Tater Tunnel: Two words that struck fear in the hearts of my brother, Dale, and me when we were children.  When Dale was six and I was ten years old, my father bought an old home place in the northwest corner of our county, a stone’s throw from Blue Ridge Mountain peaks.  Fruit trees, berries and a spring house that protected the fresh water supply were remnants of the former sustainable, biodynamic farmstead, as was the six room home, rustically comfortable, even though there was no electricity or running water.  My mother cooked meals on a camp stove while Dale and I spent hours vainly attempting to reassemble scattered parts of a Model T car.  Our family planted a vegetable garden the spring after the property became Daddy’s and when Mama sent me to pull onions for an evening meal, a nearby mountain lion screamed, a blood-curdling sound that sent me running back to the safety of the house, onions scattering in my wake.  Even that experience did not compare to the absolute terror of The Tater Tunnel. 

Nestled in a tall bank of red clay soil, The Tater Tunnel door yawned inward, beckoning like a horror movie scene that causes viewers to cringe as unsuspecting characters advance, the stuff of which nightmares are made.  When, spurred by each other’s “double dog” dares, to poke our heads inside the cavernous interior, walls became alive with movement, cave crickets with powerful jumping legs that sent us, screaming in terror, for the safety of the front porch. 

red thumb bowl fresh

Red Thumb Container Harvest

Recently, I harvested potatoes from two large containers in my backyard.  The seed for this crop, Red Thumb fingerlings, came from last year’s leftover potatoes, stored in a laundry room/pantry, which, for some reason, is the best environment in my home for long-term root vegetable storage.  After placing large cardboard boxes in windowless basement cabinets, stacking boxes and sacks on pallets (for air circulation) on the main basement floor and the garage, I discovered potatoes sprout fewer eyes and maintain firm texture longer when stored on pantry shelves in newspaper-lined cardboard boxes with lids.  Although I know no one who still uses a tater tunnel, I wonder how that storage compares to the pantry. 

Red Thumbs in pot

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