How we were big winners and losers at our local pumpkin weigh-off

Though Jamie has moved onto bigger and better things in the pumpkin world, we feel a sense of obligation to attend our small city’s annual scarecrow festival. After all, this was where Jamie got his first blue ribbon that fueled his obsession.

He hasn’t brought his pumpkin to this particular weigh-off for several years because a forklift and large scale are needed to remove and weigh his pumpkins, neither of which this competition has. Even bringing the kids’ pumpkin caused its own set of problems because this was their biggest ever and took six of us to lift it into the car.

And yes, our neighbors will be avoiding us for quite some time.

As we pulled up to the pumpkin unloading zone, we saw one of the longtime event organizers who has always praised Jamie very highly. But he didn’t initially realize it was us, causing Jamie to haughtily say, “Does he not know a celebrity when he sees one?

Big head much?

But Jamie is a local celebrity in the growing community and usually comes away with several proteges who grow for the first time the following year.

Admittedly a huge pet peeve at this weigh-off is parents who set their kids loose on the pumpkins. In fact, I got in an argument with a woman last year who, even after I asked her very nicely to not let her kid crawl over the pumpkin because it was easily damaged, she released a barrage of obscenities along the lines of “My kid can do whatever the #*$&#*$&# he pleases and I should mind my own #$&*$# business.”

To avoid any such altercations, this year I let the pumpkin do the talking with a few helpful signs.

It also helped that as the kids visited all the fun booths, I was left behind to be the chief pumpkin babysitter a.k.a. bouncer.

When it came time for the competition, the kids’ 429-beast (s)quashed both the adult and children’s division so the organizers weighed it last. They were  awarded a blue ribbon and a $50 garden center gift certificate, which they happily traded with Jamie for a fast-food meal. He was one proud papa.

However, there have been some rather disturbing occurrences at our house lately. Last week, I posted the following Facebook update:

I just found a pumpkin seed on my side of the bed. I suspect this is The Pumpkin Man’s subtle way of replacing me.

It was then confirmed that Jamie is slowing replacing each one of us. Following the weigh-off, we loaded the pumpkin in the car and it wasn’t until after we’d driven away that Bode noticed we’d left Hadley behind.

She’s already turning into a pumpkin

This means Bode is next. Pray for him.

Like a Giant Pumpkin to the Slaughter: A Pumpkin Party to Remember

Last week was a blur as I chaperoned Hadley’s three-day camping trip and returned home to throw our annual pumpkin party the next day, followed by the chaotically fun giant pumpkin weigh-off.

Translation: I barely slept.

We always invite oodles of friends and setup the party in our backyard, which, between that and our neighbor’s lot where Jamie grows the pumpkin, there is plenty of room to roam. But this year, we had a further complication: lots of rain. We have a good-sized four-bedroom house but it is certainly not big enough to comfortably house 60+ people but that’s exactly what we did.

That was only the tip of our muddy iceberg that night.

I expected people to un-RSVP due to the inclement weather and, if we’re being honest here, I kind of hoped they would so we would have a more manageable crowd. But we have wonderful, supportive friends (yeah!) and a deluge of them waited until the very last minute to say they were coming (not yeah!)

The motivator was probably my Facebook post that announced the party was still on despite the rain with the promise of mud wrestling in the pumpkin patch.

We told our friends to dress for the weather and that they did. Though Meredith went a wee bit overboard with her dorky umbrellas.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Admission to the pumpkin party is your favorite pumpkin dish and we had two tables full of pumpkin rolls, pies, cookies, pumpkin seed guacamole, cinnamon rolls, cakes, dips, pumpkin-spiced hot chocolate and so much  more. I made two new treats that will become permanent fixtures–pumpkin magic cookie bars and pumpkin oatmeal bars (recipes forthcoming). It was one of my favorite spreads ever.

And I’m not just talking about the middle-aged spread I had after sampling them all.

Usually when it’s time to cut the pumpkin off the vine, everyone races out to the pumpkin patch but we had three kinds of people.

1) The “been there, done that” types who opted to stay inside.

Note: My unsupportive children were numbered among them. The Pumpkin Man may disown them for this major trespass.

2) The “I’m intrigued but I don’t want to get wet” types. These people crammed inside near the back door and the more interested sorts stood on the deck so they were able to dash back indoors if they got too soaked.

3) The “I’m all in” types.

These hearty  souls were rewarded with quite the show and major complications surfaced because:

1) It was raining. In case you’d forgotten that.

2) It was muddy.

3) Stanley the Pumpkin weighs several hundred pounds more than Jamie’s previous gourds.

Usually, Jamie and a few of his buddies adjust lifting straps around the pumpkin, they attach it to the forklift and the machine very carefully lifts it off its bed of sand onto the flatbed trailer while the crowd cheers.

But this year, there was muck everywhere so the backhoe could not get enough traction to lift the pumpkin out of the patch. After several failed attempts (and a backhoe that literally almost tipped over from the weight of the pumpkin), Jamie and his pit crew changed strategies. They  knocked down one of the poles supporting the hail netting so the backhoe could go in at another angle.

As we watched the drama unfold, one of our drenched-to-the-bone neighbor’s daughters raved to me, “This is your greatest pumpkin party yet! The rain! The mud! And they might not even get the pumpkin out of there!”

She sure has a differ view of greatness.

After what seemed like an eternity, the deed was done. Jamie and his buddies looked like the Swamp Things as they emerged from the patch and I was horrified when I saw one of them had blood all over his face.

“What happened?”

“I’m not sure. I was trying to push the backhoe when it got stuck and I got bloodied up.”

It was the Great Pumpkin’s first sacrificial lamb. But I’m sure it will not be the last.

Be sure to read the details of the weigh-off and the Great Pumpkin’s final weight!