October 18, 2013

Field Corn Update: The Harvest

Guinea fowl patrolling the outskirts of the corn patch.

Several of you mentioned an interest in our field corn growing. This is our third year to grow it, but the first year to properly mineralize the soil beforehand. So far, corn has been the easiest grain for us to grow and process.

The variety I plant is Truckers Favorite. It's an heirloom variety that grows well in the southeastern U.S. I like it because the kernels are small enough to feed whole to our chickens. Ground, it makes very tasty cornbread.

I planted in double rows, sowing Ozark Razorback cowpeas in between. This works well because it gives the cowpeas something to grab on to, plus gives the corn a nitrogen boost.

Ozark Razorbacks growing up corn stalks.
Photo from "Pea Pickin'", September 2012

I harvested the corn early, before it was ready, because I began to find evidence that something was helping themselves!

Possible culprits: opossums, raccoons, and squirrels

Initially it was only an ear or two, but one day it was about half a dozen. It was a dilemma. Should I harvest early, even though it hadn't dried yet, in order to keep more from being eaten?

I opted to harvest early. It means I have to make sure the corn continues to dry before shelling and storage. It was a modest harvest.

Pickings filled this 8 cubic foot wheelbarrow.

We planted less than a quarter acre and some sections of that didn't grow, or was the seed eaten? Or was that the spot I ran out of seed and had to go get more. It's possible I accidentally grabbed a can of old seed. Then some got knocked down during a hard thunderstorm. And I think what did grow would have done better if it'd had more sun. We planted in the buck pasture this year, which receives morning shade and afternoon sun. Unfortunately, all our rain meant more cloudy days than sunny. Still, I'm thankful for whatever we get.

Not all the ears were as large and filled out as the above, but in general I was pleased. The very best will be saved for next year's seed. Second will be for cornmeal for us. The rest will go to the chickens.

After I finish harvesting the cowpeas, I'll open the gate and let the bucks browse the remains. I've already seeded the bare spots in the field with annual rye, wheat, and oats. The annual rye is growing beautifully, the wheat and oats have yet to sprout. Combined, these will make a winter pasture for our billy boys.

Parting shot...

Riley: "Pay attention to me."

Field Corn Update: The Harvest © October 2013 


Ed said...

I have never seen a opossum or raccoon eat mature corn so my money is on the squirrel. Deer also like shelled mature corn though I have never seem them tackle it on the cob but I would guess you could see hoof prints in the ground and rule them in or out.

Mama Pea said...

Good to hear you got as much of a harvest as you did. 'Twas a bad year for corn here, too. I've yet to harvest because the ears (and kernels) are so small still. But now we're truly into cold, wet, fall weather so I've got to go ahead and take what there is. I don't expect it to be much at all . . . but as a dyed-in-the-wool gardener (as we all are!), there's always next year!

Woolly Bits said...

Riley probably thinks: why do you take pix of that ugly dry stuff if you could take some of me instead:) he has turned into a very beautiful cat!

Kris said...

I remember sitting on the porch swing talking to my Mom when a squirrel ran past lugging an unshukked ear of corn. Yep, squirrels. Although I HAVE seen a 'coon tear through near-ripe corn rows up here too. I don't grow sweet corn anymore, just buy it from a stand. Too much work for the little I eat.

Renee Nefe said...

I tried corn one year. I don't really think that I have the room to make it worth it. That year I got just 6 very small ears. They were tasty though (growing sweet corn).

The critters here are getting worse all the time. The squirrels who used to not even know we are hear are invading all the time. I'm going to try putting some pepper out on the fence (their highway) to see if that stops them. The idea being that if they just try to hop over the pepper, I'll spread enough that they are sure to get it on their paws for an awful situation later.

Today would be a good day to make broth. It is still snowing.

Angie said...

I'm glad you got a share of the crop! My cousin had good results with a sprinkle of hot pepper on each ear. A bit of labor, though.

Sandy Livesay said...


I have to say, squirrels are little tyrants when it comes to certain things in the garden. Squirrels went after my tomatoes along with birds last year.

Hopefully your next seasons corn comes without the help of the critter/critters harvesting it for you.

Leigh said...

Ed, I have definitely seen squirrels running off with ears, and I know first hand that they eat mature ears. The ones that have been stolen are all young and tender, which is why I suspect something else, plus, Dan has already caught two possums recently. Squirrels are completely possible, however.

Mama Pea, I imagine you're too far north to get many good corn years. I admire you for still trying!

Bettina, LOL. He always thinks he's more interesting that what I'm paying attention to.

Kris, squirrels are brazen!!! Actually I've not seen coons on our property, just as road kill in the area. I had to research about the possums, since Dan caught 2 recently. One site told of a possum den that was filled to the brim with spent corn cobs. :)

Renee, snow! I saw that huge system over Colorado. Indeed a good day for broth.

Angie, I might try that hot pepper for a bed of sweet corn in the garden. Not sure about a quarter or half acre of it though. Maybe as a spray!

Sandy, those squirrels are pests. Cute, but pests. :)

Sherri B. said...

It is so hard to get good crops when you have the rain all of the time. We had a good summer this year in the Pacific NW but the two or three before that were a beast for the garden...And critters eating things that don't belong to them, well don't even get me started on that!!
You have a great attitude despite it all.
Love your Riley kitty...so cute!

Have a great weekend. xo

Bill said...

We had over 1400 row feet of sweet corn this year and only harvested 3 ears. The raccoons got the rest. Very very very frustrating.

I've never grown field corn, but love the idea of having it for corn meal and chicken feed. I've just made a note of this variety so we can try it next year. Hopefully the raccoons will leave some for us.

Leigh said...

Sherri, that is so true, so I think we're a whole lot happier to count our blessings rather than grump about our what's going wrong!

Riley loves attention. He thinks my world ought to center around him. :)

Bill, that's a heartbreak. And its not as if the coons don't have other things to eat! Do you keep a dog in the corn field?

The Truckers Favorite is a good field corn, and we eat it like sweet corn when it's young. It isn't like a hybrid sweet corn, but it's good.

The one folks seem to really like is Hickory King. But it boasts large kernels, and I'd rather go with not having to crack corn for anybody!

Stephanie Bateman said...

I always learn from you. I am so grateful you share what works and what doesn't for you.

Tarah said...

I just found your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading through it. A lot of what you've been doing is what I hope to someday be able to do.

I have a question about your field. Will you have to mineralize it each year? Or is it a once and done kind of thing?

Colorado Springs, CO

Leigh said...

Stephanie, thank you for that. I always hope what I'm learning and doing will help someone else. I know I learn a lot from other bloggers.

Tarah, thank you and welcome. We use Neal Kinsey's testing service and they use the Albrecht system. They recommend testing for three years in a row, to make adjustments as needed. I think this is especially true of land that is badly out of balance because it takes several years to return it to a fertile state.

That said, we're doing it a little different. Because of limited finances and resources, we plan to test and amend one area each year. We started with our worst field, and are working our way through them all, about 4 or 5 fenced areas. Once we have the last one done, we'll go back to the first and test it again. It will need some amendments, but it shouldn't be anywhere as bad as the first year. Many of those trace minerals are available to the soil for years! That means every browse area will get test about every 5 years.

Tarah said...


That's a good plan. It makes lots of sense to bring each field up in quality rather than to focus on one several years back to back.

Thanks for your response.