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Author: Dreamflower
Title: Frodo's A-maize-ing Garden
Rating: G
Theme: Back to Middle-earth Month 2015
Elements: This prompt from grey_wonderer: Frodo decides to plant a section of the garden himself, believing he will enjoy raising his own tomatoes, potatoes, whatever you want him to attempt to grow is fine. How well does he do? Does he get any help? Is Sam offended? Amused? Annoyed?
This can be pre-Quest or post-Quest.

Author's Notes: Well, this is what came to me when I saw the prompt. Obviously it is partially inspired by movie-verse, in which Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin collide in the middle of Farmer Maggot's cornfield. Since the word "corn" has another meaning in most of the rest of the world, I've chosen to use the word "maize" which is used elsewhere than the USA, and is not unfamiliar to most Americans, though it isn't common here. Other notes at the end of the story.
Summary: The Gaffer is not amused when Bilbo and Frodo want to grow a "furrin" food from Buckland.
Word Count:1,100 (Eleven drabble series)

Frodo's A-maize-ing Garden

Frodo's pang at watching the Brandybuck carriage take Merry away from his annual spring visit to Bag End was blunted by curiosity as he looked at the package Aunt Esme had given him. "An early birthday present," she'd said, for she'd be in Whitwell with the Tooks on her birthday. He opened it in anticipation, for he had no clue what she might have given him.

He untied the string, and pulled away the thin muslin in which it came. There was a small burlap bag that rattled. He opened it, and gave a delighted shout. "Uncle Bilbo!
It's maize!"

"Maize, Mr. Bilbo?" In spite of the Gaffer's mild tone and respectful attitude, Bilbo could sense the waves of displeasure rolling off his gardener like shimmers of heat on a dry summer day.

"Why not?" Bilbo returned, in as neutral a tone as he could manage.

"We don't have no cows nor pigs, Mr. Bilbo. And what I hear, maize uses up a lot of the good from the earth, and takes a lot of garden space to get much out of it." Clearly his mind was made up.

"Very well, Master Hamfast. I won't ask you to plant it."

Sam overheard and was disappointed. For one thing it was a shame Mr. Frodo would get no use from his aunt's gift, and for another, Sam was fascinated by the idea of a crop that was new and different.

But his Gaffer didn't take with no "furrin plants"; Sam knew Mr. Bilbo wouldn't argue no more. But Sam knew they grew a lot of things that were "furrin". Mr. Bilbo had told him tomatoes, pipe-weed, pumpkins, even 'taters was from that same foreign place, Westernesse that sank beneath the Sea.

Still, Sam knew the Gaffer wouldn't want to hear it.

"I'm afraid the Gaffer won't plant it, Frodo. If I give him a direct order he will comply, but his heart won't be in it."

"I understand, Uncle Bilbo," Frodo sighed. Sweet maize, boiled upon the cob and served hot and dripping with butter, was one the great treats of a Buckland summer. Only in the Marish was eating maize grown. Elsewhere it was thought of as merely fodder for the livestock.

"I don't think you do, lad. Do you know enough to tend it yourself if I give you a corner of the garden?"

Frodo smiled. "I certainly do."

The Gaffer was surprised the following day to find that a portion of the lower garden, which was usually lawn, had been staked off. Not only that, but to his astonishment, Mr. Frodo was pushing the small hand tiller they used for preparing the kitchen garden behind the smial. He'd have to speak to Mr. Bilbo! Mr. Frodo couldn't just go tearing up the property like that!

He turned to do so, when he saw his Master coming. "Good morning, Master Hamfast," he said cheerily. "Isn't Frodo doing a good job preparing his part of the garden for his maize?"

It was on the following Highday that Frodo invited Sam to come fishing with him down at the Water. Since there was no work to be done that day, the Gaffer gave permission. He was still unhappy over Frodo's maize plot, but was getting over it. They walked along, poles over their shoulders. Sam carried the worms they'd dug, and Frodo had a bucket.

They cast their lines and Frodo quickly had a hit. He pulled it in.

