Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rows of Corn

Simply stated, my husband Mike has an obsession with growing corn. This past time begun as a few meagre rows and has now enlarged to over 15 looming rows that occupy the area about twice the size of an average track home backyard. To say he is compulsive about the success of his corn is not saying much, but we all sigh and attempt to graciously forebear his corn growing neurosis.

Mike's, corn growing hobby began after sister-in-law, Suzi, had attempted four years in succession to grow corn as a normal part of her garden. Suzi started out with a few rows and planted per the instructions on the package, but did not have much success, since her corn would fall over when it got tall or did not produce the quality of vegetable that was desired by the "Men."

So Suzi was deemed a failure in the eyes of the corn master, Mike and for all intents and purposes in the eyes of her husband, Jeff (Mike's brother). Mind you neither of said "Men" put in effort to grow, tend or otherwise care for the corn but they were eager to provide their bountiful commentary and suggestions. Every year unsolicited advice was given such as, "Wait until the corn is wilty and curling before watering," "Plant the corn seeds deeper in the ground," "Don't water too much," and "Don't water too often." Throw in an occasional, "You're not watering enough," and it was enough to make poor Suzi's head spin round resembling the the little girl in the exorcist. This hazing was often provided by both Jeff and Mike as a team and by each independently and was a special joy that Suzi looked forward to hearing on an annual basis. Such sage and wise advice is hard to come by, so after four attempts and four failures, Suzi abandoned the quest for home grown corn.

Who better to pick up the torch but Mike, avid advice solicitor and little doer. Well the first year under his sole directive, Mike attacked the project with "Manly" tools. The rototiller was attached to the Kubota and the swath of ground on which the corn was to be planted was deeply turned and churned and mauled, until it was deemed ready. More manly tools of science were purchased which included a hand-push seeder to systematically plant each corn kernel in a row. I was even called to go forth and purchase corn seed in mass quantities, because Mike was going to show us "Women" how to grow corn correctly. Rows were planted for every two weeks until there was enough. Clearly, women are not capable knowing how much is enough or of growing corn alone under this scenario.

But there is still more. Oh no, you say. After the planting of the corn was completed, the watering process began. I can still hear the "spritz, spritz, spritz" of the rotating sprinkler head that ran night after night until the ground was wet enough to ensure germination. If one of the kids accidentally stepped into the corn area they sunk up to their waist and had to be craned out by an adult since the sticky soils sucked them in deeper when they tried to escape. After corn seed germinating and the drying of the bog, the rows were carefully mounded to support the corn seedlings. Side note: I think this was the missing component to Suzi's effort. Mike hoed soil around the base of the corn to supported it and thus no falling occurred over when the corn cobs were ripening. I think the correct farming terminology for this process is "furrowing," but I am still just a city girl living in the country and am not really qualified to make this assertion. After this point in the growing process things tend to calm down.

I think my favorite part of this whole process occurs when the corn flowers bloom. It is at this time, when the corn is about five feet tall, you can stand at the end of the rows and gaze down the tops of the tassels. As you look carefully you see the bees, our friends the bees. Hundreds of bees show up, from where I don't know, but they arrive to do the work that no "Man" can do. The steady humming sound that fills my ears when standing quietly in the afternoon sunshine is truly beautiful and awe inspiring. This is the sound of countless little wings flapping faster than the eye can see. From here on the corn is gold within a few weeks and ready to eat.

The next question to pose is: How does one eat this much corn???

Answer: You don't.

Fortunately, we have chickens and horses who are more than happy to indulge in the sweet yellow kernels. We eat fresh picked corn every day for about three weeks in a row then it turns starchy and we leave it to dry for the animals.

With the corn turning brown and the season of growing summer vegetables over, I must admit with reservation that this years corn was the not the most flavorful, since last years varieties were slightly better. However, this years total volume of corn cobs was unsurpassed by previous years growth. Mike has successfully grown corn for three seasons now and his methods while annoying do work. The final word is that the happiness Mike gets from seeing little corn sprouts grow to tall burgeoning stalks is worth all of his efforts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never once did they suggest to "furrow" or build a better base once the seedlings sprouted. I think you are onto something with your assertation.

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