Tag Archives: pumpkins

Fallish like nightgowns and pumpkins.

One of my favorite categories and species of food is Cucurbita, that is, its squashes I have known; in the garden that’s nearly all been zucchini and butternut. But last month I got a vision for pumpkins trailing the paths of next summer’s garden. After browsing seed vendors online and debating with myself till my eyelids drooped, I narrowed the field to two romantic French varieties. Probably their long French names contributed to their appeal. One is often nicknamed the Fairytale Pumpkin and the other the Cinderella Pumpkin. But those names are not consistently applied.

Did you know that there is no botanical category for pumpkin? It’s more of a cultural or linguistic grouping, and at least in English seems generally to be based on its shape. The majority of pumpkins are Cucurbita pepo, but there are pumpkins in the C. maxima and C. moschata species groups, too.

In this Wikipedia photo, they note that the two bright orange ones in center right are C. pepo, and all the others C. maxima. The botany of squashes, as seen in brief on that Wiki page, is complex and historic!

The one above is what I bought this year at Trader Joe’s, and it was merely called “Heirloom.” I think it is a Rouge Vif D’Etampes. Last year I found one at a farm stand, and was impressed by its sweet, deep orange flesh.

I decided on seeds for the Rouge, but it was nip-and-tuck until the end between it and the lovely Musque de Provence, which is a Cucurbita maxima:

Last week I tried these Carnival squashes and my goodness, aren’t they tasty, right down to their crispy and colorful skins. I began to wonder if I should plant them to grow on my trellis….

But they do say that of all the Cucurbits, butternut squash are the best keepers. I must keep that in mind; after all, I want to store other things in my freezer besides squash.

It’s the time of the year when I start to have wood fires — now in my new stove, an Ironstrike — and to discover how many flannel nightgowns need patching or cannibalizing. Always the sleeves, at the elbows, get thin and holey while the rest of the garment is just fine. All of these pictured have the same need for mending, and only one of them is too far gone, so I will use pieces of it on the others.

Four newly refurbished nightdresses will be restored to use, after having sat in a basket, some of them for years, poor neglected things.

A church in southern Oregon, at which I have worshiped at least twice, is renting space in a strip mall while they work on building their permanent temple. In this year’s Alameda Fire much of the town of Phoenix, St Gabriel’s current locale, was burned, but their space was untouched. Here is a photo of the land where the new church is going in. The fire came so close to the icons and cross marking the spot, I thought it worth sharing:

I put my air purifier in the closet today, and thought, Wouldn’t it be so truly normal if I don’t need it next year…. We are getting a little rain this weekend, and cozying up to the hearth.

Feelin’ good in the fall.

P1110683It feels good to have our favorite baseball team playing in the World Series, and as I type the San Francisco Giants are playing the third game against the Kansas City Royals. I come over to the computer during the commercials and sometimes also when I am too nervous watching the Royals at bat.

We went to one of our favorite nurseries today, driving through vineyards and brown fields and clumps of oak trees, under a blue sky. As soon as I heard that we were headed out into the country, I was so excited, anticipating strolling around in the pleasant air. It felt good to wash all the dishes that had piled up – then we were off.

P1110677 verbena sidewalk

At the big nursery we were the only customers for a while as we browsed the perennials for a few drought-tolerant plants to use as ground cover in the front yard. One of the plants that was suggested to us was this verbena that we knew was already blooming all over the sidewalk at home, where I later took this shot.

At the garden center I had to keep reminding myself that we don’t have space for this or that beautiful or interesting plant, but I did remember to buy a little bay tree, inspired by some of you who mentioned that you grow them in pots. It’s a Grecian bay, bearing the type of leaf one buys in the spice section of the market, and not the California Bay Laurel that is native around here, which would outgrow a pot too fast, I think.


On the way home we stopped at our favorite fruit stand where they had a contest going to guess the weight of this pumpkin. We tried to recall the size of that ton+ pumpkin in my recent post, and put in our guesses for this one at about 1300 and 1400 pounds.

Last week I found some of my all-time favorite Pippin apples in a store and made some killer apple crisp to share with friends, and my love for apples was rekindled. Cooking and eating apples when they are in season, coming off the trees in our local orchards, is the way to go. Too many times in the last year or two I have tried to make something appley with apples from across the world, or fruit that had been languishing in cold storage. I hope I have learned my lesson now. Today I bought some more Pippins at the fruit stand and once again have a stockpile of substantial, useful, and of course tasty emblems of the harvest season.

P1110679 plants

Here are the plants we came home with. Left to right: Australian Astroturf, Scleranthus biflorus; Lawn (flowerless) Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile; Pink Chintz Thyme; the bay tree. P1110689 osmanthus & project

Our project is to put some steppingstones and ground cover into an area of our dead lawn not far from the front door, in the lower right-hand corner of this picture that is mostly taken up by just half of the sweet olive (osmanthus) bush. It’s a pleasure to work close to the osmanthus, because it’s so often bearing its tiny perfumed blossoms that I have gushed about in this space more than once. They are doing that right now. P1110684 osmanthus flower
A couple of weeks ago I dug big clumps of orchard grass out of this lawn area, and this afternoon I got a little more done removing the grass thatch that is embedded in adobe clay. Eventually I will add some compost and the new plants.

