by Jim and Melanie
Much of Iowa holds “the best of both worlds.” If you live in a rural area, you might not be very far from a bustling town. If you live in town, you probably have farm fields within a dozen miles of your home. Just north of us is a small farm actually within its city limits. On the farm grows corn, but it’s best known for the large pumpkin patch, open for weeks in the fall for happy families to visit. The pumpkins that families purchase make grinning, gap-toothed Halloween decorations and harvest decor that lasts for months.
Besides the pumpkins, the farm owners have developed another field growing sunflowers. Recently on a sunny morning, we stopped by to enjoy the brilliant orangey-yellow petals, held aloft on sturdy stems.
Not being experts in sunflowers, we hadn’t realized that there were so many different kinds. The largest blooms, as big as a dinner plate, drooped under their weight on thick stems. Most of the flowers were spent, but the centers were dense with seeds drying in the sun. These flowers were termed “deadheads” and were free for the taking. Jim clipped two big heads to bring home for the birds to enjoy later in the year.
While the classic sunflower has golden petals and a dark brown center, the field also included brilliant yellow blooms, as well as burgundy ones.
The one below caught our eye because of the elegant structure from the side. The other shot shows its face. When we looked inside, we could see it was full of bugs! There was a bee, things that looked like lightning bugs, and dozens of tiny green things. Most of the blooms didn’t host this wildlife. Click the picture to embiggen.
As we wandered through the flowers, we heard a wail rise up on the other end of the field. There were two women with two blonde girls, about three and four years old. Each girl was in a dress printed with sunflowers, ready for a photo session. Except the smaller one was not; it was she who cried out in a tantrum that quickly proceeded to a full meltdown. Heedless of the cajoling and scolding of the women, the girl did not relent. After a few minutes, the plan was abandoned and all four retreated to their car.
Besides the sunflowers, zinnias were on display. Their colors were fading with the season, but they still attracted butterflies.
In addition to the sunflower patch and the pumpkin patch, this local farm has a corn maze. Mazes can be found all around the country. Here is an aerial photo from an intricate maze on the Oregon Dairy Farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The farm buildings are at the upper right. This maze is huge. It, and hundreds of others, are intricate works of art. How is a big maze built?
A typical method is as follows. The acreage is planted in the spring in a cross-hatched pattern to eliminate rows in the final maze. When the corn is 2-3 ft tall, the maze pattern is cut. A pattern is designed, digitized, and fed into a highly accurate GPS unit mounted on a small tractor with a cutting attachment. The tractor drives itself through the designed maze on the GPS. It can be finished in less than a day.