• Tag Archives corn
  • For Me and My Gal

    Lughnasa                                                    Full Harvest Moon

    Hay wagons filled with laughing teenagers.  Plants beginning to go brown in the garden.  Root cellars and pantries filling up from a growing season almost over.  Thoughts of how to handle snow removal begin to occur.  The first few leaves begin to turn, russet and gold tips on some maple trees.  Evening cool downs and chilly nights.

    All under a harvest moon.  The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, sometimes landing in September (usually), but occasionally in October.  Those who have any rural roots at all here in the Midwest know the scenes of hay baling, corn pickers mowing down corn stalks with their military grade blades, golden streams of corn flowing into the grain truck following nearby.

    Bulky combines in the wheat, moving castles of iron and computers guided by the cyber harvesters mounted in air conditioned cabs far above the fields.

    Farm implements move now from field to field, 20 mph obstacles on the back roads and highways, one set of tires, the right side, often on the shoulder, as these field creatures crawl along pavement, out stripped by cars and trucks whizzing by, creatures of the highway.

    All hale the gods and goddesses of the harvest, of reaping, of bounty.  This is the American advantage.  We have food, acre after acre of food.

    Yes, this September issue of Scientific American praises cities as efficient, creative, green.  Cities are the future hope.  Even the present hope.

    But let me tell you this.  No farms.  No cities.  Rural counties may be depopulating, and they are, but the need for the products of the country only increases as the greener, efficient, creative cities thrive.  It will always be so on this earth.

    So this harvest season maybe we should all put a temporary bumper sticker on our car:  Hug a farmer.

  • Harvest

    Fall                                      New (Harvest) Moon

    Second round of apiguard in the parent and the divide.  The top box on the package colony has gotten heavier, but I plan to feed them some more as I will do to the parent once the apiguard comes off in two weeks.  Sometime in early November I’ll get out the cardboard wraps and cover the hives for winter.  That will pretty much finish bee work for the year until late February or early March.  I’ve given away honey and plan to give away more.  Part of the fun.

    A quick walk through the vegetable garden shows kale and swiss chard looking good, a few rogue onions that escaped the harvest, plenty of carrots, beets and butternut squash.  The harvest is 2010-10-04_0351not yet over and will go on until the ground threatens to become hard.

    While I drove through the countryside on my way back to Lafayette on Monday, I passed field after field of corn and beans, some harvested, some not, about half and half.  Seeing those scenes put me right back at home, especially the corn fields.  Here’s a field near Peru, Indiana with the combine spilling corn into a tractor trailer for transport either to a corn bin, grain dryer or even straight to the grain elevators, all depending on the price and moisture content of the corn.

    Indiana is no longer home, Minnesota is, but Indiana has a large section of my heart, the chamber of childhood and early young adulthood, a room full of corn fields, basketball, small towns, a baby sister and brother, county fairs and James Whitcomb Riley poems.  I was glad to be there the last few days and to walk again in the part of my heart filled there so long ago.

    We move now toward Samhain, Summer’s End.  Blessed be.

  • Losing the Battle with Gravity

    82  bar rises 29.65  omph ESE dew-point 69  sunrise 6:23  sunset 8:07  Lughnasa

    Waning Gibbous Corn Moon   moonrise 2246  moonset  1316


    These are iris rhizomes. I spent the morning and a hour this afternoon digging these up out of our raised bed.  You have to shear off the individual rhizomes from the mother rhizome, now spent from having thrown up its flower.  Cutting the leaves helps reduce transpiration when transplanting and helps avoid transplant shock.

    Normally I would soak them in a bleach solution, then coat them in captan as a way of reducing fungus and other diseases, but these iris were very healthy.  Only one had any soft rot and I saw no evidence of iris borer either, so instead of treating them for disease, I spread them out on the same screen door I used to dry the onions.  They’ll dry a couple of days.  Tomorrow I’ll dig out the lower bed of iris, where all these will go and do the same to them.

    As I sat on the edge of the raised bed, cutting the large fans of leaves and shaving off a clean cut with an old carving knife, a change in front stirred up a fair wind, blowing the leaves on the poplars, rustling them.  Doing this kind of work takes me away from everything else, I’m only in the moment.  A good feeling.

    Our Country Gentleman corn, now over 8 feet high, didn’t develop adequate stalks.  I planted them too close together.  As a result, as this wind has whipped them around some of the stalks, burdened now by fat ears, lose the battle with gravity and flop earthward.  The corns not quite ripe, but close enough.  We had one ear for lunch, a couple more now for supper.

