Sweet Sweet Corn

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s pretty much a holiday in my book…Sweet Corn Season.  It ranks up there with the best.  It’s to the point that I can’t even look at corn in a can, let alone eat it.  It just doesn’t compare.  So, this year I thought I’d do a little documentation of what I do on this “holiday.”

For the last week I have been picking, shucking, cleaning, boiling, grilling, or eating sweet corn.  That’s just how it has to be.  If you’re from a farm, you know what I’m talking about.  You eat it until you just can’t eat it anymore, and then you put up the rest to be eaten in the winter when you’re dreaming about this time of year once again.  So, after eating quite a bit, I put up some sweet corn on my own and then spent an entire day of quality family time putting it up all together…so you can see both processes.

Here is my agnerd hauling our harvest…corn gets super heavy:).

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This is about the cleanest this little girly was all morning.  Later on she managed to get mud everywhere, including inside her eye!

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And, here’s my little farmer.  He would live out here if he could.

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Time to enter in and start picking.

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The perfect carrying unit is still up in the air…this one is not even close (a recyclable Sam’s bag), but it did the job.  I’ve used brown paper bags, laundry baskets, plastic Wal-Mart sacks…but my favorite is the newspaper carrier bags that my dad has.  They provide the least strain on your back!

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So we get the best crop, there’s a little protection on our field…a radio (inside that cooler) and an electric fence.

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Here’s half of the harvest I’m taking home.

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Looking good…peaches and cream…YUM!

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But there’s always the bugs.  Because we don’t spray our sweet corn, you get to be pretty friendly with these creatures.  You can’t see them very well in this picture, but there are about 5 little clear wormies eating my corn.

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And then there’s this guy.

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He kept my kiddos entertained for quite a while while I shucked corn in our backyard.  He even took a ride in the back of the sandbox firetruck.

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After shucking (pulling off the husk), it’s ready to be cleaned.

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Cleaned and into the boiling water they go…

After about 5 minutes or so, the corn comes out and gets dumped into an ice cold bath to stop the cooking process.And then, we’re ready to actually cut the corn off of the cob.  Everyone has their method, but here’s what I’ve found works best for me.  I have to have two tools: Pampered Chef’s Kernel Cutter and an angel food cake pan.
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Find the right angle and slice away with the angelfood cake pan catching the goods.  Turn the tool around and use the plastic part to get off all of the excess/juices, etc.  I did modify my system slightly from the picture below and it made the job even easier when doing this with our family.  If you take the inside of the cake pan out and put it inside a large bowl, it catches all.  With just the cake pan, every once in a while, the corn would fly out.  Maybe I’m just a crazy corn cutter, but the large bowl made the job easier for me.

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After it’s off the cob, you can scoop 2-4 cups into quart size freezer bags (based on how much you’d eat at a time), flatten them out, label, and freeze for your later enjoyment.

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Now, here’s the real deal.  9 hours, 8 adults, 7 kids, a whole set up, & 157 bags of corn.  That’s how we did it with my agnerd’s side of the family.  Here are the pictures…

A bag full of corn too heavy to carry.

Shucking away.

My son’s abandoned shoes…left for the joys of mud.

Oh the mud!

This trio found “secret passageways” and all kinds of exploring to do while we picked corn.  Gotta love cousins.

Our strategy for hauling from field to shop.  This large tank is on a trailer pulled by a pickup.  Gotta love the multipurpose leaf rake.;)

Washing it clean and removing the silk.

This is about 1/5 of what we put up…maybe even less than that.  You should’ve seen all the corn!

It takes all the help you can get:)

I forgot to get a picture of actually blanching the corn, but that step would fit in here…then on to cutting off the cob.

Filling the bags.  Even my 3 month old niece gets in on the process.

Stacking to take home to the freezer.

The remains…

This is what we all felt like doing by the end!

And here’s a few of the beautiful faces that helped out along the way…

Bringing the Cows Close to Home

After spending close to a week back home, I came to full realization that I have “farm kids.”  Even though we live in town, my kiddos are the most relaxed and at home out in the country, on the farm.  So, this week when we got the opportunity to help out a cousin with feeding bottle calves, I jumped on the opportunity knowing my kids would have a ball.  It turns out they were more “help” to us than we probably were to them, but it was a great time.

