Friday, January 23, 2015

Pumpkin Procrastinator

We grew a plethora of pumpkins this year.  We gave some away.  We put many green and damaged pumpkins in the compost.  We left more back by the woods for the critters.  We also stored pumpkins in the basement.  Many of them are still lurking down there waiting.  Today Ed and I  took care of three pumpkins.  We do these together.  Ed doesn't like to see me with a large knife in my hand and he definitely doesn't like to make trips to the emergency room, so he cuts the pumpkins in half for me.  He also scrapes out the innards using an old gravy ladle.  I then place them cut half down surrounded by one half an inch of water and bake them in a 350 degree oven.  It takes about an hour, sometimes more depending on their size.  When the house smells like pumpkin and the shells cave in when touched, they are ready.

They look like this when they come out of the oven.  I give them some time to cool off so that I can handle them comfortably.

When they are cool you can scoop the pumpkin out leaving the intact skin to go in the compost.  After that I freeze the pumpkin in containers that contain enough pumpkin for six pumpkin custards or a pie.

We could have done this sooner so now for the procrastinator part.  The first pumpkin Ed cut was disgusting inside.  The pumpkin looked fine, but a close inspection revealed a small hole in the bottom.  Some insect had burrowed in through the blossom scar while the pumpkins were growing in the field.  Had this pumpkin been processed promptly, it would have been fine.  Our wait allowed rot to take hold so now it went directly to the compost.  Today's next two chosen pumpkins were fine.  Since we have waited so long some of the pumpkins have nasty surprises.  The worst are the ones that have developed soft spots.  When you pick up a pumpkin and your thumb sinks into a soft smelly spot, you know you have put things off too long.  Mithren, our cat, seems captivated by the smell.  I can't think why since when he licks that yucky pumpkin juice he always seems to throw up.

So we are multitasking.  We are warming the kitchen, cleaning up the basement, freezing pumpkin for later use and keeping the cat from throwing up all at the same time.  Oh right, did I tell you we had a huge bumper crop of Butternut squash?  They are processed in a similar manner.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cold Clear Blue Sky

To date, January has been characterized by dismal overcast days and bitter cold.  Perennial plants were fully exposed to both the winds and the cold.  Frequent light dustings of snow failed to cover even the tips of the grass but road salt was needed in abundance.  Anyone that had to drive soon coated their car with dirty grayish white salt streaks.  A car wash was not an option because of the cold air.  Tightly frozen doors on a clean car guarantee that it will stay clean since there is no way to get inside.

Yesterday brought us a snowfall of substance.  Schools were closed and we had no interest in venturing out.  Freezing rain fell at both the beginning and the end of the storm.  The moisture content of the snow was sufficient to meet the seven inch forecast but the wet heavy snow compacted itself as it fell so the accumulated snowfall fell short of predictions.  Now at least, perennial plant crowns were under cover.

We do not know if the overnight low temperature fell to three below as forecast since the sun was well up when we finally ventured out.  We do know that the thermometer barely registered double digits early this afternoon.  Still, stones absorbed heat from bright sunlight sufficient to melt some snow.  Refrozen beads of ice and wet water dribble trails lie in contact with each other on the warmed surface of the stones.

My plan was to wait for the snowfall to stop before attacking it.  The snow blower could have handled the thickness of the accumulation but the wet snow rendered it useless.  Since I was uncharacteristically late in starting, a neighbor plowed the driveway.  The finishing work fell to me and the little yellow plow in the background made the snow pile near the truck.  It will push great mounds forward but cannot discharge heavy wet snow to the side.

This wet snow would freeze solid overnight and might then remain at the roadway's edge for weeks.  I had to push it straight back to clear space for subsequent plowing.  Darkness fell before both sides of the lane could be cleared so we will have to make this much open space work.

Time under the bright sun has dissipated the accumulated seasonal gloom and aching muscles from physical exertion somehow feel right.  Our plants are finally under protective snow cover and we have spent time in the sunlight.  Another seed catalog arrived in today's mail.  We are finally heading in a comforting direction.