It has been a very busy fall. As much as I am enjoying our extra acreage, there is a lot of work associated with more things to maintain. I am in the process of rehabbing our old barn. It is structurally more sound than it first appeared to be. It's primary faults are a few broken windows and a dilapidated west wall. In fact, half of the west wall was missing. That is a significant problem as that is the direction of the prevailing wind. I am in the process of reframing the west wall and replacing the two broken windows so that the barn is more weather tight and provides better shelter to the animals.
I'm also working to replace or repair most of our frost free hydrants. We have a total of five. The only one that was working was the one in the back of the quonset hut, the least convenient to use for watering the animals. This past week I was able to replace the one in the back pasture near our well house. Now I have two working frost free hydrants. This will save me a lot of work watering animals this winter. It was also a major personal victory for me as plumbing isn't my strong suit. There is another non-functioning frost free hydrant in the barn that is next in line.
I'm planning to plant blueberries and raspberries next spring. I've decided to plant them behind the house near our underground propane tank. That patch of lawn is relatively small and is very difficult to mow with the riding lawn mower. I don't think it will take any more work to tend the berries than it currently takes to keep that small portion of lawn mowed and edged. In order to get rid of the grass I'm covering it with a layer of straw and leaves from our maple trees, then covering it with a tarp. Hopefully the grass will be gone by next spring.
I was really pleased with our vegetable garden this year. Most things we planted did very well, with a few minor exceptions. First, the baby geese harvested my red cabbage prematurely. Then Buster, our goat, got out and finished up what the geese hadn't eaten. We had already harvested a lot of the green cabbages so the cabbage crop wasn't a total bust. My attempt at sweet corn was indeed a total bust. I planted it a bit late and I simply picked the wrong spot in which to grow it. That spot wasn't adequately watered by the sprinklers and was too far away from any hydrant to water it with a hose. I also had somewhat of a crop failure with my Floriano Red Flint Corn, also because of sprinkler issues. I did end up with enough of a harvest such that I can try it out. This is a polenta variety.
There are several different types of corn. The primary difference between the different types is how much of the kernel is pericarp versus endocarp. The pericarp is the outer layer of the kernel that has the color. The endocarp is the white inner portion of the kernel. Flour corn has a fairly thin pericarp with most of the kernel being endocarp. Dent corn has a thicker pericarp and less endocarp. Flint corn is mostly pericarp, with little or no endocarp Everyone is pretty familiar with sweet corn, field corn, and pop corn. Field corn is dent corn. The endocarp dries and shrinks quicker than the pericarp, resulting in the characteristic dimple in the end of many of the kernels. Pop corn and sweet corn are both types of flint corn. Most people are less familiar with flour corn as it is not something you would normally find in either a grocery store or a farm stand. The pericarp is best cooked by boiling as in corn meal mush or polenta. Thus flint corns are best suited for polenta. The endocarp is best cooked by baking. Thus flour corns make better cornbread than flint or dent corns. Dent corns end up in the middle, not being best for anything, much like all-purpose flour. You can grind up dent corn and make a decent cornbread, but flour corn works better. Most of the corn grown in the United States is dent corn. It is grown both for animal feed and for processing into a wide variety of food ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup.
My paternal grandparents and my maternal great grandparents all grew corn, undoubtedly field corn. Enos Henry Sinor, my mother's grandfather, rented two miles of railroad right of way to grow corn. He used a lot of it to feed animals, but he also took a significant amount to be ground into cornmeal. The miller kept a third of what he ground as his payment. They had fresh cornbread almost every single day.
Most of the corn I have grown over the past ten years have been various types of flour corns. Since I was living in western Washington for most of that time, I was very limited in the varieties that I could grow successfully. We just didn't have enough heat in the summer to grow most kinds of corn. I did have success growing some very short season varieties such as Painted Mountain, Mandan Red Clay, and Ruby Gold, all flour corns. Usually the rains would start before the corn had adequately dried down and I would have to bring the corn under cover so it didn't go moldy. Now I am living in a place with plenty of summer heat. I can probably grow about any variety of corn I chose.
Last Saturday I paid a visit to Bill's Berry Farm near Grandview. I went to get a load of straw bales to use as bedding for the animals and mulch for the vegetable garden. The straw was located next to a five acre corn maze. Bill was lamenting the fact that the corn was going to go to waste. Apparently not many local Grandview farmers still grow field corn to harvest as grain. Most of the local corn is now harvested green and made into silage for dairy cows. The only nearby farmer with a corn combine didn't want to get his equipment dirty for just five acres. I asked him if I could have some and he said I could. After loading my straw I picked enough field corn to fill half of the back seat of my pickup. Most of it will go to my chickens this winter. I will keep some of it on the cob as the chickens seem to enjoy having something to peck at. I will run some of it through my corn sheller and crack it for the chickens.
Author's Note: I was looking at my blog this morning as I had not been posting for some months. I discovered this draft from last fall and decided I should go ahead and post it. A lot has happened in the past six months, to include a wonderful experience with bottle lambs, the hatching of a new generation of geese, progress on the old barn rehab, and the completion of my ukulele. I'm going to try to get caught up and cover those subjects in my next few posts.