The potato army moved in before sundown: one International Harvester tractor, two stub-nosed John Deeres, two Allan windrowers, one Allan potato harvester (Allan Equipment made on PEI), and enough men to operate said equipment.
The 70-acre field above our place had been sprayed with top killer two weeks earlier and looked like a ghost town. Now something was about to happen.
In the early morning men and machines swung into action, windrowers traveling at a brisk two mph, uncovering double drills of “Prospect” potatoes and tumbling them into a single row. Next came the harvester creeping along at half that speed, scooping, sieving and dropping potatoes into the hopper of a thirteen-speed 250 horsepower potato truck. (Imagine that many horses in one field!) When the hopper (holding 30,000 pounds, or three thousand 10-pound bags) was full, the truck pulled away sighing and groaning, and another one slipped into place. All day long trucks rumbled back and forth to the warehouse, shifting and shifting gears, announcing to the world that it’s been a good growing year. Will battery-powered machines ever be able to do such heavy work?
With the harvest in full swing and hours of daylight getting ever shorter, we slipped away with friends to a cottage on Eglington Cove southwest of Souris. It’s about as far away from our cove as you can get and still be on the Island.
It felt like a foreign land, but what was different about this eastern shore? Golden sunlight on the capes, herons, black backed gulls, bald eagles?—we have all this back home. Was it the smell? Maybe. Ripe apples were falling from trees everywhere, and next to our cottage was a huge turnip field with tens of thousands of turnips. I couldn’t find anyone to ask about those turnips but I’d love to know where they’re headed.
We spent an afternoon on the Boughton River Nature Walk where a macrofungi explosion was taking place. Dimpled, domed, platter and pancake-shaped mushrooms were literally flung through the forest in the most appealing shades of chocolate, mocha, caramel, beige and marshmallow.
We traversed the very rooty Forest Hill Hiking Trail between Upton and Mount Hope (Mount Hope being a gentle rise in the horizon), and climbed a rickety viewing tower overlooking Whitlock’s Pond. Then cambering past blueberry and Labrador tea bushes, and deadfall from some hurricane or other, we arrived at a vast wetland called “Doc’s Marsh” and watched a muskrat unconcernedly grooming itself on a rung of the fish ladder. Lovely.
On our last day, heading back home we bought a sack of big beautiful scarlet cranberries from a roadside stand in Farmington. Yay! We’re cranberried up for the winter.
I guess the best thing about getting away is just that: getting away. Then you come home again and it’s wonderful.
The potato harvest isn’t done. They’re working on the next field over. I don’t mind. I’m going to step outside right now and glean a few bucketsful to pass on to friends in town who don’t live beside a potato field.