Mail Call: Letters to the Editor in our May/June 2018 Issue

Readers’ letters to the editors with stories of corn memories, pallet projects, bookworms, homemade furniture, fishing tales, and selling GRIT.

| May/June 2018

  • farm
    A reader recalls working on a farm during his youth.
    Photo by Pat and Chuck Blackley
  • dining table
    A dining table makes a fun pallet project.
    Photo by Brenda Boyd

  • farm
  • dining table

Intoxicating Corn Memories

In the fall, as I drive through the rural roads and farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I see the corn being harvested, much of it being chopped for filling silos. There is a certain heady smell of early fermentation as the mixture of finely cut stalks, leaves, cobs, and kernels are blown back into the high enclosed wagons to be hauled back to the farmstead and preserved for feeding the livestock over the winter months.

This brings back a memory of working on a farm in my youth in the late 1940s outside of East Greenville, Pennsylvania, where I labored in a corn-chopping operation, which included blowing the mixture up the long 6-inch pipe to the top of the concrete silo where it settled to the bottom and gradually filled all the way up some 60 feet or so. As the fermentation process developed over the next few weeks and months, the smell in the immediate vicinity was not unlike a low budget brewery or distillery. This smell was almost strong enough to override the normally lingering aroma of the cow stable.

Over the winter months, each morning one would climb up the freezing enclosed chute on iron rungs to the top to scoop and throw the silage down to the waiting feed cart below to be wheeled into the stable and fed to the cattle. They loved the stuff, and would eagerly await their allotment forked into their feed mangers. It was hard work and labor intensive since this was before mechanical silage unloaders.

We had an older, semi-retired gentleman named Mr. Butcher who helped part-time on the farm doing jobs that were not too demanding for his energy level. He was good with animals, worked well at his assigned tasks, and had a pleasant demeanor. His one request — and I guess one could say his one weakness — was to have two weeks leave of absence every spring when the silo was almost empty. I was puzzled by this until one day he explained his annual ritual.



At some point over the years, he had acquired an unglazed earthenware gallon jug, pale-tan in color and porous in design, so as to act as a crude ceramic filter of sorts when properly utilized. Every fall, when we began the filling process, he would place that jug in the bottom of the silo and let the whole structure full of chopped goodies fill up on top of it. The fermenting juices from the silage percolating down under the great pressure of 60-some feet of deadweight would slowly seep through the pores and fill the jug with the clearest, pure (mostly) form of his own "white lightning."

With only about a foot or so of silage remaining in late spring, he would eagerly enter the almost empty repository to retrieve his treasured elixir, and carefully bring it out in preparation for his annual silage sabbatical.






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