Appalachia Gardening

Pap and his Cornfield

I wrote this post back in 2011 about making a trip to the cornfield with Pap.

Growing corn in western nc
Yesterday morning I went to the cornfield with Pap. Funny how you wait for that first fresh corn and then before you know it you’re having to gather it every day.


This time of the year-our cornfield is a jungle. You can barely get through the rows for the ragweeds and morning glory vines. Granny is scared to death of snakes. She warns us to look out for copperheads when we go to the corn patch.

I think being in the corn rows is like visiting a magical kingdom. I like the feeling of being surrounded by all that green; by the towering stalks; and by the hum of summer as bees buzz and jar flies screech.

Magic in the cornfield

In between helping Pap pull corn, I snapped some photos of the beauty. Isn’t the orange lovely? Hard to believe its only a weed.

morning glory in the corn rows
In some spots morning glories have woven the rows of corn together, almost like they want the the sweet goodness all for themselves. When I see morning glories I’m always reminded of walking to catch the school bus. The flowers grew near the side of the road along Papaw and Mamaw’s  garden. I would pick a morning glory; place it to my mouth; and breath in suctioning the flower to make it cover my mouth. Sounds strange, but I wish I had a photo of a little skinny me trying to inhale the glory of the flower.

In places you can see this little beauty growing. Pap calls them wild apricots-I think they’re passion flowers. Whatever the name they are a true creation of beauty.

Working in the cornfield

Wild Bill never strays far when we’re in the corn patch. He’s always hoping someone will give him an ear and if they don’t he usually sneaks one out of a bucket.

Dry weather causes corn too
Then there’s Pap-ever teaching. He shows me how the hot dry weather we’ve had caused the ear not to develop on the end. Pap said “It just didn’t have enough of what it needed to make all the way.”

Runouts in corn
Pap told me “When there are gaps left in the ear of corn the old timers called that a run-out.”

Silver Queen Corn in western nc
Our crop of corn is good this summer. Pap said “There ain’t a thing wrong with corn like this. That’s as fine a ear as you could get.”

Being in the middle of a cornfield is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.


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  • Reply
    June 2, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Beautiful memories! Made me think of the days when Dad planted two bottom areas in corn (3 acres), and he would also plant pole beans and pumpkins with the corn. We harvested all of it by hand. We used a horse and sled to haul the corn to the corncrib and the pumpkins to the barn. Some of the pumpkins were sold and the rest we fed to our hogs.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Very beautiful photographs, Tipper, and I especially love the ones of Pap’s hands.
    I only planted popcorn this year, and a good-size patch of Sow True Seed popcorn. It’s been doing well since I started soaking it every night, and the stalks are over my head and looking good. But last night I found half the patch – the whole center of it – flattened. Looked like a moose had made a bed there, but not with the fence I have around that part of the garden. Made me so sad to see those stalks that survived through all the drought and are just starting to pollinate, now all tangled and flattened. And it’ll be harder for the rest to get pollinated with this big gap right through the center of the patch. I came this close to crying, right there in the garden.
    Those asian long cucumbers are doing nicely, though! I’ve got a quart jar of refrigerator pickles going all the time now, and eating salted cucumber spears with darn near every meal 🙂

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Field corn is hard to beat, but man did it make you itch, especially if you wore short britches.. Gathered a few ears in my day.. Always hated when Dad planted the beans in with the corn that meant double the trips and double the itch..

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I’m so glad you have those memories of your dad teaching you things. The pictures of Silver Queen and the congested corn field make my feelings come alive. And dogs are so helpful cause they can smell and find snakes and take care of ’em before you get there.
    I had tons of Morning Glories in with my White Runners, usually they got real thick after I finished picking. But the different colors was a sight to behold in late mornings.
    Nice pictures! …Ken

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    August 9, 2016 at 11:31 am

    So glad for thus story! Pap taught me something I’ve never heard about t the corn not being full to the end! Makes sense though the corn didn’t get what it needed to finish growing. This reminds me of my great grandmas garden in dalton, Georgia where cousins ran through the huge corn field then to the barn to see a huge hog and to the chicken house to see hundreds of baby chicks! Good times that are no more! I make memories like that now in my little corner of the world. Morning glories are awesome and that is a Passion flower my aunt who knew every plant from memory. I love to watch them but they disappear quickly so enjoy them while they are here.
    Thank you,
    Carol R.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 9, 2016 at 11:13 am

    I remember this post and how I loved it! I have been starving to death for some good corn again. Alas, no one that we saw near us that was selling produce on the 127 World’s Longest Yard Sale had corn or good fresh picked corn! Hope to get some late corn!
    I used to love to go in the corn jungle, when I was a youngster, would still love it today if we had one!
    Passion flowers, were called wild apricots by my grandparents too. I think the reason is the wonderful intoxicating yummy fragrance of the yellow ripe (pop) or fruit. When we were kids, we had fights in the weeds with other kids! The ammo we used was the green semi hollow green oval-like fruit. It would “pop” open if you got a good lick in the head, chest or shoulder! A yellow ripe one oozes a bit! These never hurt and was one of our favorite pass times in the late summer. Some folks call them Maypops but I think of Maypop as the spring wildflower! Passion flower is how I know it and the story of the flower by my Appalachian granny.
    Pack Saddle I know by pain and heart. Ewww, the pain does go on for hours after all those stingers going in your hand at once!
    Thanks Tipper,
    Always loved your pictures and of course Pap’s blessed working hands. I may have mentioned before….”Always better to ‘WEAR OUT’ than to “RUST OUT” quote from my Dad’s doctor was more favorable in the Lords eyes!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 9, 2016 at 10:12 am

    love the pictures of Pap’s hands.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 9, 2016 at 10:07 am

