Jilly D.

Sweat Pea liked corn silk

In Off-The-Grid Memoir, The Farm on May 24, 2014 at 2:37 pm

peasThe peas had sprouted in the field over the warm, sunny Memorial Day weekend. Their green leaves, shoots and vines appeared as the earliest of the summer row crops in the field as the month changed to June.

“Sweet Pea,” the fawn, slept between us for two nights in bed. Every breath she took I felt upon my cheek. She continued to thrive without incident.

Once she discovered how to move those legs it was soon time to move her to the barn where she was safe in a pen. So frail and wobbly on that third day, she’d move those legs in every direction at once. We didn’t want her to break a leg. She danced and pranced around the floors.

Those little hooves sounded like a herd of horses inside our little cabin. Clop-clop. Clop-clop. Sweet Pea quickly learned to gallop before she took a leap. She jumped into the bed. She jumped down from the bed. She jumped onto the kitchen table and off again.

We couldn’t let her jump off the table, counter, bed and wood stove. She wanted to spring off the walls. Then she hit the triple pane glass window and stopped in her tracks. Stunned only momentarily, she kept leaping and dancing until Sam picked her up in his arms. Then she calmed herself and bowed her head.

The next morning Sam started building Sweet Pea’s pen in the barn. Her neighbors were two Nubian goats. By mid-afternoon he moved Sweet Pea into her own stall with fresh hay and water. Sam warmed the milk replacer inside the cabin and took it to Sweet Pea out in the barn.

100_1030Four times a day he fed her. She got stronger and bigger. She ate hay right away. Once she started drinking water, he cut back to three times a day. By the end of July he gave her a quart bottle in the morning and in the evening.

We introduced treats into Sweet Pea’s diet from our garden. A handful of strawberries, some pea vines, salad greens and spinach proved tasty. Once the sweet corn tasseled, Sam cut down whole stalks for Sweet Pea to enjoy.

Deer love corn silk. They like corn, but there is something about the silk they are really passionate about. Deer can do an enormous amount of damage to a corn field, but they are largely in search of only one thing: the delicacy of tender corn silk.

Whoever devised the marketing behind corn silk as a beauty product must have been a city slicker. When you walk through rows of corn be ready to get gunky dirty. The pollen will cover you in a sticky dust and the corn silk is greasy and gets caught in your hair.

Corn silk is the “hair” that appears growing out of the top of an ear of corn. You know corn has been successfully pollinated when the ears begin to form and silk appears.

Because corn silk so resembles hair, I describe the early stages of sweet corn as “blonde.” This honey colored silk appears when the cob is first forming inside. Certain varieties of corn produce silk that turns to red hair before going brunette. When the ears are ready to harvest, the corn silk turns a dark brown, shrivels up and becomes dry and brittle. First blond, then red, finally brunette.

Sweet corn is ready to eat when the ears begin to bend away from the stalk, the silk turns brown and brittle and the end of the ear is rounded at the top. When I pick sweet corn I look for ears that extend toward me like a handshake. From a 45 to 90 degree angle, the ears protrude right into your grasp. I run my hand from the base to the tip. When the end is blunt instead of pointed, I grab hold of the ear and twist before jerking the ear loose. If it doesn’t come off with a single pull, it’s probably not ready yet. Twist and pull. Ears of corn ready to eat nearly pop off into your hand.

Sweet Pea loved sweet corn. She also liked field corn. She ate it off the cob, kernel by kernel all winter long. Sweet alfalfa hay and red clover bales kept her satisfied. Apples, pears, squash, carrots and beets provided winter sweet treats.

She grew into a yearling doe. Sam enjoyed a deep personal connection with Sweet Pea. In the mornings they would converse in some form of animal speak. Before dinner Sam would spend time with her again.

920443-R1-02-3ASam got his class B deer farm license and I got my Wildlife Rehabilitators’ license from NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation. We did research and built 10 ft. tall fencing to comply with upcoming state regulations in anticipation of dealing with the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease. We studied hard and did our best to keep this little orphan safe and alive while her mother still faced the risk of hunters and automobiles.

Sometimes Sam would encourage me to come out to the barn and spend time with Sweet Pea. One time she nuzzled my face and sniffed the top of my head. Then she took a big bite out of my ponytail. Looked like corn silk, but didn’t taste quite the same.

  1. Jill,

    This is such a charming story. It reconnects me to my 23 years of living in farm country in Michigan where the dear would cut through our property and stare at us with those beautiful, expressive eyes of theirs.



  2. Reblogged this on lostandlaughinginla and commented:
    Looks like, smells like….gotta take a bite.

  3. Thanks, Jill. I enjoyed getting back to your old sweet life on the farm again. I miss those writers’ groups when we used to hear about the dogs, the Warrens, the honey, and Sam. Cheers!

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