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The potato patch.

I grew up in Queens, New York in a garden apartment. The garden consisted of a forsythia bush and a strip of grass that was mowed and cared for by the maintenance crew. We ourselves never touched dirt, earth or what I was later to be informed, was soil.

We sat on the cement front stoop with our neighbors in the summer heat and looked across the way at the oak and beech trees that hid the highway. A few blocks down was a pond that froze in winter and was marked with red flags for thin ice by the parks department, but I was not allowed to skate there. We were driven to the city ice rink, many miles away at the site of the 1964 World's Fair. If you got there early the ice wasn't too mushy and it only cost a dime. Just around the corner and down a steep path you could access horse trails, which connected parks all over Queens. These were deemed dangerous because, we were told, a Russian spy had been murdered there. This was in the 1950s so we studied Russian, French and Latin in school, but no agriculture. Still, while we wouldn't say we lived in the country, we thought we had adequate interaction with all that was natural.

Many years and many lives later, I moved to south-central Alaska with my soon-to-be husband, Mike. We were making dinner and he asked my to get some new potatoes from the garden. "I think they should be ready," he said, and I obligingly took a bowl and walked down through the alders. Opening the garden gate that protects the garden from the moose, I quickly spotted the potato patch. This was easy since in those days it easily took up half the garden. There were flowers on the plants, but no potatoes that I could see. I searched high and low, looking under leaves and at the base of the plant. Finally, I sat down on the ground, feeling sure that eventually a potato would come into view. I combed the rows, but no potatoes made themselves apparent. Eventually I knew I had to return to the house empty handed and admit my failure. This was no way to impress my future husband. As I was admitting my failure, Mike got a funny look on his face. "No potatoes?" he puzzled. "That's odd. I'll go down there with you." In the potato patch he scraped the soil and out popped a potato. "Oh," I wailed, "pomme de terre, apple of the earth, I never thought to look in the ground."
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Title Annotation:After chores
Author:Merrick, Joan
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:438
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