Paris Goodnight: If it snows, maybe I’ll put some potatoes in the ground

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

My dad used to chuckle at his dad when February would roll around because he just couldn’t wait to plant something, and he would be out putting potatoes in the ground, even with snow covering the area.

Of course, that was back when February was a lot colder than it is these days, what with nearly 70-degree days greeting us this past week. I’m sure some colder air is in our future, and I even heard tales of chances of snow up in the higher elevations for this weekend — but I never believe such a thing until I see it coming down myself.

That taste of warmer air made me want to go out and play in the dirt a bit, though I didn’t have the courage to actually plant anything yet. I fired up the lawn mowers too, just to see what the engine would sound like when it’s time to start mowing again. That season will be just around the corner, along with the real planting time.

But I’m trying not to jump in too deep just yet because this is the time of year when a false sense of security comes with early warming trends. Some plants and animals have been known to jump the gun a little when things heat up earlier in the year than they should. Hopefully such creatures are like me and just testing the waters a bit before getting into full spring mode.

I turned over some dirt with the shovel to see how things look after talking to a neighbor on plans for his plants, and watching him run a tiller over some areas he plans to use for blueberries this year. I gave up on using such power equipment as the way to prepare for a garden after the first year when our tiller was actually a rock digger. Everywhere we went it seemed to churn up more stones. Finally, I decided to just stick with the shovel in the area I cultivate and leave the rest to those who know what they’re doing.

Using a shovel also gives me a little more exercise, which I certainly need these days with all the sitting around staring at a computer during my working hours. And that method doesn’t involve burning gas, which helps the budget since that’s certainly not getting any cheaper.

The potatoes Grandpa Reyn put in probably did fine underground just hanging on until the colder temperatures gave way to a more agreeable growing climate. Now tomatoes on the other hand wouldn’t work out so well if you tried the same thing with them. At least that’s what I imagine, but since like other accidental gardeners, I don’t really know anything about the ins and outs of growing such stuff.

I have heard tales of one such character who decided he wanted to plant some tomatoes for the first time and had about an acre tilled up for that purpose, guessing I suppose that he’d get one tomato off each plant. Now when they all started growing like they were supposed to, he realized quickly that he was in too deep and what could he do with all those tomatoes? I imagine a lot of those ended up falling off the plants and rotting away because even neighbors and friends can only take so much produce when harvest time rolls around.

I have only heard that story from others, so it may have been exaggerated over time. But that’s when we used to have some real storytelling characters around here, and when you got them started, they could really tell some whoppers.

I’m sure we still have such folks around, but who has time to sit around these days and tell such tales or listen to them until time to get back to more pressing matters?

That was after-work activity back when there was such a thing, not so much any more for me. But look at all the places we’ve got to enjoy such activities now. Downtown is packed with so many options that you could go out to a different spot daily and not have to show up in the same place for a couple of weeks.

It hasn’t been that many years ago when it was hard to find anywhere close by to sneak off to for such purposes. Anyway, maybe instead of thinking about lingering around somewhere after work, this will actually be the year I break down and head home to try and add chickens to my backyard growing adventures since one of the young Goodnight kids has already supplied most everything I need to get started, feed and nesting materials included. Everything but the chicks.

So when I surveyed the backyard, I mostly looked toward that small toy house we moved from the neighbor’s yard next door years ago and wondered if that might make a decent chicken coop come spring. Then I won’t have to cringe over the scary prices that a dozen eggs  brings at the grocery store.

We’ll see about that when it warms up a little more.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post