I was never sure it was worthwhile to start a corn patch. Limited space can make you stingy. But the popcorn I grew this year has been a delight- wonderfully tall with silks that are bright pink before they go brown. It’s Pennsylvania Dutch butter popcorn, and it was the most beautiful part of the garden until this week, when I came home after a rain storm and found half the stalks bent over. I thought the soil was too loose for them (maybe it was), but this morning I saw a chipmunk climbing to the tops of tassels looking for the sorghum interplanted there- a fascinating little seed sorghum from China called Ba-Yi-Qi.
Earlier in the summer, the corn tassels were full of insects, not chipmunks. When the sun warmed the pollen, little sweat bees would flock there, sometimes with a few bumbles. Corn is wind-pollinated, and I had always been told that a field of corn is a desert for pollinators, but that must not be wholly true.
When I was young, we had a garden in a kettle that flooded during wet springs. One year, my dad planted popcorn there, and it grew eleven feet tall. My mom had us dress in old-times clothes to stand in front of it and take a picture with black and white film. We were little then, and I think she was very proud of the corn and the life she was just starting to build. It wasn't the last year my dad grew popcorn, but it was the only year I remember- either because of the size of the stalks or because she took that picture.
Today I watched the chipmunk find a good seed-head, use his weight to tip the sorghum to the ground, eat his fill, and come back for more. I planted it for the birds, but the birds haven’t found it yet. Maybe they never will, but it's still been worthwhile.
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