It’s been over five months since my last post — I know, I’ve been lax about keeping everyone updated about this year’s crops. All I can say is blogging is a lot easier when one is both jobless and childless, as I was for most of 2009.
But as you can see, the corn and soybeans are shooting the moon. Planted May 9, Mother’s Day, the crops have gotten a nice boost from plenty of rain in June and a blessedly hot, humid Chicago summer so far.
Also, we expanded this year – seeding three big pots to “field” corn (aka the industrial stuff, fed to pigs and chickens and distilled into ethanol), each with about six plants. We have two pots of soybeans, at around 20 plants apiece. Plus, we’ve got a late-seeded sweet corn plot this year that’s a bit behind its rooftop friends but catching up quickly.
As of July 21, the corn topped out at a little over six feet tall (excluding the pot) and the beans are about 33 inches high and sporting a nice “canopy” to shade the soil, as the farmers say.
Look closely at the top photo, and you’ll see the corn recently developed tassels and silks. That means pollination, the all-important reproductive phase, is underway. This puts CKOW’s crop roughly on pace with the rest of Illinois (89 percent silking as of last weekend, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture – way ahead of the typical pace, in other words).
We get through pollination unscathed, and our corn crop, as a certain former Illinois governor soon to be fitted for an orange jumpsuit would say, should be “bleeping golden.”
The country’s real corn farmers are poised for a shiny year as well. Thanks to a dry, warm Midwest spring, crops were planted well ahead of the usual pace, a stark contrast to the cold, soggy conditions last year that kept tractors parked in the sheds for weeks. Last month, the USDA projected a 13.25 billion-bushel harvest, topping last year’s record by 140 million bushels.
But the summer is far from over, and a hot, dry August and September – which some weather folks expect – could take production down a few notches. The usual summertime weather jitters, combined with rising consumption from the ethanol industry, have helped keep corn futures hovering around $4 a bushel, still high by historical standards.
Finally, in the wake of the unfortunate news out of the Friendly Confines this week, this year’s crop is hereby dedicated to Lou Piniella, who deserved better than what Jim Hendry and his $140 million band of sad-sack underachievers gave him the past two seasons.
CKOW would like to extend a personal invitation to Sweet Lou, before he retires and rides off into the Tampa sunset, to drop by the rooftop and pick up his own ear of Wrigleyville-grown corn. It would look nice on your desk, Lou, and would be much more useful than Derrek Lee’s bats.
As for the mess Lou will be leaving behind, well, we can’t blame Milton Bradley this year. But we can offer some suggestions to Cubs owner Tom Ricketts as the team slogs through increasingly meaningless games the next couple of months and he considers who will be the next victim… er, leader… for this storied franchise.
In the days since Piniella announced his retirement, we’ve heard names of the usual suspects tossed around: Bob Brenly, Joe Girardi, Ryne Sandberg, etc. But here’s an outside-the-box idea for you, Tom.
Mr. Ricketts: Hire Jim Essian. Right now. For the rest of the season. Just like ’91. What have you got to lose?
Eamus catuli, 102 years and counting…