Everybody’s got to have a way out-there goal in life, right? Some folks aim to run a marathon in under three hours, some want to memorize the dictionary, a few are set on flying into space.
And then, there is Rebecca. Ask her about her goal and she gets this dreamy expression.
“This year,” she says, with the look of someone headed up Mt. Everest, “I am going to grow a really, really big pumpkin.”
Well, why not? True, these things can get a tad obsessive, but how many of us follow through on our dreams. Lots, it turns out, if you move in giant pumpkin circles. There are whole clubs of these people out there, prepping pumpkins for stardom. And their pumpkin pinup is this 1,725-pound whopper in Ohio last year. (Check it out at www.bigpumpkins.com )
Whatever floats your fantasy. But it turns out growing giant pumpkins isn’t all that easy. It requires focus, skill, space, a bit of luck and even an occasional administration of pumpkin steroids for those who choose to go that route, we’re told.
We aren’t into chemical additives, but Rebecca has been reading up on growing giant pumpkins–her favorite book, “The Perfect Pumpkin”, is put out by Storey Publishing. For this year’s quest, she planted three pumpkin seeds in May in the squash patch on our lower field. They all came from good stock–Dill’s Atlantic Giant seed company boasts it is the go-to outfit for serious giant pumpkins growers. Rebecca’s plan was to grow the pumpkins to a grotesque size, then hold a guess-their-weight contest with the best guesser getting the massive pumpkin.
She and Joel, our apprentice, named the three little starters Puff, Tinkerbell and Ezekial and right off you could just tell these were no ordinary pumpkins. Even the seeds were huge.
Puff perished early–we’re not quite sure why, but it seemed to be from dehydration. Giant pumpkins drink lots of water and they also like hot weather, something else that has been in short supply around here this year. We did give the other two, known among the farmers conversationally now as Tink and Zeke, plenty of compost and they appear to be doing just fine.
The hard part came yesterday when Rebecca decided to narrow her focus to a single pumpkin as we head into the back stretch of the season. Tink…Zeke, Zeke…Tink…not an easy choice. After some serious back-and-forthing she picked Zeke. (We’re not sure why. These things are intuitive, not always easy to explain.)
Anyway, Zeke it is. And here’s a snapshot of the farmer’s choice. We stuck a gallon milk jug next to him for comparison.
With Zeke’s selection for stardom, Rebecca has begun some serious grooming of her prize pumpkin. For example, she’s snipping off all the plant’s competing female blossoms, like so:
Then there is the compost–we’re using our best stuff on Zeke. But the most interesting tactic is a deft slit in the pumpkin’s stem with a wick attaching Zeke to a bowl of milk. Okay, that sounds a little off-the-wall. But according to giant pumpkin lore, pumpkins love milk. If it works, Zeke should have a growth spurt soon, kind of like what happens when your five-foot-five teenage boy starts slurping quart cartons of milk out of the refrigerator. Next thing you know, he’s six-foot-four.
Sadly, for those of us who love pumpkin pie, Zeke is being bred for size, not for eating. With any luck, later in October, our little pumpkin will turn into a musclebound giant–like a dinner table partner who isn’t much of a conversationalist, but has dynamite abs. We’ll keep you posted on his progress and maybe, when he grows up, you can join in the fun and try your luck guessing his weight.
If you win–and Zeke grows the way Rebecca hopes he will–you can come by the farm and pick up a thousand pounds of inedible, but handsome, pumpkin.