It’s a beautiful Sunday morning with a hazy cloud cover and moderate outdoor temps, perfect dirt digging weather. Alas, I sit inside, large coffee cup in hand, to catch up on writing — because I’m so stinkin’ sore from yesterday that I won’t be able to move more than my typing finger until the Aleve kicks in.
I get these ideas. I like to call them great ideas, myself – and they usually are – well, at least until proven otherwise, like the time I got the goats (shudder), BUT that’s a story for another day… Anyway, back to my latest great idea. Pumpkins. Let’s grow pumpkins!
Every year for the past 13ish years, we coordinate schedules among siblings, charge the camera batteries, withdraw a small fortune from the ATM, pack up the children and head to the local pumpkin patch where we spend 75% of the day, standing in long lines, listening to screaming kids and cranky parents, so we can catch that one perfect but elusive moment that everyone is happy, smiling and all looking at the camera at the same time, in an animal painted wagon train or atop an equally thrilled pony. The photos are priceless.
Then we hunt down a wagon or wheelbarrow, head out to the actual pumpkin patch to find Halloween pumpkins that costs enough to drain the last few twenty dollar bills from a wallet. It’s tradition. We don’t buck tradition — right? Hmmm… What if we tried? What if – maybe – we did (gulp) something new next year?
It was at this spot my great idea came together. What if I grew pumpkins out on the farm for my niece, nephews and a handful of local kids to come pick out next fall? We could stack hay bales for them to play on, borrow a friend’s pony and take them for ATV rides. Caramel corn is east to make. Is it possible to create a spot so great that the children decide they want to skip the long lines at the local pumpkin patch?! Is it too big of a dream?!!
It’s impossible to know whether or not something will work without trying, so this year – I got serious about it. In early spring , I started a variety of pumpkin seedlings indoors. I moved them outside a few weeks ago to harden them off and acclimate them to Central Oregon wind and weather. Then yesterday, I prepped the soil, got them in the ground and covered.
While it takes about 3 seconds to type that line, the actual amount of physical labor that went into just soil prep was brutal. This is why I can’t move today. I spent 5 hours (FIVE – did you read that?! FIVE long, body-jolting, blister-forming, sweat-stinging-my-eyeball hours!) rototilling hard packed, lightly rock-filled, sod bound earth into something more workable and pumpkin root ready.
Theory is that all soil needs amended. So I lugged several heavy bags of compost and manure out to the want-to-be pumpkin patch and tilled it in until it was well mixed. The
nerd, um, scientist in me, will be able to see if the theory is true because I was about 8 feet short on soil amendments, so we will be doing a side by side pumpkin development study.
In the process, I dug up a frog. Well, it’s a toad, actually. I thought it was the biggest tree frog I’d ever seen, so, like any decent human, I returned it to its branch. And then it fell out. I decided that it probably wasn’t a tree frog. It got misidentified as the nasty invasive American Bullfrog and spent a night receiving death threats on my Facebook page (that might be an exaggeration) until I decided to read up and educate myself about both the dreaded bullfrog (sorry, nobody likes you, it seems) and other native species present in my local region. I am now 100% certain, my little friend was none other than the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad. Phew. Environmental disaster avoided. I’m pretty sure he survived because I saw him hop off as I stood guard over the dogs so they wouldn’t eat him.
Back to pumpkins, now we wait. Will they get enough water? Will the bunnies, dogs, deer or bugs get the plants first? Our forecast changed from a week of overnight lows in the 40-50’s to suddenly just above freezing once the tender seedlings were planted. Will the tunnel cover keep them safe from frost? I don’t know – and even if all things go well, will these pumpkins be enough to woo the children from wanting to go to their favorite pumpkin patch this fall? One can only hope and dream.
Okay, I can straighten my legs with only a moderate amount of groaning. It’s time to go to work on the garden boxes. Please pray for no snakes. I just don’t think I have what it takes for a snake-sighting in me today.