Being Tested


giant-corn430My husband and I were out in our occasional hunt for a piece of land Thursday evening. There was a point in our drive where my throat started to tickle. I expect that this time of year. I have seasonal allergies. I sneeze, my eyes tear, I wheeze and  itch all over. I’ve tried many over the counter and prescription remedies and most don’t work and the ones that do leave me feeling dull-headed and dried out. This misery begins slowly with apple trees and roses, then it accelerates plant by plant until late summer when allergy symptoms reach their peek when the ragweed is in full bloom.  At that point I wait for a frost.

I didn’t know I had seasonal allergies growing up in an urban area. I found out when I moved to a rural environment. But you know what? I wouldn’t leave the country even if some divine finger pointed at me and promised to rid me of allergies if I move back to Chicago. It’s a trade off. Nature tests me to be sure my heart is pure. It wants to know if I have what it takes to live among it by challenging me with critters of all kinds invading my living space — deer and rabbits that eat gardens, winter wars waged against mice that get inside and chew on everything, skunks that spray you at the back door,  hawks that kill your chickens, and window wells filled with frogs, snakes and salamanders in such numbers, it’s akin to the plagues of Egypt. I think I’ve done admirably well for 32 years. This will sound crazy after all that, but the biggest challenge of all is corn.

There’s no getting away from corn, I’m surrounded by agriculture. It’s not that I have an aversion to it, I actually find it lovely in all its stages of growth from tiny sprout to cob-heavy stalks any autumn scarecrow would be proud to watch over. It’s simply that corn pollen absolutely kicks my butt.

It’s not tasseling yet but we’re past the “knee high by the 4th of July” stage so I’m on borrowed time.  If the weather holds, I’ll have a booming crop of pollen to endure before we get to corn on the cob. In a very weak analogy I’ll compare it to having a baby. You go through labor and it’s endless while you’re in the grip of it. Then you get a prize. I can sneeze my eyeballs out and fight the urge to stick forks in my ears to stop the itching the whole while the corn tassels are in pollen. Then we get corn on the cob. Not the tasteless, starchy, why did I buy this at the grocery story, variety. The kind where each kernel has a coating of butter and salt and pops into your mouth with every bite. There’s nothing like it. 

There’s quite a journey from where corn began to what we have on our dinner tables. First of all, corn is a grass, a monocot, meaning when you plant a kernel it grows a stalk without splitting in two vs. a bean that grows a sprout and the bean halves transform into two little seed leaf wings called cotyledons. And just like any grass, if left to its own devices, it would reseed and eliminate the need for chemicals agriculture dumps into our soil and ground water. It would also revert into what it once was — teosinte.

cornIn the hills of prehistoric Mesoamerica there was a grass called teosinte that occasionally produced fat grains on the stalk. Just a few here and there, but early Native American harvesters soon figured if they planted those, there was a good chance the  teosinte growing next season would have more fat grains. They were right. This selective grass breeding occurred for thousands of years and slowly transformed those odd kernels into the modern ear of corn. Can you just imagine the amount of human tinkering involved in this? What a perfectly awesome testament to patience. The Native Americans had hundreds of varieties. Our society depends upon just a handful. teosinte003a

We consume so much of the stuff by way of high fructose corn syrup, that it’s even in our hair and fingernails. And we genetically splice pesticide into corn DNA to make it insect resistant so that’s in our hair and fingernails too. Worse, as if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s killing bees and butterflies. Along with the rest, that, pardon my bluntness, is sheer idiocy. We can live without giant ears of corn and corn-based products. We cannot live without bees.

Equally idiotic is our monoculture mindset. There’s an old adage that warns about keeping all the eggs in one basket. A corn disease can wipe out the world’s corn crops in a snap. An absence of bees will wipe out everything else. Concerned individuals might contact their politicians about Monsanto. Just say no to genetically modified corn that feeds us pesticides in new and horrible ways, and say no to poisoning the world’s bees by growing crops with built-in poison.

bee1

Learn why saving old varieties of fruits and vegetables is so important, and get involved in growing your own to assure the worlds food sources stay viable:
http://www.seedsavers.org/


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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