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Yesterday was sad face day - potato trauma!

I don't really buy the whole "leave the potatoes" thing, but given as she's probably been growing potatoes since before I even existed...


As shown in the video, most of the plants cut down had green stalks and were juicy. Three of them had brown stalks with a hole in the middle - and upon digging up the potatoes from these, they were splotchy and some had started to turn to mush. Clearly those were beyond saving.
As for the rest, I'll have to keep my fingers crossed.


The decision as to whether or not to bank up appears to be resting lightly in favour of not banking up. I pulled up five plants in total. The first was banked up, and there were few potatoes, but reasonable ones. This was from the first planting. I kept four that were big enough to consider eating.
The next two (bad ones) were not banked up and were from the second planting. They offered a pretty good selection of potatoes. But they were bad so they were binned.
The next was banked up and from the second planting, and it had more than the first row (banked) but less than the unbanked. Again, a bad plant so all binned.
The final one was just beside the first, it was supposed to be a good plant, but to be honest the potatoes (of which there were many) were not that different to the bad plant to its left. This plant offered the most potatoes of all that I lifted.

So, as you can see, the choice of whether or not to bank up is still inconclusive. It seems to be slightly in favour of not banking up, but this is from a sample of five, and it is mostly affected by the lack of potatoes on the early planting. It may be that the early planting produces less, it may be that that one particular plant didn't do so well. So honestly, it's too early to draw any conclusions.

As I said in the video, this is clearly not the desired outcome, but given as how this entire thing is an experiment (performed in completely the wrong year!), it isa valid result.

Review, recap, and things to do:

  • Pick varieties that claim to be resistant, not just varieties that I've heard of.
  • The plants will probably need to be sprayed. I haven't found anything based upon copper in the supermarket (it's probably banned - copper poisoning) so will need to investigate. Whatever it is must be in keeping with organic principles, no chemical concoctions.
  • If it's a miserable damp early summer, check the plants daily and ruthlessly cull any that have brown patches on the leaves. Also check the oaks for the leaf mould, as I think that's the same thing.
  • Earlies can usually be planted earlier than they were this year (late winter), earlies will probably already have been harvested.
  • Varieties in the supermarket right now are Agata (13), Colomba (50) (for chips), and Lady Christlord (22). All are new 2021 season harvest, and the numbers are the département (county) in which the potatoes are from. They're all of French origin. I've heard of none of those... but they all seem to have produced some reasonable sized potatoes. A little on the small side for oven cooking, but larger than "new potatoes".
  • Potatoes are from south-central Chile. They are a form of nightshade - I thought the flowers looked familiar. That's why you don't eat the green bits (either in the potato or the leaves of the plant). It's solanine.
  • Peel the potatoes before cooking. Cooking does not do much to reduce or destroy the solanine (boiling -1.2%, frying at 150°C no measurable change, microwaving 15%, deep frying at 210°C for ten minutes -40%). However the majority (50-80%) of the solanine is in the outer layers and the skin, so peeling is best.
    (a study in America in 1990 showed that fried potato peels contained ~1.4mg per gram of solanine; the upper safe limit is 0.2mg/g!)
  • And, finally, learn how to say "Bintje"!
    Bintje is immune to potato virus A and has resistance to leafroll virus. It can catch scab, dry rot, late blight, and potato viruses X and Y (the lettered viruses are forms of mosaic virus). It was potato of the year in 2012. Probably not in 2021. ☺
There. A lot of things you probably didn't know about potatoes and... probably didn't need to know!


Today was happy face day - squashed cow pieces!

Having checked on Friday night and noticing that Burger King had opening hours rather than "coming soon", I decided that I'd go to Châteaubriant today.

It wasn't planned, but, hey, Burger King...

I got some cat food from Maxi Zoo, a few things from Leclerc (the stuff I can't get from the local U), and then...


I turned up at about ten past one, so right in the middle of lunch time. I did my autistic-introvert routine, spotted a queue by one door so went in the other (the exit!) and found myself a terminal with which to make my order. I'm not sure what the queue was about, there were a couple of terminals empty.
I made my order and payed with two chèques vacances. The order came to €18, the CVs came to €20, they didn't give my €2 back. It isn't obligatory, some places do, some places don't. I'll need to remember BK doesn't, so I'll have to stuff some extra things in to make up any difference.

