Teamwork, a sight for sore eyes the results when potato gift goes bad

Ashley Usko cries over spilt potatoes.

Ashley Usko cries over spilt potatoes.


About four years ago my fiance and I decided to invest in a little single-wide trailer and move it onto my in-laws’ property about 30 minutes from Walla Walla. We did this in order to pay off debt and save up to buy a house later on down the road. At the time our daughter had just turned 1, and our son 4. I was extremely hesitant at first, considering my in-laws lived out in the middle of nowhere. They have over 1,000 acres of land, with the nearest neighbor about half a mile down the road.

I didn’t want to leave my small-town comforts to embrace a life of solitude, but I knew it was best for me and my family. Sometimes doing what you are supposed to do is more important than doing what you want to do.

My fiance actually grew on the very same land, so his opinion on the situation differed from mine. He was excited to share his country-living experiences with his children. He often spoke fondly about all of his fun county adventures.

Now, four years later, I’m slowly becoming accustomed to country life, and even find myself getting annoyed by the “hustle and bustle” of Walla Walla living. I now realize that country life has its perks and advantages. I love the fact that I can go outside to get something out of the car while still in my pajamas and not have to worry about being seen by a neighbor. The hillside views are glorious and the starry nighttime skies are to die for.

Another perk is living next to my in-laws. They are wonderful people and we are truly blessed to have them in our lives. They have done so much for us over the years that I don’t think I can thank them enough.

Sometimes they actually go above and beyond what is expected and leave little presents for us to find. Some are amazing, like a new kitchen floor or a new dryer. And others not so amazing. One day we came home to a wheelbarrow full of potatoes in our yard. My father-in-law had come across them while he was doing carpentry work. I’m not sure if he dug them up himself, or if they were gifted to him. But either way we were stuck with a mountain of potatoes.

Every day we would come home to this wheelbarrow full of potatoes and try to use as many as we could in our meals, but we couldn’t keep up with the fermentation process. I’d find myself digging though rotten potatoes to find a couple that we could still use.

One day, I sent the children outside to play. About five minutes went by before my daughter, Ashley, came running into the house to tell me that she had knocked over all the potatoes. I lectured her about not playing by the wheelbarrow and immediately instructed her to go pick them up. She gave me an attitude and stated that there were just simply too many potatoes for one girl to pick up all by herself. I denied her plea for help and told her to deal with it. She stomped back outside and tried to enlist her brother to help her. He also refused and they spent the next 10 minutes arguing about it.

I went back outside and demanded that she pick up the mess she made. She started to throw a fit. The image of her crying over spilt potatoes was just too much to handle so I did what any self-respecting mother would do, and went back inside to grab my camera. I snapped a couple of pathetically adorable photos and told her brother to help her with the task. He groaned at the thought but did as he was told and helped his little sister with the mess of potatoes.

It took them about 30 minutes to get the job done. The task actually kept them occupied, and by the end of their time together they were working as a team to go through each and every potato to sort out all of the rotten ones from the ones that were still good. If they found a good potato they would put it back into the wheelbarrow. If they found a bad potato they would take turns chucking it as far as they could. It was pretty comical to watch from the comfort of my kitchen window while sipping some coffee.

I guess that is another perk about living in the country. What city mom could admit that she has sat at her kitchen table and watched her children bond together over chucking rotten potatoes?

Not many.

Heather Usko is a Prescott-based writer whose columns are about her perfectly imperfect life as a young working mother. She can be reached at


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