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Posts Tagged ‘corn’

Happy Halloween! The final harvest is upon us. We woke to our first frost this morning, glad to cross picking peppers off our list of things to do. Brad’s milling corn, in red, white, and yellow, and his red and yellow popcorn fill bins, dump trucks and combines, thousands of gleaming pounds of kernels waiting. Hay bales stacked three tall fill the hay barn, calves graze apart from their mamas, and mamas graze fresh fields not yet worn down from their plodding hoofsteps, gestating.

playing in the corn bay

I used to think that all farms always have All The Things that a farm might produce, but in truth this is our first year growing pumpkins of the variety and quantity that I have always coveted. Thanks to the squash bugs our plants produced mere fractions of what we expected from all these varieties, but we did grow several large Lumina pumpkins, and this makes me happy. As none of our Howden pumpkins (the standard “jack-o-lantern” type) made so much as one, all our lanterns this year we carved from Luminas:

This pumpkin has white skin and pale flesh, with size comparable to a typical jack-o-lantern, perhaps rounder, and smoother. We also have a smattering of pie pumpkins.

Lumina pumpkin, carved

pie pumpkins and Luminas

 

Now that frost has struck we can stop wondering what else we’re going to get from the field. Winter wheat now waits in the wings for another rain to ready the fields for planting. Almost back into calving season…

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Rain and damp continue to keep us out of the last seventy-five acres of corn. Nearly forty trucks have come and gone, the fields studded with fractured and moldy stalks to show what grew before.

post harvest

 

The signs were right for weaning recently so we separated the most stressed mamas from their calves, across a fence from each other. This “fence line weaning” reduces stress on both mama and calf. I came home late to hear a great deal of complaining from those fields the day they were separated, but by the next evening all was nearly quiet. We’ve moved herds around and weaned another group while waiting for the corn to dry out again.

newly weaned calf

 

With drought damaging the grass over the summer, we started using hay a good bit earlier this year. The Bermuda patch is all baled up and ready for the shed.

bermuda bales

A cold front came through yesterday, making it finally feel like October. We loaded another truck this morning and hope to finish picking here soon, so the harvesters can go start picking on the family farm down the road. Then it’s fence repairs, picking beans, and waiting for calving to begin in a few months…

 

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This farm lies along the Coosawattee River floodplain. Cultures have resided right here by this river for over ten thousand years, and archaeological sites are fenced off or otherwise indicated in several places on this particular piece of land. What isn’t marked on any map are the sinkholes that punctuate the periphery of some of the fields. My father-in-law came to a stop in one of the combines, on what appeared to be solid ground, only to have that ground fall out from under one side a few minutes later. Looking beneath the harvester a six-foot-deep cavern had revealed itself. We had to borrow a backhoe to dig it out the next day.

Nonetheless, picking and trucking continues. We’ve filled over twenty-five trucks so far and are about two-thirds finished here. If the weather holds we’ll soon be done here, the equipment will move on to our other fields, and the field road dust can settle once again.

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Summer ends. We are grateful now that the tomatoes are spent and that we have corn to harvest. Fourteen truckloads have lumbered out from the first hundred or so acres, filled to bursting with a thousand golden bushels each. The next field picked won’t have nearly as much yield, Brad expects, but it will still be worth picking, and with 150 acres remaining to harvest here we will meet our contracts and continue on. We know we are lucky this year.

filling a truck

The severe weather laid waste to much of my canning plans, but we did manage fourteen quarts of green beans and around seventy quarts of tomatoes, sauce, and salsa.

green beans

Battles with squash bugs largely lost, we hope to make enough butternuts and spaghetti squash to eat, but it is as yet to early to tell. For now Brad focuses on harvesting and the seasonally requisite mechanical work, as one combine loses a wheel, the other overheats… I focus on homeschooling and keeping the hearth tended, enjoying the turning of the year, my youngest turning three, and the shifting from outward to inward as the work load lightens and gardening projects wind down. At the Equinox, may we all find balance, and for those who celebrate, happy new year!

