"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Realization of Corn

I went to bed worried and woke up relieved as we missed the frost monster by all of 1° last night, talk about close. Normally it would not have mattered all that much since we do get frost around this time every year, but the next few days are supposed to be unseasonally warm bringing us back into the 90°'s and I am just not ready to part with my tender garden crops quite yet. Give me one more week for the end of summer to sink in and I will bravely trudge forward into fall with no regrets. Besides, we have too many tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants still on the vine and could use a few extra days in which to harvest them.

Last winter I blathered on about my garden nemesis, corn, in The Promise Of Blue Jade Corn. Well..."Yo Adrian, I DID IT!" Both my Painted Mountain and little Blue Jade corn not only grew up without falling over but actually provided us with numerous cobs of brilliant multicolored corn. Slightly mealy heirloom corn that we really do enjoy the flavor of and should make for an excellent corn meal.

We made sure the wind would not blow the corn over this year by running lines of cordage down the rows along each side of the stalks. This prevented the corn from falling over and provided such awesome fortification that even the wind was uncannily calm and only dared taunt us with few stiff breezes this summer. Ha!

I pulled most of the sun cured Painted Mountain corn and am allowing it to finish drying in the greenhouse while the Blue Jade gets another week in the field. Most of this corn will be used for cornmeal and next season's seed. I am even saving the husks to possibly weave as the original Americans did into baskets this winter. Don't hold your breath waiting for pictures of those, it will be a miracle if I even start on that project.

So I am quite pleased to actually have a crop of corn for the first time in three years. Between our new found successes with chickens and corn we may actually be getting good at this whole subsistence pattern lifestyle.:)


Roasted Garlicious said...

Wow Mr and Mrs H... what a harvest... i've pretty much given up on Corn.. but then again, maybe next year i'll try.. is that corn in the pics just for drying and making meal or flour? i have 1 question.. how large is your growing area? i looked in back postings but didn't find anything..

el said...

Save a few of those dried corn shucks so you can make your own tamales!!!! Especially with all that new corn meal you have.

Are you growing popcorn, Mike? There are differing opinions about when to harvest and shuck the stuff. I usually wait until November then pick it off the dried stalks but there's probably a better way out there. I've got a bumper crop coming on.

Stefaneener said...

Yeah, I was thinking tamales, too.

I don't think I'm going to grow corn any time soon. It's just too space and nutrient intensive for my purposes. Thank heaven for the farmer's market.

I'd LOVE to be able to make my own corn meal, though. Lucky you.

randi said...

what can I say? You're a growin' fool and a complete inspiration! I can't begin to tally up the 'ideas' you've given me for next season...thanks Mike,(I think)

Silke Powers said...

Oh, wow, that corn is beautiful! Almost too pretty to grind up into cornmeal! I am glad others mentioned it as well - keep some of the dried husks to make your own tamales - so delicious!!

And did you mention frost?!? Oh, I am so jealous - I keep waiting for summer to be over, but it still gets up into the mid 80's every day. Maybe in October...

:) Silke

Eva said...

Your corn is beautiful! I don't think I've ever seen such vividly colored corn.

Ruth Trowbridge said...

Wow - you 2 really go to town!! awesome job here - last year i put up feed corn for my birds, after husking it all, i laid it on an old bed frame to dry - the next day i checked it and it was all gone, the raccoons or squirrels had stolen it - i am seriously jealous of your diversity here, crossing my fingers to ward off the frost here too, peace for all

Mr. H. said...

Roasted Garlicious,

We used some of the corn fresh but most of it is going to be used as meal/flour and seed. Our garden is roughly 21,000 sq. feet this year, about half an acre. Which is just about the right size to grow enough food to feed us year round. We hope to add another acre in grains eventually, but have to solve some water issues first.

Our corn patch was quite small though as we were trying to find a corn that would do well for us...and these two passed the test.

Mr. H. said...


Tamales sound good and we will keep that in mind. That is one dish I have never made...to tell you the truth I'm not sure I have ever had a real tamale.

I'm in trouble with my grandson and wife for not growing any popcorn this year...they are both popcornaholics. We tried last year but it never fully recovered from hail and wind issues.

I staggered my other two corns by about 2 weeks figuring that between that and their different maturity times I should be able to get good seed off both but could not quite see growing a third. We did leave the Painted Mountain corn in the field until the husks dried up and the corn had hardened, but the Blue Jade is not quite there yet.

Congrats on a bumper crop of popcorn! That will be a nice treat this winter.

Mr. H. said...


You might like the Blue Jade corn as it only gets about 3 feet tall. I grew my corn in an area that the chickens hung out in last year and that provided more then enough nitrogen for the corn to grow well. I did dress it with a little more compost once it was two feet tall, but that was it.

Mr. H. said...


That's great! You will have all sorts of weird things going on in the garden.:) One of these days I am going to pick your brain about how we are going to get those peach trees of ours through the winter.

