Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sweet Corn memories

It's here. It came Thursday morning. I was in the garden picking cucumbers when I heard the truck coming. I went up to the garage as a puzzled Dale (the UPS guy) announced "You've got a big one". "I've been expecting it," I replied.

It took an effort to get it out of the box. And it is impressive. Big all right. Maybe not as tall as I imagined, but a work of art in itself. 'Not a cup', Don keeps protesting. I don't care. I've waited and worked a long time for something like this, and I'm going to enjoy its presence atop the piano every day it's here.

Meanwhile, life seems some days as if we were living roles from a soap opera - "All my Children of the Corn." maybe. Or, "As the Corn Grows." The weather, seasonal activities and daily chores have left everyone a little tired, cranky, and a bit corny. The heat and humidity continue, and with no real relief in the forecast, some of us have resorted to submission to the corn. There must be a kernel of truth in here somewhere. Kindly lend me your ear. Too much drama?

Last Tuesday, the garden corn patch was declared 'ready'. So on that chosen day, we participated in the annual ritual of the corn. Don picked the majority of the ears on the 2 west rows. It nearly filled 2 feed bags, which was enough for the evening. Supper hit the table early, and by the time the pot was boiling, the sounds of shucks being ripped from the ears had ceased.

Don took his usual place in the processing line, moving the corn from blanching pot to the cooling sink, then on to the drainer. I do the cutting. It wasn't long before the needed motion came back to me. And a wave of nostalgia overcame me.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who remembers the days of childhood of 'putting up corn'. It was a signpost of summer, a forecast in itself that even though the days were hot and humid, relief was not far off, as the nights would soon be cooling. That the County Fair was likely only days away, and school would be right after.

It was often a social affair. Seldom was there not a newly married, new to the community, or otherwise 'cornless' acquaintance not to be invited to join in the affair. All it took was a couple more bags of corn to be brought in from the field. Always a BYOK affair. (bring your own knife)

The older children were always expected to help. The youngest carried ears to and fro. Once you were tall enough to see into the pot, you moved up to Blancher. After that, to Bagger. Only the adults were allowed to do the cutting. Especially my mother, who for as long as I can remember, never used a common knife.

I remember it clearly to this day - the white plastic stand with the single blade sucurely suspended above the small platform. A genuine original 'corn cutter', bought long before me, so it was told, at some county or State Fair. Others scoffed at it, but any who witnessed the simple contraption in my mothers hands were awed. I was. She had a talent with that thing. (Which we were NEVER to touch) A 9 in ear was separated into golden kernels and pale soft cob with 6 deft strokes. Eight, if it was a big one. I was always drawn in to watch and listen. The action was simple. Stroke, turn, stroke, turn. Repeat as necessary. The sharp thin blade sang. Pbbbbbth, thump, Pbbbbbth, thump, pbbbbth, thump, pbbbbbth, and a mmmmpth of the empty cob in the bucket.

And hear I was, 50 years later, my hands now pressing the ears to the blade, but the song of the kernels the same. I clearly heard my mothers words 'You're cooking it.' and, 'Change the water - this ears still hot'. But wait - it was my voice, and directed at my mate. And, I have a new cutter. Mine is orange, and I'm not sure if the 'improved' design really is.

Times past, a good corn day's count would be 50, 100, or even 150 bags in the freezer. Ours was 25. But we don't eat that much corn these days.

But my thoughts were a bit disturbing. Will the next generation remember the corn? I'm not sure my own children do, and that would be partially my fault. Because in the name of sanity and convenience, we altered the service. When the kids were small, and no help was available, Don and I had to compromise the ritual. He would stop at the donated field one afternoon after work, and the corn filled bags would come home. Corn shucked, and kitchen readied, the blanching pot would be ready by dusk as the little ones were put to bed. Then the cutting would begin, hopefully as the evening breeze from the open window cooled the kitchen as we worked into the night. The system worked well, but I question it now. Did they miss something?

Maybe I can make it up with the next generation. It won't be long until Braydon and Aurora, and then Harper will be old enough to carry the corn. Then tall enough to be a 'Blancher'. And know the irresistible temptation of the golden kernels clinging to each other in rows and clumps, slyly eaten at will until the nausea sets in. And they can count the bags, all full and flat and yellow with the goodness of the corn. I look forward to that Grand -mothering day.

So regardless of the sweat soaked shirts and muddy boots, the corn grows on. And we all in Nebraska become the children of the corn. And yes, there are still the east rows of the corn.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

thank goodness for high clouds

I've been putting off the blog long enough. Waiting for some things to happen while others pass by undocumented is not making the most of time, which is passing way too quickly these days. So, while I don't have any pictures this time, I will catch up on a few things anyway.

It's hot. And going to be that way for several days they say. Remembering stretches of time past when it was hotter is no comfort, although they are many. Most memorable is the summer I sent all 3 kids to camp the same week, and was so looking forward to the promise of a productive week alone to work on innumerable projects. Instead, I spent most of the week in a darkened house with closed blinds, doing nothing that could not be accomplished while lying under the ceiling fan, or with face turned into the wind - of the fan. It was over 100 every day that week. don't know if its been that bad since. So we best not complain, as it's ONLY 92 at the moment. Just wish there wasn't straw to be put in the barn, and hay to unload. But that's life in summer, in Nebraska, on the farm. You either learn to live with it, or die. This afternoons thin layer of high clouds cuts the sun just a bit, and are very welcome.

Things have been busy here. - There I go saying that again. Is it still a reason, or has it become an excuse? Oh well, when its this hot, nothing much matters but if the last person refilled the ice cube tray.

Really though. My persistence paid off, and I was notified that the 'PeeWee's' (see pic previous post) won the Black Sheep Cup for Fiber Arts at the Oregon show! For any who aren't aware, thats a REALLY big deal. The 'cup' is now on its way to me, and I get to 'love it' for a year before I send it back. But, my name on the plaque will stay with it forever. Never did I think when I first learned of the show back when it was started in the '70's that one day my name would be on it. Thats an ego booster, for sure.

The new shipment of sheep suits arrived, and we got the girls dressed before the heat descended. Of course, 24 hours later, a couple had managed to walk out of them, despite the ugly little balls tied at the shoulder to make them smaller. Come on, girls, grow some more wool would ya! They will fit fine in a few weeks. Or months. The little ones we got for the lambs fit fine, so of course they will soon be too small. And re-fitting suits is not a pleasant job for either of us. Make that none of us. But we are convinced that its worth it in the end with all of that nice clean wool.

The garden has been yielding according to the rains. I made the mistake of not checking the zucchini for 48 hours, and we had to haul away the crop with the wagon. Not fit for sale, but the ewes were delighted. Still had tubs full of cucumbers and zucchini for sale at market this week. Don was grumbling while loading them up, thinking many would be brought back home to meet the same fate as the giants. Surprisingly enough, the buyers were still in a frenzy for fresh picked produce, and after giving a few 'bonus' ones to the last 2 buyers, we came home with only 5 deformed cucumbers and a couple zucchini to eat. Of course, we sold a lot of potatoes, herbs, onions, and other stuff as well. Don is now a believer.

Well, I took what few things I had to the quilt center yesterday, so I better get back to the dye and needle. I do enjoy my time felting in the sunroom, under the ceiling fan, and looking out on the roses in bloom, and the cone flowers glowing hot pink against the picket fence, watching the grass and corn grow literally before my eyes. Oh! there's another idea! got to go...

Keep the hose handy for those needing a cool down.

Pictures of the trophy are promised when it gets here.