Monday, November 28, 2016

Turning Your Neighborhood into a Pumpkinhood

Pile on the Pounds! Start a Pumpkin Compost Collection in Your Neighborhood

Four young children carving pumpkins
Memories Run Deep!
  I have a confession, for the past 57 years I have an unwavering love affair with members of the Gourd Clan. Not one family member in particular rather the whole tribe: miniature fellows, tuba sized guys, cast iron griddle shaped grannies, round, oblong, bumpy, gnarly pepons! Pepon, or large melons is the Greek word for what we affectionately refer to as pumpkins. 

bumpy and gnarly pumpkins
Bumpy and gnarly
  How I admire the versatility of these squash, they are easily converted into:pies, bread, muffins, added without detection to soups, stews and with a little creativity transformed into charming jack-o-lanterns. These golden globes provide our bodies with beta-carotene, Potassium, Magnesium and numerous other vitamins and minerals. Evidently, if they are stored in a cool location they will last for a 3 months or more. This year we experimented and put 10 pumpkins in our crawl space. We will either have fresh pumpkin in February or a heap of decaying, stinky matter.


Mash them, carve them, bake them, catapult them, compost them, bury them, feed them to goats, deer, pigs or chickens but please don’t pitch them!  


Three boys feeding jack-o-lanterns to three goats
Nanny and Five "Kids" enjoying the jack-o-lanterns!

  North Volney, New York, USA, 1974. My brothers Craig and Tim along with our neighbor Charlie feeding the jack-o-lanterns to our goats. Pippi Longstockings expressed her gratitude with a tender kiss!



 Craig's Pumpkin Tree ~ 1974



Craig Dahlin and his pumpkin growing in a tree
Craig and his Pumpkin Tree

Craig Dahlin was and still is a farmer at heart! He certainly was proud of his famous Pumpkin Tree! Like Cracker Jacks, when you purchase our native plants there is a fairly good chance you too will receive a surprise!

What did we to do with these Green Pumpkins? ~ 1974



Barn full of green pumpkins
Green pumpkins in the:loft, shed, barn and possibly our closets!

  Neither of my parents or I could recall what we did with all these green pumpkins, luckily Craig did. He is certain we stored them in our barn, chopping them up in small pieces for the: ducks, chicken, goats and horses to feast on all winter long. He said the horse weren't especially fond of them. We weren't experienced farmers but we knew a ripe pumpkin from a green one. I am guessing winter came unexpectedly early for those of us who resided in the snow-belt of Lake Ontario, NY, USA.


  Forging for Orange Gold ~ 2010


Jump forward 36 years. Thirty-six years that can't be correct, let me recalculate???? Ouch!

A small sampling of our neighbor's art work
  Nodding Onion Gardens had plenty of brown material, as several of my neighbors were raking and delivering us their leaves. Lacking was "Green Gold", necessary to ignite the dry fall  leaves. Ah, but after Halloween the "Orange gold" potential was endless! However, the real question was; what was the easiest way to harvest it?

   Our collection methods the first year were slow and inefficient. On trash days I scoured neighborhoods in search of gems, plucking moldy, mushy pumpkins from the tops of trash cans then hurling them in the trunk of my Neon. Praying the entire time no one would recognize me. It is one thing to rescue then restore old furniture from folk's tree lawns but decaying pumpkins? I needed a better strategy.


 Pumpkin Compost Parameters ~ 2016

  The following year we posted a sign in our front yard, contacted a few business and a dozen or so neighbors. This certainly increased our bounty, however as our small family business expanded so did the need for compost. This year we implemented plan C, we established specific pumpkin harvesting boundaries and parameters; these guidelines significantly increased our supply as well as reduced our work load. Organic material arrived at such a steady rate that it didn't dawn on me until afterwards that it would have been fun to have kept a running tally.

Bike next to a bench full of pie pumpkinsOur Parameters

1.The sign in our front yard read." Compost Your Pumpkins Here"

2. We limited our business contacts to two local establishments: Barbarino's Restaurant and Landmark Lawn and Garden

3. Riding my bicycle, I delivered 75 index to homes within a one mile radius from NOG.

4.  Our business cards were attached to each index card, they served as a simple means of explaining who we are and what we do.

5. Instructions on index cards were kept brief, they read.

Compost your Pumpkins
Our address
Our cell Phone
 Text or call us with your address and we will pick up your pumpkins


Pile on the Pounds!

Lots of pumpkins in a compost pile
Pounds of future humus!

  Piles and piles of goodness! "Text me and I will pick up your pumpkins", worked especially well this year! We have two large compost piles; the second was equally blessed with expired jack-o-lanterns.

Pile of leaves near a tree
Over the fence they go!
The neighbors behind us didn't burn or bag their leaves; they tossed them over the fence! An added bonus, I had the pleasure of listening to their children laugh and giggle as they happily raked away!

Little tike wagon full of leaves
Our preferred mode of leaf transportation

  Neighbors kitty-corner to us carried their leaves across the street in a tarp, then dumped them over the fence. Our recycled Little Tike wagon made it easier to transfer material where it was needed. My heart sings in anticipation of the dark rich humus that will be waiting for me in the spring. How fortunate our native plants are to be nourished by such goodness!

wagon full of cut up pumpkins
Pumpkins prepared gourmet style

  Someone understands the concept of composting and went to a great deal of trouble to chop these pumpkins into easily digested pieces. Worms, insects and microorganism residing in our pile are thrilled as they now have less work to do.

Boys moving bags of leaves in wheel barrels
Doing the right thing sometimes means more work!

Double dose of sustainability! Neighborhood kids were paid to rake leaves then brought them to Nodding Onion Gardens!

pie pumjpkins on a bench
Yummy pie pumpkins!

  Many fall mornings my neighbors gifted me with pumpkins like these; they bypassed the compost pile and were eventually baked, pureed then frozen.

Our Compost Pile Runneth Over with Gratitude


Huge compost pile topped with mums, ferns and geraniums
Now that is a compost pile!

 This year organic material for our compost pile came in all colors, shapes and sizes. Our compost piles are rejoicing thanks to the kindness and generosity of our friends, neighbors and family. Thank you Bararino's Restaurant for donating your: cornstalks, mums, geraniums and ferns. Flowers are like icing on a cake, in this case the cake is a leaf pile!

Picture from 1974 are Roger Dahlin's work! Thanks dad for finding these beauties for me!
See you in the spring ~ Beth Coyne
City of Port Coquitlam

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