A Cucurbita Journey of 14 Months

This morning I made pumpkin muffins.  There’s a story here that spans a year+ in time.

The original green pumpkin, 2012

The original green pumpkin, 2012, and Maggie at the front door.

First I saved seed from a cool looking grey-green pumpkin I got at the Farmers Market last October, 2012.  It was a squatty, heavily ridged, a “Cinderella’s coach” shaped pumpkin.  Quite enchanting!

I planted the seeds in spring/summer 2013 and watched them grow.  My intention was to have home grown pumpkins to put by the doorstep in the fall.

The leaves were huge & the 2 vines were about 15 feet long toward the end of the growing season.  The blossoms looks like any squash blossom – large, yellow and attractive to bees.  I only had two nice-sized pumpkins by October, but then I really didn’t need any more than that.  It was fun to watch them grow.

Early July.  The green pumpkin vine is at far right.  At left are the mini orange pumpkin vines.  Front and center, tomatoes & French melons.

Early July. The green pumpkin vine is at far right. At left are the mini orange pumpkin vines. Front and center, tomatoes & French melons.

I did use the pumpkins for fall decoration.

Then last week, after they’d spent time outdoors in the freezing cold, I thought I’d better take the seeds out and pitch the rest in the compost pile.  But when I cut one in half, it smelled and tasted so fine, I decided to cook some.  I peeled & cut it in chunks. The flesh was firm, sweet, and a beautiful orange color.  I saved the seeds for the squirrels, and a few seeds to plant next year.  The remainder went in the compost pile, as originally planned.

I sorta made it up as I went along, hoping for the best.  I’ve heard that the puree you make at home is never like what Libby’s sells in a can, but I found that untrue.  Mine turned out that thick consistency, the same color, fragrance, & taste.  I pureed the chunks by cooking in a pan, atop the stove, with a bit of water, a couple tsp. of sugar, and cinnamon & nutmeg.  It took a while to cook it down til it was almost a paste (like canned pumpkin). Placed it in fridge til I decided what to make with it.

Last night I scoured the internet for a good-for-you pumpkin bread recipe.  Found one at FineCooking.com (olive oil pumpkin bread, using honey, whole wheat flour, and olive oil).

Bright and early this morning I whipped up the batter, using my home grown pumpkin puree.  I felt like an old-fashioned country girl, and very “with it” chick, all at the same time as I pulled the recipe up on my Kindle Fire & parked it on the kitchen counter.  I impulsively added finely chopped pecans and fresh blueberries, too, which was a good decision, and a tablespoon of ground flax seed (which goes in any of my baked goods).  And I made a dozen muffins instead of a loaf of bread.  I ate the first one, fresh and hot with melting butter (so much for healthy)  – but, oh my how scrumptious!!

Muffins from home grown pumpkins, sweet, moist, & delicious.

Muffins, sweet, moist, & delicious, made from my home grown pumpkins.

I have more puree in the freezer.  Next time I’m going to make the recipe with dark chocolate chips, because dark chocolate is good for you!

A pumpkin adventure from start to finish, Oct 2012 til this morning.  And a journey I’m glad I took.  I’m only sorry that I didn’t take more pix to document the entire year.  I didn’t know it was going to be a story.  Maybe next year…

The end of November

11-23-13 shed & plantings6Got (almost) the last of the bulbs planted today.  I think today was the last big Fall push in the new ‘shed gardens’.  Planted 50 drumstick alliums, 8 little crocus chrysanthus (maybe Goldilocks – yellow w/deep maroon stripes), and another pot of 12 red/yellow tulips.  Still can’t find the bag of daff bulbs that is in the garage somewhere…  will look again tomorrow, but it’s really getting too late to plant.  Going down to 21F tonight.  Brrrr!  I just have to face it – what’s not done yet is gonna stay ‘not done’ for this gardening season.

