“What makes pop-corn?” asked Hal.
“Well the heat of the fire turns into steam the water that is inside the kernel of corn,” said Mr. Blake. “Though you can not see it, there is water in corn, beans and all vegetables, even when they are dry.”
“And, as I have told you before, when water gets too hot it turns into steam, and the gas or vapor, for that is what steam is, grows very big, as if you blew up a balloon, so that the steam bursts whatever it is inside of, unless the thing that holds it is very strong. Steam can even burst cannon balls, so you see it can easily burst, or pop the corn.
“Then, as the kernel bursts it puffs out and quickly dries into queer shapes by the heat of the fire. It is white because the inside of corn is really white, though the outside husk looks rather yellow sometimes.”
So part of Hal’s pop corn crop made something nice to eat during the long Winter evenings. But before those evenings came Hal and Mab had harvested all the things in the garden, with the help of their father and mother, Uncle Pennywait and Aunt Lolly.
“We must get in the pea and bean vines,” said Daddy Blake when he saw what a hard frost there had been. “Then we’ll thresh them on the barn floor and it will be time soon, Hal, to husk your corn and bring in Aunt Lolly’s pumpkins.”
For about a dozen big yellow pumpkins were growing amid the stalks of corn, and very pretty they looked in the cool, crisp mornings, when the corn had turned brown from the frost.
Hal’s father showed him how the farmers cut off a hill of the corn stalks, close to the ground, stacking them up in a little pile called a “shock.” They were allowed to stand there until the wind and sun had dried the husks on the corn.
“Now we’ll husk the corn,” said Daddy Blake, after the peas and beans had been stored in the barn to dry until they were ready to be threshed or flailed.
He showed Hal and Mab how to strip back the dried husk, and break it off, together with the part of the stalk to which the ear of corn is fastened when it is growing. It was hard work, and the two children did not do much of this, leaving it for the older folk.
But they took turns using the flail, and thought this great fun. On a big cloth, on the floor of the barn, were spread the dried bean vines that had been pulled from Mab’s part of the garden. Then the swinging end of the flail was whacked down on the dried vines and pods. Out popped the white beans as the pods were broken, and when the flail had been used long enough Daddy Blake lifted up the vines and crushed, dried pods, and there was left a pile of white beans.
“Oh, what a lot of them!” cried Mab, when they had been sifted, cleaned and put away. There were about two bushels of the dried, white beans, enough to last all Winter, baked or made into soup.
Some dried peas were threshed out also, but not so many of them, and they could be cooked soft again, after they were soaked in water. Then Hal’s yellow corn was piled into two bushel baskets, and there were some of the ears left over.