Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Fistful of Pumpkins

Nothing says Fall like a pumpkin. Synonymous with crisp air, gray skies, and Halloween festivities, this orange (usually) vegetable serves not only as an edible ingredient to themed foods and drink, but also as a key decorative element to the change of seasons. Join me in this loving account of the Sayers' 2011 pumpkins, as I recount their tale from patch to pitched.

It is October 16th. The sky looks like rain, but no droplets fall. The air stings just enough to redden your cheeks. Along with family, we drive out to Mosby Farms in Auburn, Washington. Next to the highway and an endless spread of Evergreens sits the u-pick pumpkin patch with hundreds upon hundreds of pumpkins for picking. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Before the fateful selection of the pumpkin, one must complete another Fall tradition: navigating the corn maze. We were given a map with 5 numbered checkpoints. The goal was to find each checkpoint before exiting the maze. And so we dived in. At first, you wonder just how difficult a maze could be. Some run ahead, find a path to circle back, and attempt to scare us. Nice try.

Slowly, the tall stocks of corn overwhelm your field of view, as you go deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of corn. Checkpoint #1 was easy, but #2 had us dizzy. We ended up finding #3 before #2, but determined as we were, we backtracked. After going in circles and passing the same bent-over stocks half a dozen times, we eventually found the notorious #2 checkpoint.

With two more to go, this is when we start splitting up, though not intentionally. Each person, with his or her own ideas about which path to take, starts charging ahead. Before you realize it, no one is following you anymore. Sometimes, we attempted to yell at one another, but the sound was amazingly muffled and difficult to pinpoint.

Eventually, each of us found the checkpoint and were elated upon seeing the exit. It was fun, but we were glad it was over. Our reward was a walk along the pumpkin patch, carefully selecting candidates for carving and for decoration. Should I get a perfectly round pumpking? Or should I get a misshaped one? How about one with some green on it? What about a funky, curvy handle?

After all of our individual preferences and requirements were considered, we found our future Jack-O-Lanterns and then went on the secondary candidates. Some smaller, white pumpkins would be a nice contrast. The mini-pumpkins would also be a nice counter-top decoration.

And so we picked through the specialty pumpkins and ended up with a total of 6. For less than $20, we had our pumpkin quota filled and we proudly wheel-barrowed them to our car. After hiking them into our apartment, I placed them under the purple and black Halloween tree.

However, maybe placing them under the Halloween tree wasn't such a great idea. One day, when walking past the pumpkins, I noticed a smell. And then I noticed the liquid oozing out from underneath the pumpkins. That's right..they were rotting and we hadn't even carved them yet. I'm thinking it was from the warm temperatures inside the house (normally, it isn't so warm in October and normally, I don't keep them inside). The bottom of my pumpkin turned into a ploppy, gooey, stinky mess. Nick's pumpkin, though on the verge of rot, was manageable.

In the end, I had to replace my perfectly-selected farm-born pumpkin with a generic one from the local grocery store. About a week before Halloween, we started carving our masterpieces. In our house, we don't use stencils and carving kits. We use a sharpie and standard kitchen knives. If you want to see how the tale of the pumpkins concludes, you'll have to watch this video:

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