What the Corn?

Facilities Manager and I have a silly side (really). "What the corn?" a saying of SpongeBob SquarePants, is a favorite. Nothing better than combining farming with ridiculous and hilarious cartoons! This post is about corn, ahem, rather our adventures this past year with corn and not sponge-shaped cartoon characters. Not necessarily an edge-of-your-seat post, but it's part of the whole process of living here, and now that it's winter, we have a little more time to work on projects that can be accomplished indoors.

As his family grew much of their own food (corn included) back when he was a kid in Idaho, Facilities Manager was excited to grow it again. He picked out several varieties from the seed catalogues and we were on our way. We realized after the fact that he had selected primarily corn for drying and grinding or popping. So much for the vision of grilling fresh corn on the cob at summer barbecues. We were going to do this the hard way, the grind 'em up and pop 'em up way. Pictured here is 'Glass Gem' corn, more on that in a moment.




 June of 2016, Facilities Manager tilled up this section of land so we could plant a cover crop and get this area prepared for an eventual vegetable bed.



Same view, nearly a year later: April of this year (2017), he tilled under the crimson clover as well as more land to the north (for part of the orchard), now cleared nearly a year later. The area on the right still had stumps that were removed the following month, but that's another story.



From seeds we planted up that land:


Topping off at nearly 10' high, the Paraguayan chipa corn was something of a monster. We also grew Dakota Ivory, Glass Gem, True Gold and Top Hat.



It really dominated the horizon line looking across the property. That and the monster sunflowers. This was a favorite hangout of blue jays and crows, I can tell you.



It looks so deceivingly small back there, but trust me when I say it was a corn forest.


We harvested the corn when the rains came and set it in the garage to dry, hoping it would all work out but not knowing for certain. When do you harvest it? Is it the right size? What temperature? Which variety is which? All these questions hung over us, but hell - we had to get it off of the stalks before it turned moldy with cold November rains looming on the horizon.



More practical applications: Facilities Manager had fun with the corn stalks around Halloween.


As of today, this is what the corn patch looks like. We left a few stalks with corn on them standing for the birds for several weeks, when they had finally been stripped clean, the stalks came down.


Having dried long enough, we decided to shuck it and find out what was going on beneath those husks. To our delight, there were many colors and for the most part, it dried well. We had a few duds from the fresh eating corn that just got put into the mix, those we tossed into the compost but the rest...well...


Such variety of color.


Now I couldn't tell you if these were the Paraguayan or Dakota Ivory or what . . . and I'm sure there was some cross-pollination going on (as we've said, our first veggie garden was not planned very well). One thing we do know is that this is the corn for grinding into grain for polenta and, if fine enough, corn flour.


We twisted the kernels off with our hands, bare cobs can be seen on the left. This is some kind of physical work, I can't imagine the labor involved in actually yielding a decent amount of corn to live on. Hats off to farmers everywhere. So, what's next? How do we grind this stuff up? It just so happens...



Introducing the old, red grinder from FM's ancient farm days in Idaho. FM has toted this device around for 35 years for no good reason, or so he thought. Now, you see, we have a reason! Grinding corn! The grinder should be bolted to the table, and it will be, but, for our testing, we just held it in place. So in go the kernels.

FM Note: If you look closely, you can see both of us and the flag of FM's second nation, Australia reflected in the metal bowl.


Out comes the corn flour. Oh, we had to adjust the setting, but with a few spins of the crank the old, red grinder spewed forth some mighty pleasing flour. The corn variety used in this flour-making fun was the Paraguayan yellow corn. Tall corn begets fine flour for polenta or chipas, the national bun of Paraguay. That story comes later, says FM.


The other corn, Glass Gem, delivered. Can you believe the colors?



Some were primarily yellow or green or blue or black. Certainly there was cross-pollination going on between varieties, but we don't mind, this our first year of growing corn. If we wanted to get serious about it we would have to isolate groups, I am told.


That blue! 


That black! Just beautiful.



We did the twisty thing to release the kernels and eventually came out with this bowl full of rainbow-colored popping corn. Does it actually pop? Will it work, even with such tiny kernels?


Oh, yes. This was my test run before I bagged it up and gave it out as gifts this year. Whew, I'm glad it popped otherwise the chickens would be pooping out rainbow-colored corn kernels.



Like candy in a bag. This is what everyone got for gifts this year (sorry, chickens) - this and sauerkraut. OK, the kids got fancy store-bought gifts but this is what we are most proud of.

Thus ends our corn adventures for the year. It just goes to show that if we just try, give a little effort, that these notions of growing our own food or making our dream garden a reality, it can be done. We don't necessarily know any more than the next starry-eyed farmer, but we're having fun discovering. It may not be perfect but that doesn't matter. We're happy with our little bags of corn and will probably grow it again next year. If you come out to visit us, you may just receive a bag of corn for popping.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and happy gardening, happy new year!


Comments

  1. This was such a fun, and pretty, read...you guys are doing it right!

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    1. I'm glad you think so, Danger - thanks for the vote of confidence! We appreciate it so much.

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  2. Wow, that's great work (and considerable work it must have been).

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Thanks Hoover Boo! It wasn't too bad (work load) because we didn't have that much corn, but for farmers or people who do this for a full-time living, oy! I tip my hat.

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  3. I loved reading about your corn adventure. I hope that polenta got cooked up and was delicious too! It's one of my favorite carbs. And that colorful popcorn is so fabulous!

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    1. Hee hee...corn adventure. I love it. The polenta will get cooked up and I'll let you know how it goes :) My sister-in-law is Romanian and knows how to do polenta right. Maybe she'll coach me. I do love that carb, too - it's a good one!

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  4. You two never cease to amaze me! Growing corn is one thing but grinding it yourself is a step beyond. I love that Glass Gem corn - if only it could be made into jewelry, you'd make a mint!

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    1. Thanks Kris! The Glass Gem into jewelry? GENIUS. I bet someone does it (not me, though, no talent there). Great business idea! Anyone? Anyone?

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  5. Oooo that glass corn is gorgeous. What fun having your own popping corn. I can remember twisting the kernals off the cob for pop corn when I was young. There is a big popcorn farm not far from where I live. They grow black popcorn and it is sold all over the world. I enjoy reading about your mini farm and all the goings on. Carry on...

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    1. Isn't it special, Lisa? SOoo pretty, an prettier in person.

      A popcorn farm? Well - of course! I never really thought about it, and shame on me! Black popcorn - it's so cool looking.

      OK, back to it :)
      Happy New Year!

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  6. 'Glass Gem' corn!!! Great beauty, perfect name. I laughed out loud at that one photo of the scoundrel chicken--the one with the straight-on expression. What fun to read your stories!

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    1. Isn't it gorgeous? Ok..I have to ask...the scoundrel chicken - you must be talking about the chicken post?

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    2. Wow, yes. I can't keep up. Mass confusion of blog post followings.

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    3. Ha ha...so true, Alyse! You're just multi-tasking.

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    4. which I cannot do! LOL

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  7. That's gorgeous! That looks like great fun.

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    1. It was a lot of fun...we enjoyed the seed to harvest to popcorn experience all the way :)

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  8. Wow - never seen Glass Gem corn before - it's beautiful. When you popped it, did the popped kernels take on a semblance of the color it began with? You know, so you'd essentially end up with a bowl of Froot Loops, to use a more vulgar comparison?

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    1. It's something to behold, Anna. You'd go crazy with a photo shoot. The popped kernels are just as you see them in the bowl, white. But the Fruit Loop idea is a vivid and better one...only if.

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