Tag: corn

Happenings Around the Homestead

Like most of the country, we have been in the middle of a bitter cold spell the last week or so, which has resulted in not much happening around the homestead other than protecting the chickens.  More on that tomorrow.  Even so, I have been blessed with another surprise shipment of seeds this week, which gave me a bit of a mystery to solve.

On Thursday I received a package containing numerous bags of corn.  The name on the package wasn’t entirely familiar to me, though the last name caught my attention.  The corn included one I was very interested in, Texas Gourdseed, which happened to be one I have been trying to find.  It also included Drought Hickory King, Kaanga Pango (a New Zealand corn), Cascade Maple Gold, and Cherokee White Flour Corn.  After further research, each of these were corns that could be used as flour corns, which is something else I had been looking for.

I headed off to a gardening forum that I frequent, and I felt confident after a few minutes of research that I found my benefactor, a very nice lady in California who knew I was looking for the Texas Gourdseed Corn, but there was still a mystery to this: how did she get my name and address?  I sent her a message, thanking her for the corn, and asking how she knew my contact info, to which she replied that I had given her that some time back when I was searching for flour corn, and she had been unable to send it then.  So, the mystery was solved, and now I have a ton of new corn to plant this year!  Woot!

The Texas Gourdseed is one that particularly interests me, and I actually already have a post written on why that is.  I will make a few edits to that this week and get it posted soon.

The Kaanga Pango also caught my eye some, as I had never heard of this corn.  I am having trouble finding a lot about it out there, but it seems to have come from the Wellington (New Zealand) Seed Library.  It certainly looks to be a flour-type corn, and from what I can find on the Internet, the Maori, the indigenous New Zealand people, “historically used corn to making a fermented corn, they ate corn fresh, they make something that looks like a tamale, and they ate a pudding/mush from corn.”  That doesn’t tell me for sure they used this corn this way, but it is probable.  Again, it seems flour-like to me, so it will go in my flour landrace this year.  Here’s a picture of the Kaana Pango Corn:

Kaanga Pango Corn

Kaanga Pango Corn

On another note, the popcorn trials are complete for the year, the results of which I am going to share in a post of it’s own.  Despite some challenges in the testing of popping ability, I finally got through all my samples and have a great selection of popcorn to grow for the new year.  More to come on that.

Happenings on the Homestead

Whew!  This has been a busy weekend around the homestead, though that doesn’t mean much at all when comparing it to the busyness of the spring, summer, and early fall.

The number one task I had for the weekend was to get the Carolina Reapers potted for the winter, and that is done.  I also had hoped to pot the Pineapple Sage, but I didn’t have enough room on the drying trays to dry it all yet, so I will pot it later this week.

Speaking of the Pineapple Sage, this little beauty is still in full bloom!  It is such a refreshing jolt of summer red in a world of fall-like colors right now.  Look at this shot taken yesterday:

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage in Full Bloom

In addition to Pineapple Sage, I needed to dry some Horehound as well.  As soon as I get a little more room, I’ll trim back the Pineapple Sage some more, dehydrate the rest, and then pot it up for the winter.  Speaking of that, I am still trying to determine if I will pot the Horehound or not. I  don’t know if it can survive the winter or not outside.  Okay, I just checked.  The Horehound seems to be hardy, so I will hope it survives the winter.

I do have at least one other plant I need to pot up for the winter – a small Eucalyptus tree.  This thing is kind of amazing.  The leaves smell just like Vick’s Vapor Rub.  😀  It won’t survive the winter here unless it is older and more established, so I will pot it, I think, for the winter so it can live another year.

I almost always write these posts over the weekend, and this post is no different.  After I wrote it though, I ended up shelling some of my flour corn.  I shelled all the Cherokee Gourdseed Corn that I grew this year (about 2 gallons shelled) and about half or a little less of the Cherokee White Flour Corn (about a gallon shelled so far).  I was shocked at how easy it was to shell the gourdseed corn – more to come on that later.

The other big task of the weekend was knocking down corn stalks, which my oldest son took care of for me.  He also worked on burning a big pile of brush and weeds that has needed to be taken care of for quite some time.  I am not sure he knows this fully, but I really appreciated his help.  He wasn’t alone though. My middle son also was out there with a machete whacking away at weeds and brush, trying to clean up this corner of the yard.  Good boys, they are.

I am so ready to start spreading these woodchips I have been collecting for next year’s garden, but I am still at least two loads short of what I need.  I am not sure where the wood cutters are working this week, but they only dropped off one load. I might try to catch them again Monday morning at the gas station to encourge them to drop off some more.  It’s too bad this isn’t the same priority for them that it is for me.  🙂


Happenings Around the Homestead

Wow, the growing season sure is coming to a close quickly.  I noticed our tomatoes are starting to look very ragged, and the popcorn patch is now totally done.  In fact, I cut down the stalks yesterday, and layed them on the ground to start decomposing.  Even though the Cherokee White Flour Corn is not done yet, I also cut two rows of it down yesterday.

