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A Potato Economy

I've had a theory wandering through my mind this year, a theory about why so many Americans, including myself, are currently in some economic trouble. I suspect that our personal economic imbalances have something to do with our alienation from the natural cycle of the seasons. That cycle was inescapable even our tropical ancestors, but we have managed to find many ways to shield ourselves from the demands of the weather outside. As a result, life feels a lot more steady than it used to, and the idea of winter as a time of deprivation we need to prepare for has grown weaker.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my concern that the economy could soon falter, and about my reaction - to plant potatoes. We may not be able to count on money the way we used to, but we can count on potatoes. Given the relative rarity of backyard gardens these days, and the mix of potato varieties available to us, there isn't much risk of a widespread potato famine as there was generations ago in Ireland.

I planted my potatoes, purposefully and accidentally. Some were chopped to smaller pieces by my shovel before being dug a few inches into the ground. Others appeared from last year's potato scraps in the compost pile.

red potatoes organic garden harvestAs you can see, I've harvested many of these potatoes, though I've left enough in the ground to come back up next year, as they're designed to do. I'll also put some of those I've harvested back into the ground. Just from the ten square foot patch I planted in early summer, I've now got enough seed potatoes to plant a 30 square foot patch for next year.

So far, I've got a red variety and a white variety, but I've bought a couple more old, discounted bags of another variety of potato as well, and I'll be mixing them all together to make a much larger patch for the 2009 growing season. To enrich the soil and help them grow nice and big, I'll be mixing in the leaves now falling around the rest of my yard. I see that many neighbors are putting their leaves out on the curb to be hauled away, and I may pilfer some of those leaves as well.

To deal with the weak economy, we need to learn to be like potatoes, putting on new growth while the sun shines, but also storing reserves as we can to get us through the dark times.

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