What I ordered
What I ordered
I got a Double Steakhouse (already checked the website, it had the highest calorie count) and added another burger and cheese. I also added pickles (always good) and crunchy onion. This lot came to €12,40 so it compares well against the premium McDonald's "Signature" menu. Only... it's a heck of a lot larger.
I'll be honest with you. The onion rings and chili cheese things are in the fridge. I'll microwave them later. I got stuffed eating the burger. If you saw me, you'd be "oh, six months already?". It's been hours (I've mowed the lawn, all of it, and showered, and washed clothes) and I still look pregnant. There is the difference between Burger King and McDo. BK fills me. McDo, well, I'd probably be writing this tucking into pastries or something. But I'm only thirsty (mowing in the sun was hot work!). I actually don't imagine I'll eat anything else today. ☺

The menu had less options for customising than they used to. I'm not sure if they've cut back on the possibilities or if the steakhouse is just one of the less alterable ones. You used to be able to switch around the sauces and add various things - like if I wanted mayo on both sides instead of BBQ and whatever the other sauce was. Still, it's an awful lot more configurable than McDo that only lets you take things off. I also appreciated it asking right up front whether or not I wanted ice cubes. I really don't, hate the things. So often the McBots are configured to throw ice into a drink that at least I can hand it back if my receipt says "no ice". Which means I need to remember to rummage around to make it be no ice. So, thank you, BK, for directly asking.

I paid, I used the toilet, and I got out my phone to browse the ROOL forums. Not much going on, other than somebody having difficulty with an SMB share. Still, it's a weird problem, would be good to see how it gets resolved.
Only, I never got that far. My meal... it was ready. WTF? Like, four minutes at rush hour? Seriously?

Yup. Seriously. As I said in the video, McDo when it's not busy you'll be waiting about ten minutes. And as for rush hour, oh my. Mom and I, her last ever burger actually, waited something like 35 minutes. A half hour to make a burger. Mine was a custom (no tomatoes), mom's was "as it came". Inexcusable lethargy, given that the McDo in Segré could probably match BK.
The guy came over, asked politely if I was order 479, and when I showed him my ticket (sun glasses, no eye contact) he went over and picked up the bag and handed it to me with a winning smile and wished me a nice day.
Now, I don't know if he's trying to win over the introvert crowd or if it's BK policy to be extra nice to customers so they come back... but if there's like a bar that BK is aiming for, well, my god, go send one of your managers to the competition. You guys might think you have to train your staff to jump a metre high hurdle, but in reality the level of the bar is closer to expecting a toddler to crawl, or asking a ten year old to tie her own laces. You don't need to put effort into being better than McDo, you would actually have to put effort into being worse. But, thanks for the smile anyway. ☺

Got out, got in the car. Checked my order (given the utter disaster of an order in McDo the other week). Perfect. All of it.

I swear to god, that forty minute drive home was the longest hardest test of willpower. It took everything not to just crank the handbrake and stop, like right in the middle of the main road, and demolish that burger.
I wasn't that hungry when I ordered. I was practically drooling by the time I got home. So I threw the cold stuff in the fridge, the BK stuff in the microwave, and set up the table. One last bit of waiting to make a video. Then... then...

I actually meant to paste on a bit to the video to talk about the burger. A few gory grease-filled close-ups, that sort of thing. I was "I'll do it in a mo, I'll do it in a mo". By the time the moment came around, the burger was no more.
Also, the chips are chunkier than the McDo ones, so they didn't look like much but it was a reasonable amount of chips too. But... that burger. Oh... oh... I'm trying to think of a polite thing to say (what I wanted to say ends with "sideways with a bargepole"). I've waited years for this. And like I said in the video - Rick couldn't get to Burger King, so Burger King came to Rick.

Get the feeling I enjoyed it? Let's put it like this - if mom was still around, and we were doing our habitual weekly outing to Châteaubriant... we'd be so broke (and so fat). ☺

Now, jump back a bit. Smile-guy gives me my bag. I attempt a smile back, and then head for the exit. I go out the door marked Entrance, and the staff member doesn't say anything. And I see behind me, an utterly packed plague-festival of a restaurant. An equally packed outside. A queue from the door across the terrace and out into the car park. And then a bit.
McDo is going to be hurting from this. I feel like I ought to have driven past McDo to see if there was tumbleweed in the car park. But that would have turned a 900 metre journey into four kilometres...

The thing is... well, it's a lot of things actually: Bigger, better burger. Better taste. Better selection of choices. Better customisation. Better service. Better prices (it seems to me). Better fill-you-up rating. Just all round bloody better.

