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The autumn smells like potatoes, the summer like berries

January 4, 2019

Potatoes used to be a staple in my village. Everybody planted them, sometimes even competing who would do it first and checking who had or hadn't done it yet, making sure they were not behind anyone else. Sometimes it lead to irrational arguments in some families about when and why to plant them at that particular point in time.


Planting the potatoes was always a grand thing in spring. To be clear, there were two grandmas and two sets of lands to cover. We had several fields and we planted the potatoes on most of them. It was a lot of hard work, the fields were wide and long so everybody had to help out. Us children too, although now I mostly recall only that glorious feeling of letting the spiders that ran across the freshly dug black furrows  crawl on our hands and forearms, and saving them from the adult boots and hoes. 


Harvesting usually came in mid-September after school had already started. In later years, though, due to the aforementioned neighbors' race and climatic changes, it was pushed to the last weeks of August. There was always so much joy when those wonderful golden gems were emerging from the nourishing soil... and plenty of relief, too, because we never knew what yield we would have. In the 1990s having our own vegetables was still connected to that notion of having enough to eat throughout the year. It was not the aftermath of communism, or maybe it was, but it was very much the attitude of our grandmothers that we should be self-reliant and have our own produce. 


And we did. For many years to come. Until little by little the elderly passed away, their children spent more time in the towns and their grandchildren hardly ever came to visit, so fewer and fewer fields were cultivated. It became cheaper and more convenient to buy the potatoes than to grow them, and once tended fields got claimed by weed and grass the moment our hands stopped touching them.


My parents still spend their summers in the village, taking care of the two fields they decided to keep using for potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, strawberries and zucchini. They planted apple trees, blueberries, red and black currants, flowers and herbs so that when their grandchildren come to visit, the summer smells just like it should.






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