Yesterday, I had an adventure.
9:30 am – I pack Levon, my adorable 3 year-old, into the beloved but increasingly decrepit Jeep. Not to be forgotten is my GPS, which I am starting to refer to as Gepus, owing to its amazing ability to lead me to the promised land. Or in this case: Coe Hill, Ontario. Today is the day I finally get to pick up our seed potatoes!
10:08 am – My gas gauge is creeping towards empty, and I’m bombing around back roads, looking for a gas station. I get a hot tip that there’s one only 7 km away, but that turns out to be 7km back in the direction I came from. I refuse to backtrack, and have to settle for traveling 10 km to Washago. Washago is an adorable town, but also, not in the direction I should be traveling. It takes 20 minutes or so to get back on track. Thanks for nothing, Gepus.
10:30 am – It’s a stunningly beautiful day. I am driving down country roads, past rolling hills and 100 year old barns. My son is asleep in his car seat, and my ever-present wind-up radio has been silenced for the moment, having failed to find a signal. I feel so grateful and contented under this brilliant blue sky. I take big lungfuls of lilac-scented air and smile.
11:35 am – I am getting some disconcerting information from Gepus. I still have another hour to go before I reach Coe Hill. That can’t be right! Coe Hill is only an hour and 45 minutes from my house! That’s what it said on Google Maps – wait a minute. I didn’t check Google Maps. In fact, the only research I did into my destination was a brief conversation with a Coe Hill local who doesn’t come out my way very often. And once again, I am faced with another example of Emily Wilson’s Quixotic Driving Theory. It goes something like this: I have a great sense of direction, things are generally easy to find, and the best tenet of all – if I just get in the area and drive around for a while it will all work out. I’d like to state right here that none of the above are true. I may be slightly lost, but at least I’m honest.
12:18 pm – I think I’m getting close, but spirits are lagging. My coffee has long ago been consumed, there isn’t another espresso place for at least another 20 minutes ( Ha! That’s a hilarious rural Ontario joke! In truth, there are no espresso places, period) and my son is starting do the old ‘wake up and whine’. I fumble for my radio, apply adequate pressure to the broken volume knob, and – Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix is playing! I haven’t heard this song in ages! Things are starting to look up. If driving down a dirt road singing along to a slightly creepy classic rock song won’t cheer you up, nothing will.
12:40 pm – I arrive at Ellenberger Farm! I’m greeted by Henry Ellenberger, who along with his wife, Janet, is the only grower of organic seed potatoes in the province. Think about that for a moment. Potatoes are a North American staple, and the only major starch that we can all grow in our own backyards. And yet they are also one of the most heavily sprayed crops when farmed conventionally, and potato DNA is constantly being tampered with in search of the world’s most uniform French fry. But here are Janet and Henry, sustainably growing a product that can be purchased for $30, and feed your family for the entire winter. They deserve so much more than our business, (although they should get that too, visit their beautiful website at www.ellenbergerorganicfarm.com) really, they deserve a medal.
Henry helps me load the Jeep with 150 lbs of potato potential. This year we’re growing:
- Onaway, a white skinned early potato
- Cheiftan, a red skinned potato
- Norland, another red skinned potato
- And Dakota Pearl, which should be eaten based on the name alone, but also happens to be delicious.
Henry and I spend a bit of time shooting the breeze: rain (or lack of it), root cellar optimization and the like, and then I trundle away back down the dirt road.
1pm – Now we get to the fun part: The Great Race to Catch the Schoolbus. I mentioned I have an adorable three year old. I also have an adorable six year old. He is getting off the bus at 3:57. Considering it took me over three hours to get here, I am now going to need to book it home. I can proudly say I am in the minority, and I never drive over the speed limit. I’m just not that kind of gal. Or rather, I could make that claim, before today. Now, I have to high-tail it on these back roads like I’m being chased by a Wendigo if I’m going to make it back it time.
3:45 pm – I’ve been racing along, comparing the estimated time of arrival to the clock, and I’m always one minute or two too late. I have to get home! By child’s sense of security and well-being depends on it! Who knows what lifelong emotional trauma I could be causing by not being home when my little boy walks in the door! Pedal to the medal, you can do this.
3:54 pm – Miraculously, I glide into the driveway with 3 minutes to spare. The bus drives up, my son gets out, the world continues on as if nothing happened. Amazing.
11:30 pm – Well, my family has eaten dinner, my husband and children are sleeping and now I have one last task to accomplish. Potato seeds are the same potato you eat, but are often cut up to maximize their potential. I must now sit down with a paring knife and cut 30 lbs of Onaway potatoes into ‘slips’ – little chunks of spud with at least two eyes on them. They have to sit out overnight before planting them tomorrow. I pop my well-worn copy of Dazed and Confused (best summertime movie , ever!) into the disc drive and away we go.
12:30 am – One short hour later, I have turned this:
It’s all done, and Wooderson is still cruising around screen looking insanely cool. I am going to sleep well tonight! I’ll have to, I’ve got lots of potatoes to plant tomorrow.