This past weekend, I visited a local farm that was sponsoring pumpkin picking, hay rides, and a pumpkin trebuchet. That’s right, one of those medieval hurling things; if you’re a Monty Python fan, think of the flying cow in “The Holy Grail,” and you’ve got the idea.
While I hadn’t yet acquired my pumpkin for jack-o-latern carving, I admit that it was the trebuchet that attracted me. As I hiked up the muddy hill to the launch pad, I had an image in my head of a large, wooden machine dramatically catapulting huge pumpkins across distant fields…. What they had instead, however, was a smaller and more modern machine — the thing had an electric winch, for Pete’s sake — that didn’t have quite the hurling capacity as I had hoped. Instead, smaller gourds were tossed about 200 feet, and then exploded into pieces upon hitting the ground.
More impressive was the “cannon.” This was a pneumatic (rather than explosive) device, composed of a long metal pipe connected to an air compressor. Of course, the pipe was narrow enough that even baby pumpkins had to be pared down by knife before they would fit. As a target, there was a beat-up old car — one of those American-made land yachts — parked a good distance away on a hill. Unfortunately, the cannon only offered power and not much in the way of guidance, so there wasn’t much accuracy in trying to aim the thing. But they did smash that little pumpkin into one of the hubcaps.
Some spectators were unprepared for the sudden BOOM of the cannon. One little boy, perhaps eight years old, who had enthusiastically been awaiting the launch, told his parents, “I do not want to see that again.” His father asked, teasingly, “You wanna build one of those at home?” The answer was a resounding, “NO.”
I picked up two smallish pumpkins from the patch on my way back down the hill to the “General Store” that had been set up in one of the barns. I also bought a pair of acorn squash — yum! — and an apple.
I left the pumpkins outside in my courtyard, where the Oregon rain did a fairly good job of washing off all of the mud. Yesterday, I went out with a kitchen knife and a wooden spoon to gut the poor darlings. I didn’t have to worry about mess when working outside, but I hadn’t considered how cold the pumpkins would have gotten after sitting out for several days…. That pumpkin goo was chilly! I stepped back inside at least once to warm up my fingers by running hot water over my hands in the sink.
Unfortunately, there was still a bit of mud on the pumpkins, which mixed in with the pulp I was scraping out. So I ended up not saving the seeds for roasting.
Once I’d hollowed them out, I let the pumpkins sit another night, out in the courtyard, while I thought of what to carve into them. Given their small size, I was limited in what I could do, and I’m not much of one for big fancy carving jobs anyway. This morning, I stepped out again with the knife and gave each pumpkin a face:
Doesn’t really compare to last year’s cat pirate pumpkin, but who’s keeping score? They will look better with tea lights in them, anyway.
I’m still not sure how many — if any — trick-or-treaters to expect in my new neighborhood, but I’m hopeful there will be at least a few. I may even make rice krispy treats to hand out, though running over to Target around 4pm on Halloween to buy candy is a long-standing and generally successful tradition.