Little did we know, we got in on all the farm chores.  You see, their home place is like what you see in a children’s book of what you find on a farm.  They currently have calves, chickens, lil’ chicks, horses, cats, & dogs…all that’s missing is the pigs and they might be getting one this summer.  My kiddos LOVED it.  We started out checking out the chicks inside.Aren’t they cute?!  My daughter loved them.We then mixed up the milk for the calves and fed all ten bottle calves.  They were super appreciative and friendly.:)After the calves had full bellies, we moved on to collecting farm fresh eggs.Three beautiful eggs from their “free range” chickens…they rule the backyard:).  

Then, of course, we had to feed the horses.Say “hello” to this guy!And last but not least, we had to get in on a little introduction to the rodeo world.  And, as long as bull riding is no part of it, I’m good with that.  It makes me super nervous to watch perfect strangers ride bulls…can’t imagine what watching my own offspring would do to me!And when all the chores were done, I had kiddos that wanted to stay forever.  Thanks Tedd & Coleen for letting us in on the fun;).

Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

This week I’m taking a break from the farm wife life and have found my way back to being the farmer’s daughter.  It isn’t very often we get to head southwest in the state and hang out with my parents, grandmas, and, most important in my daughter’s eyes, the cows.:)  She’s an animal lover.

You see, in the state of Nebraska, it’s more often that people head east instead of west.  The “cities” are in the east and for a lot of people, that’s where you should be, so a lot of the state-wide activities happen there, which takes my parents east a lot.  However, I love going west.  Heading back “home” to my dad’s farm gives me a sense of calm and relaxation that words do not describe.  The hills and scenery of where I grew up just can’t be found where we live now.  My home now is flat, crop-friendly, and what everyone sees when they pass through Nebraska.

So, this week the daughter role kicked in.  We went off the beaten bath and are living it up in my home away from home getting in grandparent time and taking care of the cows.  This time of year is the best time to come see the cows as the babies are arriving and finding their way into the herd.

My agnerd, kids, and I get a taste of being a rancher without all of the hardwork that goes into it day in and day out because let’s be honest, it is hard work that I appreciate not having when winter rolls around.  I have all respect for ranchers as winter rolls through with blizzards, calving in the middle of the night, and the non-stop care that they give their animals.  But, I truly enjoy going out to help care for the cows when we get the chance.  After the gourmet meal was loaded into the feed wagon my agnerd got the job of driving the tractor with our son to deliver the goods.  And, man, were they enjoyed!  Yum-eee!My dad took off to tag two new babies so they could be identified with their mama.  These babies here already had their ears pierced and a ready for food! While the food was delivered my daughter and I set out to meet the cows.  She was bound and determined to make a friend or two.  “Go feed baby cows!”She got pretty close here.  While I was hopping the steaming cow pie, this baby’s mama was keeping a close eye on us.  We had to stop and see the first time mamas and their babies over by the house before going home.  She’s going to be a cowgirl…with a little peacoat style;).

Watching Papa share a different part of ag with my kids is always a great time.  I love getting to experience all that agriculture has to offer and it excites me when my kids get a true taste of the source of the things in their life…because knowing where things come from gives you a greater appreciation for those working to provide for you.

The Brains Behind the Beauty

Lately it seems that there’s a new hot button for food everywhere you turn.  Everywhere you look there’s another food that someone is calling to be banned from your body because of its sugar content, hormones, pesticides, salt content, and so on.  Nevermind the fact that each person has the right to make his/her own choices and with those choices choose a lifestyle that can lead to optimum health or the quick route to disease/illness.  And with each banning attempt, it leads to a sector of agriculture that is under attack.  Whether that “someone” is an expert or not, there is a decent following of people that believe all said as truth.  And when real truth is not sought it’s not just the farmers that will be affected because agriculture is more than just some farmers out there trying to make a living.  It’s the backbone of this country.  Miss America says it well in this recently released article.  She’s standing up for where she came from and as a Nebraskan, I’m proud.

Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlon

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Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlon

Full into Field Work

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And we’re back at it again.  Finally after being in the field for my agnerd’s birthday and then a nice bout of wet weather, we’re back in the field again.  My agnerd is making his home in the tractor for some long days of strip tilling to get the ground ready to plant.  Strip tilling prepares a seedbed for the crop we’re going to plant while leaving most of the previous crop’s residue undisturbed.

When the tractor becomes his second home it means that the kiddos and I are on the move creating a nice break in our day to go take lunch out to the tractor.  Since this is the first of hopefully quite a few long days (only in the sense that that means a lot is getting done!) we took him a care package of baby wipes, kleenex, and beef jerky.  I know, sounds like quite a package, but it’s amazing what a few little things can do for those long days.  You get dirty, especially on a day like today when the wind is blowing like CRAZY…baby wipes & kleenex are good for many things;), and the jerky is for when supper time passes by and he’s still out there in the tractor tilling away.  I usually try to pack extra food with lunch to tide him over until he gets home late evening.