Sam looked disappointed. "He's too small to keep."

Frodo shook his head. "Too small for hobbits, perhaps, but not for the maize!"

Sam watched as Frodo carefully heaped up the earth in his plot into little hills. In each one he buried a fish, before planting the little kernels. He grinned. The Gaffer could not bear to watch, so he'd set Sam to tending the kitchen garden out back while he kept to the front, but he knew his father would want to hear all about it anyway, though Sam had to pretend he was speaking only to Marigold.

He knew that the Gaffer was hoping Frodo's efforts would fail, but truth to tell, Sam would put his wager on Mr. Frodo.

When the maize was almost knee-high, Frodo undertook the next steps. When Bilbo had gone to Michel Delving on business, he'd had him pick up seeds for speckled beans and pumpkins. He'd no intention of using seeds the Gaffer had saved in the garden shed from last year. This was how the maize was grown in Buckland and the Marish, and he was confident it would work, but he'd rather not waste that seed if it did not.

Carefully, he planted the beans around the tiny stalks, and the pumpkin seeds in small hills he made between the maize hills.

Frodo's garden was the talk of Hobbiton. Every time the Gaffer set foot in The Ivy Bush, he was twitted by his friends. He'd finally given in to curiosity and took a secret look at the plot. Not only was the maize now taller than a hobbit's head, but the beans was a-crawling up the stalks, fine and leafy, and the pumpkin vines were growing well. Why, grown thataway between the mounds, they kept the weeds down a treat. And didn't it beat all, the way a gentlehobbit like young Mr. Frodo worked!

He was sorry he'd ever said "No".

It was the first week in Wedmath when the maize was ready for harvest. Frodo felt proud as he picked the first green ear and pulled back the husk to reveal the juicy yellow kernels. The ear was plump and blemish-free. It was just right! To have it at its best he'd need to harvest it at once, and serve it right away. He'd need baskets! And he'd need to tell Bilbo they'd should set some cauldrons boiling.

And, he grinned as he thought to himself, send invitations to all down the Hill so that I can share my bounty!

The Gaffer took a deep breath. Crow was not his favouritest thing in the world to eat. That maize was sweet and juicy, nigh on as good as mushrooms. He owed Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo an apology, he did.

The two of 'em was still a-finishing up, their mouths all greasy with butter, as they gnawed on the cobs. They looked a right treat, they did, and the Gaffer smiled to see it.

"Mr. Bilbo, sir; Mr. Frodo..." he began, twisting his hat in his hands.

Bilbo waved a hand. "Say no more, Gaffer. Just remember the next time."


Author's End Notes: I've never personally grown corn in my own garden, but I have helped tend and harvest it in other people's gardens. I have grown beans and pumpkins, however. The method I described is the ones that the Native Americans taught the settlers from England.

Of course, maize (corn), tobacco (pipe-weed), tomatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkins and many other plants that make appearances in Middle-earth, either book or movie verse, are New World plants. My head-canon is that they were brought over from Nûmenor, along with athelas.

I also know that our modern big corn that is sweet and juicy is also a fairly recent development. But perhaps over the long millennia since the Third Age, the plants were lost.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2015 12:18 am (UTC)
Oh I love it Dreamflower!! Hehe, poor Gaffer, being proved wrong, but Frodo's little patch of garden did pretty well for itself, I'd say! :)

Mar. 10th, 2015 01:42 pm (UTC)
*grin* I'd say so as well! Thank you, dear!
Mar. 10th, 2015 12:36 am (UTC)
As an Illinois farmer's daughter who grew up with LOTS of corn (field corn for the cattle and chickens, sweet corn for us), your fabulous story really rang my chimes, DF! You're great with drabbles, and they shine here. I really like the progression they make as the skeptical Gaffer keeps tabs on Frodo's efforts as the season moves forward. The agricultural practices you describe are right on point. Corn is a nitrogen-hog, so the fish (as the Native Americans used) provides fertilizer. Weed control is achieved by organic means - the pole beans and esp. the pumpkins. That's how my grandparents used to plant sweet corn. Well, other than the fish business. Composted cattle and hog manure was spread on the garden for fertilizer.

