Friday, September 11, 2009

The Corn Comes Home

I didn't think seven acres of corn to hand harvest was going to be so bad. After all, we had help. Pavel had hired some of the youth group and several local ladies to join us. (They were making almost $14 plus two meals/day; a good wage in the village.) Two friends of Pavel's and his sister had also come over to assist.It was on the way to the field that I asked Heather how long she thought it would take.

"Oh, maybe two days or longer."
I bounced over one more rut in the road and wondered just what we were getting into.

The field is about a 1/2 hour drive by truck from H. and P.'s home. Like most of the plots of land in the area, it is long and narrow. When communism fell, the land was given back in strips.

We were actually starting the harvest a little early. For the past week the corn was being stolen, so Pavel was forced to begin. Field theft is common. Because Pavel's field is so far from houses, it is a prime target. The previous nights he had his uncle patrol the field. One group with a horse cart, and several folks on bicycles lost their cow's free lunch.

The process began as 15 of us spread out. Some experienced pickers were able to handle two rows at a time, but the first day I was designated a bag lady. I held the bags as the pros went to work. Three swipes with their hands and a cob was shucked and in the bag.

As the bag filled I hefted it onto my shoulder and walked out to the wagon. When the wagon was full the tractor took it's place. Slowly our group worked it's way into the patch.

At intervals the wagon or tractor was moved to keep up with the workers. Every now and then Ron got to do the honors. The look on his face as he sat in the tractor is one I haven't seen for awhile.

Pavel helped with the picking and did runs back to the village to drop off loads.

I started to judge time by how full the wagon was. Thankfully we had cloud cover and a fair breeze during most of the harvest. The one time the clouds disappeared, the wilting of the crew was obvious.

Heather helped a little with picking, but most of the time she was busy at home. The corn needed to be unloaded, and meals needed to be made. Sometimes she had help, and other times not.

When lunch appeared I was more than ready for a break. Homemade farmer's cheese and preserved plum jelly sat well on my bread, and in my stomach. I'm not too fond of the sausages, but most of the worker's dove into them. I was pleased to see waffle cookies for dessert. They remind me of eating snacks with my dad as a kid.

After lunch the process didn't change. The rows of corn continued.

When we used the tractor one guy usually stayed on top to help the workers haul their bags up and dump them. Stelika is feeling strong as his turn begins. As I trudged out to the wagon I'd glimpse down the field trying to judge how much work we had left. After a while I stopped doing this. It wasn't an encouraging view.

The harvest was good this year. Even though there was some drought, most stalks yielded two or occasionally three ears of corn. Pavel had planted 100 lbs of Iowa seed that had been donated by a friend. I noticed that his crop looked much healthier than many of the fields around him.

Yeah Iowa!

Our picking continued for three days. My views didn't vary during that time, but my job did. I rejected my bag lady status and moved up to picker. Now my shoulder no longer hurt, but my hands felt like they were on fire! I realize now why they used to have a cream called Corn Huskers.

The ride home on the wagon was my favorite part of the job. All that joy and peace God promises seemed to rest on me as I jostled above the fields.

As we arrived home, more good stuff awaited. Heather had prepared the second meal for the workers. Soup got us going, then came the main course. If any stomach space was left, you could have dessert.

This picture shows about 1/4 of the corn we picked.

Just because the corn is in, it doesn't mean the work is done. It all needs to be cleaned, and the stalks in the field have to be cut, wired, and stored.

A few people around here do hire combines to do the harvesting for them. Since H. and P. don't have a place to store the seed or a way to dry it, they choose this route. I guess we are in good company, but I wonder if they hurt as much as I do?

1 comment:

Randy said...

Sounds like you needed my grandfather's old husking pegs...a bangboard on the wagon...and more cornhusker's lotion!