Although the season of delicious corn on the cob is long past here, field corn season is taking its turn as the main farm job. We planted quite a few acres of field corn in the spring to feed the animals over the winter. Unlike sweet corn, field corn isn't picked until the stalk is dead and the kernels are dry and have begun to dent inwards due to moisture loss. That's why some varieties are called "dent" corn. We spent last Sunday picking the smallest field, and we were able to complete harvesting it in a short time with the help of Dan's father and brother. Everyone had a row or two to pick. The ears were pulled from the stalk, the husk was pulled off, and the ears were thrown into the wagon being pulled by the horses. The wagon had plywood boards to make the side away from the pickers higher, so that you could hit the board and the ear would bounce off and into the wagon. It kept many ears from landing in the pasture or field! Picking corn can be very enjoyable; with a number of people there is bragging about who is picking faster than whom, reminiscing of harvests gone by, helping out whoever has the densest row to pick and general good-natured conversation. It's a real group effort that not only gets a very important job done, it isn't a bad way to pass a late fall afternoon. The result is as precious to a farmer as gold for the winter. Our little 3/4 acre field yielded a bit over 60 bushels, a very respectable total considering it was the field that Bandit, the Angus steer, love to escape to for a meal and parts of the field were damaged during the neighbor's runaway horse accident earlier in the summer. The wagon we used was built by my husband out of an old Toyota truck that was no longer roadworthy. In its current state, it has a variety of uses around the farm, and was even our transportation from our wedding here at the farm to the reception hall a few miles away!
The other corn that is still standing out in the field is called Earth Tones Dent and is an ornamental corn (aka "Indian corn"). I grew some last year and saved a few of the nicest ears until spring when we planted the seed from those ears. Now it's time to harvest, and unlike the field corn, I want the husk left on for decorative purposes. So each husk is carefully peeled back, one layer at a time, until the ear is revealed. It's exciting every time to see what color it will be...shades of cranberry red, a rainbow of pastels from pink to orange to blue & purple, a pink & purple ear, one dotted with bright yellow kernels, or a mysterious shade of purplish black with deep green mixed in. The finished pile quickly looks like the garden's jewelry box. I will sell some for decoration, decorate a bit myself, but what happens to the rest? We grind our own cornmeal, so I want to see if I can produce a blue or red cornmeal just for fun. The ears that grew large, straight, beautiful & disease-free will be the chosen few planted for next year's crop. And the rest, just like the golden field corn, will provide nourishment for the animals over the coming winter months.