  • Allison’s Corn Images From Mexico



    Here are three photos I took last year in La Ciudad de Mexico.

    One is a portion of a mural by who-else but Diego Rivera.

    The other two are from that great Museo de Anthropologica.  I was intrigued by the corn plant that was sprouting men’s heads.  And you will have to agree that the sculpture is pretty powerful.

    Allison Thiel



  • Corn Mother

    82  bar falls 30.06 2mph N dew-point 65  sunrise 6:16  sunset8:17 Lughnasa

    Full Corn Moon

    This comes from wise woman Susan Weed and her website.

    Her presentation of Lammas (Lughnasa) and especially her explanation of the link to the Eleusinian mysteries gives me chills.  Why?  Because I have corn growing in the garden right now.  Lughnasa is in essence a celebration, as I said in my post on the Great Wheel page, of the neolithic revolution, a celebration then, of wise women, since most archaeologists agree that women began the practice of horticulture.  It is also, and this is what gives me chills, a celebration of the corn that grows now here in Andover in 2008.  As the neo-pagans say, Blessed be.


    Lammas, or “Loaf Mass,” is the Feast of the First Harvest, the Feast of Bread. This Holy Day honors the women who created agriculture and bred the crops we cultivate, especially the grains, or corn. In the British Isles, celebrants make corn dollies from the last of the newly-harvested wheat. The corn dolly holds the energy of the grain Goddess and, when placed above the door or the mantle, will bring good luck to the household all year.

    When we think of corn, we think of succulent cobs of crisp, sweet, buttery yellow or white kernels: immature Zea mays, Indian corn. You know, corn. As in sweet corn, popcorn, blue corn, decorative corn, corn bread and corn chowder. Corn!

    But, did you ever wonder why it’s corn? “Korn” is an old Greek word for “grain.” Wheat and oats, barley and even rice, are korn. This usage is preserved in the song “John Barleycorn must die.” When Europeans crossed the Atlantic and were introduced to the beautiful grain the Native Americans grew, they, of course, called it “corn.” And nowadays we think of corn as only that, but corn is Kore (pronounced “core-a”), the Great Mother of us all.

    Her name, in its many forms — Ker, Car, Q’re, Kher, Kirn, Kern, Ceres, Core, Kore, Kaur, Kauri, Kali — is the oldest of all Goddess names. From it we derive the English words corn, kernel, carnal, core, and cardiac. “Kern” is Ancient Greek for “sacred womb-vase in which grain is reborn.”

    The Goddess of Grain is the mother of civilization, of cultivation, of endless fertility and fecundity. To the Romans she was Ceres, whose name becomes “cereal.” To the Greeks, she was Kore, the daughter, and Demeter (de/dea/goddess, meter/mater/mother) as well. To the peoples of the Americas, she is Corn Mother, she-who-gave-herself-that-the-People-may-live. She is one of the three sister crops: corn, beans and squash. In the British Isles she was celebrated almost to the present day as “Cerealia, the source of all food.”

    Honoring grain as the staff of our life dates at least as far back as Ancient Greece. Nearly four thousand years ago, the Eleusinian mysteries, which were regarded as ancient mysteries even then, centered on the sacred corn and the story of Demeter and her daughter Kore or Persephone. Initiates, after many days of ceremony, were at last shown the great mystery: an ear of Korn. Korn dies and is reborn, traditionally after being buried for three days. Corn and grain are magic. The one becomes many. That which dies is reborn.

  • Bubil Plucking

    74  bar falls 29.85  0mph NNW dew-point 56  sunrise 6:11  sunset 8:25  Lughnasa

    Waxing Gibbous Corn Moon

    The punk hairdos of our Country Gentlemen corn now resemble pubic hair, albiet a dark purple.  Sex and the country gentlemen.  Though I’ve seen corn grown all my life, I’ve never done it myself.  The simple, elegant sexuality of these green giants intrigues me.  The tassel pops out of the top, spreads its stamens.  The developing ears–seed pods–push out this delicate female part, the silk, to receive the pollen which falls down as wind rustles the tassel.  Each seed on the ear has a silk that runs straight to it.  A gravity based system.  One of the tiny miracles in a garden of major miracles.

    There is nothing on the planet so miraculous as the photosynthetic driven production of carbohydrates.  Without this marvel the food chain has no beginning link.  No beginning link, no chain at all.  It would not be out of place to stop by a plant tonight or tomorrow, put your hands together, bow a bit and say Namaste.  A gracias, too, perhaps.