    We called them maypops and they were pretty tasty.
    I wonder if the packsaddle is the caterpillar type bug that gives you the feeling of electric shock or numbness–think it’s light green colored.
    Our whole garden is a jungle this year. I’ve never seen such a rainy summer. I really don’t enjoy any of the picking part of gardening except the very first stuff. Too hot and itchy!

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I have never seen orange morning glories, but they are beautiful. The pink, blue, and white one show up at our house by themselves, and we are in the suburbs. They can become a real nuisance, but I think they’re pretty. How delicious the corn looks! When my uncle was alive, he grew the best silver queen corn. You can’t beat fresh vegetables.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 9, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Tipper, I loved that post! There is something magical about the cornfield. My grandchildren like to pretend they are in a corn maze and they hide from each other. I just like to stand there and take in all of the beauty, smells and sounds. We are so blessed to live in the country.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 9:05 am

    As a kid we ate the wild apricots after the frost. A neighbor called them may pops. I guess because as you walked through the field you may hear a pop as you stepped on them

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 9, 2016 at 8:54 am

    Oh, Tipper, what is a “pack-saddle”? How interesting to hear Pap’s nickname for this gorgeous flower! Here in New Mexico, we also have a nickname for it: Espina de Cristo (the thorns of Christ). Here is the history of the Passion Flower:
    In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
    * The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance.
    * The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
    * The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (less St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
    * The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
    * The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
    * The 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
    * The blue and white colours of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.
    The flower has been given names related to this symbolism throughout Europe since that time. In Spain, it is known as espina de Cristo (“Christ’s thorn”). German names include Christus-Krone (“Christ’s crown”), Christus-Strauss (“Christ’s bouquet”), Dorn-Krone (“crown of thorns”), Jesus-Leiden (“Jesus’ passion”), Marter (“passion”) or Muttergottes-Stern (“Mother of God’s star”).

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Truly a paradise for you in the middle of that corn. Having Pap with you made it perfect. One of my best memories was taking my vacation to help my Dad with his garden. He would plant much more than he could handle.
    I cannot agree with this post, Tipper, as I think working in corn one of the most miserable experiences of a summer. It seems the beans intertwined make it impossible to gather beans or corn without being miserable. Plus they are chock full of spiders and probably some ticks. I would come out of a row wildly flapping my hair to remove bugs and debris–it seemed to make me itch for 30 minutes. In all due respect to Granny, I don’t think a copperhead would even want mixed up in that mess. I am always cautious when reaching under large leaves to retrieve squash. Great post.

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 8:38 am

    We called the passion flowers maypops. Today’s corn mazes aren’t nearly as fascinating as the old corn field “jungles”.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 9, 2016 at 8:32 am

    That sure was pretty corn! My corn ‘field’ is much less impressive.
    I think some children at least like ‘kid scale’ close places like corn fields, bamboo patches and the inside of a roll-a-way bed. Our grandson likes to hide under the table, under a blanket or under the couch cushions.
    The little red and orange morning glory is – I think – native to Japan but it sure is a little beauty. In general I’m skeptical of non-natives but I would make an exception for it. The morning glory I planted along the fence on the west end of the garden has not been too bad. I have discovered they start from seed all year except the depth of winter. I have to pull up a lot of them to keep them down to 4 or 5 but it is a small price to pay for the bloom.
    My Dad also called passion flower ‘maypop’. I have them come up in my garden to and if they are close to the fence I let them climb it. I think the pulp of the fruit would make a good lemonade-like summer drink but to me it has a metallic-tasting edge.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 9, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Sweet memories. I love the old hands, still working and still teaching. The flowers are beautiful. The cornfield is like a hidden summer wonderland.
    I miss him too even though I know he’s not really gone. His presence is still with us. We just have to look and feel it.
    Chatter’s Etsy Store is lovely!

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    August 9, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Tipper,that is passion flower.I’,m tickled to know your pap’s name of wild apricot.

  • Reply
    Betty Newman
    August 9, 2016 at 6:20 am

    To add to the jungle, we always plant beans in our corn. My in-laws always planted “Genuine Cormfield Beans”. Today we usually plant white runners because we try to sell these to put back for purchasing seed for next year. We don’t have to watch for snakes like we do pack-saddles. Man! Their sting is awful!
    Last year as I was picking beans I had been watching the History Channel’s “Mountain Men” and rummaging around in our jungle of corn made me feel like I was foraging for food! Ha!

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