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The quest for the giant pumpkin

Published September 24. 2017 05:29PM
You won't find me decorating for every season, or even every holiday. I just can't get excited about festooning the house in red, white, and blue in July or putting out back to school themed items just because it's September, but I do like to decorate for fall, and for Halloween. I think the main reason I don't mind is because it's just so easy. The colors are so rich and vibrant, and after most of the decorations have run their course, there is no hassle of packing them up in boxes. Most of them can just go right into the compost heap. But, there was that one time that our fall decorating wasn't quite as simple as stopping at the farmers market and loading up the truck. That was the year that the Wonderful Husband decided that he was going to grow his very own giant pumpkin. Coincidentally, it was the same summer that I was growing another little pumpkin that eventually became known as E. Husbands out there, I'm going to give you a tip right now. If this article inspires you to run out and try your hand at growing a gigantic squash, don't do it while your wife is pregnant. If, just by chance, the stars align, and you do find yourself growing a giant pumpkin while your wife is growing a human, don't in any way, shape or form compare your efforts to hers. Just don't do it. It's not going to end well for you. Or the pumpkin. So, the WH decided that he was going to grow a giant pumpkin. He approached it like he approaches most of his projects. He read everything he could about it, and found a few experts to talk to who had experience growing their own. He started researching the genealogy of world champion pumpkins, and tried to convince me that all the tools he needed for the project were an "investment." Then, as is also true of most of his projects, he set up his miniature greenhouse in the middle of the living room. This was in February. Pretty soon, we had to synchronize our TV watching schedule to the hours when the grow lights were on, to be sure that the baby pumpkin plants were getting plenty of rest. The entire project almost went south quickly, when our cat decided to snack on a few of the plants. Donald Trump could probably learn a few things about wall construction from the barricade that went up around the baby pumpkins. Once the weather broke, it was time to cull the herd and commit only the best plants to the soil. Three of the baby plants were deemed worthy of transplantation, and off they went to be snugly nestled in a warm blanket of sandy soil. The temperature was monitored religiously, the amount of liquids (I am not at liberty to divulge what those liquids were) delivered to the plant was carefully measured. As the vines started to stretch and grow across the entire garden, they were carefully trained and all obstacles were removed so they could grow unimpeded. It should be noted that about 98 percent of this work was completed by the WH, since the boys' interest in the project waned as soon as they realized that the giant pumpkin wasn't going to appear magically, like it did in Cinderella, and did I mention I was about five months pregnant by this point? That summer was, of course, one of the hottest on record. While heat is great for growing things, too much heat can be deadly for the pumpkins, as apparently, they're susceptible to sunburn. They also must be spoon fed liquid, so they don't absorb it too quickly or they will split at the seams. Women who are eight months pregnant do have a little bit of sympathy for the pumpkin at this point. Along the way, one of the three plants lost its way and shriveled. We were down to two. Both plants were producing pumpkins. The WH's glee was almost too much to contain. He faithfully tended to his plants all summer, measuring them, swaddling them, feeding them. By the end of August, one of the plants had produced what could possibly be a winner. There was only one problem. It did not turn orange. We had a giant pumpkin that was as white as a sheet. The WH was devastated. He would be unable to compete in the Giant Pumpkin contest at the Bloomsburg Fair. All his hard work seemed for naught. At least the arrival of his daughter, who was as red as a tomato, or so her brothers said, was a pleasant distraction. However, he wasn't out of the race yet! It turns out that he could still compete in the contest, only as a squash, instead of a pumpkin. So, with the aid of heavy equipment, and more blankets and pillows and Styrofoam than you can imagine, the giant squash, all few hundred pounds of her, was bundled up and carefully hauled to Bloomsburg, where she and the WH brought home the bronze. It wasn't quite the gold and orange he had hoped for, but his name is in the record book as the proud grower of a champion squash. I haven't opted for "homemade" decorations for a few years, but I know I won't have to ask the WH twice when I'm ready to go down that road again. I know he's just dying to try his experiment again, only bigger and better, and oranger! Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.

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