Furthermore, Burger King still innovates. When I came to France in 2002 and the McDo in Châteaubriant was new, they often did specials. There was something (California?) that was kind of gross as it had avocado in it. Much nicer was the Cajun? that had a soaking of Tabasco. The second time I ordered that one, I asked if they could add extra sauce. They did. It blew my head off. Lovely!
For the past few years, however, McDo seems to have pretty much given up. There's the 280. And the Big Tasty. And sometimes either a Big Tasty or a Big Mac with chicken. And the CBO. And they're either all available or on a sort of rotation. That's about it. I think they came up with a new salad recently? And maybe a veggie burger. But that's not really doing specials like they used to.
BK right now are doing a summer "BBQ lover" burger, in beef and chicken varieties. In time that'll go and something else will turn up. Because while there are the standards (Steakhouse, Whopper, etc), they still like to mix up the menu a little to keep it interesting. That's one of the complaints I've had with McDo for years now - their menu is boring.
But, you know, whatever. I don't need to think about McDo's menu any more.

Instead, I shall simply quote mom after her first Double Whopper in Ancenis: dammit Rick, you've broken McDonald's for me.
I said: No, I've just fixed burgers for you.


In other news - the fuel pipes and bits for the strimmer all turned up. Nicely Amazon shipped it all out J+1 so it was here with me the next day. I may (or may not) do something about it tomorrow. See how I feel.

Also, after getting knocked up on huge burger, I plonked my fat arse in Marte's seat and mowed the grass. The first decently sunny day in quite a while. In some parts, Marte struggled with the height of the lush green grass. Any longer and I might have had to do some of it with either the little mower or the strimmer first. So it was good to get it done. I've done it on the highest cut level (#5) instead of the usual (#4) because it's supposed to be a hot week and I didn't want the grass to be stripped right down to ground level in the heat.

Then, as I think I mentioned, a shower to get the grass bits out of my hair, and wash some clothes (since I had hot water). They're on the line. Then, well, sit and write this.

It's almost nine, so I'll go mess with the cats, feed them, and... I guess rummage around Netflix, see if there's anything that takes my fancy. So if there's anything that looks interesting that they aren't likely to cancel after one series and a cliff-hanger ending.



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Rick, 18th July 2021, 11:00
Looks like the part about leaving the potatoes in the ground is for two reasons - the first is to allow the blight spores to dissipate (rather than being dumped all over the potatoes if harvested at the same time), and the second is to allow the skins to harden which helps the potato store better. 
David Pilling, 18th July 2021, 15:58
The RHS on blight: 
Says, earthing up provides some protection for tubers, leaving them in the ground gives pests chance to eat them. No chemical controls are available for amateurs. 
Which opens the way to a rant along the lines that pressure is being put on gardeners - no peat, no metaldehyde slug pellets, no neonic pesticides, no importing seeds. All that in the last 10 years. 
Scotland is world leader in potato varieties, but banned from EU post Brexit. 
There is anyway a lot of politics in spuds - you're only supposed to plant official seed potatoes and only approved varieties of those can be sold. 
Rick, 18th July 2021, 16:26
Oh, a much bigger rant is that we, ordinary gardeners, cannot use this and that and the other, whilst farmers can use an awful lot of stuff. What do you think is going to do more damage to the environment - spraying neonics on our spuds (maybe 10-20m2), or tossing it across a field of crop (thousands of m2)? 
Well, it's not so much the scale of the damage as it is quite likely that whatever effect home gardeners are having would be a rounding error when stacked up against industrial farming. 
Rick, 18th July 2021, 16:36
It's not just potatoes. The major seed producers have trotted out all sorts of bullshit over the years in order to get it to be illegal to sell but only seeds from their crops, but far worse, "unauthorised" varieties. A group called Kokopelli has been fighting this for many years, encouraging seed swaps at libraries (no selling!) as well as supplying their own seeds "as a thank you for making a donation" (no selling, just!). While I can almost understand seed producers not wanting the seeds of their plants sold (there's a lot of R&D invested in this stuff), to block seeds deemed unauthorised effectively gives them a cartel, and it's terrible for biodiversity. A lot of "heritage seeds" are older varieties that people don't grow much any more, only really being kept from extinction by these sorts of seed swap ideas. For the producers, there's no profit in it, so it might as well not exist. That's just plain wrong. 
Mom used to grow ancient varieties of climbing beans in order to help grow the seed stocks, such as the Cherokee Trail of Tears (also important historically). 
Rob, 19th July 2021, 02:23
Quick tip - see if there's a FR Burger King App - the UK one usually has some pretty decent offers in it. 
Potatoes - I applaud you on your scientific method. Anything I try and grow just dies.

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