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THE AMAZON TRAIL Mick's potato fertilizer
by Lee Lynch

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When I asked for advice about growing potatoes, our friend Mary wrote, "Here is what Mick does: blood meal, green sand, or wood ash, bone meal, a handful of each above item for each potato you plant, mix in wheel barrel with dirt and some peat moss, and steer poop. Love M&M."

Or, said Mick, who grows blue and other exotic potatoes, we can just buy an organic fertilizer. Whew. I found the prospect of mixing manure with soil a bit unappetizing. Which is why, last year, when a neighbor gave us her handmade wooden raised bed, I put off loading it at all and used it only as a support for plastic planters and grow bags. Not exactly best practice.

But it was practice and this year I had plans to search out however many cubic units I needed of that organic fertilizer stuff and get serious. I learned the stores we have around here don't stock anything of the sort practically until spring. We dutifully saved egg cartons to make our own potato starts.

I waited a little too long. Just as stores began stacking big bags of soil in their parking lots, going to the store became dangerous. One day I spoke with my sweetheart about taking the precaution of growing some food of our own in case of extended quarantines, or in case the stores and farmers' markets close, or the farmers, goddess forbid, fall victim to the pandemic. The next day my sweetheart went on her last shopping expedition until it's once again "safe" out there.

She insisted on going to the stores herself because of my age. As much as I wanted to at least share the risks associated with moving among large numbers of people, my sweetheart wouldn't hear of it because I'm the elder. She is too good to me.

The CDC has classified me, and almost everyone I know, as older adults with increased vulnerability to COVID-19 and its ilk. Infectious disease experts define "older adults" as anyone age 60 and up. Today's reports show the mortality rate for infected people in this age group in China is at 15 percent, compared to 3.4 percent in younger sufferers.

This does not make me want to take my temperature every five minutes, but I do yearn for an old-fashioned thermometer—the kind without a battery that goes kaput when it's most needed. Also, I've been a reliable hand washer for a long time and I'm perfectly willing to become temporarily OCD about it.

It's the old and vulnerable part that gets to me. Nothing wrong with either state—I just don't feel I'm there yet. So not only is the Evil Virus a physical threat, it's messing with my self-image. I wasn't planning on thinking of myself as old until, say, age eighty-five. Maybe ninety. But the experts don't agree.

Mostly, I do not want the misery of any kind of flu for my sweetheart, my family, myself, friends, or any human on the planet. Last time I had a flu was in December 1977. It hung on into January. There were three of us living in a townhouse with two bathrooms and six cats. For about two weeks, I primarily got out of bed only to take care of the cats. And my throat was so painful I never smoked again, which was the good news.

Today I had to make a decision: go to my balance class at the 60+ Activity Center or play it safe. In the nick of time a local online blog mentioned that the Center was now closed. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to attend a community breakfast. Do I trust that I'm not infected and sickening others by attending? How do any of us know the neighborhood cooks are robustly healthy? As someone said today, we'd have to eat six feet from one another.

The expression "we live in dangerous times" just became more meaningful. The choices I make today may impact a whole lot of other people tomorrow, and on many levels. Their decisions may do the same for me. I'm no prepper, but Mick's potatoes will come in very handy for him and for Mary if those two big words, "national emergency" haven't come too late.

For me, it's back to grow bags and planters propped on the raised bed with some houseplant fertilizer and high hopes. Be well.

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