October 08, 2009

Picking a Pumpkin

The first weekend in October, we have a long-running family tradition of driving to the country to pick pumpkins from a real farm.

Invariably on the ride there, I fall into the grips of my childhood fantasy of living in the sticks, no doubt because of what I’d read about Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sarah Plain and Tall.

Oh, to live in the country beneath wide open blue skies, alongside fields the color of emeralds and chocolates, keeping company with round-eyed cows exhaling sweet clouds of breath on misty October mornings. I’ve even been known to make Adam pull over so I can snag real estate fliers of farms for sale. If you’ve ever had this fantasy, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s a good thing we do these annual trips to the pumpkin patch, because the truth is, I have no business living far from civilization—and the country knows it.

It starts out easily enough. We pull into the long driveway of the pumpkin patch, a stretch of gravel that makes the car bounce like a rabbit. Fun! Isn’t this fun, kids! We park, and through the swirling dust of the lot, I can see the flat orange and green pumpkin oasis bordered by a whispering corn maze.

Picking pumpkins is easy enough. On the way there, Lucy and Alice discuss their ideal pumpkin shapes. Lucy wants a huge oval pumpkin. Alice wants something smaller and rounder. They march through the fields and make their selections, choosing a smaller pair of pumpkins for our house gnomes, Brixton and Blandine. Fun at the pumpkin patch

Then we head out for the real attraction: the pumpkin festival, featuring hammering, a corn pit, sack-racing, hay rides, a pumpkin cannon and a trout pond.

The hammering is just as simple as it sounds. Kids pound nails into a ring of stumps. It’s not the sort of activity we think of when we live in the city. We’re much more likely to say, “Have you had your fish oil supplement, yet? Perhaps you’d like to go to kinderyoga.

 My girls love hammering and if we happened to have any stumps in our postage-stamp-sized garden, I’m sure it would be full of nails in no time. Actually, in quite a bit of time, if I’m going to be honest. Here’s the other thing about city kids: they don’t know how to hammer with real hammers, which don’t quite work the same as the rainbow-colored plastic ones.

The corn pit is my favorite, just because of the words. Corn pit! It sounds dirty, but it isn’t, unless you count corn dust. Again, it’s just as it sounds: a hollow filled with dried corn in which kids can sit, jump, dig and wallow. We don’t have these in the city. They’d be overrun with rats and/or homeless people.
It’s the hay ride, though, that brings me back to my senses.


The ride takes place in a covered wagon drawn by a diesel tractor. Wooden benches line the edges, and huge bales hay work as makeshift seats in the center of the wagon. I am allergic to this hay. Wildly so. My nose soon starts to itch.

The tractor drags us to a grassy field where the famous pumpkin cannon stands. The menfolk get out and take turns ejecting innocent pumpkins into the field. Some pumpkins soar a mile away before they’re reduced to unsweetened pumpkin pie innards. Meanwhile, the hay attacks my eyes, which turn red and weepy because they are wimpy city peepers.

I soldier on, explaining to a quaking Alice that no, the cannon isn’t going to shoot us. And I explain to Lucy, who wants to go outside and operate the pumpkin cannon herself, that she is not yet big enough. And then I sneeze about fifty times.

The hay ride ends. The kids want to catch something in the trout pond.

“Fide, I say. Dat will be just fide.” And then I kick myself for not bringing tissues. You really can’t wipe your nose on a corn leaf, no matter how silky smooth it looks. And I know what it’s whispering to me, now. “If you come here, you will sneeze.”

In short order, the girls have jerked a pair of trout from the pond. Dinner. Someone more ruthless or at least more honest than I clubs the trout to death (yet another use for a hammer).  The bag of dead fish in my hand is the only thing keeping me from scratching my eyeballs out. They are on fire.

“Cub on, kids. Tibe to go hobe,” I say.

And then we get into the car. On the long ride home, I stop sneezing. My eyes fade from red to pink.

“I’m glad we live in the city,” I say, as Adam carries the huge pumpkins up the 37 steps from the street to our house. (We wouldn’t want me to touch anything that makes my eyes itch, would we?)

“Grunt,” he replies. And I know just what he means. About this time next year, I will briefly, oh so briefly, beg him to let us live under a wide open blue sky, near an orange and green pumpkin patch. It’s a really good dream, while it lasts.

--Martha Brockenbrough


Ben Watson

This is very good. Well done Martha B. And that is SUCH a good picture of your two taters. Pure country bliss. Your account with all its trials made my day. Thank you.


I always get the same feeling in the fall. Country livin is the life for me, until I realize I would be without a starbucks and other "necessary" ammenities :)

Farms Houses

If you need to remember your childhood days then it can be done in a better way at farm house. Thanks Martha B, for giving such good information.

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