Wednesday, August 14, 2013
There are certain times of the year that are the "pay-off" for living in rural America. For me, it's when the stars align and there seems to be an aura that illuminates the land. I speak of that time when the tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, onions, beets, peas and new potatoes all ripen. A time when a well-stocked kitchen dare not run short on vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, butter, bacon, mayo, spices or toast. Remember, it's August and time to lock your car doors when you park in town, for fear your backseat will get filled with zucchinis.
Many families, the Morrows included, have had a tradition of preparing sweet corn for the freezer. There are as many ways to get the job done as there are raccoons in my sweet corn patch. From my first remembrance we picked, shucked, cleaned, blanched, cut and froze endless numbers of pints and quarts of the delicacy. The corn was not even close to being as good as it is today but it was all we knew.We each had our job. The youngest kids helped pick the corn and then we pulled the wagon up under the shade of some giant cottonwoods and commenced shucking. Shortly after we began this process we usually had someone on the cleaning committee send a runner out to report, "Mom says you guys are doing a lousy job of getting the silks off." Not knowing that removing silks was in our job description, we doubled our efforts.
Being the youngest of seven children, I began to reason that possibly I had the toughest job of them all. I helped pick the corn early in the morning and then got stuck shucking. Often, all alone it seemed. My older siblings would go to the house with a five-gallon bucket of clean corn and never come back. Well, they did come back and usually carrying another five-gallon bucket of empty cobs for the pile. I didn't have the reasoning ability to know it best to just sit in the shade of a tree and shuck corn.
Years passed and I began to climb the ladder toward the ultimate, Dad's job of slicing the corn off of the cob. The trouble was, all of my siblings left for greener pastures and eventually I was left with the whole operation. Marilyn does do a better job than most at cleaning and blanching the corn, but I do the rest. And that ultimate job wasn't all that hot either. I needed a band-aid every time I cut corn the first few years. Dad made cutting corn seem very quick and easy. Other folks would borrow the cutter and bring it back saying they couldn't make it work so they had to use a knife. It was a tricky thing to master which I eventually did but I too have let it go to a friend only to have the "worthless machine" brought back a day later. Everyone who ever used it for the first time needed to bandage the right ring down near the finger nail.
When one gets up into their 60s and are fairly swamped with farming and grooming dogs, it becomes imperative that you begin to triage the garden. The decision to "Let's not grow this anymore," is based on whether the reward is worth the time spent. Recent victims to this thinking are our strawberry bed which succumbed to pressure from the neighboring asparagus, and our raspberries will be mowed off but not because they didn't do well but because we could never find the time to get them picked.
Our focus is now on growing tomatoes for the table, canning and BLTs. We are also going to keep raising green beans, early and late season spinach, onions for salsa, and sweet potatoes.
Oh yes, we do raise cucumbers to watch them reach the age of production, and then we watch them die. Cucumbers will also cross over the line into the world of "not worth the effort" very soon here at the Morrows. They do, however, prepare you for life in general because they look good one day, not so good the next and then they're dead. The other factor is the disagreement they always spark in our home. One of us likes a sweet vinegar dressing and the other of us likes them fixed the correct way with vinegar, water, salt and pepper.
Please excuse me now while I sharpen my cutter and try to beat the raccoons to the patch.
Tip: (I've cheated this year, I now have a double electric fence around the patch) The neighbors still got into it.
Second Tip: Roundup can be used in place of a hoe in the garden.
Third Tip: Have plenty of excuses ready when the wrong plants start to die. ie: "It must be the drought." (Or try some kind of 'wilt,' or better yet, 'Phytophthora Root Rot' will work every time.)