Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Update

We grew close to 100 small sugar pie pumpkins this year, most weighing 5-8 pounds. That's a lot of pumpkin! I heard that there's a pumpkin shortage due to bad weather in the northeast this year but that's not the situation in Plum Creek.


And what do you do with that many pumpkins? We donated most of them to Ally's daycare center for their fall festival earlier this month. Those that weren't used there were adopted by a first grade class in Riner for a fantastic class project. The remainder of the pumpkins will either find new homes or be eaten throughout this winter. I'm hoping they keep well, but we'll still be eating pumpkin butter, pie, bread, and soup from now until spring!

We were at the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival this weekend with friends and each kid got to pick out a pumpkin for themselves. Ironically Ally insisted on picking out a pumpkin that's virtually identical to the fifteen piled up on our front porch. Oh well.

If anyone is looking for seeds, I highly recommend Pinetree Garden Seeds at 

They have a good selection at reasonable prices. I'd offer some seeds from the ones I've grown, but pumpkins are a bit promiscuous and will readily cross with other pumpkin varieties, so I couldn't vouch for what you might get from any of my seeds. In fact, my Jarrahdale pumpkins this year looked more green than blue and were much lumpier this year than in 2010. I can't wait to see what we get in 2012.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Buckeye Love

We have a couple of buckeye trees on our property. I think they're all Aesculus flava, the yellow buckeye. Most of them are tall and skinny and not much to look at because they're growing on a steep ravine in poor soil with little light. I'd love to have a large one closer to the house because I think they're beautiful trees with attractive flowers in the spring, but mostly it's the nuts that I adore.

In mid to late September the buckeye down by our mailbox begins dropping its seeds. Sometimes I find the entire fruit, a smooth yellowish-tan oblong capsule that reminds me of a russeted pear, on the ground. Other times I only find the nuts that have been released. Either way, I can't help but pick up every single one I can find.

The fresh nuts are a wonderfully glossy mahogany and chestnut color with a broad tan "eye" indicating where the nut was attached to its capsule during its development. They do remind you of a deer's eye, thus the name "buckeyes."



Buckeyes are perfectly smooth to the touch, although not always perfectly round. Some are flat on their sides from where they shared their capsule with another nut. All of them are hefty, just begging for a slingshot. Unfortunately the nuts will eventually lose their glossy sheen and gain a more wrinkled texture after they dry for a day or two.


Even the empty husks are interesting to look at.


By the second week of October the tree down by the mailbox has finished dropping its crop of nuts. I might find a few more this week if I kick the leaves around while I check the mailbox, but I've already picked up most of them.

I've heard that squirrels are one of the few animals that will eat the buckeye nuts. They're too bitter to the taste for most animals. The fruit capsules are high in tannic acid, much like walnut husks, and the nuts themselves are toxic and can only be eaten safely after they've been leached to remove the poisons. I've no plans to try them myself and just use them for fall decoration. (But I'm still thinking about getting a sling shot.....)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gather Ye Toads

A couple of weeks ago we found a big toad in our backyard.


The toad was so big that we decided it must be a very old Grandma Toad.


No, it's not a comment on either of Ally's grandmothers.


"Mom, you are in so much trouble with this one."

I did think it was a pretty toad, as toads go. Thankfully Grandma Toad didn't pee on me, like many of her kind seem to do. We let Grandma Toad loose over by the compost pile, which seemed like an ideal toad habitat. I hope we see her again next spring!