Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Corn Harvest

In the animated movie The Lion King (which I have seen, or at least listened to, probably 5 million times, I kid you not) the importance of the The Great Circle of Life on the African Savannah is explained in a Disneyfied way. No less important than The Great Circle of Life, here with our garden and farm animals, we also have The Great Circle of Poo. It works something like this: We raise a garden and farm animals. Besides their pasture, winter hay, and grains, we also feed the animals little tidbits (weeds, trimmings, over mature produce, etc.) from the garden. Once or twice a year, we then haul their accumulated manure from the barn and chicken house, pile and compost it, then haul and spread it over the beds to mulch and fertilize the garden. I should add that this hauling is all uphill, which is just about as much fun as it sounds.

Uphill or not, it takes about five years for the soil to build up. We are now at year seven of manure hauling and growing vegetables here, and it's as if there is some sort of plant growth hormone or steroid in our garden soil. Our corn was planted in the spring, despite the wet weather (practically a monsoon actually), and it ripened during our extended season of mild weather.

I know in places outside the Pacific Northwest, many count on an annual bumper crops of corn and indeed, our nation (and increasingly the world) economically counts on it. We don't, and so this harvest is a big deal for us. I was so pleased to can 14 pints of corn, plus have that much more, and then some, to freeze, both on the cob and cut off.

It's not so bad if the cobs have been blanched first for freezing, but cutting fresh corn off the cob for canning splatters it everywhere. You should only use pint jars to can corn and then process them in a pressure cooker for almost an hour (without going outside to the garden or barn). Despite all this, it is very satisfying to know we will have our very own corn to eat this winter.

And the circle continues: the chickens get to peck at the bits left on the cut cobs and Paris, the hulking ram beast, gets to root around in the corn silk and husks. The flock all enjoyed eating the husks, though it's more of a novelty than a seriously nutritious food for them. Perhaps not as bad as say, Cheetos, but still...I'm sure it's not a particularly fantastic feed.

And now, I need to go work at hauling the manure out of the barn for next year's gardening. My son, who recently moved out on his own, has done this chore for me the past couple of years. I have to admit I've had it pretty easy lately, but now it's again back to being my responsibility. I've come to realize spinning, knitting and cooking do not get one in shape for barn cleaning. On the other hand, cleaning a barn out using a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow, with the manure pile UPHILL from the barn, gets one in shape for just about anything.

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