Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Post From the Farm - July 2011

Finally, my post from the farm. Usually my posts from the farm deal with cooking and food preservation. I did plenty of cooking while I was at home due to the Pampered Chef party that I presented and a cooking class that I taught during my time there. However, I was too busy getting ready for these events to take any pictures. Our big food preservation project this week was sweet corn, but I've already written about freezing corn HERE. Since I've already done an instructional post about freezing corn, I took pictures of the events surrounding our corn preservation efforts instead.

It was a fun week "back home". I began my visit by camping with my husband and some college friends. The camping was great, despite the fact that the weekend was plagued with scattered thunderstorms.

I took these pictures of a storm rolling in when I returned to my parent's house after camping last week. I was helping my mom plant flowers when we spotted the storm on the horizon. I dropped my trowel and grabbed for my camera before the rain fell. The clouds were just so incredible!

After the storms passed, it was time to pick sweet corn! Tom Farms, a local family-owned farm, always plants a sweet corn patch (or two or three). On my first picking mission of the week, I went to to procure corn for my sister's birthday cookout with my grandparents. That is when I discovered the giant new grain bins/scales/fertilizer tank that Tom Farms had built since my last trip home. I was in awe! The whole setup is HUGE! Holy Grain Bins, Batman!

I have been friends with the family who owns this farm since I came into existence. One of their daughters works for the family farm and her husband supervises this location. She also shuttled my daughter and my nephews to Vacation Bible School this week since her children were attending too. When she returned my daughter on the first night of VBS, I mentioned that I had seen their new grain bins. "You should see the view from the top." She volunteered. Then she mentioned that I could climb up there and see it for myself. WOW! This offer was right up my alley. Anyone who knows me in my personal life knows that if something is there, I WILL climb it. This trait is one of my weird quirks. It's just how I'm wired. Little encouragement is needed when I am faced with a lighthouse, mountain, cliff, tree, or even a gargantuan set of grain bins. I love the challenge of the climb AND the view from the top.

On Thursday morning of my visit, I had planned to pick and preserve sweet corn. I decided that while I was out there to pick the corn, I would take advantage of my friend's invitation and climb to the top of the grain bins.

Pictured here are the first few flights of steps to the top of the bins.

I'm not the least bit scared of heights, but I was somewhat timid when I started out. It had rained that morning and the metal steps and side rails were still slippery from the rain.

Here I am at the top of the steps. Can you find me in this picture?

Let me help you. There I am. Under the red dot.

Here's a closer shot. I could have gone even higher. To my right you can see the ladder at the top of the steps that leads to the catwalk over all of the bins. While I would describe myself as brave, I am NOT crazy! (Or at least I prefer to believe that I am not.) I decided that it was a safer bet to "call it quits" when I reached the top of the stair steps and declined the last few ladder steps. Although I did consider them for a moment...

I gave my camera over to a young man (a high schooler entering his Jr. year) who works for my parents to capture my climb. Next time, I'll have to take my camera with me and get some shots from the top. Even though the day was pretty hazy, the view was pretty incredible. I've been told that on a clear day you can see all the way to the courthouse in nearby Warsaw. Even through the haze, I could certainly see back to my parent's house from up there.

A few fun facts about these mammoth grain bins:

* The bins only took about 3 months to build.
* Each bin can hold 730,000 bushel of corn.
* At this facility they can unload a grain hopper holding 1000 bushel of corn in 5 minutes.
* They can load a semi in LESS than 5 minutes.
* They are in the process of building a fertilizer tank at this same facility that will hold 1 million gallons of fertilizer! Wow!

Once I climbed down from the bins, it was time to pick corn. We quickly realized the field was muddy from the rain. Unfortunately, I had left my daughters' mud boots back in Ohio, so I enlisted Lorenzo, my corn-picking assistant (and camera man) to help me fashion some shoe covers for my daughters out of plastic baggies and pink duct tape. I have to say, they worked beautifully!

I thought it would be cute to get a picture of my girlies in their makeshift boots. I stood back, pointed the camera, and called out, "Smile!"

This is what I got. Lovely.

Here's a shot of my oldest. This was her first year helping with all of the aspects of putting up sweet corn from the picking to the freezing. She did a great job! I love that I can pass on this tradition from my childhood to my kiddos. I wonder if someday my daughters will teach my grandchildren to pick, blanch, cut, bag, and freeze corn. Maybe....

This was our haul. 4 laundry baskets full of fresh, delicious, corn!

My grandma has a canning kitchen in her basement, so that's where I headed with the corn. As I pulled in to park in my grandparent's driveway, I spotted this giant caterpillar from the driver's seat. If my near-sighted eyes could see a caterpillar through the car window you know it had to be big!

Look at his big creepy mouth!

My oldest daughter was fascinated by him. My 3 year old niece was not. I decided to take some video of our encounter with this caterpillar.

