Growing ‘stall’ corn
(Disclaimer: The following story may contain disturbing thoughts for those of the ‘Good Housekeeping’ generation. Reader discretion is advised.)
Here in the flat foothills of the Iowa winter tundra that is so far north -we are almost considered Minnesotans, planting was agonizingly delayed by a Mother Nature who had swung her pendulum from menopause, right into full-blown Alzheimer’s. We had ice, thunderstorms and blizzards all in the same week and that was in mid-April, no less.
Secretly, we don’t think she knows us anymore.
But when the only way to plant corn would be to hook a snow plow onto the front of the tractor and the planter behind, farmers just try to keep busy. In our case, my husband started cleaning the garage. When he got around to scooping, something stopped him.
There was a corn plant growing in his garage stall.
Oh, I swept out the garage during the winter, but I swept around the vehicles, not underneath of them. Late winter lambing brings all kinds of schnoz-unfriendly, chunky-type fragrances into the garage from snow- and manure-laden boots, clothes and pickup tires. Trying to keep it all swept out would compare to keeping Jello-O squares from dripping in the sauna.
“I bet some corn picked up on the tires when I was (over) doing chores, and it fell off when the snow under the pickup melted,” my husband said.
The corn stalk was about three inches tall already. Apparently there was enough depth and moisture in the fertilized soil bed on the concrete garage floor -and enough warmth in our heated garage-to allow a corn seed to germinate.
My dad would have been proud to see what we were growing in our garage. Even if it was by accident. And especially since we didn’t even have to hide it from law enforcement.
My husband scooped the rest of the unnecessary earth from our garage carefully once he saw the thriving corn plant. He scooped around it, and even fed the plant with more dirt. By the time he was done, the plant looked like the beloved Charlie Brown Christmas tree once the whole gang gave it the love and attention it deserved.
Most farm wives could only dream of that happening to them, especially during harvest.
It continued to grow-even daring to wave in the wind as we lifted the door to the garage. My husband gave it a drink now and then and continued to pile the dirt up around it to give it something into which to plant its roots.
When Mother Nature tricked my husband into thinking he was going to be able to start planting corn, the corn growing in my husband’s garage stall began to wither. Lack of attention and nurturing gave it little will to live, and soon, it shriveled up and moved on to the corn gods.
Poor delicate corn seedling. We pondered the possibility of crop insurance coverage. By the looks of the field conditions at that time, it could have been our only corn crop all year.
For the farm wife, housekeeping things often give way to tractors, implements and livestock that call for her time and attention. That means housekeeping gets filed away under the “whenever I have the time” category. But for her, if there is no corn growing in the house anywhere all year long, it means she’s done well in staying ahead of the dirt fairies that seem to rear their ugly heads only when her mother-in-law comes to visit.
I failed that one this year obviously, as the corn stalk shamelessly tattled on me.
But for my husband, it was a brief victory, if only a short-lived and hollow one. One way or another this slow-starting, wet year, he was going to grow some corn.
Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and www.karenschwaller.com
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