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The pumpkin fairy

09/30/2013 @ 8:09am

Autumn would be a much more enjoyable season if we didn’t know that it’s followed directly by winter.

Fall comes with a wondrous palette of colors, the trees putting on their annual pyrotechnic display of scarlet and gold. Thanks to teenagers who went overboard with their hair tinting efforts, school bus stops often sport a vivid constellation of colors that cannot be found in nature.

There are also the aromas of autumn: the smell of ripening corn and soybeans, the tang of freshly chopped silage. Nothing says “fall in the country” like the aromatic bouquet that arises from a steaming heap of fermenting fodder!

The biggest event of autumn is harvest. All spring and throughout summer we fretted about our crops. Most of our worries regarded things we couldn’t control: Has it been too hot, or are we short on heat units? Has it been too dry, or should we seriously consider building an ark? Did I plant during the appropriate lunar phase? If not, is it too late to go out to the field and moon my crops?

Following a spring and summer spent anguishing over these and other issues, our garden turned out mostly average. Which is plenty good as far as I’m concerned; slap a “C” on my report card and I’m a happy camper.

After all these years, I’m still learning about gardening. For instance, once it gets going, a single cucumber plant can easily satisfy all the fresh cucumber needs of a small village. It’s just my wife and me at our house, so planting four cucumbers was a huge logistical error. I hope our chickens enjoyed all those fresh cukes.

Another lesson relearned was that no matter how big your dog might be, he will never be able to keep the raccoons out of the sweet corn patch. Our golden retriever, Sandy, is probably the friendliest pooch on the planet. The sweet corn never stood a chance.

And tomatoes never ripen as quickly as you want. Last winter we would have sold our souls for some garden-fresh tomatoes, so I planted half a dozen plants. The tomatoes began to ripen in mass quantities only recently, and now we would sell our souls to be rid of our tomato surplus.

I have learned once again that I have a particular knack for growing pumpkins. Or maybe they are just particularly easy to grow.

My interest in pumpkins began when I was a little kid. I had visions of breeding the Great Pumpkin and selling it for big bucks at my roadside stand. I soon learned several things: a) developing a line of pumpkins takes years and is certainly not a get-rich-quick scheme, and b) it’s difficult to sell produce if your roadside stand is located on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, and c) pumpkins are extremely promiscuous and will interbreed with any member of the gourd family, including Gordon Ramsey.

This year’s pumpkin and gourd crop was embarrassingly bountiful. The weird thing is, I recall planting just 10 seeds back in May. Those few seeds somehow managed to turn an overwhelming percentage of our garden into a tangled mass of vines that closely resembled a jungle.

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