Here we go with one of the most important agricultural events of the year besides planting. Making chicos (horno roasted corn in the sweet or milky stage) is a way to have one of the best meals on Earth in addition to having this delicacy preserved for use in the winter months. To get the process going we have to clean out the horno from the last time we used it. In the picture above you can see Chris Duran cleaning out the horno of last years “ashes.” These aren’t really ashes, it is more like charcoal, and we will be putting this in our compost to help with the need for sites to host microorganisms, to absorb and release moisture, and to aerate our compost, among other benefits. See our posts on ‘biochar’ for more info on our hopes and use of this resource.
One of the main activities of making chicos is mixing and working the mud (soquete) so that we can seal up the horno after we put in the corn. The mud is made thick with water and straw, is mixed vigorously at first and then allowed to rest until we continue to mix it periodically. The resting periods allow the mud to ‘set’ and you can feel when it is the right consistency to seal the door and chimney hole in the horno.The fire burns approximately 1 hour for every wheelbarrow full of corn. We use cedar (juniper), fruit wood, or even chamiso (sage) to burn in the horno to impart flavor on the chicos and meat that we cook in the horno. This is a great time to visit with each other as we wait for the horno to heat up sufficiently.