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  • sshoughton2020

Lessons from literature

Growing up, I was obsessed with the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I read all of them over and over, especially Farmer Boy. One of my favorite stories from that book was of the entire Wilder family working together to plant corn. From driving the horses to turn up the soil and mark the field, to pouring a cup of water over each mound of freshly planted seeds, everyone - adult and child alike - had a job to do.

When it came time to plant corn here on O/p Farm this year, I remembered a feature of that story that I’d always found to be particularly clever. To mark the field, the Wilder horses pulled a giant log marked with stakes a foot apart, carving furrows in a grid. The family then planted corn at the corner of each square, where the furrows crossed, producing nice tidy rows of corn plants.

In our corn field we’d already enlisted the help of our trusty pigs to amend the soil by rotating them through that space twice in the months before planting time. As the fantastic living rototillers they are, they’d already done most of the work to fertilize and break up the soil. We still needed to mark the rows.

Our perfect Farm doesn’t have a horse - our only current draft animal being yours truly – so a tree trunk with stakes in it wasn’t going to be a very manageable solution. Instead I did what farmers have been doing forever. I used an idea and adapted it to my situation. Using the concept of the Wilder’s staked log and scrap materials I had on hand, I cobbled together a marker about the size of a snow shovel that I could pull myself. Out I went with my miniature corn furrower to our pig-prepared corn field, and an hour or so later it was all marked and ready to be planted.


Corn has been a fixture of the landscape of the Americas since long before Laura Ingalls Wilder was writing. The earliest records of the crop being from about 9,000 years ago in Mexico. Today, there are six major types of corn – some of which are familiar right off the plant, and some of which are only common in their end products.

  • Sweet corn is typically eaten whole, either fresh or frozen.

  • Dent corn is used to make cornmeal, corn chips, tortillas, cornbread, and (unfortunately) high-fructose corn syrup.

  • Flint corn is usually grown to make hominy and some varieties are used as decoration, especially the ones with deep purple and red kernels.

  • Popcorn is for making popcorn.

  • Flour corn is for making flour.

  • Pod corn is for making pretty. This type of corn is almost entirely ornamental.

Here on O/p Farm we chose heirloom and open pollinated corn varieties - four varieties of sweet corn and two varieties of popcorn - with hopes we’ll have corn for ourselves and corn to include in our November and December feast baskets.


Looking over this corn field, I’m filled with warm memories; of the books I read as a kid, and of the year of rewarding adventure I’ve had helping build Our perfect Farm. It feels nice to be connected – both to my own past and to a bigger past - through the production of this very popular crop.

Popcorn is a favorite treat here at Our perfect Farm – sometimes even being the entirety of the dinner menu - and I’m delighted at the possibility of being able to make popcorn that I grew myself. Instead of popping loose corn kernels, what about popping it right on the cob?

Popped Corn-Off-the-Cob

1 cob of dried popcorn

1 small paper bag

toppings of your choice

Place your dried cob in the paper bag. Fold over the bag twice to secure the end. Place it in the microwave for 2 ½-4 minutes, or until the popcorn stops popping. A good general rule is that any more than three seconds between a popping sound means its time to stop the microwave and take the popcorn out. Transfer your popcorn into a bowl and dress it up with your favorite additions. Or try the Traditional Houghton Popcorn Seasoning of melted butter, olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. Don’t bother trying to stop yourself from licking the bowl.


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