Mr. H. said...


I am in no hurry for winter, last year we had record snow fall and I have a feeling this year will be similar..brr.

If this was a thousand years ago I would move to California and grow year round. I hear there are too many people out that way now though, so I will stick with Idaho for the time being.:)

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, some of the kernels have designs in them like agates. It is certainly the prettiest corn I have ever grown.

Mr. H. said...


Someday soon I hope to grow enough wheat and corn the feed our birds all year. But for now I am just learning how to properly grow these grains on a smaller scale.

I was worried about raccoons getting at the corn this year but luckily they never showed up. My biggest problem this year is keeping the skunks away from things. Fortunately they don't climb very well. Although I think our cat hangs out with them at night and can't wait for him to show the skunks how to use our pet door....that will be interesting.

John Going Gently said...

your vegetables put my small allotments to shame...
what a lovely blog

LynnS said...

That Blue Jade is just beautiful, Mike! Never tried growing any blue corn but I sure have eaten my share of blue corn chips. From your info, this is a winner corn to grow so I'm going to add it to my want-list for next year.

I have wondered how you prepare your tortillas? Are you baking or frying? If frying, what oil do you use (or do you use lard?)

Mr. H. said...

Hi John,

It really does not matter how much you grow as long as you know how to so that if you ever had to you would have the knowledge to do so. I am looking forward to taking a peek at your blog as well.

Thanks for visiting,


Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

Love that greenhouse/drying house. The corn looks great too. You may have given me reason to attempt corn again next year. I was kind of thinking about doing a 3 sisters garden anyway.

Mrs. Mac said...

I'm canning tomatoes in batches as they ripen. The red beauties you 'donated' to my family have been processed into ketchup .. that was quite a job cooking and reducing! Yellow's were frozen for a yummy tomato bisque. Still working on tomatillos ..berries are frozen.

Next year will be season three and plans are already in the works. More potatoes, corn, onions and squash. Growing a garden incrementally larger each year .. well maybe not as large as yours, but enough to help to supplement feeding my family.

Mr. H. said...


Upon occasion, we buy organic sesame blue corn chips and have them with homemade tomatillo salsa and a few Coronas...not healthy but sooo good.

Our Blue Jade was about 7" long and only produced about two cobs per plant. They are said to have upwards of six or seven cobs per plant. I did find it to be very tasty and will definitely grow it again. It was a lot slower to get going than the Painted Mountain though.

We fry our tortillas in a cast iron fry pan without any oil, 1+ minutes on one side and about 30-40 seconds on the other. Our basic recipe calls for:

2 cups white wheat flour (organic)

2 cups wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup olive or corn oil

1 - 1/14 cups water

But now that we have cornmeal again that will probably change a bit.

Mr. H. said...


The greenhouse works pretty well for drying certain veggies. I do put a shade cloth up on the sunny end so as not to fry everything.

I have never grown the sisters all together, that would be interesting. I have found that runner beans and large sunflowers make excellent companions....so do pole beans and indeterminate tomatoes.

Mr. H. said...

Mrs. Mac,

I'm so glad that you could put those veggies to good use.

Growing a garden a little bigger every year is the best way to go about it. Between both your garden areas any addition should really help to provide for you.

I have got to try making some ketchup this year, it's one of those things I always forget to do.

Good luck with the tomatillos. We will probably be canning more salsa with ours this week.

Chiot's Run said...

That's very exciting! I'm growing popcorn for the first time this year and I'm super excited about it. We don't have room for corn (I'm growing it at my mom's), but I would love to grow some for corn meal. Can't wait to hear how it is when you grind some and bake up a batch.

It's me ...Mavis said...

You are a rockstar!

wendy said...

Congratulations with the corn!
Also, I want to say a big thank you for the comment reply with the dates on the winter crops you grow...I except my family and I will have some interesting stories from growing this winter.
You probably already know this but, I've read that with the corn called Six Shooter you need to plant father apart in order to get 6 ears per plant so maybe you can experiment next year with a few Blue Jades and their spacing.
Thanks again!

Orangespear's Oasis said...

WOW great looking corn.
Mine didnt do so hot this year. The ones that did live turned out to be very small.
I really like the idea of running those lines down through the corn rows. I had some blown over this year but was able to catch them before they died. Thanks for the tip.

Mr. H. said...


I can't wait to hear/see how your popcorn turns out, it does take up a lot of space. My wife will be jealous as I was supposed to grow some this year but did not.

Mr. H. said...


Good advice on the corn, I did plant it a little too close and will remedy that next season. I seem to have a problem with crowding my crops and it is a hard one to break.

Good luck with the winter greens!

Mr. H. said...

Orangespear's Oasis,

Thanks, the lines worked well and I will definitely do it that way again next year. I guess I am not the only one to have issues with growing corn, better luck next year.

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