The area around the shed looks really strange (see below).  Sorta polka-dotted.  Everywhere I’ve planted in this new area, I’ve also put down Preen mulch.  It was a way to keep track of where I planted things and where there were still ‘vacancies’ for things yet to be planted.  And Preen because I’ve got 4 trucks-full of fresh topsoil & compost (a 1.3 ratio), and also stirred up the dirt in that area when the stump grinding was done.  Goodness knows what’ll sprout, but you can be pretty sure it won’t be things I’ll be happy about!

The installation of the rain barrels is completed and I’m pleased with it.  Two barrels may look too ambitious for that little patch of roof, but one heavy rain comes close to filling one of them.  I intend to capture as much rainfall (aka – free water) as I can.  The paths in this large garden are emerging as I walk through it, over and over.  Already I’ve got a ‘mistake’ – the path leading up to the shed door is gravel.  NOT a good choice.  Can’t push the mower through it, or the wheelbarrow.  So, come spring, the gravel will come out and pavers will go down.  Live and learn.  I don’t know if it’s just too deep or what?

11-23-13 shed & plantings1

Lots still just staged and waiting its turn (below)

  1. The pallets (5 of them) will be formed into double compost bins at the back right side  of the shed
  2. Pavers, wall stones, and mulch, waiting for their spot
  3. The holding spot for all the old daylilies I saved
  4. All the German Irises, waiting for a permanent home

11-23-13 shed & plantings411-23-13 shed & plantingsThe sweet pink Knockout rose (above), placed at the left front corner of the shed, still has buds.  But I think the cold temps tonight will end that.  I’m really looking forward to it in that spot.  I gave it plenty of room to grow & fill up that corner.  In the front of it I’ve planted a handful of snow crocuses (mixed) and behind is a clump of 15 Narcissus ‘Thalia’.

Below is my ‘infant’ red twig dogwood (cornus sericea, seems to be the native in Wisconsin).  I grew it over the summer from two twigs I snipped when I was in Wisconsin in early April this year.  It was the only color in the late winter landscape and it was everywhere!  I brought them home in my suitcase, kept them in water for a few weeks on the kitchen windowsill, then, with a bit of rooting hormone on the stems, I potted the twigs, which had sprouted tiny leaves.  I put a plastic bag greenhouse over them.  Kept them in a pot all summer and now they’ve moved into their permanent garden spot.  I was pleased to see they were root bound when I dumped them out of the gallon pot.  Hoping they survive the winter.  I look forward to their winter color a year from now.

11-23-13 shed & plantings3I’ve spent most all of my time working in the new beds out back.  Raking, which is always a last choice for me, was really let go this year.  Below, on the left, is my yard covered in leaves.  And on the right is my neighbor’s pristine grass, not a leaf in sight.  I feel bad when the wind blows south and sends all my leaves into his yard.  When I apologize, he says it works both ways…  he’s right tolerant.  One day I said, “Mike, why not get a chair, sit out back, and enjoy all the gorgeous yellow maple leaves drifting down and decorating your lawn”.  But that’s not his thing.  Different strokes.  His thing is raking daily, sometimes two or three times daily.  He’s retired, I’m not.

11-23-13 shed & plantings2I did mow the front yard one last time last Wednesday, so all those leaves are gone now.  Shredded, gulped up into the mower bag, and then added to the compost pile.  I can hardly wait til the compost bins are built.

My Christmas cactus has become a Veteran’s Day cactus.  It looked dreadful this spring, so I threw a little fresh dirt on it with some Osmocote, and put it on the side porch for the summer.  It put out SO much new growth I was amazed.  When I brought it back inside a few weeks back, it promptly budded up (over 30 buds).  The first one opened for Vet’s Day.  It’s still looking lovely and I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

11-23-13 shed & plantings5Today I also emptied all the various outdoor planters/pots and got them ready for winter storage.  Tomorrow I’ll rake leaves…  It’s almost done, almost…