"Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered." --Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
For Ray Bradbury, summer was preserved in dandelion wine. Here in Wisconsin and Minnesota, we preserve summer in freezer corn.
The first step is an early morning visit to a local farm. They harvest at sunrise and bring it into a barn for processing. Modern sweet corn is incredibly sweet - much more so than the strains of corn I grew up with 50-60 years ago. And modern corn holds that sweetness longer, before the intrinsic sugars start turning into starch. Even so, it's best to obtain, prepare, and eat the corn as soon as possible after it's harvested. Throughout the summer we go to this farm every 3 days.
After the shank is chopped and the ear is inspected (top photo), the corn is moved to a self-serve table, and then it's first-come first-served until they run out. The entire process is done on the honor system. You take what you want, figure the cost from a chart on the wall (it's about 50c/ear), put your money in the open cashbox and take change if you need it. Grocery bags are provided, but most people bring their own reusable ones.
Here's the recipe for freezer corn, which is of course a bit different from the heat-and-eat process for regular corn-on-the-cob:
The Stonemans grow a supersweet bicolor corn. The ears were a little smaller this summer because of unusually cool temperatures during the growing season.
We process about two dozen ears for the freezer, first cutting it off the cobs out in the garage (it can be messy, with kernels and juice flying around). Note at this point the kernels are ready to eat - and very sweet.
Then to the kitchen to be processed according to the directions in the third photo above.
And finally packed in Ziplock bags and stored in the freezer next to the other essential food groups...
It's been at least three whole minutes since I asked for a few of his favorites, and Robert Bixler is still naming bugs. There's the clearwing moth, which imitates bumblebees in both dress and behavior, and eschews normal moth protocol to fly during the day. There's the Halloween pennant dragonfly, which is bright orange with brown-splotched wings. There's the cherry millipede, which, when disturbed, smells like someone cracked open a jar of maraschino cherries.
And there's the larval antlion, a big-jawed blob that lives in sandy soil. When it's hungry, it digs a pit trap, and then lies at the bottom of it waiting for ants to troop by and fall in. This last type has a very particular fanbase: "They're the delight of every nine and 10-year-old boy who knows about them," says Bixler, a professor at Clemson University's College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. "They'll sit sticking pine needles into the funnel, and trying to get the antlion to grab at them."
Did you click on that dragonfly link? Would you like to lift-and-sniff a cherry millipede? Next time you're somewhere with sandy soil, might you find yourself casting about for the nearest pine needle? If so, you may have fallen into Bixler's own friendly trap. A specialist in what he calls "environmental socialization," he is always looking for new ways to get people to go outside and engage with the wild world around them. Little-known bugs, he thinks, might make pretty good bait.
Bixler started stockpiling bug stats a few years ago, after he became frustrated by what he saw as a tendency—both in his field and in the world at large—to overlook nearby possibilities in favor of more glamorous species and locales. "Nobody wants to study human behavior in a local park," he says. "Everybody wants to study stuff at Yellowstone National Park."
While looking for a close-to-home problem to delve into, "I realized I hear people say all the time, 'I hate bugs! Bugs are awful!'" he says. "It just occurred to me that, if we could figure out ways to get more people knowledgeable and interested in insects, people would be more comfortable outdoors."
Like most rebranding efforts, this one started with focus groups. Last year, Bixler and one of his graduate students, Nate Shipley, gathered groups of college students and gave them a series of bug-related surveys and quizzes. "First, we just wanted to know, what do people know about bugs?" says Shipley, now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. "And they don't know a whole lot."
On average, the students surveyed were able to list just 12 different insects in one survey's free response portion. (Many also included non-insect creepy-crawlies such as spiders, millipedes, and, in a couple of instances, snakes.) What's more, the best-known critters generally fell into two categories: "beautiful bugs," like butterflies, ladybugs, and fireflies, and "bothersome bugs," like mosquitos and wasps.
For a taxonomic group that boasts over 900,000 known species, these recognition numbers aren't so great. "We started to think about how to promote insect literacy," says Bixler. For the next few surveys, which made up his Master's thesis, Shipley asked questions meant to gauge not just how well people knew certain bugs, but the degree to which they would like to know them.
He had participants rate how interesting they found various bugs, and what exactly intrigued them (e.g. "fuzzy body," "horns look dangerous," "shape looks cool."). He even tracked their eye movements as they looked at different bugs side by side. (If people liked a bug, he wrote, they tended to focus on its head.)
The winners make up a category that Bixler and Shipley now call "Fascinating and UNfamiliar," or "FUN" bugs. These tended to display certain traits: "Color, shape, unusual morphological structures," says Shipley. The survey champion, the bagworm caterpillar, "doesn't have a defined shape," says Shipley. "People are curious—what is that? They also think it's kind of cute."
Shipley and Bixler hope their findings will help various stakeholders "use the novelty of bugs to their advantage," says Shipley. "When you're putting together a brochure, a sign, or an online article—how do you catch someone's attention?" They're also putting together a set of 75 FUN bugs that are common enough that they can be found in much of the United States, and fascinating enough that people might want to look: carrion beetles, jumping spiders, mud daubers, plus all the ones this article has already mentioned.
