"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Kimber of the Corn - Part I: The Pickin'

August can be such a hazy, lazy month. The last long days of summer should be spent shaking sand out of your bikini, blowing bubbles in the backyard and eating gallons of ice cream. I'd spent a good chunk of August harvesting sunflowers, but now that the pink umbrella had been packed away, I was ready to relax.

Which is precisely when D informed me it was high time we began selling our sweet corn. By which he meant that it was high time I began selling our sweet corn.

Back in July, we had agreed the corn harvest would become my job, since I no longer had an actual job. Now it was August. D was taking the kids to daycare, leaving me ample opportunity to get down and get funky with the corn. As I chased my children around the driveway, it occurred to me that there were a lot of corn picking details I probably should have worked out earlier.

"So what do I do?" I asked.

"Kimmy, it's simple," D said as he squished Dylan into his carseat. "You pick the corn. You put it in the back of the truck. You drive it out by the side of the road and wait for the Bruce Beachers to come and buy it."

I leaned in for one of Jade's enthusiastic goodbye kisses. "But how much should I pick?"

He shrugged and climbed into the car. "I don't know, probably about twenty dozen."

I did the mental math and threw my hands in the air. "Holy crap, you want me to pick two hundred and fifty four cobs of corn in one day?"

"No, Shakespeare," said D, "I want you to pick two hundred and forty." He grinned his creased, charming grin and started the engine. "Better get picking, Kimmy."

And with that helpful advice, my darling man left me alone with a thousand cornstalks and no real clue what to do with them. I figured it was another one of his country boy tests, the old, "Let's leave her alone and see how she does," routine. He'd done it before with both the zero-turn and the plumber, with mixed results. I suspected the lack of instruction was just a scheme to have a good a story to tell Carm during chores. I'd give those two a story, all right.

I decided that I was NOT going to Google "how to harvest sweet corn" or call my mother-in-law for advice. A country girl figured things out for herself. I would tackle this harvest on my own, just like I did with the sunflowers, and I would make this sweet corn operation a screaming success if it killed me. Although by now I knew better than to ask myself those five fatal words: "How hard could it be?" This little project would take some careful planning and a lot of coffee. And maybe some Bailey's.

First, I had to consider my wardrobe. I'd learned from my sunflower experiences that boots, pants and a long-sleeved shirt were a must. Even though the day was going to be hot, if seemingly benevolent sunflowers could give me a rash and subject me to bee attacks, I shuddered to think about what the corn had in store for me. Was there such a thing as corn bugs? I dug out one of D's old thermal shirts and my thickest garden pants.

Next, corn gathering equipment had to be collected. I rummaged through the hall closet for ideas. Grocery bags? Knapsack? Empty beer cases? Then I found it: a purple cloth sack, left behind on one of my sister's recent visits. She'd brought it stuffed full of laundry and hard cider, but it looked strong enough and big enough to hold a few dozen cobs of corn. Plus I could sling it over one shoulder, like a jaunty pioneer. And purple was my favourite colour.

Finally, I needed a hat. Something with a brim that wouldn't get blown off by the strong south breeze, or turn me into a literal redneck. I whittled it down to two choices: my tye-dyed floppy Y2K hat that someone had given me in an office Christmas exchange in 1999, or D's fancy new Tilley hat, still stiff with newness and tags attached. I took the Tilley. Someone was going to stain it with sweat and dirt at some point; might as well be the poor girl stuck picking corn.

I tied Tilly around my neck and clambered into the truck. I was getting used to trucking and little details like how to adjust the bench seat without crushing my ribs against the steering wheel and telling the difference between the gearshift and the windshield wipers no longer fazed me. In fact, I kind of liked the truck. The only part I didn't like was getting in or out of the truck bed. When we were kids, my sister and I took flying leaps from the back of my Dad's truck onto gravel roads and ditches. Now, I take on the pose of a constipated skier, bending over as low as I can go before I tiptoe off the edge into the softest grass available. I would have to arrange the corn in the back so no truck bed experiences would be necessary. With these details mentally arranged, I revved the engine and bumped off into the alfalfa field in search of corn.

A band of fir trees flanked the east end of the cornfield, so I parked there, thinking to leave the truck in a bit of shade. As I killed the engine, I noticed movement in the tall weeds beside the passenger door. I froze. Snake? I thought. The weeds rustled more vigorously. Big freaking snake? Family of big freaking snakes?

Before I could roll up the window, five chubby raccoons burst out of the weeds and tore up the side of a fir tree. I exhaled with relief. They watched me balefully as I cranked up the radio and got out of the truck. I stuck my tongue out at them.

I turned to survey the task at hand.

Somehow, the half acre of corn seemed a lot bigger than the half acre of sunflowers. Was it an optical illusion, or had those wretched boys planted more corn than they'd told me about? Panic attacked me like an angry raccoon. How in heaven's name was I going to pick all this corn? Where would I even start? And how would I know the difference between a good cob and a bad one? WHY HAD D LEFT ME ALL ALONE?!

Breathing giant yoga breaths through my nose, I tried to calm down. I would not give the boys any stories to tell in the barn. I would not resort to Google. I would do this job on my own and I would do it just fine. If I could handle 17 years of office politics, I could tackle a bunch of vegetables. The hardest journey started with a single cob, right?

I hung my purple corn sack off one shoulder, clamped Tilly on my head and into the whispering sea of stalks I went. I'd be Kimber of the corn with a vengeance.

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