Now, in the past few years, we’ve fit rather nicely in the tractor.  Our tractors have buddy seats so that means there are two laps for kids to sit on comfortably.  But, after our first tractor outing this year, I realized it’s not going to be as comfortable, as the kiddos have grown a bit bigger.  So I’ve been brainstorming.  Today we tried out a new idea…

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There’s just enough room for this cute little crayon bag chair in front of the buddy seat.  And, even though neither child wanted the seat when we first got in, I think my 3 year old has now claimed it as his…hopefully;).  They even had to try out two to the seat…

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I’m hoping the excitement is still there when we take lunch out tomorrow!  And, if not, we’ll keep brainstorming because that little part of our day is super important to us.  This time of year, it’s the only time our kids get to spend time with their dad because of the hours farming requires to reap a good crop.  So, here’s to finding the best solution out there so we’re all getting a “comfy” ride.  Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve had a great success with a different solution to tractor riding comfort.:)

Cooking for a birthday…piece of cake;)

Since launching the blog, I have had yet to post anything Cookin’ in the Kitchen.  It’s taken this long to get back into the swing of things after being gone a week and sick right after we got back.  I’ve finally found my kitchen by digging through the disaster of a mess and we’re back in business just in time for my agnerd’s birthday…the big 29.  (Next year we’re going to party:).)  This year however, we’ve celebrated by Runza in the tractor for lunch (if you’re a Nebraska native, you know this is tasty!) and a roast with a birthday decorated dirt cake for supper, all with the help of my kiddos.

Lunch in the tractor with “Dad” is always fun for the kids.  I love going out to spend time with my agnerd, but as the kiddos grow, we’re getting a little more cramped than we were when all I had was a baby bump to get in the way.  However, you can’t miss taking food out on the first real day of fieldwork for the spring.  We were talking today about how it has become tradition to get the picture with “Dad” in the tractor during our first spring tractor ride.  It’s the little things that make being a farm family great.  There aren’t too many other jobs out there that the whole family has the opportunity to be a part of the work everyday.  And, my agnerd couldn’t be more excited to be out in the field for his birthday…he’s been waiting for this since shortly after the first deep freeze at the end of 2010.;)

Anyway, we make sure birthdays are celebrated as much as we can.  So, the kiddos and I got the John Deere balloon (my 3 year old saw it fitting to go with a farm theme this year) and all the fixings for our dirt cake.

We don’t exactly have cattle on our farm, but we just couldn’t pass up the gummy cows…I mean, who could?  And, despite trying to write with prepackaged writing icing on oreos, I’d say it was a pretty good success.  We made real whipped cream for the recipe because it’s super easy and tastes so good (recipe here)…if you have a stand mixer, you may never go back.

After the dirt cake was done, and of course, all utensils licked clean by my kiddos, my 3-year-old and I started in on the roast and veggies.  We went for the meat and potatoes meal and everyone actually ate it.  I don’t know how meals at your house go, but lately we’ve been on the “I don’t want to eat that” course whether it was gobbled up a week ago or not.  A rump roast thrown in the crockpot with carrots, potatoes, onions, and Lipton Onion Seasoning Mix was a hit tonight at our house…whoo hoo!

So, my agnerd’s birthday was a success.  And, even though we went pretty simple we had a great time planning, cooking together, and enjoying a filling meal as a family.  

Road trips!

My husband and I love to travel.  Getting out and seeing something different from our everyday gives me some sort of new life (especially after cold winters as a SAHM), so in the winter I try to sneak in as many trips out of town as I can talk him into, and he usually doesn’t resist as long as everything is taken care of on the farm.  Actually, most of our trips are directly related to farming, with a family vacation thrown in every now and then.
Even though as farmers we are tied to the land, farming, in this day and age, also gives us great opportunities to explore  across the country, even the world, expanding our knowledge and connecting with other farmers.  So, we take advantage of that and go when we get the chance.
This week we’ve high-tailed it south to warmer weather so my ag nerd can speak on a panel at SXSW in Austin.  (If you’re attending be sure to check out Agvocacy 2.0.)  What better way to spend a vacation than to promote something that provides your livelihood and the opportunity to travel with your husband and kids.  So, even though the 13 hour road trip with two young ones stole a little of my sanity, it’s worth the opportunity to see something new, experience something different, and help others do the same.