Sweet Potato Time

We’ve been busy with sweet potatoes the last few days.  They’ve been taking up a lot of our time, backing us up on other things.

We grow a lot of sweet potatoes.  If you can keep the deer out of them (no small feat) they grow well here.  And of course they’re nutritious and delicious.

Getting them up does take a lot of time, but it’s a once-a-year job.

First step is to pull out all the vines and haul them to the compost pile.  Doing it by hand, that’s the most time-consuming part of the job.  I did the first garden by hand.  With the second one (we grew them in four gardens) I used a spring harrow (jitterbug) to drag them out.  That worked much better and is how I’ll continue to do it, except in our raised beds, where it will have to be done by hand.

They're underneath that tangled mess of vines.

The sweet potatoes are underneath that tangled mess of vines.

Compost to be

compost to be

After the vines are cleared away we dig out the potatoes–some by hand, some with a digging fork and some with a potato plow.

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Next we lay out the potatoes to let them dry in the sun.  Ideally they should be out the better part of a day.  In our case we’re usually able to leave them out about five hours.

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In the late afternoon we gather them up, separating them into 4 groups–those that are cut or have animal bites, those that are too small to be marketable, those that are too large to be marketable and those that are just right. The “just right” ones we’ll sell.  The others will be eaten by us or our pigs.  Here we eat the culls and the pigs eat the culls of the culls.

The final step is to cure the potatoes.  Ideally they should be left in a warm, well-ventilated area for a couple of weeks.  Curing brings out the sweetness in the potato. They’re edible right out of the ground, but not as good as they’ll be once they’re cured.  We spread ours out on tarps in our basement to cure and that has always worked well for us.

Once cured they’ll keep for nearly a year as long as they are stored in a cool dark place.  We put ours in vegetable crates and stack them in a corner in the basement.

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods.  It’s good to have them back.

Chicken Sociology

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I took this picture at night, while the Dominickers were roosting.  For those who don’t know, chickens really do always come home to roost.  All we have to do is wait for them to go to bed, then close the door on the coop to keep them safe from noctural predators.

When chickens are roosting at night they’re in a sort of near-comatose state. They’re not asleep, but they’re not awake either.  Because they’re so out of it, even the flightiest birds can be handled and moved at night.

I find the way they arrange themselves at night interesting (and they’ll return to the same spot every night).  Notice that while most of them face the wall, two conformists choose not to.  And notice that they all are roosting on the left side of the coop, except for one rebel who has defiantly elected to roost on the right.

My OCD streak dislikes this.  They should all face the same way and they should either evenly distribute themselves on the roosting poles or they should all roost on only one of them.

Of course my preferences are irrelevant and they’re not going to take them into account when settling in for the evening.

Still…