P1110671 zinnias

Meanwhile the trailing zinnias are thriving in the slightly cooler weather. They are my autumn decorations and I don’t at all mind not having a pumpkin or a gourd out front. Anyway, I already have a box of plants taking up space on the front step and who knows how long they will have to hang out there.

And look at this darling portulaca blossom. It is so little that I didn’t notice the much tinier insect inside until I had enlarged its picture. Since I planted it the cistus nearby has grown by leaps and bounds and overshadowed the  portulaca, so I have to poke my camera underneath to catch a flower.

P1110691 portulaca & insect

I’m sorry to say that between the time I started writing and now when I am finishing this post, Kansas City won the game. But tomorrow is another chance, and Sunday, too. We will watch one of those games with some friends, and maybe eat apple crisp together. I’m feeling good about it already.

About this pumpkin…

This very day a record-breaking pumpkin weighed in atpumpkin 1 ton + Half Moon Bay 14 the contest in Half Moon Bay in Northern California. It weighed 2,058 pounds, which is not even as big as the world record set yesterday in Germany. But it currently holds the record for the heaviest pumpkin in North America.

Mr. Glad and I certainly haven’t been keeping up with the pumpkin competitions. I only heard about this one on the classical radio station on the way home from the dentist this afternoon, and I don’t recall news of another pumpkin recently. But now I have learned that until last year no one had broken the one-ton barrier, and about 15 years ago 1,000 pounds was the biggest you could expect in a prize pumpkin. What can they be feeding them nowadays? Or maybe it’s the hybridizing of the seed.

K pumpkin 1998Only once did anyone in our family enter a contest like this; it was Kate in ’98, and in this picture she is smiling in spite of the fact that I had stupidly broken the stem of her potential prize before it was half-grown. You are supposed to move the fruit to a pallet when it is small, and let it grow huge there, so it will still be easy to transport if it gets to be a few hundred pounds.

What I didn’t anticipate was the way the stem when lying on the damp soil is likely to send down roots, and Kate’s had done just that. The roots were stronger than the stem, so Snap! it went, and “Oh, no!” I went. I never could figure out how she could be so philosophical about it. She loved her pumpkin anyway, even if it wasn’t any good for entering the local contest. Probably it never turned orange.

These giant pumpkins are all very well and good — I guess. They are freaks, though, aren’t they? That prize-winner in the photo reminds me of Jabba the Hutt. They must be good for feeding to livestock, but in general I think that smaller is better. No tasty sugar-pie pumpkin would care about getting so big it couldn’t even squeeze into the kitchen.

God is constantly willing.

Weeds grew thick and tall in my recent and repeated absences, threatening to hide and destroy the beauty of the garden I’d planted. This morning I spent an hour tidying things up and giving space to the cucumbers and peppers so that they could grow unhindered. I’d hired a girl to irrigate enough to keep everything alive, but I didn’t ask her to pull weeds.

(Unripe grape tomatoes above, nasturtium in arugula below. All pictures taken just this evening.)

While hauling several baskets full to the trash I remembered my own advice to another young friend who was just falling in love with gardening. She asked me whether I thought she should do a little bit of garden work every day, or spend a couple of hours one or two days a week. I told her that the best way is to tend it a little bit every day. There is always a weed to pull, a tomato branch to be tied up, or a dead flower to be clipped off. The plants need water, and food, perhaps even a little shade from time to time.

One year our Baby was raising a pumpkin she hoped would be a huge one she could enter in the local Giant Pumpkin Contest. We were told it was advisable to put the growing pumpkin on a pallet when it was still small so that it could stay dry and be easily moved no matter how large it grew. When I got around to helping my daughter with that part of the project the fruit wasn’t very large yet, but the stem, having lain on the moist ground, had already sent out roots into the soil. This situation was hidden by a canopy of leaves, and when we hoisted the pumpkin on to the pallet, the vine stayed anchored by those roots, and the pumpkin broke off at the stem.

That was a hard lesson. I thought sadly of how a farmer, even a novice homeschooling pumpkin-grower, can’t afford to procrastinate. Any job involving a living thing has to be paced according to that creature’s rate of growth. And agriculture usually involves many living things all in relationship to one another: the plant, the soil, pests with their own life cycle, and probably others I’m not thinking of, not being a very good farmer still.

This morning’s brief mediation on how I really ought to tend more constantly to my garden continued when I later sat down at the computer to read the transcript of an interview with the Orthodox theologian and writer Vigen Guroian in which the topic of conversation turned, as is usually the case with him, to gardening, and he said “…were not God constantly willing His creation, loving His creation into existence, it would disappear.”

From my perspective as a lazy, distracted, and time-constrained gardener, I appreciate the steadfastness of our Lord in continuing His creative work moment-by-moment.  Colossians 1:17 says that he “holds all creation together.” I am one of His creatures, whom so far He has seen fit to give life and breath to every morning, making it possible for me to tend my own mini-garden, which also couldn’t live without His blessing and daily upholding.

Something G.K. Chesterton said on the subject often flits through my mind, when musing on this subject. He said, that in contrast to children, who through excess of vitality want things repeated, “…grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again,’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again,’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So far, the garden hasn’t seemed monotonous to me. Every day is different there. Of course, The Creator is making the daisies, and I get to discover them, along with the roses and budding fruits and spreading spinach. I do love my garden, and will try to be more constantly willing to keep it going, imitating my Lord.