Growing & Harvesting
Corn By Hand
The discussion was about raising your own feed for chickens. It so happens that the cost of buying food for chickens is getting much more expensive these days, and more people are thinking about how to raise more of their own poultry feed. Well, that's how folks did it when we were an agrarian nation!
Someone on the group mentioned that they had an old two-row corn planter they might use to plant corn (the primary ingredient of poultry feed). That’s when Alan chimed in with the following comment (slightly edited).
A two row corn planter? That is too fancy for me. I grew up growing field corn for pigs and chickens the very basic way.
We had a pole about 25 feet long that had ropes tied to it about every 30 inches. On the end of each rope was a piece of heavy chain. My step-father and I would walk across the field with that pole between us to mark the rows.
Then we had a couple two-handled corn planters. Take a step, poke it in the ground, spread the handles and put them back together then pick it up and take another measured step. When the corn is up to about five or six inches do the first hoeing and thin to two corn plants.
After that just hoe as needed.
Hand-held corn planter collection. These were popular in the mid to late 1800's. Click Here for the article that goes with this picture. According to the article, an 1891 "automatic" hand planter enabled a farmer to plant four acres a day, by hand.
When the corn was hard and the plants were brown we cut the stalks by hand and used a Shocking Horse to make corn shocks.
To picture a shocking horse think of a saw horse. Now remove the legs on one end. Picture the top board as a pole cut from a small tree and about 20 feet long. Now make the remaining two legs longer. Come down the pole from the legs four or five feet and drill a horizontal hole through it to fit a long broom handle.
Drag that out to the corn field and take it down between the rows so you have four rows on the one side and the rest of the field on the other side. Insert the broom handle. Two people with corn knives cut four rows to the broom handle and stack the corn against the pole against the handle.
Now cut past the handle those same four rows and stack it against the pole on the other side of the broom handle. When it is good and full tie some twine around the top then pull out the broom handle and move your horse farther down the rows. Between the legs of your shocking horse there should be a pole with a spool of baling twine on it.
Shocked corn waiting to be husked
Wait until the corn is good and dry then husk it out.
Women husking corn in the field
A Husking Peg or two comes in handy here.
One style of corn husking "peg" (also known as a "hook")
I probably have 20 husking pegs, a good dozen corn knives and six or eight corn planters around here.
One style of corn knife
I have corn shellers and feed grinders too.
Here is one of my corn shellers....
A red Black Beauty corn sheller. Black Beauty reproductions are currently available on Ebay for $85.
Aerial view of corn shock rows on an Amish farm:
The nice thing about this very simple lesson in raising corn is that it explains how to get the job done without being dependent on complicated, gas-guzzling machinery.
This is the kind of down-to-earth knowledge that will need to be re-discovered and utilized by small farmers and homesteaders in the post-industrial Agrarian Nation that will emerge in the years ahead.
It is from people like Alan, who know what they are talking about from personal experience, that we can learn a great deal. Thank you Alan!"The class of citizens who provide at once their own food and raiment, may be viewed as the most truly independent. It follows, the greater the proportion of this class to the whole society, the more free, the more independent, and the more happy must be the society itself."
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