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Today saw 104 degrees. Stepping outside, the breeze that normally cools the porch felt instead like the rush of heat from an open oven. Crossing the yard, grass crunches underfoot like leaves in fall. Yield losses mount as we try not to watch the skies. Even the corn looks to be holding its breath, folding itself up against the oppressive heat and high pressure. A quick walk around the field roads left me drenched and exhausted.

the popcorn patch

The milk thistle shows its evolutionary wisdom: to survive, it must die.

milk thistle, fully dried down

 

Although the air was so hot it felt difficult to breathe, the drying clover along the field ditches smelled like honey, and even the browning grasses held their own special beauty.

We celebrated our daughter’s fifth birthday on Tybee Island, Georgia, earlier in the week. We returned home to discover the chicken pen project was complete! Notice the windows on the coop!

chicken fence and coop

The fence is secured along the ground, with trenches dug out and PVC pipe stabilizing the bottom edge so that our next batch of chicks will be just as safe as the larger birds. The compost is contained inside the fence so the birds will have access to it.

meat chickens

These boys are nearly grown; almost all the birds are contained now. Tonight Brad hopes to catch the three remaining rogues and put them in with the others.

I passed the heifers’ pasture at the end of my walk. Some had ventured out from the shade for a drink:

thirsty pregnant heifers

Brad and Max waited for the sun to go down before working in the veggie patch, staking tomatoes until they couldn’t see. Tomorrow we’ll all continue where we left off today, stopping when it gets too hot and waiting for the rain.

 

 

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Now it is summer!

Dinner on the longest day, all from right outside the door except the tomatoes (from a fellow farmer, ours aren’t quite ready yet) and the dressing ingredients:

summer solstice salad

Cherokee red and romaine lettuces, borage and nasturtium blossoms, and a bit of yellow tomato made this hands-down the most colorful salad I have ever eaten. I mixed up a simple honey yogurt dressing to balance the spicy nasturtiums and the slight bitterness of the lettuce. Vibrant!

We are in a hot-and-dry spell here, making hay and waiting for rain.

walking east toward the hay barn

stacking up for winter

Different patches of corn indicate planting dates by size. The popcorn patch went in last:

popcorn patch in front of the house

The sweet corn in the veggie patch is a bit older:

bicolor sweet corn in the veggie patch

The field corn, planted first, stretches skyward from the veggie patch to the Coosawattee River, obstructing the long views afforded by soybeans in the same fields last year. I wondered whether it may be literally as high as an elephant’s eye, but had no elephants on hand to test that hypothesis.

field corn, this much of it over my head, about two feet

hot, dry sky

around five months old

Corn isn’t the only thing growing in these fields– the calves are getting big, and most of the mamas are bred again. We have been waiting anxiously for the veggie patch to dry out before losing more tomato and pepper plants; now we wait for rain and enjoy the longest day.

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We were the first in the county to get our corn planted. When Brad told me this I asked, “Is it a race? Are we winning?” But perish the thought, as the grasses have grown so tall all around that our electric fences are nearly useless; the mamas and especially the babies have been going whither they will, and delighting in the fresh new growth of Zea mays. The drone of the weedeater clearing the fence lines has accompanied the birds for a week now, and we moved one of the breeding herds to different pasture away from the corn so they wouldn’t be so tempted.

Meanwhile, heavy rains hammered the farm three days in a row, and the veggie patch has yet to dry out. The tomatoes and peppers are suffering, cows have been in and out trampling transplants and eating tomato plants, and the whole patch looks to be a pitiful mess. And, lest there be any area untouched, we’ve lost even more of our chickens thanks in part to having no time to fence them in because of the cows running amok. Let no one tell you farmers aren’t gamblers. This gambler is discouraged and awaiting the locusts…

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