"It's in the spirit of Pokemon GO, or just a scavenger hunt," says Bixler, who plans to give the list to nature centers, botanical gardens, and schools. They're calling it the BUG-ket list: "Seventy-five bugs to see before you die!" says Bixler.
Bixler still thinks middle childhood—the average antlion-lover's age—is the ideal time to get into bugs. "I would love it if every 10-year-old who had a baseball bat in their bedroom had an insect net sitting next to it," he says. But one of the great things about bugwatching is you can start anytime and anywhere. "There are lions and rhinoceroses in Africa, but we have ant lions and rhinoceros beetles right here [in the United States]," says Bixler. "Anyone can afford to go on a bug safari."
Last but not least, Bixler says, bugwatching "provides simple pleasures." He brings up his own favorite bug category: a group of insects and spiders known as "bird-dropping" bugs, which camouflage themselves as lumps of avian poop. "There's dozens and dozens of [types]," he says, with clear glee. Since learning about them, he continues, "I smile every time I see a bird dropping." How much more FUN can you get?
Naturecultures is a weekly column that explores the changing relationships between humanity and wilder things. Have something you want covered (or uncovered)? Send tips to email@example.com.
Many of you asked me to put my Twitter thread into a blog post, here it goes. If you want to see where all these words really lead, and want to order my book here is a link. Thank you everyone for your support, appreciation and sense of family. No matter what your color we are family. I have edited this thread for clarity.
Get ready for a long thread. I’m feeling something I have to get off my chest. Like now.
“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” Drumpf says. Ok.
“Weak weak people,” he says.
Trump, you know you’re Drumpf from Germany, and unproven rumors swirl that your mother was an illegal immigrant from Scotland. You wouldnt know anything about unproven rumors about people’s national origins, even when they are proven. Easy for you to skip on back…to your old country.
Why? Because I didn’t know where we came from. That is a luxury Mr. Drumpf, a privilege to be able to claim where your genes come from.
Who gives a damn whether you wear leiderhosen or a kilt….
I had to spend thousands of dollars to figure out my family’s story. Hours of archival research. Hundreds of illegible pages to find my people listed with the horses, cows, pigs.
Our story was taken from us by force
I was never supposed to go by any other name than nigger.
I was never supposed to be able to vote.
I was never supposed to read and write
I was never supposed to be in a relationship with a white person that wasn’t exploitative.
I was never supposed to be able to challenge a white man.
I was never supposed to be able to find my way back to my African roots or know the names of my enslaved African American ancestors.
You talk about history and culture as if taking a statue down has more power to destroy a people than the whip and auction block or rape.
What fucking arrogance on your part.
To pander to a base claiming unity while verbally assaulting our cause and claiming an assault on a culture that has never known any assault save it’s own hedonism and amnesia.
Do you know what it’s like, Mr. Drumpf to wait 400 years to hear your real name again? Is it weak to not want cultural genocide celebrated for eternity?
What is it like to never hear your language spoken again until it drains from you like a lifeforce?
What is it like to never be able to honor the Spiritual forces passed down to you from your Ancestors on pain of death?
Or be sold from your parents, your spouse, or your children interrupting memory and the inheritance of heritage?
You better thank whatever deity you believe in other than Mammon that you will never be exiled and turned into property.
The only way I know who my ancestors were is their value as 3/5ths of a person.
When a Native person hears you talk such shit they remember long hair being chopped off
Native ppl remember having to write “I will not speak Pawnee/Navajo/Choctaw” until their hands bled. Hawaiian people remember the missionaries, people of all colors have had their heritage beaten out of them, but you call us “weak,” while you advocate the worship of cheap statues, the American version of the Golden Calf.
You mock the castrations, beheadings, ghastly deaths of thousands of people with your rampage of words, all so you can feel glory while you yet have flesh.
Drumpf you know nothing about having your history and culture taken from you.
My fucking name isn’t Twitty. It’s Ndiaye meaning the Lion (clan). I found a living cousin in Senegal who kept our name alive.
When your Drunpfs were in caves we were building Ghana, Mali and Songhai.
When my Ancestors were predicting the movement of the heavens as part if their religion yours were being blinded by eclipses. And you apparently have continued the tradition.
But…the sad part is this…you don’t realize your lies and bravado are tied to the fact I had to fight my way to recover bits and pieces.
Your power is based on the removal of “history and culture” from people of color. Because of those tortures, you went from being human to being white. We went from human to nigger.
Your bravado and arrogance are direct results of what was stolen from us. As long as we had no memory we had no weapons with which to fight.
But I brought our memory back with many others and we will not forget and we will not let this go. Resistance is our heritage.
“At NASA, we love to teach kids about space and inspire them to be the next generation of explorers,” Green said. “Think of it as a gravity assist – a boost that may positively and forever change a person’s course in life, and our footprint in the universe.”