Learn about potatoes and porcupines: Kids Corner for the week of 9/21/20
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily’s weekly kids section is chock full of activities and fun to keep the young and the young at heart entertained during the pandemic. If you have an idea for the section or would like to get involved, email Entertainment Editor Casey Russell at email@example.com.
Learn about Eagle County history each week.
Although silver mining first brought pioneers to Eagle County, farming and ranching kept the economy humming from the 1890s through the 1960s. Potatoes were one of the most successful crops.
The mountain climate of the Eagle Valley from Beaver Creek to Gypsum provided the combination of cool temperatures and sandy soil that created perfect conditions for potato-growing. The valley was particularly known for producing high-quality Russett potatoes, with brown skin and firm white fresh. The rich topsoil of the Gypsum Creek valley grew potatoes so big they had their own name: “Red Soil Russetts.”
Growing potatoes was hard work. Seeds were planted in the spring, then crops were watered and weeded throughout the summer. Harvest time was in the fall, after the first light frost but before the ground froze.
Everybody helped harvest the crop. Schools closed down for a week, so that children could help dig potatoes. Farmers need a crew of at least eight people to dig, pick, sort and ship the spuds. Sacks of potatoes, weighing about 100 pounds each, were loaded into train cars and shipped to market. Farmers could harvest from 100 – 300 sacks of potatoes per acre, depending on irrigation water availability and weather conditions during the growing season.
In good years, the local farmers donated a train carload of potatoes to the orphanage in Denver. Farmers often stored spuds in potato cellars, a room-like structure dug into a hillside which offered cool temperatures and protection from frost.
Potato growing in the valley began declining in popularity after World War II. There were fewer young men to work the farms, and the local growers could not compete with large farming operations in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, or in Idaho. Local gardens can testify that the Eagle Valley can still grow premium potatoes.
Time Travel is researched and written by Kathy Heicher, president of the Eagle County Historical Society. Learn more about ECHS at eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.
Word of the Week
Learn new words in English and Spanish each week.
porcupine / el puercoespín
Porcupines certainly do seem sweet and sassy in cartoons and in stuffed animal form. Did you know they’re actually large rodents? Beware, those spines or quills really are sharp. Porcupines have these for protection against predators, or animals that try and hunt them for prey (to eat). Porcupines can have between 15,000 and 30,000 quills by the time they reach adulthood and can weigh between 12 and 35 pounds.
Porcupines are found throughout Colorado and the Vail Valley. They are usually found in the woodlands of ponderosa or pinyon pine and like to eat the bark of trees and herbs in the summer. Sometimes they can even cause damage to trees: see if you can spot chew marks on the bottom of trees.
Once the snow falls in November and December, it is easier to spot them against the white landscape. Look for them at the base of a tree or on a branch. This is also when they come together to breed. Usually, porcupines are a solitary animal.
Did you know the porcupine is Colorado’s second largest rodent? The beaver is the largest.
What is the difference between a porcupine and a hedgehog?
- A hedgehog usually has about 5,000 spines, porcupines have many, many more.
- The two animal species have different defense mechanisms.
- Porcupines live in North America. Hedgehogs are native to Europe and northern Africa.
- Hedgehogs eat insects and sometimes mice, frogs and small snakes. Porcupines like bark, stems, buds, leaves, grass and fruit.
- Porcupines are larger than hedgehogs.
Outside Scoop is submitted by freelance journalist Julie Bielenberg. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riddle me this
Test your wits and smarts with these riddles.
Click or hover over the black boxes to reveal the answer.
Riddle: Why are porcupines so good at volleyball?
Because they have such sharp spikes.
Riddle: What’s a porcupine’s favorite game to play?
Riddle: What do you call porcupine that is hit by a car?
Riddle: What do you call a porcupine riding a turtle?
A slow poke.
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