When school is over, I need to leave. I tell this to the garden teacher. We’ve had a busy week so far and my kids need a chill afternoon at home. We are behind on homework, the house needs to be swept, there are dirty dishes on the counter from when we left for school this morning. And we are tired, so she says “go ahead.” But as I gather the kids’ backpacks and my travel mug from the kitchen, I look at the scattered stalks, the trails of dropped husks, and most of all, the big baskets of corn that still needs shucking, and I let it all go. I shrug the packs onto a bench, abandon the mug on a picnic table. I start gathering spilled ears of corn into the baskets. The teacher looks at me quizzically as I hoist up a basket and head out to the field where the middle school kids are playing volleyball.
“There’s too much work to leave it behind,” I say. “Shall we watch the game as we shuck?”
There’s a reason that kids used to have no school during harvest time. When the work has to be done, it has to be done. And yes, we live in a world where, if our corn rots because we didn’t shuck it soon enough, we can go to the grocery and buy fresh corn to eat, we can go to the farm store and buy seed in the spring. But so much would be lost. (See next week’s post for more about the corn.) So we shuck, and all the little kids who aren’t playing volleyball come over and learn how to pull back the husks but leave them attached so the corn can be braided together and hung to dry. And some of their parents join in, and the work of the harvest gets done, by many hands.
We don’t eat the corn we are harvesting today, not yet, though the kids all taste kernels. But it IS corn harvest day, after all, so the teacher has found (Bill’s Farm Basket, oh ye locals) the kind of popcorn that is sold still on the cob.
The kids carefully separate the kernels from the cob—watch out! Those kernels jump! We pop it on the stove, then let whichever kid is still hanging around the kitchen doctor it up with olive oil, tamari, salt, and nutritional yeast. And dig in to our corn harvest feast.