fall planting, part I
Quick reminder: don’t forget about the harvest party! (See yesterday’s post for details.)
Today is a foggy, misty morning presaging rain. Emmett’s down at the field, and I’m at the house (by the way, we recently moved closer to the farm, so we’re with the chickens now, our presence a further deterrance against another fox attack! and we’ll save ourselves a 12-mile commute too). I’ve just finished the morning’s chicken duty. New chicks: water, food, a bit of handling to try to indoctrinate them into human friendliness. (These guys seem flightier than the last bunch, which saddens me.) The sassy seven teenagers: a tasty ear of sweet corn, a few photos — my, what big wings you have — and opening up the bottom of the coop where they’re allowed to hang out during the day. (We’re trying to keep them confined to the top level at night, so the foxes can’t even see them, but give them more space during the day to play and stretch their wings.)
In short, sitting here in the gray light, it really feels like fall, which makes it the perfect time to write about fall planting.
A couple of weeks ago — before the proverbial you-know-what hit the proverbial fan — Emmett and I were standing around trying to figure out where to plant our fall/winter crops. Will we have to till new ground? Buy more irrigation tape? Where’s the most easily-accessible place to put it?
Then the epiphany came: the corn’s done. Two wormy ears per plant, and that’s the end of it. And, since we didn’t really believe in intelligent design when it came to planning out our farm, the corn occupied one of the most convenient spots on the field — right next to where we usually pull up my station wagon to harvest. (This, despite the fact that the corn was harvested only once a week for a few weeks and took a really long time to mature. Next time around, corn will be planted further out, and zucchini and tomatoes closer in.)
At any rate, pleased with the brilliance of our new planting scheme, Emmett and I gleefully set about ripping out corn stalks, piling them up in the bed of a big borrowed pick-up truck. Given the size of the plant (as high as an elephant’s eye… between three and eight feet, depending on the variety), the roots are shockingly small:
After the deed was done, we took the stalks to a herd of cows that grazes on Emmett’s parents’ land. Corn stalks seem to be bovine equivalent to our sugar cane: the truck, piled high with corn stalks, triggered a mad cow stampede. I don’t usually find cows intimidating, but this was a straight-up feeding frenzy.
While cows lack the shark’s sharp, endless rows of serrated teeth, bovine hoofs, wrecking-ball heads, and general immensity can be a bit frightening, too. We had to shovel stalks off the pickup, drive a little distance, shovel more stalks off while the cows were distracted with the previous load on the ground, and repeat. (For some reason, the cows would always eventually follow us: the stalks in the bed of the truck were always preferable to the stalks on the ground. I find this true with chickens, too: whatever food I have in my hand is way more exciting than the exact same food in the dish.)
Emmett and the bull.