I searched around the shop for a five-gallon bucket. I dumped out some junk and thought “this is good enough” as I then strolled out to the field.
It was my first venture out to the sweet corn field on the farm this year as I began the search for a dozen ears for lunch.
The small patch of corn looks quite prosperous despite drought-like conditions for most of its growing season, and the raccoons have yet to get into it.
The sweet corn harvest of today on the Nyhus farm isn’t what I remember it being as a kid. I always dreaded the day we would “do sweet corn.” It was an all-day affair, a sun-up-to-sun-down day when you factor in the milking chores sandwiched in between the harvest.
Once morning chores were complete, the buckets and feed tubs were loaded into the farm pick-up and off to the field we’d go.
One-by-one I’d rip off an ear from the stalk and into my bucket it would go. As the morning dragged on I’d just set the bucket in one spot and toss the ears down the row with hopes of landing them in the bucket. When times got difficult one of us brothers would stay on the outside row with the tub and the other two would toss the corn to them from rows deep into the maize.
Next is the most tedious part — husking corn. I’m not sure I know anyone who enjoys husking corn; even those Nebraskan Cornhuskers are probably deceiving themselves. For every silk you removed from the cob, two more would take its place.
By lunch time — of course corn on the cob was on the menu — we’d have dozens and dozens of cobs cleaned and ready for phase II. As the cutting and cooking portion began in the kitchen others headed back out for round two in the field.
It took many years before I graduated to knife duty as years of keeping a watchful eye on mom and grandma still wasn’t enough to get the hang of cutting kernels off the cob. One time you’d leave too much of the kernels on the cob and then next you’d be slicing into the cob. There was a science to it, and grandma had a Ph.D.
Despite skills that far exceeded mine, cutting corn off its cob is still a messy business. Those slimy kernels get all over your clothes and quickly add up on the kitchen floor. Once enough cobs are cut, it’s time to boil the corn before it’s cooled and frozen into wintertime meals.
Of course sweet corn day always falls on a hot day and growing up my house didn’t have air conditioning. While the corn boiled so did we. Batch after batch went on the stove as more fresh cobs came into the house after the second trip to the field.
Just when you think you’re nearing the end as all the corn had been cooked and sorted into containers ready for the freezer, phase III begins — cleaning up your mess. A bucket of soapy water and a mop should do, right? Nope, this mess needs a hands-and-knees approach as not a single corner of the kitchen was spared from sticky kernels and corn juice.
It’s a long day, but in time it’s nice to have food stored in the freezer. But that time isn’t one day later. “Go pick some more corn for lunch,” my mom would say the next morning. “Please, anything else,” would be my response.
As I headed to college and then worked away from home over the years, it’s been awhile since I’ve helped with the sweet corn harvest. Lucky for me, mom asked a simple question a few days ago, “want to help with sweet corn this weekend?”
“That’d be great,” I said with a smile that masked my true feelings.