My dad brought me seven dozen ears of sweet corn from his garden last week. Dad is in his mid-eighties and while he does not actively farm his over 600 acres of land anymore, the land is rented out to my brother, Dad still manages to keep busy. One of his favorite activities is reeking daily havoc shooting off his 22 caliber rifle as he chases the flocks of wild Canadian geese, that are determined to eat up my brother’s profits, in his jeep at high speeds to avoid getting stuck in the muddy fields.
My dad was born to be a farmer. The day that he is no longer able to plant, nurture and harvest plants will probably be his last on this earth. From dawn to dusk, he’s checking crops, mowing acres of lawn, doing war with weeds, defending his chickens from woodland predators and stray dog packs, fixing broken farm equipment, hand-painting old farm equipment until it looks as good as new and gardening.
It is remarkable that this eighty year old is still this active, but even more so when you know that my dad is a 100 percent disabled military veteran. When he was in his twenties, he volunteered to serve in the U. S. Navy after his brother Wendall had been killed in action in Korea. After sustaining a minor broken bone during his service, his whole body from head to toe became inflamed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
After spending months in a military hospital, he returned home to the farm. Even though he was fairly crippled from the disease and in pain every day, he and his older brother Myrwin farmed together for years. When their sons became old enough to want to farm their own land, they split up the jointly owned farms.
I cannot remember a year that my dad did not get a crop. Come rain, hail, drought, late spring or early frost that rich blue-black loam soil always produced. I do remember seeing my dad with knees so swollen from his arthritis that the legs of his trousers would be stretched tightly across them. I also recall the times when he had to take a mid-day nap and how he took aspirin many times a day.
To beat his disability Dad used to design his own adaptable equipment. There were the welded knobs on the steering wheels so he could drive the tractor using just the palms of his hands. He also had metal grips on the sides of tractors so that his sore swollen and mangled fingers could be used to pull him on and off a tractor.
He also invented his own physical therapy exercises such as pulling hard on his sore fingers everyday, “To straighten them out.” Considering the number of years he’s lived with RA, his fingers, while they don’t bend or pinch very well anymore, are surprisingly straight. He does have quite a bit of trouble holding small objects like silverware with his fingers. Recently, he told me that chops sticks are so much easier to eat with than a spoon or fork. Still adapting.
Today his health is probably the best its been since he was a teenager. New medications have his arthritis in check, his pain, swelling and fatigue are now well managed. He goes on long walks around the borders of his home farm with my mom everyday, and is constantly behind the wheel driving somewhere for something.
Surprisingly, he is still a superb marksman and rarely misses a target, whether it is the head of an overly aggressive rooster or the more conventional clay pigeon. Even in marksmanship he has learned to adapt. Watching Dad shoot is truly amazing. He cannot get the gun up to his shoulder and has to shoot from the crook in his elbow. I have seen him pull the trigger with his thumb. Even so the man rarely misses a shot. In fact, two weeks ago he had to go buy a new clay pigeon launcher as he could no longer comfortably use the one he had. I believe the new one has a foot release lever.
Always the outdoors man and farmer, any excuse will do to be in a field or garden and sweet corn planting, hoeing and harvesting is as good an excuse as any. Growing and picking sweet corn is a joy for my dad. Every spring he gets out on one of his small tractors hooks up a tiny corn planter to seed more sweet corn than our entire family, friends and neighbors could ever consume.
Sadly, I learned last night that his sweet corn has grown too old to be good anymore this year for humans….a great boon for the pheasants, raccoons and deer though. My disappointment was quickly appeased when I was informed that this Wednesday, he and mom are planning to drive over two hours one way to see a doctor, then deliver to me a sack of freshly dug new potatoes.
New potatoes from our farm’s black dirt are adult candy–delicious. Dad will have a sufficient supply of them for awhile as he planted almost one hundred hills for just himself and mom.
Just as my dad has had to make physical adaptions because of his disability, I, too, have had to learn to adapt during these past four years of living with a damaged spine from multiple myeloma. This recipe for freezing sweet corn is one of those compromises between what used to be and reality.
Since, I cannot lift large pots filled with boiling water or an ice water bath, pre-cooking the corn while it was still on the cob is no longer an option. This recipe is practical, less messy and the corn tastes just as good processed this way as the traditional method that took a strong back, entire family crew and lots of clean up.
Freezing Sweet Corn
4 quarts of fresh corn (cut from about two dozen ears)
1 quart hot water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (cubed)
2 teaspoons salt
In a large stock pot combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for five-seven minutes. Stir occasionally.
Let the corn cool completely.
Use a large spoon to scoop corn into to either freezer containers or plastic freezer bags. Allow space at the top of the container for expansion.
Recipe is adapted from, Taste of Home, website.