Children of the Corn

It was all corn for as far as our little eyeballs could see.

I was eating a sweet potato earlier, and got to thinking about the colour orange. It made me think of carrots, because they are orange. And then vegetable gardens, because carrots and sweet potatoes grow in them. And then how my mom used to have a vegetable garden that yearly produced 49,205 zucchini. And how we learned to cook the zucchini 27 different ways, but, in the end, they all tasted like zucchini because zucchini is zucchini is zucchini.

But, this isn’t about zucchini, it’s about corn.

You should know that I simultaneously had 14 other unrelated thoughts in there, but I don’t want to sidetrack you.

Growing up, we had a vegetable garden, and it was large. I’d guess it to be the size of half a volleyball court, only more rectangular. Maybe bigger. Now, I don’t believe my mom would label herself an active gardener, but when you live on a farm and your husband grew up on a farm with a vegetable garden and a canning queen for a mother, you, too, have a vegetable garden. And, you learn to can, because you now have a garden that produces yearly bumper crops. And, you also have four children who eat like horses.

So, garden and can Mom did. And, she did a mighty fine job of it, too.

One summer, Dad decided to plant sweet corn alongside his regular field corn. He would plant three rows, thus moving the sweet corn out of the garden, making way for other vegetables. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember what those other vegetables were, because that summer was The Summer Of Corn. Capital letters.

For all of you non-farmers, fields tend to run on the large side. Think football field. Some run a bit smaller. Some much larger. For our purposes, keep thinking football field. One row of sweet corn the length of a football field produces a lot of sweet corn. Three rows of sweet corn the length of a football field produce A LOT of sweet corn.

My brothers and I soon became Children Of The Corn. Capital letters, again.

We picked corn. We hauled corn. We husked corn. We de-haired corn. We de-cobbed corn. Mom canned corn. We picked corn. We hauled corn. We husked corn. We de-haired corn. We de-cobbed corn. Mom canned corn. We picked corn. We hauled corn. We husked corn. We de-haired corn. We de-cobbed corn. Mom canned corn. We picked corn. We hauled corn. We husked corn. We de-haired corn. We de-cobbed corn. Mom canned corn.

It was an unending cycle.

“Mom, can we go see our friends?” No. Husk the corn.

“Mom, can we take a break?” No. Husk the corn.

“Mom, can we do our homework?” No. Husk the corn. OK, we didn’t do homework during the summer, but I almost think that if we had needed to she would have given us the same answer.

We had corn coming out of our ears. OUR EARS.

One evening, Mom thought she’d get a jumpstart on the next day’s canning by taking the corn off the cob and placing several containers laden with kernels in the walk-in cooler overnight. The next morning, she was off with bang. I’m not sure how many batches she canned before she noticed the finished product was looking more brown and less yellow. Like a lot more brown.

Corn isn’t meant to be brown. Not even the canned variety.

No. But, Mom deserves a medal.

Mom was befuddled. She had done everything the same as the previous days. The pre-canned corn was not over or under-ripe. The jars were sealed. Looking for an answer, she called the local agriculture-extension agent.

“You took all the corn off the cobs and had it sit overnight in a cooler?” the agent repeated back to Mom. “Oh, that’s not a good idea.” Something about extra caramelization from the sugar in the corn being exposed to cold air for too long.

Oops.

Oh, those long hours of picking and hauling and husking and de-hairing and de-cobbing and canning! What did we have to show for it all? BROWNNESS. Jar upon jar of brown, brown corn. So much for working ahead. I think my brothers and I decided right then and there to never work ahead on anything ever in our entire lives. Just in case.

So, the corn, while possibly edible, was much too brown to serve, and it was dumped. But, Mom was not down. You know why? Because there was plenty more where that came from.

Back to the field, kids! There’s more corn to be had.

I know that was the last year Dad planted sweet corn alongside the field corn, and I think that was the last year Mom canned corn. And, possibly, the last year she canned anything. Unless that was the same year she spent a week in September turning 29 bushels of apples into applesauce that would last us the entire winter.

Or, the month of October. That was some delicious applesauce. Poor Mom. Feeding all those starving children.

Anyway, thanks to Mom, I have enough canning experiences to last me a lifetime. No need to go create my own. Thanks, Mom!

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6 thoughts on “Children of the Corn

  1. Joshua says:

    Horrible memories! SO many lacerations from corn stalks. This was the 2nd summer I almost bled to death.

    True story.

  2. Oh my! Now I know who to ask about starting a garden and how to can. Both I know very little about. Sadly.

  3. PS…there is never too much corn…

  4. jilladuling says:

    You had a horrid, horrid childhood, Joshua. If you ever want to guest post about the time you got stuck in the auger and thought the world was ending, let me know. My readers could grieve with you.

    @Lara. Wise words, sister. Wise words. I think we’re due for a summertime corn party. Your house?

  5. Mom says:

    You are welcome daughter. Regards to canning: do you remember the crock of scalding hot applesauce that fell and busted into smithereens on our beautiful black and red carpet? You probably don’t know about the 2 bushels of ‘cling free’ (who would dare can any other kind) peaches that I canned while I was in the first several months of pregnancy and wanting to barf through the ordeal. Peaches did come out tasty. You mentioned the 5 bushels of apples that were to last the whole winter. You were right, every meal I heard: ‘got to HAVE homemade applesauce’. All was gone before winter. The sweet cherries (bing, to be exact) Josh had to have every meal for dessert; to this day I think he hates bing anything. Pickles, best recipe from mother-in-law, combed whatever pickle field I could find for pickles that the migrants left behind, which wasn’t much – BOY, were they good, migrants that is. Tomato juice let’s don’t even go there. I have to admit: I had the best juice mashers in Putnam County – 4 of them.
    I have since given all canning supplies to your cousin who loves to can and needless to say: I DO NOT MISS ANY OF IT!!!!

  6. gigi says:

    Did husband tell you HIS corn stories about selling roadside? Oh, the marketing skills and people skills he learned…oh, and making change.
    Thanks for the great story plus the comments.

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