    Kate’s home.  She had fun with the grandkids.  She’s really become a grandma and a good one.  A pleasure to see.  She cooked tonight.  Spaghetti squash, tomato cucumber and onion salad, fish.  All but the fish from our place.

    This evening I plucked bubils from the leaf junctions of three of my lilium.  After dipping them in some root  hormone, I took a pair of pick-ups and slotted them into soil pellets.  The pellets went into small plastic six packs.  The whole went out to the garden to receive water and sun.  After they’ve grown a bit, I’ll transplant them to the second tier bed down by the patio.  I’ve never tried propagating lilies this way before, but it was common in the 19th century according to my lily culture book.

  • Hoosier Bodhisattvas

    79  bar steady 29.85 5mph NNW dew-point  67  sunrise 6:02 sunset 8:35  Lughnasa

    Waxing Crescent of the Corn Moon

    “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?” – Langston Hughes

    To continue the raisin metaphor the next line might include the fact that raisins are nutritious and can, with adequate moisture, grow plump once again.

    The corn tasseled out last week late and tiny ears of Country Gentlemen have begun to form.  The corn stalks soar an elegant, but seemingly fragile 7 to 8 feet above the garden bed.  Though there are only three rows and the rows extend only 8 feet or so in length, still it calls up all those corn fields of my youth, green jungles that flashed by as we drove on   crushed gravel roads, spreading a fine chalky dust behind us.  There was, in that time, a union between the maturity of the corn and our maturity, both green, filled with promise, but not yet ready for the harvest.  Corn, of course, has a shorter life span than most teenagers, but some of my Alexandria classmates were dead soon after our senior year, their maturation hastened by the fertilizer of war.

    Though those afternoons and nights are long ago, 43 years at least, the marriage between my faith and the earth finds its true roots there.  The farms around home and the 4-H fair in late July gave the life of the land a prominence even to those of us who lived in town.  The sheds at the fair had rows of corn, tomatoes, beans, beets and cucumbers among many others, set out for the judges to assess.  Not the judgments, but the pride and the reality of these fruits imprinted on me those Madison County fields and the seasons through which they passed.

    The family farm outside Morristown, which I visited and on which I stayed from time to time as a boy, had the same effect.  The corn shed with its slanted, open sides filled with the hard yellow ears of field corn had a mystery to me.  This shed found late fall and winter made one, the harvest stored for later use.  I loved the cool moisture of the concrete pools that held the milk pails until the milk truck came.  This was like a Celtic holy well, a place where the water burbled up from the ground, plentiful and free.  In the late summer the hay mow would have bale after bale of alfalfa hay, sweet and pleasant.

    Below the hay mow the Holsteins would stand patiently waiting to be milked, their placid ways suggesting a Hoosier Bodhisattva.

    Not far down the road, visible from the hill on which the Keaton family home stands even today, is Hancock Cemetery. There the harvest of generations of Keatons and Zikes lay, row by row, in family groups.  Not all that different from the hay mow in late summer.

  • Integrated Pest Management

    78  bar falls 29.68  2mpn NW dew-point 65  sunrise5:57  sunset8:40  Summer

    New Moon (Corn Moon or State Fair Moon)

    NOAA awakened me with its trademark ululation, alerting me to the thunder storm watch declared for Anoka County.  Such notices are rare in the morning, mostly coming in the late afternoon as the heat of the day punches up cumulus clouds into congestus, then into the anvil shape of the thunderhead, sometimes 5 or 6 miles high.

    This allowed plenty of time for Kate and me to conduct our family business meeting.  This included Kate’s announcement of the fourth large quarterly adjustment in a row.  She works hard and gets compensated accordingly.  She’s off right now having lunch with Penny Bond at the Istanbul Bistro.

    Last night while checking the crops I found an infestation of aphids in one corn stalk’s tassel.  After checking others and only finding the one, I ripped that one of the ground and moved it far away.  This morning I found another tassel with a few aphids, this one I squeezed between fingers and thumb instead of discarding.  I’ll check it again, but I imagine that fixed it.

    Watching for disease and pests is an important part of gardening.  Another important part is not overreacting. I used to overreact, head straight for the pesticide or fungicide.  Since then, I’ve learned that plants can sustain damage with no harm to their overall purpose.  The trick is to know when the balance shifts from the plant’s natural defenses to the invaders.  Even when I react, I almost never resort to pesticides (I use cygon on Iris Borers in the spring.).  Instead I look for hand removal, plant elimination or measures such as squirting with high pressure water.  That approach has served me well for the last four to five years.

