It was obviously flights of wild optimism last week that caused me to claim a light at the end of a tunnel — the tunnel being the summer of hard work and the light being the end of that, if you follow my meaning. Given the incredibly busy week just experienced, a sounder forecast would have been: possibly within the next few weeks I may or may not be able to report feeling a slight easing of work-load pressure, but nothing can be assumed until the snow flies.
Fooled by a spot of rain and the re-introduction of the morning sweater, I figured this week was going to be a cake walk and I even started reading a library book. Instead last week was extremely busy with temperatures in the 30s. I was completely disgusted at how physically spent I was at the end of each day, and appalled to recognize the familiar symptoms of heat stroke. I probably got sunburn too.
I’ll just touch on one of the jobs (although why I am choosing this one rather than the solo stick-picking at high noon I do not know): I had lab work to do in the Seed Potato Propagation Facility. As usual I have an internal debate at this point about how much detail I should go into — there being a vast amount, limited only by this space and the reader’s glazed eyes. However, it’s been a while since I mentioned the lab, and this paper has a new editor, so I will give more background.
You know how there are over 30 varieties of potatoes grown in Pemberton? Well, samples of all of them can be found growing in jars of agar nutrient medium in a little building part way up the Pemberton Meadows Road. The plants, known as Tissue Culture, are grown and multiplied under lab conditions in the Seed Potato Propagation Facility which is owned and run cooperatively by all the seed growers in Pemberton.
The fact that potatoes can be propagated as Tissue Culture means that we can produce a valuable virus-free commercial seed potato crop using these little plantlets as the starting point. The cutting up of the plantlets growing in agar is done in lab conditions ensuring that they are “clean” (no viruses). It takes around a month for the cuttings to grow to a proper size at which point they can be cut again and the pieces placed in fresh agar to grow. In this way, one stem of a potato variety is propagated into several hundred plantlets, planted into the field in the spring and transformed (magically) into thousands of pounds Pemberton seed potatoes, given enough time and field space.
Right now we are simply maintaining five or 10 plantlets of healthy, clean stock per variety. To do that, the seed growers who are in charge of the valley’s tissue culture go in ideally every 30 days, but more realistically every 40-60, to cut fresh stock from the old. It’s a hard job to get done in the summer which may qualify as the understatement of the year.
So that’s one thing I did this week: an inside job, getting burns from the autoclave, headaches from the alcohol fumes, and sand-paper eyes from the forced-air fume hood.
Stick picking, as the dear reader knows, is a job whereby one goes into a newly cleared field and picks up the sticks left behind so they don’t jam in the cultivation equipment.
Anna Helmer’s laser-like focus doesn’t work well right now.