Monday, August 4th, 2008
I don’t personally know any farmers who have successfully been able to grow crops and keep goats within the same 5 mile radius, but I’m sure they exist… somewhere.
Some years ago when my mother discovered the joys of the Internet, she mysteriously fastened onto the Iowa corn growers web site. “Look”, she exclaimed excitedly, “it’s a corn cam! You can actually watch the corn grow.” I was a cynical and impatient daughter and had no time for watching corn grow, nor even for entertaining a notion why this might be remotely of interest to my housebound mother. In an effort to please her, however, several years in a row I planted corn seeds in my garden, and each year some beast got in and destroyed them before any little kernels were even gleam in their stalks’ eye. “Look ma, I tried”, I said. One thing I have to concede to my mother, however, she did understand all about Mr. Newman Goat.
This year I fenced in (and I mean FENCED IN) a new garden area to realize my long standing wish to grow lavender. Far from the normal travel zone of goats, and with a natural creek at its foot, this represented a new lease on gardening life at the farm. Only moderately successful in raising a variety of species from seed, I gave in and purchased a flat of small Munstead and Provence lavender plants from Southern States, and with great excitement and precision, I set them in the ground, watered them every night, weeded around them, and fretted when they didn’t thrive. I hadn’t initially realized what a large garden area I’d fenced in, and so in the midst of this lavender fetish, I impulsively bought some corn seeds. They grew in my seedling pots
like weeds. Amazing! I planted them in the ground. And they grew! They grew and they grew. Dang if I didn’t watch those corn stalks grow. A deer came in and ate a few of them but ultimately most of them grew to a magestic 4 and 5 feet I had a small corn field. OK, honestly I had about 15 plants, but this was exciting stuff. Last week I found small corn cobs growing with the most gorgeous golden cornsilk flowing from their tops. If only my mom could see this. Alas, I put off getting out the camera.
I put off a lot of things, actually. On Saturday I went to a big shearing job out of town and had to wear my very last pair of plastic farm clogs, with a big split up the top of one shoe (it still covers my feet, I reasoned, why any rush to get new ones?). The farmer tipped me well, entreating me to “go and buy yourself a pair of new shoes”, and I just chuckled at my carefree lifestyle and my big tip which contributed to an extra large fries and a coke on the way home.
Arriving home at the gate I knew something was wrong. You know how sometimes you know something is really off – you don’t know what, you can’t see it, but something is punching your stomach from the inside yelling, “danger, danger Will Robinson”. And then I knew. Bullwinkle, the big, black, terrrible, naughty steer was inside the garden. Gate chained shut.
Freaking out does not begin to describe my reaction. Rushing, mad thoughts of the harvest picnic I’d planned for the volunteers in late summer (my prideful dreams of feeding them from our very own garden), dread about what I’d see left of my precious, fragile lavender plants, still only a few inches tall. I rued all the time, the blasted TIME I’d spent watering and digging, and tending to these plants. And then the worst hit me. My corn stalks were all on the ground, dead, mutilated, spread out like bodies from a blast.
Plans to take a nice shower and eat dinner with my neighbors evaporated, and in the fading light with my right shoe barely hanging onto my foot, I rushed about gathering boards to fix the broken fence, food to lure Bullwinkle out, and stakes to place in the ground to try to save the few corn stalks that weren’t completely broken. I opened the gate to bring Bullwinkle out, but Rocky, clearly angry he had been denied this guilty pleasure, rushed in as well. The only fence boards I had on hand were 2 inches shorter than the distance between posts, I couldn’t find the power drill and had to resort to a hammer and nails, and by now the split in the shoe was digging into my toes and cutting the the skin. Dark encroaching, I rushed across the creek bed, losing my bad shoe in the mud which simply sucked it off my foot; half barefoot, sweating, filthy from my shearing job, I bent up half a dozen nails, hit my thumb with the hammer, and ultimately simply tied the stupid thing together with baling twine (gotta love baling twine).
One might wonder why I even try. Almost everywhere I drive – to work, to the store, to the post office, to the library – I pass by enormous fields of corn. And the truth is, I can buy really nice locally grown corn 3 miles down the road at our local orchard – both white and yellow. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it’s worry free.
But my mother passed away last year, and I think someone has to keep on the tradition of wanting to watch the corn grow.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats http://www.stargazingfarm.org
Post script: The next day I found that only one squash plant was destroyed, about 3/4 of the corn plants could be salvaged, the lavender were of no interest to Bullwinkle at all, and all of the okra was intact. The baling twin avec boards seemed to do the trick to keep the boys out of the garden.