I do need to try to get some radishes and lettuce planted.  It is Sunday as I write this, and I may not update this post before I put it on the blog, but by the time this is published I hope to have started some of both to keep through the winter in a make-shift greenhouse.  I did that one year, and we actually ate fresh lettuce all day long, even though there were many days of very cold weather.  As I am typing this, I am convincing myself that I should probably go out and do that today.

Speaking of chores, I need to repot some of my mint.  I have made square foot garden beds out of cinder blocks, and I grow mint in those cinder blocks, but it is obvious some of the mint plants need to be repotted.  I think they are beginnning to look leggy and straggly.  I generally use potting soil to fill the new cinder block holes, and I don’t think I have any right now, so I may or may not get to this over this weekend.

One of the other chores I have this weekend is to measure my garden beds.  I have done this before, but honestly, I have no idea where I documented that.  I’m measuring because I want to make better use of my space next year, particularly for the corn.  Corn is a crop that suffers badly from inbreeding depression, and to prevent that you need at least 200 plants.  If I plant the popcorn at the proper spacing, I think I can do that in one of my garden beds.  The Cherokee White Flour Corn and the Cherokee Gourdseed Corn are a different subject.  It seems for those corns to fourish, they need more space per plant, which I will seek to give them this year.  To do that though, it will mean I may have to expand my garden or I may have to keep ordering some seed every year to ensure I don’t allow inbreeding depression with these plants.

Oh, that reminds me!  Let me show you one of the Cherokee Gourdseed Corn cobs:

Cherokee Gourdseed Corn

Cherokee Gourdseed Corn

Look at those kernels!  It looks nothing like any other corn I have seen, and it is supposed to make some a-maizing 🙂 cornmeal.  It is also supposed to be very easy to shuck, though I might not know that for a few more months.  Who knows though, if I get impatient enough, I might find out in a few weeks.  🙂

Speaking of corn, I am way behind and I am still testing popcorn from last year.  As I type that, I am sure you are wondering what I mean, and I am probably needing to write a post on that sometime.  For now, just know that I am testing my popcorn for poppability and other factors.  I then only save the seed from the best of it, which makes for better popcorn year over year.  At this rate, I will not be done testing 2013’s corn until sometime in October.  I am going to be more concerted in my efforts with this year’s crops though, and I will try to be done testing it by the end of this year.

Wow, this post is already getting a little long and there is so much more to say.  I’ll just have to save that for later.

Happenings Around the Homestead

It is Sunday morning as I write this, and there is the most terrific claps of thunder going on outside.  Though I enjoy being able to go walk in the garden as soon as the sun is up, a great thunderstorm is very high on my list.  Oh, I just checked, the rain is falling hard now too – wonderful!  My garden will so appreciate it!

Speaking of the garden, I decided to harvest as much of my popcorn and flour corn as I could yesterday.  I don’t have very large patches of each, so I need to do what I can to prevent spoilage, and though neither was totally ready to be picked, I was afraid this rain might cause some mold or mildew issues.  Here is the harvest so far:

Corn Harvest

First Corn Harvest of 2014

I was not surprised, but yet a little disappointed to see the cross-pollination in the Cherokee White Flour Corn.  Some of the kernels are purple and yellow, which is no doubt from my popcorn.  I was frustrated to find them both maturing at the same time, which happened to be at a point I was unable to bag them to prevent the cross over.  With the Cherokee White Flour Corn, this is almost irrelevant.  I can easily see what is crossed, and I will eliminate that from my seed stock — wait, that is not true.  I will save some of the purple kernels for a special project next year — to see if I can get a purple flour corn, but that will be very carefully monitored.

The challenge I have is the popcorn though.  With it being much shorter than the Cherokee White Flour Corn, I am confident there is much cross pollination there, which may mean I lose most of my popcorn for seed from this year.  That sure is frustrating, but I will chalk it up to learning.

I did harvest one ear of Cherokee Gourdseed Corn as well, but it was definitely not ready.  The ear had evidently been hit by something and was broken off though, so I felt it was better to go ahead and harvest it.  It’s now drying with the rest of them.

Regarding the Gourdseed Corn – these are the oddest cobs and kernels!  The husks are so tightly wrapped on the cobs that it is a real chore to pull them off, though I suspect that will change some with time.  The kernels look like old man teeth though!  Even so, it is supposed to be a great flour corn as well.  I don’t have a good picture of one yet, but I will be sure to share one later.

I harvested the largest crop of the year of tomatoes yesterday, which happened to be about half a bushel.  Most all of them were Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes, which have become one of my favorite for taste — right up there with Cherokee Purple Tomatoes.  They also make a beautiful tomato juice.  Look at this beautiful basketful!

Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes

Chocolate Stripe Tomatoes

One other interesting tomato I have this year is from seeds saved from a tomato purchased at Whole Foods.  The tomato was advertised as a Cocoa Tomato, a variety I cannot find anywhere, so I presume it is a marketing name only.  Anyhow, it was a great tasting tomato with great color.  Those I am growing are very similar in size and color, but they are much less juicy than the one I purchased, which suits me fine.  These tomatoes will make excellent tomato sauce tomatoes or drying tomatoes, which is a nice addition to the garden.