Of course, maize (corn), tobacco (pipe-weed), tomatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkins and many other plants that make appearances in Middle-earth, either book or movie verse, are New World plants. My head-canon is that they were brought over from Nûmenor, along with athelas.

Ooooooh, yes, yes, and YES! In fact, you have support from the source texts for this notion. From my interminably long author's notes for The Man Who Grew Tomatoes

In the interest of making these author's notes even longer and more self-important, I'll note that I occasionally come across objections to the presence of such "New World" crops as potatoes, tomatoes and maize in "Old World" Middle-earth. Setting aside Tolkien's conceit that this is an imaginary history (and thus highly subject to interpretation), those who object to the presence of such crops might consider the following passage from "The Drowning of Anadûnê," History of Middle-earth, vol. IX, Sauron Defeated:

Above all arts they nourished ship-building and sea-craft, and became mariners whose like shall never be again, since the world has been diminished. They ranged from Eressea in the West to the shores of Middle-earth, and came even into the inner seas; and they sailed about the North and the South and glimpsed from their high prows the Gates of Morning in the East. And they appeared among the wild men and filled them with wonder and dismay; for men in the shadows of the world deemed that they were gods or the sons of gods out of the West. Here and there the Númenóreans sowed good seed in the waste-lands, and they taught to the wild men such lore and wisdom as they could comprehend;

Based on the above, the Númenórean mariners call to mind the great voyagers among the Portuguese, the Spaniards and the Dutch, so it isn't much of a stretch to imagine that the Númenóreans distributed "good seed," which may very well have included vegetables like potatoes, corn, capsicum peppers and tomatoes to distant lands. However, those of the great civilizations of the East of Middle-earth of the Pandë!verse — Bharat and the even more mysterious Lands of the Dawn and Kitai in the Far East — might take notable exception to being called "wild men."

The farmers of Pandë!verse Second Age Eregion grew some corn, enough to make corn meal for polentë. Tomatoes, too. But in my 'verse, all were wiped out thanks to Sauron's scorched earth policy.

I also know that our modern big corn that is sweet and juicy is also a fairly recent development.

In our primary world, sure. But in the imaginary history we write in? Hey, it works! As does this wonderful series of drabbles.

Now I want sweet corn and tomatoes. Preferably Illini Supersweet and a really ripe Better Boy. :^D
Mar. 10th, 2015 01:47 pm (UTC)
Yay! I figured you'd like that part!

Of course, it's something I've included in my fics for a while, though I think the first time I had a character state it outright was in "Good King Elessar". But it makes sense if they brought athelas, they likely brought other plants as well.
(no subject) - pandemonium_213 - Mar. 10th, 2015 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dreamflower02 - Mar. 10th, 2015 10:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zopyrus - Mar. 13th, 2015 03:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 10th, 2015 01:04 am (UTC)
That should put a dent in the Gaffer's prejudices! =)

(Someone should introduce him to an elf while they're at it.)

Edited at 2015-03-10 01:04 am (UTC)
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:01 pm (UTC)
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:32 am (UTC)
This is wonderful! I could just see everything so clear, and I can only imagine the Gaffer's skepticism of 'furrin' plants. But he became a 'convert' quite easily. ;)

I am already studying the garden catalogs and planning this year's garden. No sweet 'maize' for me though; I usually buy it from the farmer's market instead. It's just *so darn long* to have to wait... and I am hungry for it now... ::wanders off to fix popcorn instead::
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:02 pm (UTC)
Well, even the Gaffer can't argue with success.

I know. I really want to get started on my garden. Winter has lasted forever this year!
Mar. 10th, 2015 04:23 am (UTC)
This is a splendid and delightful fic, and I absolutely ADORE the format with all the little pieces. :) You made this so much a joy to read. Thank you!

