Time to Pitch the Pumpkins

We cut a Christmas Tree yesterday. We have done this for many years at the same place so I guess it is a family tradition at this point. The day after Thanksgiving we grab a saw and some gloves and something to tie the tree to the car and head to Menard’s Tree Farm. Some years it has been warm enough for shorts. Other years we track through snow. Yesterday was our first tree cutting in the rain.

That rain turned to snow late in the day. After we got home we propped the tree in the corner and, once it was dry enough, trimmed it with pewter snowflakes and glass snowmen and paper-framed photos of our kids made in elementary school. By the time we had that done, and other holiday decorating was underway, darkness was falling along with snow.

This year especially, like last year, we have been eager to spruce the place up, to put up lights and make the house festive. These are unusual times, filled with more than literal darkness. Putting up a Christmas tree, however, conflicts with the pumpkins. Those brought their own type of light but it is time for them to go.

On the far side of the field there is a compost pile, filled with gardening scraps–sunflower stalks and mint clippings and old squashes. We moved to this house just over a year ago and, before we had set up a household composting system nearby, I would trudge across the meadow to dump our apple peels and coffee grounds and egg shells. There was a lot piled on that pile.

This summer vines started to grow out of this pile. By fall we had pumpkins ripening. The last owners of the house had tossed their leftover gourds and the seeds sprouted. There were giant jack-o-lantern pumpkins and butternut squash. The butternut squash never really panned out, but we picked maybe twenty pumpkins and decorated the front porch and the back deck. Bonus agricultural products.

As we have been putting the house to bed–trimming the flower beds and the apple trees, turning in the vegetable garden–we have hauled organic material to the pile across the field. We have included some of those pumpkins in those visits. The small ones or the weak ones couldn’t handle a freeze and started to wilt. Right now we have half a dozen still at the house. This morning they are coated in ice and snow. Now that the Christmas season is fully here, it is time to pitch the pumpkins.

They do look pretty cool, so to speak, covered in white, but with even a minimal thaw, they will turn to mush. There are still a few flower vines and lily remnants to gather and haul away, so we will fill the cart and trudge through the inch and a half of snow and add the pumpkins to the pile. Next summer I am hoping they will begin the cycle again, vines stretching from the waste pile to grow some more orange and green globes to celebrate fall. For now, however, bring on the snow.

More Produce

Pumpkin Crop, and Other Stuff

I finally picked our pumpkins today. I harvested our entire crop, seen above with a few other items I sliced off the vine this afternoon. So we have a whopping three pumpkins for pie, soup, what have you. That ain’t much. In past years we have gotten more pumpkins than we can eat, freezing most of them for use over the winter. We did get a few, indeed, but we’re not talking a bumper crop here.

We are still picking cucumbers. The cherry tomatoes are falling off the vine. I might pick a bunch of them and dry them. The second melon from our garden is pictured above as well. Hopefully it will be as good as the first. That first one was tasty when we busted it open and even tastier after the second half of it cooled in the refrigerator. We should be able to pick a few more of those.

Next up–onions, already drying out of the ground. Good food. We have much more to still harvest. The rain we will get over the next couple of days will help with that. It should drop below 90 degrees by Saturday. That might help as well.

Pumpkin Carving

We finally got out the spoons and knives and carved our pumpkins. As my son said, “We put in a candle and we have Jack-O-Lanterns!” The process, illustrated:


Pumpkins Ready to be Carved

Ready for the Knife

Scooping Out Pumpkin

Removing Innards

Pumpkin Guts


Pumpkins Drawn Upon for Carving


Pumpkin Carving

Artist at Work


Really Scary, Scary, and Not So Scary--Waiting for Dark



Danger! Frost Ahead!


Alert! Frost Protection!

Alert! Frost Protection!

We are looking to get frost again tonight.  The children and I went out to cover the pumpkins seedlings, plus one cucumber plant that has just busted though the soil.  It was too windy for the plastic buckets we used before–no way they would stay on all night.  We improvised.

The kids’ orange play cones did the trick.  They are a little heavier and more stable.  Hopefully they will protect our little guys.  We may not get a frost but why take chances?  

Notice the grass clippings on the bed.  I edged the beds with our electric trimmer this afternoon.  I had to use two extension cords to get that far, but it worked like a charm, I mean, except for the grass clippings everywhere. It worked so well I trimmed all over the place, even under the apple tree up on the hill.  And around the blueberry bushes.  I will do that again.

So the pumpkins have trimmed beds to sleep in.  A bit messy, but with those cozy cones to keep them warm, my guess it they won’t notice.

Pumpkins on the Railing and on the Table

We have a dozen pumpkins on the railing of the deck.  These are the fruits, so to speak, of our gardening labor.  I have baked up a few of them so far, to use in muffins and soup.  I made two batches of muffins this past weekend.  One was great, the other flopped.

The flopped batch came from missing one ingredient.  It took me quite a while to realize what it was.  Then I remembered that I forgot the baking powder.  It is great to remember that I have forgotten something.  It is far better than to forget that I have remembered something.  The second batch was the progeny of the flop of the first batch.  I was excited to make these pumpkin apple muffins and then I ended up with these somewhat tasty but way too dense things.  The next batch was a winner.

I also made soup this weekend.  It was part of a simple meal:  fresh bread, fresh soup and apple pie.  The pie was a group effort (my mother and niece worked on that) so the meal was truly a family dinner.  The bread was pretty much dee-lish, if I may say that about my own honey oat perfectly risen perfectly baked warm buttery yeast creation.  And the soup was dang good as well.

My wife and I went out to dinner a few nights ago and had some squash soup that was really amazing.  It just folded into your tongue and wrapped around your taste buds in a teasing caress.  It was hard to get enough of that.  I though I might take some cues from that soup and, while I had no illusions that I would replicate it, try my own version.

My version was a pumpkin (duh!) soup, with cream and honey and cinnamon and sage.  It was creamy and smooth and sweet.  I made a lot but it was consumed, even by two young children and a teenager.  That was accolade enough for me.

There are still many pumpkins left.  I will bake and freeze a few and I will make more bread and more soup.  And maybe another batch of muffins.  We still have a bucketload of apples left as well.  Our oven won’t be idle for a while.

Pumpkins and Sunrise

Right around the equinox the sun rises over Camel’s Hump.  That is about the same time we harvest the pumpkins.  By the end of September we are getting frost so by early October we want to have the pumpkins off the vine.  We have a handful of pumpkins on the table, a few on the kitchen counter, and some on the deck railing.

The orange fits in nicely with the orange spreading over the hills.  In the next couple of days I will pull the last of our carrots from the ground.  More orange.  I planted lots of carrots this summer but much of the early planting turned to mush with all the rain.  The second planting did great but we ate it rather than saved it for the short days.  We’ll have to eat pumpkin.

Tomorrow morning I will make pumpkin muffins. At the moment I wait up for my parents, visiting for the weekend and arriving late.  I will probably start the muffins after the sun has risen.  By now, it rises south of Camel’s Hump.  It rose about 7:15 this morning.  Once the sun does make it over the mountains, it floods the house with light.  And warmth.  If there are no clouds, the house warms quickly.

While I grow wearier and wearier, hours into the dark part of the day, an IPA under my belt and a long day behind me, I question whether I should just hit the hay.  They advised I not wait up, and the rest of the household has left for dreamland already.  I wouldn’t mind making muffins and watching the sun rise at the same time, so maybe I will dive into the snooze box after all.

I will leave a note, perhaps, to be at least minimally polite, and suggest they wait to eat any of the pumpkins.  At least until I can cook them into muffins.