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From the Farm

Corn grows in fields, not ears

April 24, 2009
By Kerry Hoffman

Years ago, when my mother told me, "Your ears are so dirty you could grow corn in them," I thought she was crazy. Some days, I still think she's crazy!

After Tuesday evening I have to wonder if corn really could've grown in my ears. I had taken a few hours off from work - a portion of forced furlough that I am really enjoying. (Those state employees better take the furlough Pawlenty is recommending!

That's another story!) But I digress. Usually, during those furlough hours that I've taken off, I work on some of my online classes, or write my column, or tons of other things.

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I don't usually have trouble finding something to do during my required unpaid leave at work. This time I went to lunch with Steve in Mankato, for a romantic lunch at Taco John's. (I'm sure he'll want to use that as an anniversary dinner. Today is our 16th anniversary.)

After lunch, we parted ways. He went east to deliver a load of animal bedding. That's our side-business. I came home and started on my homework. After several hours, I decided to do a few things outside with Steve.

Turns out, Steve's father was out preparing the field for planting - we call this digging. We needed to take a pickup out to the field so Steve's dad would have a way to get home. I suppose he could've walked, but six or seven miles may be pushing it. He's not a spring chicken anymore!

Steve drove the four-wheeler out to the field. I drove Steve's pickup truck. Let's not even mention that I never noticed I had it in low gear. I thought that humming noise was a result of Steve recently having a lot of work done on it.

Had I realized it was in low, I would have driven the recommended 35 mph maximum speed. Maybe Steve and I would have arrived at the field at the same time. I knew Steve would be noticing other committed farmers working in the field, I just never expected him to stop and visit those farmers.

I should have known better. I waited in the pickup for almost a half-hour.

He never will comprehend that feeling of anxiety he creates when he goes missing. He does it so often, sooner or later, it shouldn't bother me anymore.

I was "this close" to sitting up in the pickup (I was reclining across the seat) and heading north to check the road ditches for him.

Just as I sat up, I saw a cloud of dust rise in the horizon.

"So what happened? Who did you happen to meet along the way?" I asked nicely. He already knew I would be somewhat upset.

"I stopped to talk to Brad," he said sheepishly. Brad is our nephew that is helping us plant corn.

I didn't say anymore. It's hopeless to ask Steve not to do that. He was born to visit other people.

The entire reason Steve and I ended up out on this field was to check out the operation of the new digger. It works the same as the old one, turning the soil and creating a flat planting surface, except it has what Steve calls a crumbler on the very back of it.

This crumbler rolls over the area that the digger has just gone over. It's supposed to break up larger chunks of dirt and smooth out the field even more.

It took more than one length of the field to make sure the digger was going deep enough at an even depth from front to back and that the crumbler was working properly. I believe we drove back and forth across the black dirt, being thrown in the air by the wicked winds, more than four or five times.

As Steve and his dad fine-tuned the digger, I picked up rocks. Steve referred to them as pebbles and his father swears they dropped out of my head. And I have to be nice to these people?

When I cleaned my ears later, there was so much black dirt in them; I could've at least gotten the corn seed to sprout.

Thank goodness, a daily cleaning of my ears is part of my routine; I would have felt quite foolish if a green corn plant was found in my ear. If I skip cleaning my ears, it screws up the remaining portion of my morning routine. I could end up going to work like I did in my dreams Tuesday night. For some reason, I showed up at my job, at Hy-Vee (which I don't have), in my black Funny Bunny pajama pants, my grey T-shirt and these big huge cow slippers. Worst part of it was I had it all on inside out! And the changing rooms in the middle of the freezer section were transparent. Yikes!

See what happens when you have ears full of dirt. Not only can you possibly grow corn in them, but you could go to work in your inside-out pajamas and having to change in transparent rooms.

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