Febobe :)
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:10 pm (UTC)
I like writing a drabble series. The 100 word bites enable me to move along at a good clip, and control things a little. Though it took me several days to plan the story in my head and a few hours to research to make sure I had all the facts right about growing corn, it only took a couple of hours to actually write it, and about another hour to tweak it.
Mar. 10th, 2015 09:00 am (UTC)
Very nicely done! I am just wondering how they would discover popcorn now :D Over here sweet &buttered maize/corn is hardly on the menu. But popcorn.. mjum!
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:12 pm (UTC)
I REALLY was tempted to include having popcorn, but alas, popping corn and eating corn are totally different types of corn.

Truthfully, I like popcorn, but I'd much rather have a nice sweet, juicy, drippy, buttery corn-on-the-cob!
(no subject) - rhapsody11 - Mar. 10th, 2015 03:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dreamflower02 - Mar. 10th, 2015 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 10th, 2015 10:22 am (UTC)
What a lovely set of drabbles. I am always somewhat thrown by stories where the 'corn' of Tolkien becomes maize rather than one of the European corn crops, but the idea that maize was imported from 'Westernesse that sank beneath the Sea' seems just right.

I can absolutely see the Gaffer not wanting anything to do with growing 'furrin' crops, especially as he doesn't think them suitable for hobbit consumption - and good to see him have a serving of humble pie with the sweetcorn when he does try it!
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:18 pm (UTC)
It's why I chose to use the word "maize" rather than corn, since the latter word has an entirely different meaning in Tolkien's context. And even though we do use the word corn, "maize" is not unfamiliar to most of us, since we learn the word in history class.

Bringing plants in from "Westernesse" (Numenor) was something I've touched on a time or two, and mention openly in "Good King Elessar". After all, we know that's where athelas came from; why not other plants as well.

It's quite humorous, actually. As Sam muses, a lot of the plants the Gaffer is totally at home with (such as 'taters, tomatoes, etc.) are also "furrin", LOL!

(BTW: After answering you, I still found two spots where I used "corn" and had to go edit!)

Edited at 2015-03-10 04:16 pm (UTC)
Mar. 10th, 2015 11:16 am (UTC)
This was just delightful and thank you for saying "Maize" as not to confuse this British reader!

I loved the idea the foreign plants could come from Numenor.

I could just imagine the Gaffer!
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
It was a deliberate choice, and one I had to keep watching out for--it was one of the main things when I was proof-reading to dig out the times I said "corn" instead of "maize".

Well, we KNOW that's where athelas came from. Why not all those other plants as well?

I'm glad you could imagine him! LOL! He's a character, he is.
(no subject) - kgreen20 - Mar. 15th, 2015 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 10th, 2015 01:16 pm (UTC)
Sweet story. I love the idea of where the New World crops in Middle-earth came from.
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It made sense to me!
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:24 pm (UTC)
Bravo for Frodo and for the Gaffer's being willing to 'eat crow' at the harvest. I think there's nothing much better than freshly harvested corn soaked, grilled, and drenched in butter. Low cal? Nope. But that makes no difference when corn is around to eat :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
Mar. 10th, 2015 02:51 pm (UTC)
And thankfully hobbits never worried about calories! LOL!

(Their metabolisms must have been incredible.)
(no subject) - kgreen20 - Mar. 10th, 2015 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 11th, 2015 03:27 am (UTC)
The crow eaten was sweet nevertheless, I'll bet! Good enough, Dreamflower! Well won, Frodo Baggins!
Mar. 13th, 2015 03:08 am (UTC)
Not only did I love this--it made me hungry! I love the bit of world-building you've set up, with Buckland being more adventuresome in its crops than Hobbiton, and the planting details were just right.

And I love the Gaffer--not so set in his ways that he can't admit when he was wrong.
Mar. 19th, 2015 12:36 am (UTC)
I really like this story. It was tasty and takes Frodo into 'Sam's world' and shows he can be just as clever a gardener when he puts his mind to it. This was a taste of home for him and an insight into his childhood. Yum!
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )


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