April 15: Fridays are latin and confessions, when S-6’s godfather comes for a half-day, but since he went first to hear the Sisters’ pecadillos, most of the family went on up there to plant potatoes before the rains that are predicted for tomorrow. They set out 120# in rows on 3′ centers, so that they can use the BCS to cultivate and hill the potato plants. Not being as good about keeping records as we might be, we are uncertain how many pounds of seed potatoes we put out last year, but today’s potatoes only filled two-thirds of the old garden, so we will be cutting more seed potato tomorrow. Last year we raised an even ton of potatoes, and we need another three or four hundred pounds if we want them to last until August provides another crop. For an Irishman to run out of potatoes is unacceptable, so we must put out another seventy-five or hundred pounds of seed potatoes.
Our windbreak/privacy screen trees came into the SWCD today, and we picked them up this afternoon. When S-3 got in the van, he wondered why we hadn’t taken the back seat out to make room for the little trees; Mom knew better. All thirty-five trees — thirty arbor vitae and five redbud — together weighed about twenty-four ounces. These are baby trees, infants one hopes to be able to nurse to young childhood. We set out twenty-five of the arbor vitae at seven-thirty p.m.,after attending stations of the cross; the wind was roaring in the trees on the hilltops two hundred feet above our heads, but down in the valley where we were setting out the hedge it was only a little breezy. With those trees in, we are set for the rain predicted for tomorrow, and the few that are left will go up by the house, where we can set them out in the morning, rain or shine.
April 12: Yesterday was a day anticipating summer, and academics took a back seat to necessary farm labor. No one mourned. Although with some reservation, we tilled the large potato patch at the Franciscan Sisters’ (a cooperative garden: their land, our labor). The test for soil dry enough to be tilled is to squeeze a handful and see if when you release it the soil remains in a ball — too wet — or falls apart in your hand, in which case it is dry enough to be cultivated. The committee of two who went up there to see elected to till despite indications to the contrary. S-4 spent about five hours behind the BCS, which did a fine job on the old garden,but the newly-broken soil of the new part of the garden would really benefit from a real plow behind a tractor. Since we don’t have this, we count on the first year of sod potatoes to break up the soil for us.
The onion-planting committee, consisting of Mom and the little chicks, got three pounds of sets put out in record time, bringing the total planted to six pounds; S-5 cut garden stakes and seived compost for seedlings, while S-3 dragged the pasture to spread hay and manure clumps. In the afternoon the men got the small tractor running, with the help of a new starter coil ($20 at the auto parts store), and other people transplanted sage and shastas from one of the raised beds into the borders, to free up space for the vegetables that will go in the raised beds. To blazes with housework, laundry, cooking; people will be lucky to be fed once a day when summer comes.
After dinner the seed potatoes were cut up and set out on the porch table to cure.