Preparation, then anticipation . . .

Potato plants growing robustly in a patch above Sparty Lea

For a Sunday homily, I guess I can do worse than to ruminate on the conjoined concepts of ‘preparation’ and ‘anticipation’. But it feels like I’ve been looking forward to harvesting these potatoes for years, rather than the usual months! It’s Sunday, proverbial day of rest, and a good day to watch the potato plants grow.

Sometimes preparation takes longer than one might have supposed, at the outset. Sometimes the fruition comes faster. Is the satisfaction more enhanced when you’ve been waiting longer for something, than if it’s just realised before you can barely blink? Of course it is. But we’ve grown so impatient, over the past decades, demanding instant gratification, that we often forget how much fun the anticipation itself can be. This year, however, is a year delayed, as the patch was prepared for planting way back in 2018; plenty of time for that manure to mulch into a satisfactory nutrient base! And plenty of time to build up the anticipation.

Actually, although I do love potatoes, the anticipation I have is more of the bountiful harvest, than the actual eating. The eating feels like the obvious result, while the harvest, the pulling of the living potatoes out of the ground and looking at the yields, that’s the exciting part. Probably that’s because the tubers are hidden, unrevealed until the day of reckoning, and so that day becomes the fulcrum of pleasure, or, on the other hand, the slashing scimitar of disappointment. Forbear Damocles, if you please!

Why, our potatoes may yet win again at the High Forest Show! And if so, what a triumph that would be, considering the classes are now open to folks from further down in the valley, who seem to have rather more clement weather than we do. So the competitive drive adds to the excitement of harvest. Apparently we should, however, be eating our own potatoes by mid-August, as the second earlies come to maturity. Whether we’ll be able to harvest any of the main crop varieties on the day before show time, is another matter — it felt like a prolonged wet and chilly period before we managed to get the chitted seed potatoes into their holes, though sprouts emerged quickly thereafter.

But for now the plants are growing into their own . . . soon there’ll be the rows of flowers, all emerging as one, demarcating where the varieties have been planted; each variety seems to have different flower colours. And after the flowers, the inevitable die back, and then the susceptibility to blight will become apparent, or not. I think we chose our varieties this year according to our best successes the last time we planted, and of course we rotate between chickens and spuds annually.

And so I dream on, believing in the potential of the healthy plants to produce copiously (after all, these potatoes are the result of millenia of selective breeding), confident in the provenance and richness of the horse manure with which they’ve been provided, hoping for the best weather conditions, and wondering what’s really happening underground. And only another two months to wait!

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