Monday, November 1, 2010

Potato Growing

Social welfare is a relatively new phenomenon, beginning in America with the great depression and continuing until now. It was a takeoff of the German system started by Bismark: That is governmental welfare. There has always been religious or just altruistic welfare probably before biblical times. The three great religions of the Book all encourage welfare and help for the poor. But now the trend has been to let the government take over the role.

When I was about twelve years old we moved to a different house in the village. The house we were living in was scheduled to be demolished for reasons, I never knew. It was an exciting time, to be moving. My older brother was out of high school and drove a truck for a local coal operator and we used the truck for moving. The new house was a multi family building and we had one of the four apartments. The previous occupants had a nice garden that was neatly fenced in and fairly large. My parents were from Poland and were farm people. But we never planted anything or used the garden at all. I decided one spring to dig up the ground and plant a garden. My mother told me about cutting the potatoes into small pieces being careful to make sure that an eye was in each piece. The ground had been left fallow for many years and was difficult to dig. We had no special tools, except shovels for shoveling coal. They had no sharp points. I worked hard, thinking in the fall I would have a huge bumper crop of potatoes. I made rows as best I could and planted the potato ‘seeds’ in deep holes and waited. I watered the garden as often as I could. Some plants appeared in several weeks, but none were hearty looking. None ever blossomed and the crop looked like it was going to be a disaster. My father said I had forgotten to fertilize and by that he meant animal waste. I had no way to get any fertilizer. Fertilizer was not something you could get easily from the hardware store. I was amazed that neighbors nearby had lush plants and ripe red tomatoes and other vegetables. Mrs. Platz had lush plants. She had a cow and daily she took the cow to an area in the village where grass grew and allowed the cow to pasture there. You could predict the time of day just by seeing her bring the cow home, waiting to cross the road. My father said she had manure that I could take. But her house and small shed to house the cow was probably a half mile from my garden and we had no truck or even a wheelbarrow. My father did not offer to help. Just go there and ask for manure he said. And my mother was too busy with all of us to get involved in the garden. My plans of growing potatoes until the basement was full to overflowing and we could eat for the winter gradually died along with the plants that never grew beyond the first stage. My first taste of farming was a disaster. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

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