Glass Corn

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This spring I noticed several references to an ornamental corn variety called ‘Glass Gem’ aka ‘Carl’s Glass Gem’. When the opportunity arose to try out some starts, I couldn’t resist. I learned that this is a “flint corn”, so it is not great for fresh eating. It is suitable for popcorn and for grinding into corn flour. My plan is to use it for decorating this fall, then I’ll try some popcorn when it’s fully dry.

Unwrapping each ear was quite exciting and I ended up with a nice assortment of colors. The ears are smaller than the typical corn most of us are familiar with, measuring an average of 5″-6″.

When growing an open pollinated corn like ‘Glass Gem’, you will need to provide a considerable distance from other corn varieties. Wind can carry corn pollen quite a distance, making cross pollination with neighboring corn patches quite possible.

In reading about the origins of ‘Glass Gem’ corn, I learned a little about a bit of history few are familiar with, the summer of 1816 – also known as the “Year Without a Summer”. That summer the freezing cold weather persisted into the summer. To compound the effects on crops that year, the fall freezes also began earlier in the season, resulting in such a short window that few crops were salvageable for farmers. The flint corn was one of the few crops that actually ripened during the summer of 1816. What I understood from my reading was that most crops that actually did survive the freezing, had cell walls that ruptured, due the expanding moisture/ice within. But the flint corn (called flint because it is as hard as a piece of flint) with its low moisture content and tough kernel “shell” had been able to withstand this freezing without rupturing.

This bit of history was obtained from reading various articles on various websites including:

  • http://history1800s.about.com/od/crimesanddisasters/a/The-Year-Without-A-Summer.htm
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer

Mason Bees

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For years people have relied on and contributed crop production/pollination to honeybees. Now, more and more farmers and homeowners are raising solitary Mason bees to do the job since they are much more efficient and effective at the job.

There are a large number of lesser known bees that also make excellent pollinators, but the Mason bee has been the easiest to raise due to its nest building habits. For some time, people have been providing nesting blocks made from a simple piece of wood with appropriate sized hole drilled in (5/16″ wide by roughly 4″-8″ deep), left up year round for nature to take its course. This is the simplest method, but not always the one that yields the greatest return of bees.

Trays are available now that resemble the old version, but can be separated and cleaned out to help rid the nesting block of pests like pollen mites and “chalk brood” – a fungus that can kill the developing bee larvae. The block below has 7 trays banded together. It can be easily separated in fall for ease of cleaning and cocoon storage.

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