Thursday, July 24, 2008

Working It Up in the Corn Husker State

Nebraska continues to amaze me. Which is actually a good thing otherwise I'd be bored stiff after 5 years in this flat, corn field state.

Seriously though, 'corn field' is about all I can think of right now. Cobs and cobs of corn filling and overflowing pick up trucks. And about a quarter of that (okay, my figuring could be off... I stand corrected if so) mounding high in the back of my van.

It all magically transformed into a tractor bucket full of neatly shaved corn cobs and about 200 bags of sweet, yellow, juicy corn all ready for a hand full of freezers spread across this side of the state.

First the corn had to be picked. That was only for the strongest, the bravest and the smartest (I have to talk these people up because really, their job was a big one.) "The Slackers" stood in knee high grass with grass hoppers climbing our legs and large bee-like flies buzzing around our head while we husked.

Husking for several hours in the hot sun brought "close fellowship" and an array of topics to discuss. Grass hoppers and bugs added to the excitement as well as certain children that failed to remove all the hair from the naked cobs. Sharp knives hacked the ends of the cobs off and usually an aunt or two would shriek in horror when the child closest to them would start flailing and stabbing at a cob of corn. It was scary. Children with sharp knives should always be careful or better yet, they should just not have knives at all when their aunts are around. Or, the aunts should just stop shrieking in horror. (says an aunt who shrieked a time or two).

Then the corn was "cleaned" and stacked/piled/dumped into a place where it waited to be cleaned and cooked.

A double propane heater boiled the kettles of water which cooked the corn for either 3 minutes or 5 minutes, depending on who was cooking it and if they were getting their way with the timer or not.

Then the corn was quickly transported to cold water. Once the cobs began to float, they were moved to an even colder tub with ice in it. There it was cooled and carefully watched so it could be moved out ASAP in order to keep everyone busy (namely the cutters).

The Person moving the corn would shout an echoing "CUTTERS" as he carried the cold corn in colanders to the make shift, plywood-board-on-saw-horses table where about a dozen people stood ready with bowls and sharp knives. From there the corn was cut into sticky, kernelly bowls and then carefully measured into hundreds of bags (okay, just make that 2 hundred) and then counted, re-counted, counted, re-counted and then re-counted again before being stored in a cooler, freezer or box.

A home cooked meal spread itself throughout the processing part of our corn work and our hostess was amazing. She seemed to manage being at least 7 places at once and yet stayed unstressed, giddy and throwing her two cents around. I love people like that.

I would've taken pictures but I didn't bring my camera. Just envision big tables heaped with yellow corn. Huge rubbermaid bins piled high with a juicy mound of corn. And old wash tubs filled to the brim with waiting, yellow corn. And then picture lots of dirty, wet, sticky people yelling to be heard above the loud fans and noise while cleaning, cutting, packaging and tasting corn.

I learned some new phrases today and what they mean. Also, some new experiences were experienced today.

"Working it up." Three little words, but whoa, they mean a lot. WORKING must be emphasised (if you know what "work" means, you understand how to emphasis it) and use the word "up" to the fullest, highest amount you can fathom. 'Working it up' is a great way to call what we were doing with corn today.

"Shucks" is not always used as a euphemistic word to describe frustration, disappointment, etc.; it's also another word to describe the husks wrapping the corn before we strip it off.

"Shelly" is a cow. And she knows her name.

You don't have to have OCD in order to insist on counting all the cobs just so you can know how many cobs to pick/plant/plan on next year. Or wanting to throw the shaved cobs off the tractor bucket in the dark one at a time in order to count them... "one... two... three...." Is it even possible to count that high in the dark? What would happen if you accidentally threw an extra cob but didn't know if it was just one extra or two extra? Unanswered questions remain as the person wishing to intricately count each cob did not get their wish to come true. We will never know how many cobs of corn we effected on this green, growing earth. Or how many we should effect next year.

Bare feet on a cement slab sandwiching a green, gooey worm is a very impeccable experience. Don't try it. Just don't.

The R on your vehicle does not stand for "roll forward." It actually means 'Reverse' (or, backwards, if you use simple English) and if you don't intend to go that way, I suggest putting it in D for drive. Because we all know that the only way to go forward is to 'drive.' (You'd think you'd remember this stuff from your Driver's Ed book...)

And when the bowls are finally empty, the kettles have quit cooking and the knives are laying still, we all know what the corn is then: it's all; the term used when something is gone/finished/empty/over/etc. in Nebraska.

That sums it up for Nebraska Corn Season First Picking Of Season 2008: it's all. But, it all was very fun.


Jean said...

That seems to have been a real Corn Bee - hope your freezer can still take on some other yummy produce as the season progresses.

Here in MB the season is just getting into swing with the berries. I've had some raspberries but not enough for the freezer - we eat them up too fast. Last night a friend gave us an ice cream pail of local strawberries - I think we'll eat them up fresh also.

Kate said...

I love NE corn! Can't wait to eat some this summer!

Anonymous said...

Wow sounds like fun. I sure hope to have that much fun here in MI when I do it with my 4 kiddo. Got to find some to buy first sure wish I knew how many cobs I should buy for a whole lot of corn. I am glad you had a great time.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'd love to eat some of that corn, it makes my mouth water thinking of it. But I remember that the work isn't the most fun in the world. Although it sounds like you had a great system going! Oh, and I'm not from Nebraska, but grew up saying something was "all" when it was gone or finished. My husband laughs at me and says "all WHAT?", because you're not supposed to end a sentence with "all". Whatever. :)