    Integrated pest management (IPM) encourages this kind of response.  Good cleanup in the fall, creating a soil and growing condition favorable to healthy plants and either starting or purchasing strong plants also goes a long ways toward a manageable pest and disease environment.  These are also part of an IPM strategy.

  • One Slice Covers a Salad Plate

    82 bar falls 29.66 1mph E dew-point 73  sunrise 5:55 sunset 8:43 Summer

    Waning Crescent of the Thunder Moon

    Dead headed the lilium today, their bloom period is almost past.  Buddhists say flowers get their beauty from their transience.  Makes sense.  The flower symphony I outlined a few posts ago honors this notion, seeing the transience as  beautiful.  The hemerocallis, or day lilies have begun to come into their own, vigorous and bountiful.  Their multi-colored, short-lived flowers will grace our garden for some time.

    The acorn squash plant that had designs on much of the area in its not so immediate surround had to give up some of its space today.  While cutting back the vine, I harvested squash blossoms for soup or salad.  This vine has small prickles on it, stay away signals.

    Kate harvested four of the Cherokee Purple tomatoes yesterday.  They are huge.  They taste sweet, a subtle flavor with undertones.  One slice covered the bottom of the salad plate on which I put it.  The heirlooms have a different feel, a different texture on the palette.  Sort of like eating history.  I imagine pioneers or turn of the century farmers plucking these giants and serving them up just as I did, slice after slice with a little salt and pepper, no need for garnish.

    The corn, some of it, has tassles.  With tassles, ears of corn are not far behind.  This is Country Gentelmen, a shoe peg white corn with irregular kernels.  The beans planted in the space between their rows flourish, too, as do the second planting of beets in the bed now vacated by the garlic.  Today, too, I plan to dig up all the onions and put them on a large screen to dry, then bag.  There are a lot of onions.

  • A Flower Symphony

    75  bar falls 29.89  0mph N  dew-point 59  Sunrise 5:49  sunset 8:49  Summer

    Last Quarter Thunder Moon

    The garden speaks.  Last month, when I dug up my first garlic, it was not a head, but a single large clove.  What the?  Back to the garlic culture book.  Descaping?  Oops.  I forgot to take off the flower and seed forming stalk. It suppresses bulb formation.  Now, a month later after I descaped, bulb formation proceeds.  I do not know whether it will get where it would have, but I just pulled up one garlic bulb that looks pretty well defined, though not completely.  The individual cloves are not yet distinct, though their formation is clear.

    The tallest corn is now well over 6 feet high.  No tassels yet.  The beans have begun a very productive season and the onions are ready to dry.  After we dry them, we can story them in burlap bags in the furnace room.  The squash and watermelon have demonstrated their power to dominate territory.  Our garden paths and boulder walls are in danger of disappearing at some points.

    The Cherokee Purple tomato plants have fruits that have begun to turn a dusky red, shading now toward purple.  So far I have not noticed a tendency to disease which can be a problem growing heirloom vegetables.   I plan to save seeds and heads of garlic since these vegetables will breed true and not separate into warring varieties as most hybrids will.

    The lilies continue their quiet fireworks.

    I have had this idea for a long time about a flower symphony.  Each flower would get a lietmotif, as in Wagner, each color would have a note or a phrase.  The whole piece would have a somber, quiet opening, andante, for the slumber of winter.  Then an agitato as the ground breaks loose with the warmth of spring and, in their bloom succession, the flowers emerge, their leitmotifs varied by color phrases, until we pass out of the spring flowers into the early summer blooms.  This third movement is tranquil as the garden settles into its summer patterns, again the leitmotifs ordered by bloom time and varied by color phrasing.  The fourth and final movement returns to andante as the asters, the fall blooming crocus, clematis and mums emerge, then die back.  The final movement stops for a bit, then a presto sequence of lietmotifs, then grave, ending with bassoon, bass drum, and bass viol.

    Many do not like programmatic music and I understand why, being a fan of Mozart and Bach, both abstract and interested in following the music’s own logic, not an outside one.  Even so, I offer this because it is the way I see the garden now after so many years.  The flowers emerge, bloom, dieback and another group, adapted to a slightly different season, replace them.  These movements are like a symphony in my mind.