Whitesburg KY

Don’t count your corncobs until they ‘hatch’

Points East

The closest thing our family ever did that came to share cropping was allowing a few relatives and neighbors to pick strawberries “on the halves.” Sometimes that got tricky when a picker deliberately tried to only pick the grade A berries in the bucket he was taking home and pick mostly stunted and blemished ones for our side of the deal. When that happened, the pickers were not told to not bother coming back, because we had all the help we needed.

We had a few neighbors in the 1950s who sharecropped field corn, green beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes in various propitiate shares based on the amounts of labor and growing supplies each side contributed to the endeavor, but I don’t recall the specific details.

Except for strawberries I can’t remember anybody ever helping us with much of anything when it came to farming. A few nephews and cousins might help dig potatoes to get a bushel for themselves. And I remember a couple of aunts and one neighbor who helped Mom pick and can beans, tomatoes and apples that wound up in equal shares.

Unfortunately I have some critters raiding my garden and they have no intention of tending on the halves. Unless they have helped fertilize it for next year’s crop, they have not contributed one iota of effort to making it grow. They have neither hoed nor pulled a single weed.

So far the thievery and destruction has been limited to 240 row feet of sweet corn. They have not touched the other dozen or so veggies. Last year we had two varieties of corn growing at the same time but one of them matured 10 days earlier than the other. We managed to get most of the early crop but raccoons got every ear of the second one. This year we harvested our half of the patch two nights after they first got into it and wound up getting our share.

Normally ‘coons’ will start on sweet corn about 10 days before it has filled out enough to be fit for human consumption and we are lucky to get more than a few ears for our own use. Both last year and this, we switched varieties and I believe that confused the varmints. We had been growing Bodacious for more than 30 years before discovering Twilley’s Glacial that both Loretta and I have found to be tastier than anything we’ve ever grown. We had been trying, for more than three decades, to find a variety of sweet corn that out performed Bodacious and Glacial finally became King of the Garden last year.

The ‘coons’ did not discover the Glacial until it was nearly ready to pick. Another three or four days would have made it fuller but I figured we’d better strike while the iron was hot. We wound up freezing enough to get us through all the family holiday meals and a couple of impromptu special occasions and we spent a week of having sweet corn for supper every night. We also shared some with a few kinfolks and neighbors.

We also had another varmint raiding the corn patch that I am reasonably sure was not related to raccoons. I’m guessing that at least two dozen stalks had been harvested without leaving a trace of anything behind. ‘Coons’ will eat sweet corn on the spot and leave their mess of broken stalks, shucks and cobs behind. The damage they had done was conspicuously obvious.

The stripped stalks had been harvested on the opposite side of the garden, closest to the house, and not a single stalk had been pulled down. Somebody has been home during the last three weeks and our dog would have barked his head off if another human was on the place.

My brother Andy pointed out that we’ve been seeing gray foxes close by over the last several weeks and he has assured me that foxes nearly destroyed his corn in Letcher County several years ago. As long as they limit the damage to a couple dozen ears, I wouldn’t mind having the foxes trot by on Charlie Brown Road from time to time. They are beyond beautiful and a pleasure to look at when we see them.

In the meantime, Andy has planted, for old times’ sake, a late crop, about 300 row feet, not yet tasseling, of Bodacious that we’ve targeted for a mid-September harvest, but we are counting no corncobs before they hatch. Actually, we may be counting cobs but it would be much nicer if they had corn on them.

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