Diggin’ Taters

We decided yesterday it was time to find out if the potato plants, growing in the garden box had anything for us. As I started brushing back the dirt the first potato was exposed. A nice one. Digging further, others were found. They seemed to get smaller the deeper I dug, until there was just spidery roots. All in all we got about five pounds of potatoes out of our little garden box. Not bad, I thought, for a couple of rookies who knew nothing about growing potatoes back in the spring.

Now, I still don’t know a lot about growing potatoes, but I did learn a couple of things.

You start with seed potatoes. You can get these at your local feed and seed supply dealer. Sometimes the hardware stores carry them if they sell planting vegetables. As seed potatoes appear to be potatoes with healthy eyes sprouting you can probably just put some potatoes you’ve purchased up in a cool, dark place for a while and make your own. Looking at the seed potato, with its sprouts looking like the beginnings of a root system, one might think you just plunk them in the ground. That’s what I thought, until an old timer told me to cut the potatoes in quarters and plant each quarter. Dig out a little hole, three to four inches deep, drop the cut piece into the hole and cover it up. You can do like I did and plant the potato cuttings every foot, but if you want them to be the most productive they need to be spaced about two feet apart. Imagine a circle with a two-foot radius, beginning right at the center of where you just planted a cutting. Potatoes grow pretty close to the surface, so if other plants are competing for the space the plants root system is forced to go down which makes it harder for the potato to grow. That’s why when I dug mine they got smaller the deeper I dug. I found several marble size spuds, which are pretty tasty but it takes a hell of a lot of them to make a meal. In between the planting and the digging just make sure they get plenty of water, I watered every day, except when it rained, which wasn’t all that often at my place. The other thing I did was sprinkled some slow release nitrogen in the dirt. How do you tell when they’re ready to dig? Well my clue was the plants themselves were beginning to die out, with brown, dry leaves. I figured if the plants were dying the potatoes weren’t going to grow anymore. There may be a more scientific method but this seemed to work. It took about eight weeks of watching and watering before we had taters.

Another thing I learned later was that you have to keep covering the potato plants as they grow. In my garden the following spring I planted two long rows, about twenty five feet each, and at least once a week I would use my hoe to pile more dirt on top of the plant. By doing this the potatoes stay close to the surface and are more plentiful. This time we harvested about thirty pounds of potatoes. I planted both red potatoes and a golden variety. Both species produced many spuds.

Sitting at the dock by the bay.

Actually, I’m sitting in the waiting room of a Firestone garage where I’m waiting for the mechanic to finish servicing my car.

While standing at the counter checking in, it suddenly occurred to me that my wallet was still on my dresser. In a panic, thoughts started jumping into my head about how to solve this problem.

I’ll call Marcia and just have her and Zachary drive it over. No that will not work because I have Marcia’s car and she doesn’t have a seat for the baby to put in my car.

I’ll call Jason, and have him drive me home to get the wallet, then drive me back. I called Jason. During the conversation with Jason, I made the suggestion about driving me home or bringing me some money. As we discussed how much money, suddenly I thought, “You dumb ass! Just have the store put the bill on your store credit card.”

I told Jason of my new plan and thanked him for his willingness to come and pick me up.

Funny isn’t it, how panic can fuzz up your thinking. Twenty years ago, every scenario possible would have gone through my mind and the correct solution selected before panic ever had a chance to start circulating through the neuron flashes in my brain.

Today it takes longer for the neuron’s to build enough charge to send a signal through the synapses that an automatic response such as panic has time to process first, ahead of logical thinking. When that happens, some solutions never process all the way to the decision point to translate into a course of action.

Coming here today was supposed to be a quick visit. After all, I called ahead making an appointment for a simple replacement of two tires that wore out prematurely. How long could that take? Maybe an hour if the person in the garage only had one hand, and took a thirty-minute break between each tire.

After being counseled on the importance of maintaining the front-end alignment by the service writer, I explained that the vehicle was covered by their lifetime alignment service, and that by checking their records they could see the vehicle had been aligned by them at all the recommended intervals.

Conceding his mistake the service writer gave me an estimate of the cost for two new tires, explaining the proration rate based on the amount of miles on my old tires. After signing the authorization to do the work, I took a seat in the waiting area.

Two hours later I begin to wonder if the person changing out the two tires has any arms at all. Surely a person with a complete pair of hands and arms would not take two hours to change two tires. I inquire at the desk as to how much longer it could possibly take and was told about another hour.

Returning to the incredibly uncomfortable chair in the waiting area I decided that I have miserably under estimated the amount of work required to change two tires. Ken, and old friend and owner of the Discount Tire Barn on Patton Avenue, has no idea that he has been doing this wrong for so many years. The last time I got tires at his place his service man changed all four tires in just over thirty minutes.

It must be because of the waiting area. At Firestone they provide chairs, uncomfortable as the may be, circled around a coffee table with many ancient copies of the tire industry trade magazine. Surprisingly the copies are all worn and ragged from use. The store even provides a television to watch, in case you’ve read all the magazines about tires and tire dealers. They even have coffee.

The Discount Tire Barn, on the other hand has no waiting area. They do have a well-worn sofa that you can use if you just want to hang out. They also have the typical tire industry trade magazines, though they don’t appear to be as worn as the copies at Firestone. Ken does provide coffee if you happen to be there long enough for him to brew a pot. Ken doesn’t have a television either. I suppose he doesn’t want his customers hanging around, drinking his coffee, and watching television all morning, so he gets you in, changes your tires, and sends you on your way. Hard to imagine how he has been in business for thirty years in the same location by offering such good service. Ken is obviously using a different business model than Firestone.