Kathy and I live just above the Eastern edge of the Willamette Valley and as we each make our morning commutes over to Salem on the West side, we connect to an odd grid of farm roads, which, at this time of the year, are suddenly grown high at either side with berries and veggies, tall fescu, bent grass and wheat which seem to have risen from nothing. There are interspaced bean fields and acres of cosmos, marigolds and poppies. Lavender fields roll out along the valley floor casting that peculiar and wonderful unfocused purple layer of color that seems to hover about 18 inches above the rich valley soil.
My move here to Oregon has obviously represented a huge change for me and it's taking time for me grow into it, but the recent arrival here of summer, however tardy it may be, is certainly helping. I drove home from a job on Saturday night as dusk was sliding in over the Valley. The smell of the newly cut hay was strong and the aromas from grills and the voices and calls from houses and campgrounds rang through the evening air. For the first time it felt as if summer had arrived and it brought with it a sense of belonging, of joy, and even of relief.
We had a good meeting of the "board" last Wednesday in Jean's office at Willaby's Catering, where I am the Chef. One of the suggestions I made, in light of a changing economy, one in which not so many companies are able to afford caterers and catered events, that we begin to make and sell food products such as sausages, stocks, salsa and sauces, etc., seemed to go over quite well. With luck, the help of the zoning laws in our neighborhood, and a good marketing program, we may soon be selling Willaby's products designed and cooked by Chef Dave, the Chef of the Woods, in addition to providing fine catering around the Willamette Valley.
Yesterday afternoon Kathy and I took pitchfork, shovel and gloves out to the garden to do the first harvest of the potatoes we planted not more than 11 weeks ago. We had bought a number of "seed" starters, including red, white and different types of creamers and fingerlings, and the reds had come to flower and then fruit first.
We had a long and rainy spring, and it certainly appeared to have done well by the red potatoes. We dug up and down our two rows of plants, being careful to only apply the pitchfork under and around the plants that had died. I had never dug potatoes before and this was high adventure for me, particularly when Kathy shrieked in triumph when we turned the soil around the very first bush under and it yielded five or six fat reds covered in earth and another four or five tinier spuds. And it went like that up and down the two rows we dug.
It was like digging for Easter eggs and our baskets were definitely full, as were the boxes and old kitchen pots we had brought out. We kept digging and the potatoes kept coming. I was having a ball, down on my knees, pawing through the earth Kathy was turning over, and there was definitely a child-like glee I was experiencing as I kept finding more and more potatoes under the fresh turned earth.
We ended up with between 50 and 60 pounds of fresh reds of varying sizes (but lots of big ones) from our $5 investment in the "seed" potatoes. And now it's up to me to figure out enough ways to use them so we get the most return without burning out. That's the kind of challenge I like.