Crop progress report – A New Year’s harvest & a call to all bean-counters

Dec. 22 - Dad & Paige check out a snow-capped Wrigleyville a few days before harvest.

Happy new year from the Corn King!

Apologies for being away for so long, but CKOW has been on an extended paternity leave since we welcomed our beautiful daughter Paige Carolyn Blythe into the world Nov. 16. She’s doing great, and looks forward to helping dad raise more crops this summer.

After a lengthy delay, I’m happy to report that my rooftop harvest was completed by Christmas. The result was about nine potato-sized ears of corn and a couple-hundred soybean pods. Nothing spectacular, but we did prove you can raise farm crops on a big-city rooftop from germination to harvest, and keep the squirrels, aldermen and other rodents away.

So with the ears shelled and the soybeans de-podded and everything stored safely in a glass flower vase on my kitchen counter, the first annual Corn King of Wrigleyville Corn- and Bean-Counting Contest is officially underway!

Count 'em up and send me your guess - Hint: This flower vase stands 8 1/2 inches high and holds about 6 1/2 cups (56 fluid ounces) of water.

Give the photo above a good look-see and then send me your best guess (through this blog or via bblythe7@yahoo.com) on the total number of corn kernels and beans in the jar. Whoever has the closest figure wins a special-issue CKOW t-shirt in a size of your choosing. Deadline is midnight Jan. 17, and there’s no cost to enter. One estimate per person, please. Get your guesses in now!

Across the rest of the Midwest, a lot of farmers haven’t been as fortunate in getting their crops in, as the exceedingly heavy rains of last summer and early autumn morphed into exceedingly heavy snows of late fall and winter.

Just days before Christmas, about 5% of the U.S. corn crop remained in the field, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an almost unheard-of level for that time of year. That amounts to roughly 3.97 million unharvested acres – approximately 645 million bushels, or 5% of the estimated 12.97-billion bushel harvest – according to analysts cited by Dow Jones Newswires. Farmers probably won’t get to a lot of that corn till spring, if they bother with it at all.

As we’ve written before, such unrealized production will crimp supplies and keep grain prices elevated, potentially trickling down the food chain to what we ultimately pay at the grocery store (March corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade closed at $4.18 ½ a bushel today, the highest since late June).

My ears are runt-like Ryan Theriots compared to these Iowa-grown Derrek Lee versions from from my dad's fields. That's primarily because my stuff was confined to a 20-gallon flower pot, while his had unlimited access to prime Heartland soil.

All of this further cements 2009 as one of the latest harvests on record and one of the more bizarre crop seasons in memory. Even my dad didn’t finish his corn till Dec. 8, a month or so later than normal. While many of us cursed the past year’s weather in Chicago, Midwest farmers really had reasons to gripe. But a lot of them would probably tell you that, like raising kids, you just deal with it.

As we all get down to dealing with a new year, CKOW would like to extend best wishes to everyone for good health, strong whiskey and better times in the next decade. We’ll also remind you that it’s a mere 98 days till the gates open once again at Wrigley Field. Now there’s a season we can all look forward to.

Meantime, stay warm and get your contest guesses in soon! CKOW

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One response to “Crop progress report – A New Year’s harvest & a call to all bean-counters

  1. I will guess 1725 kernels & soybeans.

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