patti said...

Lovely story! There are hundreds if not thousands of children in our country that need loving christian role models.In the home to in the chruch. God may have pricked your heart to help open your mind to HIs possibilities.

tc said...

Herrick, I too, understand the regret of listening to the wisdom of this world. It wasn't until it was too late that we learned that children are a blessing from the Lord and that it wasn't wise to try to limit and plan His blessings. Thankfully, the Lord has brought us to the place of recognition, repentance, and forgiveness. We can't undo the past, so we press on in His grace, helping our sons to better understand God's Word and ways.

Harriette Jacobs said...

What a precious story! Sometimes, despite our "planning", the children still come into our lives - delivery options vary!

Have a great weekend,
Harriette J.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post. It was so well written and with good advice.

My husband, coming from a family of boys, wasn't sure what to do with our daughter when she was born. Truth be told, he's still not sure. But one things for sure, she's got him wrapped around her little finger. Now, there's a new baby in the house and it's another girl. ;)

He thinks he'd like to stop at two children because we can't afford another. I think I'll point him to your article.

Anonymous said...

My Dad never really knew what to do with me, the first girl ever born into the family. When I was young, I sensed that he wished I was a boy. I grew to be a tomboy, and could hit an egg with a .22 at 100 yards by age 8. By then, we were best buddies.
Fast forward 30 years: my youngest brother was a pilot in the Air Force, and it is a standing irony that jet jocks mostly have girl babies. He gave our family 3 beautiful girls before leukemia took his young life.
Last Sunday (Father's Day), Dad mentioned that he was not a very good father to me, but he has learned how to appreciate girls, and thinks he is a good grandfather to his grand-daughters. I thought of that as I read your post. I hope you have many grandchildren, and are blessed with a nice mix of boys and girls!

Anonymous said...

What a sweet story.
Thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

Herrick, have you ever considered adoption? There are a lot of children out there who are labeled as "special needs" simply because they are over the age that is "easily adoptable" (i.e., older than ~6) or are part of a sibling group. It is definitely hard work - not that raising your own children isn't - but I just thought I'd throw that idea out there.

You can see some of the children that are out there right now, at

It was nice to hear how she was such a blessing to your family (and vice versa).

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reaffirming our choices!! We have 12 children (7 adopted) and hope for more. I'm so glad I never bought into the lies of the world.

The Dancing Butterfly said...

This post made me cry. See, I am like you wife, willing to have more children and my husband like you, carefully planning his family. I have 4 girls 10, 7, 5, and 3. God has softened my husband's heart and we are now expecting our first boy in December. He has said this is the "last one". I will hold on to hope and His perfect will for our family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! God has been gracious to soften our hearts toward any children He may bring to us. We have 6 fabulous children at home and recently lost our eagerly-anticipated 7th.
He is so merciful and gracious to give us any at all; we hope and pray we can have more.


I'm 65 now, and my last 10 years years hane been blessed by little girls, thanks to my wife's grandchildren. Frankly, I had never liked children much. They were noisey, smelly, and very disorderly. Then, ad I sat watching a football game, the first grand daughter at about two years of age climbed up my leg (uninvited), up my arm, across my shoulders and down the other side. Then she rooted under my arm, lay her head on my stomach and went to sleep. My life has not been the same since. Two grand daughters and a grandson later, I still look back on that event as the one that that profoundly changed my life. I've loved everyone differently since then, and children most of all.

Greg Bell said...

Um, everybody, God probably wants you to plan your families. That's how we live lightly on His Earth and fulfill our mission of being good stewards of Creation. A Creation which is under considerable stress and attack these days.

I'm not so sure it's an issue of God providing because then you have to wonder about why there are hundreds of millions of children without enough to eat. Surely God loves those children as much as yours.

Cj said...

My first son is 8 days old today... and I was quite scared when I first found out we were pregnant. Guy's have tried to explain to me what changes when you have a child, but I never got it. Now I do...

But while the thought of having a daughter is quite frightening to me, reading this made me want one :)

I really enjoy reading your posts and look forward to meeting you one day. Whether it is in heaven or on earth, I don't know!


Anonymous said...

My father planted a garden in the back yard in Charleston, S.C., and then he was gone at sea, Suez Crisis. In his letters he would ask if we had gotten any potatoes. I kept looking and couldn't find any. When he got home he headed back to his plot first thing, filled with disbelief that not a potato was to be had. I walked by his side (age 5) and we arrived I said "See, there are no potatoes. Daddy" I was stunned when he uprooted those green plants and the potatoes were hanging from the roots. I can only imagine what had gone thru his mind about his southern wife and her girls. I thought it was a miracle.

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for the great story!