Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Corn Harvest, Now and Then

Saturday afternoon we took the back roads to town. These roads were originally the roads early settlers created in order to travel about the countyside There were no bulldozers then, nor combustion engines. These pioneers, using teams of horses and lots of manual labor, rationally chose the easiest routes. The roads wind around wooded hillsides, dip down to creek beds, pass acres of native prairie, and pass many old farmsteads.

Rain was imminent, so farmers were working to get corn harvested before the stalks and ears of corn got wet. We stopped to watch the progress of a farmer harvesting a rich bottomland field of corn. As it came down the row toward us we could barely see the corn picker.

But when it reached the end of the rows, we saw its true proportions. The eight conical projections from the front thread between seven rows, enabling a highly efficient process. (John Deere also makes a harvester that picks 14 rows at one sweep.) The machine cuts the corn stalks, chews them up, separates the ears from the stalks, shucks the ears, shells the kernels from the cob, spits out the pulverized stalks and shucks and cobs, and spews the corn kernels into the bin on top.

The farmer backed up the picker and turned to go in the opposite direction the length of the field. 

In a twinkling the bin was full and he headed to a waiting semi with a grain trailer attached. The truck took the harvest to a grain silo in a neighboring city, probably Topeka, where great rows of silos line the Kansas River.

As we drove on toward our destination I told Dennis how my dad’s corn harvesting experience was so different from this farmer’s. Dad didn’t plant many acres of corn, just enough to feed his hogs and chickens.

Harvesting the corn was a long and laborious task. He hitched Babe and Belle, his gentle old workhorses, to the wagon and set out for the cornfield. There, Babe and Belle waited while he used a corn shucking glove to free the ears of corn, snapped the ears off the stalks, and tossed them into the wagon. As he moved along the row he whistled to the horses, signaling them to follow along behind him.

When the wagon was filled a few hours later he drove Babe and Belle back to the barn, where he tossed the ears into the corncrib. Every morning and evening thereafter he filled a bucket with dry ears of corn and tossed them over the fence to the hogs to supplement their troughs of slop.

In later years, when the first mechanical corn pickers became available, Dad and another farmer bought a John Deere together, which greatly simplified their work. That picker wasn’t very efficient, often dropping ears of corn on the ground. Dad, ever one to think of those less fortunate, let a poor man, who lived in a shack nearby, glean those ears to sell.

I think Dad would marvel at today’s ultra-efficient harvesters. I know I do, and I never observe a corn harvest without remembering my sweet, hard-working Dad.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lost Opportunities

When opportunity passes by there’s no satisfactory way to get it back. I find myself in that position now, due to a weird, non-life threatening, physical problem that has kept me from posting most of the summer. Frankly, I was so filled with dread that I thought of little else.  The problem was a Zenker’s diverticulum. It obstructed my breathing and caused me to choke on food and drinks, eliciting embarrassing coughing fits. Eating was so hazardous I lost my appetite and began to lose weight.

A throat specialist assured me he could repair it using a high-tech endoscope. I’ve had a good many surgical repairs to my fingers, toes, wrists, shoulders, knee and hip. They never worried me, but this one was too close to my body’s essential organs, my home base. I dreaded not only the invasion of my home base but also having general anesthesia for the second time in three months. It makes me tired for weeks.

My worry was for naught. The repair didn’t work because my mouth was too small to accommodate the instrument. (My mother would be please about that. I once embarrassed her by winning a big mouth contest.) The surgeon was able to stretch a stricture in my esophagus, however, and that’s been a tremendous help. The first week after surgery I gained back all the weight I’d lost and breathing is much easier.

What I regret about this summer is the lost opportunities to share highlights of the summer here in my journal. I can’t write all the posts I’ve missed, but here are a few highlights:

Tiger lilies I planted in a rotting stump many years ago have multiplied so that they make a bold statement against the woods.

Wild American bluebells showed up all over the place this summer. This clump by the driveway thrilled me every time I walked out the front door.

I finally found a really good recipe for naan. The taste and texture are perfect. I like it especially  with a few cumin seeds rolled into each naan. Now I need to work on form. 

The summer Kansas skies, dramatic and varied, always intrigue me. No two are ever alike. This one showed up on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence one evening when a storm was brewing.

While visiting Carol and family in Maine, I found that eating kale salad need not be like chewing rubber bands. The secret is using baby kale, not the full-grown leaves. This one made with baby kale from a Brunswick organic farm was quite delicious.

Finally, and this is the lesson I’ve learned this summer, I see that I’ve wasted many opportunities by letting my thoughts dwell on the future – fearing the surgery kept me from living fully in the present. The Power of Now, recommended by Carol and given to me by Barbara, helped me see the light.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Prayer before Surgery

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written in this journal. I’m having computer problems, but that’s not the main reason I’ve fallen silent. Mostly it’s because I’m facing yet another surgery and I’m worn out with getting my weary old body repaired. What’s more, I have other surgeries awaiting attention. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. (Thanks, Gilda)

This afternoon I’ve been pretty low and found myself seeking help from the higher power.* 

Oh! God, I need a pep talk.
I’m feeling kinda low.
You see, I just turned 81 a week or so ago.

I’ve been repaired so many times,
But still have more to go.
Should it be my bad left knee,
Or maybe my big toe?

But wait, there’s more!
What about my cataracts?
What about my throat?
I can only mount a few attacks!

So, God, give me the courage
To see this old life through.
I’m pretty well exhausted.
That’s why I turn to you.


*I've used the word "God," but there are many names one might use. Really, the higher power has no name.

Copyright 2016 Shirley Domer