Speaking of all this seed, I am an avid collecter of seeds with history.  Even though I landrace some vegetables, I also do what I can to preserve heritage crops too, and I would really appreciate leads to any rare or known Native American plant seeds, especially those with ties to the Chickasaw or Choctaw Indian tribes.  Most lists, such as this list of Seed Varieties for Native American Gardens have limited selection, though I know that is due to limited information.

I so enjoy the fall weather, but as the days start to shorten, a part of me gets a little sad knowing the gardening for the year is slowing down.  There is still plenty of time left, but in another two months it will be time for the ground to rest for a while and for me to start planning for next year.

Happenings Around the Homestead

This has been a slow garden year for us.  First of all, spring arrived late this year, and, second of all, with my work travel schedule, I was hardly home to work on the garden.  I also started a new garden spot this year which didn’t account properly for the position of the sun in the spring, and the new chicken coup is partially shading a garden.  In short, we have struggled with our garden.

We have yet to harvest peppers worth speaking of, and while we have harvested some great tomatoes, the crop has been small.  I have only harvested my first cucumber in the last week or so, and the summer squash, while being one of the plants which was out as early as possible, has already stopped producing.  Speaking of squash, my winter squash was hit by vine borers while on the mission trip, and there is nothing left.  My okra landrace project is coming along, however, it isn’t producing quite like I had hoped.  Oh, and let’s not forget the sweet potatoes!  The deer are having a hay day with the leaves.  🙂  I still expect a good harvest from them though.  The corn has done well, I think, other than the possible cross pollination issue.  Even so, the corn looks healthy and I am expecting a good harvest.

It may sound like I am whining about the gardening year, but I am not.  I consider every year a learning opportunity.  I have several good take-aways from this year that I will be sure to implement next year, and if the Lord so blesses me, next year this will happen on a proper homestead property.

Speaking of vegetables, last Friday we stopped off at The Farmer’s Market in Nashville, Tennessee.  If you haven’ t been there, you have really missed out.  This is a true joy for me.  Let me share just a few pictures:

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Huge onions

Huge Onions!

Colorful Bell Peppers

Colorful Bell Peppers

My family is really blessed though, despite the lackluster garden year.  My father-in-law also gardens, and he has blessed us with an abundance of melons, peppers, tomatoes, and more.

Speaking of peppers, we have already smoked a good amount of peppers, some of which are already dried and ground.  Others are in various stages of processing, but I should be able to share a picture soon.

The chickens didn’t work as hard for us yesterday, and only produced two eggs: one blue and one brown.  I did eat the first of the eggs last night, and wow, were they tasty!  Hopefully there will be three more today.  I had to smile at my first egg issue yesterday.  One of the ladies laid her egg in the run below the cage, which is not fun to get into during the day while they are playing.  I could have just waited to get it, I suppose, but I was impatient.

I have to wonder, am I the only person out there who is already thinking about next year’s garden?  The growing season is not even over yet, and I am sitting here dreaming this morning of what I will do different next time.  Don’t worry, I am sure I will share the plans here as the days roll on.

Bagging Corn

A few days ago I told you about how to waste your time planting corn. Last night I decided to practice bagging the corn tassels for hand pollinating.


The purpose of this is to capture pollen from the tassels, which would then be ideally spread on the silks of the newly forming corn. To do this right, the silks also need to be bagged, but I have already resolved that it is too late this year to have success with this. Right now I just want to be sure I understand how to bag the tassels so I can hand pollinate next year.

As frustrating as it is to find I have wasted my time, at least I have learned something for next year.

How to Waste Your Time Planting Corn

I have always had a fascination with gardening, but it wasn’t until the last ten years or so that I really got into it.  Even so, I am reminded how little I know year after year.

Last year I got the idea that I wanted to plant Landrace Popcorn.  I’ll probably tell more about that sometime in the future, but in essence it is open-pollinated popcorn from which seed is selectively saved year after year.  That is definitely an oversimplification, but it is enough for now.  Last year I also planted Glass Gem Popcorn, which is absolutely beautiful, but almost worthless as a popping corn.  Here, check this corn out!

Glass Gem Popcorn

Unfortunately, I didn’t time these crops very well and they cross pollinated, affecting the quality of my popping corn.

This year I tried again, but low and behold, my interests in other things were sparked again, and while I didn’t grow Glass Gem Corn, I did grow two ancient corns that are flour corns.  I meticulously planned the dates each would mature, and I was sure I would avoid cross pollination this year.  Wouldn’t you know it, one of the ancient corns matured at exactly the same time as the Landrace Popcorn.  GRRRRR!

In an effort to stem the damage, I have been attempting to hand pollinate the corns, though I found out last night that I am not really doing this the right way, so there is no telling what I will get.  My guess is the seeds from this corn will probably be useless next year, but I suppose I can consider myself fortunate because I learned something from it.  While the wind was low this morning I walked through the garden attempting to hand pollinate better and I shook the stalks, hoping to spread the pollen on the corn while it was less likely to cross with the other.  Only time will tell if I was successful.