At first, we all thought that this was a tomato hornworm. If you've ever had a tomato worm in your garden, then you know what a pest they are and how quickly they can work their way through the beautiful, juicy tomatoes that you had intended for your plate. We thought that we were doing my grandma's garden a favor by capturing this pest. We put it in a container so that my daughter could take it to my sister's birthday party that night and show it off to all of her cousins and any of the guests that wanted to venture a look. Then we released it on the side of the road on the drive home.

As it turns out, this was NOT a tomato worm. Once I put my kiddos to bed that night, I did a little online research to find out what we had captured. It was a Cecropia Moth larva. According to Wikipedia:

"The Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) is North America's largest native moth. It is a member of the Saturniidae family, or giant silk moths. Females with a wingspan of 160 mm or more have been documented. It is found as far west as the Rocky Mountains and north into the maritime provinces of Canada. The larvae of these moths are most commonly found on Maple trees, but they have been known to feed on Wild Cherry and Birch trees among many others."

To read more about the Cecropia Moth, click HERE.

Cool. I learn something new everyday. : )

With "The Biggest Caterpillar in the World" safely contained in a Cool Whip tub, we began husking all of that corn. We husk next to the cow pasture. I know that I've discussed my grandpa's cattle on this blog before. These cattle are the basis of all of my posts about beef and on this day, they were the recipients of all of our corn husks.

Here are some pictures of my sweet Grandma Shirley, my oldest daughter, and one of my nieces husking the corn.

Usually, this is the part where I would show the steps of blanching, cooling the corn in an ice bath, cutting it off of the cob, and placing it into bags for the freezer. But since I've already written about that HERE, I focused my camera on my youngest nephew, 12 week old Graysen, who was peacefully napping on the pool table next to the canning kitchen.

It always amazes me to see how babies can sleep at anytime, in any place. I'm one of those people that has to have optimal sleeping conditions. I can't even sleep while riding in a car. To fall asleep, I need to have the covers "just right", darkness, and quiet. And even then, I have to read myself to sleep every night to stop my mind from racing. After all of that, once I am asleep, the slightest noise or change in the condition of my bedroom will jar me into a full state of alert. (Probably not a bad trait for a mother of two young children to have, but still annoying!)

And here was this little guy, completely oblivious to the world in the middle of our corn preservation efforts, just sleeping the day away. I am jealous!

Oh my goodness, just look at all of that hair! I know that it annoys my middle sister, his mommy, when people call him "Baby Elvis", but if he curls his top lip just the right way, well....

Got corn? By the time we had finished husking and silking all of that corn, it was getting late in the day, and we'd only put up about 15 bags (45 cups). My sister, who was helping me, needed to go home to get our kiddos ready for VBS and I was scheduled to present a Pampered Chef party that evening, so we put the rest of the corn into my grandma's fridge to finish up the next day.

The next morning my two sisters and their children showed up at my parent's house for a photo shoot with "the cousins". My mom always schedules a photographer sometime during the week of our summer "visit to the farm" so that she can get current pictures of her grandchildren, ages 6 years - 12 weeks pold. This time I snapped a couple of pictures over the photographer's shoulder.

This outtake cracks me up because it shows just how difficult it is to get 7 young children to all look at the camera at the same time. Thank goodness for PhotoShop! My 4 year old nephew was the toughest to photograph this year. He is SO busy!

My sisters and I joked about who would be the "problem child" at the photoshoot next summer or if there would be another baby to add to the challenge. Who knows? A few years ago, there were babies born in July, January, and May! (Those "babies" are now the 3 children wearing stripes in these pics).  Let's just say that I try not to drink the water when I am home. Ha!

The sweet corn did get preserved after the pictures were taken. My mom took the 5 oldest grandchildren to a rodeo at a local county fair while my younger sisters headed back to my grandparent's house to finish up and I made preparations to teach a cooking class the next morning.

So that's this summer's post from the farm. I apologize that I didn't include any recipes and I didn't manage to take pictures of any of the food that we prepared and enjoyed. Maybe next year....

But it WAS a good trip!

I returned home to my own garden in Ohio a couple of days ago, where there was plenty of produce ready to pick and preserve. So stay tuned for my next post on preserving pickles and peppers.


RanielleH said...

It always makes me feel like I'm back home in Indiana whenever I read one of your posts. Reading about Tom Farms made me see my own pictures from that area that I've cataloged in my head. Thanks for bringing back the memories =)

Mary | Deep South Dish said...

Love your farm posts - I'm like you with the sleep too. Gotta be right temperature, covers & my 900 pillows right, white noise so I can't hear any street noise, no light peeking in from anywhere whatsoever, weird huh? I swear my husband could sleep on an airport runway!

As far as that corn tower, no thank you!! Sure would love a bucket of that corn though!

Shari said...

wonderful post Krista....oh my!! Do I ever see your youngest sister in some of the kids....I remember her at that age!!!
Love all your photos...great job..

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