Monday 26 July 2010

The Potato Whisperer

Many weeks ago, Elspeth down the road had a great idea for a street event.

Later, she and Catherine opposite came round the doors delivering a compost-filled grow-bag and allowing us to choose a single seed potato to grow in it. A number of households took part, and many front gardens had their potato grow-bag in full view. Mine went in the back yard, with not quite enough sunlight at first, but where it wouldn't damage a row of lavender out in the front.

Being busy and distractable with house-selling stuff, I forgot to photograph it (you can just see the bag on the right, in a crowded corner of the yard) but did remember to water it, and left it largely to its own devices, unloved and unencouraged, monitored only by the cats. Snails moved in, loving the cool dark dampness of the grow-bag.

But it grew.

Sandra, not usually a competitive person, showed herself in a new light; she was determined to win this competition. Every walk up or down the street had to include careful scrutiny of all potato bags, with critical comparison of foliage size and evidence of watering. Some households had never grown a potato before; others had productive allotments and experienced growers. Sandra didn't care; she was determined to beat them all.

Every evening, Sandra's potato was watered and gazed upon, and willed to grow - bigger, bigger, faster, faster, more, more! It had to be the prize-winning champion tater! Was she............ whispering to it? we murmured anxiously.

Lesley, potato novice, worried about the extent of her potato's luxuriant foliage, and pruned it, in case its leaves sapped its roots of productive oomph. She couldn't understand why I laughed at her. But there would be a booby prize; perhaps she would win something after all.

On Saturday, the grand weighing-in ceremony was staged at the end of the street. Food, drink, music and electronic scales were provided. Elspeth was delighted.

There was a good turnout, with lots of children, the carers from across the road with their chronically-disabled* charges, and some new neighbours who were given the opportunity to meet the rest of us in a very jolly atmosphere. Photos were taken, there was talk of another street event next year, and even a newsletter.

Tosca and I had gone down, carrying my potatoes and Lesley's too, as she was away; Millie joined us and spent the next hour wild with excitement, charging about across the grass and round the humans. Tosca scrounged shamelessly, and was much petted by small children. Later she did her impression of the Roomba, working over a large area of grass for dropped morsels, hoovering them up eagerly.

Millie preferred insects.

Suzy was the independent judge, and gave a lively performance; potatoes were both weighed and counted, and prizes were given out to cheers and applause.

Results varied wildly. Sadly, Lesley's crop of 9 small potatoes didn't win the booby prize - her pruned potato had to yield that honour to another household, who had failed entirely to remember to water their grow-bag, producing 6 tiny pebble-like results. The booby prize was as well-received as you would expect in a household with three young boys: a box of sweets and a whoopee cushion. Some sympathy was extended to their dad, who would be driving to France with the family and the prizes the following day.

And the winner?

It had to be Sandra - all that care, the whispering, the intensity of will and focus, had produced wonderful results.

And my effort? Not brilliant, but delicious.

I'm going to miss my neighbours, and Bacteria Gardens, very much.

* "Chronically-disabled" sounds terribly un-PC; sorry. I have no idea what the latest approved term is. But the people concerned came from a long-stay hospital, to be resettled in the community with 24-hour care, in an average sort of house, and I have watched them blossom over the years, achieving a degree of ordinariness in their everyday lives that no one ever dreamt possible. A joy to behold.


the veg artist said...

For all that I live on the edge of what is usually referred to as a 'market town', I really can't see my heighbours joining in with something like this!
It looks like you had a lot of fun. Chips, anyone?

Peace Thyme said...

What a wonderful idea. I think ideas that get the neighborhood acting as a unit and also teach something are just grand. Did any of the children participate?

It would be difficult in the U.S. to find city children who could identify a potato unless they saw a french fry! (Well, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much).

Susan said...

that darn Millie xo Oliver

Anonymous said...

Hats off, first to Elspeth, for getting this off the ground. And then to all of you who had such fun.

"Sunshine" said...

What a super duper idea for a neighborhood get-together. I love potatoes, it is one of Norway's delicacies and also mine.

Isabelle said...

I had never thought of potatoes as a delicacy.

What lovely neighbours!!!

I don't think that the seven people living in our street would really constitute a party...

jabblog said...

Your street sounds a very friendly place - well, the people do! What a lovely idea. Are you sure you want to move??

The domestic novice said...

That's such a fantastic thing to do and what lovely neighbours! Our potato growing has been hampered by scale - of the unsightly don't want to eat it kind as opposed to the size...

Anonymous said...

How fabulous - what a lovely way to get all the neighbours together! I know what you mean about using the correct phrase to describe people - but no matter what trendy term you give a disablity, it doesn't change the disability ..... calling my friend visually impaired doesn't make her any less blind!!

VioletSky said...

This sounds like a sitcom sortof street I would love to live on!
Must now read past posts to get better aquainted.

Love your sense of humour and turn of phrase.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

love the smiles on your faces.

rogern said...

who's that handsome man with the camera?

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