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January 20, 2014

Points East: Holing up the taters

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It was not unusual, when I was growing up, to run out of taters in the house about this time of year.  And that meant we had to open up the tater hole much, much earlier than originally planned when we’d holed them up the previous September. 

 We didn’t have a root cellar or a spring house on the place there in the head of Blair Branch, so we tried to keep enough potatoes upstairs in the house to get us through the winter and last until planting time next spring.  But we usually seemed to eat way more taters than Dad thought we would because taters taste mighty good if you don’t have anything else to eat and you’re too sorry to open a jar of beans or kraut.  

Taters also made a great bedtime snack if you rolled them up under the grate and let them bake in the fireplace ashes for a couple of hours and that probably accounted for the short supply more than anything else. 

I’m reasonably sure that I never bought a potato out of the grocery store until I’d been out of college several years because Dad always raised enough to feed several families.  He bought and planted Kennebeck and Red Pontiac seed potatoes by the hundreds of pounds and he always saved a few hundred pounds of Irish Cobblers over the winter just for planting the following year. And no matter how hungry you might get, you never ate the seed potatoes.  I don’t recall ever needing to.

Anyway we had a tater hole out there beside the main garden, about 50 yards from the house, that had to be dug back out every fall.  The bottom was lined with dried corn fodder stalks and a few bats of hay, on top of which many bushels of potatoes were dumped and covered with more hay and fodder and even a couple of old bed quilts.  This was covered by a layer of rolled asphalt roofing and the whole thing was covered with another thick layer of soil.

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