An Idea Turned Reality

Hi everyone, sorry for the lack of posts on Sunday.  I thought October was going to be a bit calmer, what with all our poultry butchered and the garden not producing “as much”, but the days filled up quickly and November is no exception, so I will do my best to keep up with you all.

In the last year Grady and I have tried some new ventures… or maybe I should say “adventures”.  Since we wouldn’t have much extra time or money we needed to choose ventures that were either limited by work time or purchased items.  Growing our own popcorn was one of them.

Corn, 2013

This spring while we picked out what we wanted to plant in our garden, Grady picked up popcorn seed and said, “Let’s plant this too!”.  We had decided to use the whole area of our garden this year (I’d say 30’x 100′ or there about), and so we picked out pole beans, melons, winter squash (including pumpkins), and sweet corn to plant in the area we hadn’t used the year before.  I was a little skeptical that we’d actually get any kernels that would be edible, but we had talked before about trying it out and we had plenty of room, so we got one packet.  We planted about 5 rows at the end of our corn patch in the popcorn and once the plants were about 3″ we top dressed them with brooder compost from the year before (we did this with everything we planted this year and are sure it helped everything grow better), and then during the early summer we tried to water it regularly.  Thankfully we had a perfect amount of rain later on; because as the days went on, and I got busier, the watering of the garden was NOT at the top of my list.

Fast forward about 2 months ago and we harvested the sweet corn (from 300 seeds we picked around 250 ears!), and the popcorn plants were still green and soft.  Neither of us knew exactly what we were looking for, but we thought we were supposed to let it go until it started drying on the stalk, leave it for a month and then pull the ears, shuck them and hang them to dry for another month.  So we left them.


We tested some every once in awhile and we probably could have picked them sooner, but last week we finally harvested all the ears and started the drying process inside.  Some are more dry than others, but most of the kernels that we have popped have been just perfect and we are very happy with our end result.


What new ideas have you tried this year?

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.
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11 Responses to An Idea Turned Reality

  1. Vivian Brown says:

    I have never tried to grow potatoes, so I thought I would try this year. I work at a bulk food store and have access to large sacks of various material. I had read that you could grow them in a sack so I planted them in woven sugar and rice bags. I chose small fingerlings and couldn’t have been happier. Harvest time was easy, just cut open the bag. Not a huge crop but were very tasty. Going to go bigger next year!

    • Erin Phelan says:

      How fun! I’d love to try sweet potatoes someday.

      • Carol Rhodes says:

        You won’t regret sweet potatoes, they are very easy to grow here in Virginia. The plant is also a lovely plant. I have not tried it yet, but I have read that the leaves are also edible! I sprouted some organic ones that I had purchased, prepared the soil, planted and watched them grow. They taste wonderful. You will never want another store bought sweet potato!

  2. wilbern summers says:

    I both heard about and tried on a limited basis, permaculture gardening. Most of my results I am very pleased with, something’s just didnt work out like I hoped but am ready to try more. Weeding is the downfall of my gardening efforts hard pressed to keep weeds out, homechores done and work the job sixty plus hours a week with another eight or nine hours drive time on top of that. Have twenty plus acres total but no equipment to speak of and only a strong urge to keep my ground chemical free forever. Your posts and rants or whatever you want to call them are both educational and inspirational to me so keep up the good work!

    • Erin Phelan says:

      Glad you’ve been able to try somethings in your limited amount of time, hope it works out for you to do more! And thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Holly says:

    How do you know when it is dry enough to use? I too tried raising popcorn for the first time this year and tried popping some not to long ago but I think it is still to wet because it did not work.

    • Erin Phelan says:

      You might check a couple things before popping…the firmness of the kernel (it needs to be really hard, no give), and how loose it is on the cob. If it feels like it will come off easily than you could probably try popping.

  4. How fun! We’ll have to try popcorn next year! Did you keep your brooder compost covered all year? Or was it just out in an open pile? Thanks for sharing!

    • Erin Phelan says:

      We just had the pile open to the outside all spring. It stayed in the brooder over the winter until we were ready to clean it out for the new season.

  5. Sheri Salatin says:

    That is so cool, Erin!! Love this idea. 🙂

  6. Tammy says:

    When John heard about this he informed me we WILL be planting popcorn! LOL! His favorite is white popcorn. Did you plant yellow or white?