Here's the Scoop: June 2, 2010

Patching things up
Five months from now, I’ll be glad I made this effort. Right now, it’s just a pain in the….neck, arms, back and probably a few additional places. But when Halloween rolls around, I will proudly display the pumpkins I grew. Hopefully.
Having helped to construct several flower gardens in the past few years, I was anxious to plant something edible. Not that the pumpkins will likely be consumed. But, in theory, this could happen.
Halloween is my favorite holiday because it implies that unbridled begging and implied threats are OK. Because few of us are willing to risk the “trick” portion of this event, candy is handed out like political favors. I like it.
My sweet tooth has quite a reputation — particularly with my dentist. So, Halloween holds a natural appeal for me. But jack-o-lanterns are also a big part of the attraction to me. I like picking out pumpkins and I enjoy the carving process — with the exception of the removal of the squishy stuff in the middle.
But I don’t enjoy paying for pumpkins. Maybe it’s because I know that coughing up 20 bucks for something that’s soon going to fall prey to my crazed carving artistry just seems wrong. Plus, there’s the fact that almost immediately after the scary or silly face has been created, the jack-o-lantern begins a rapid transformation into a jack-o-wrinkles. To be followed quickly by the stage known as a smell-o-lantern.

Just add water
We’re still a long way from Halloween, but I’m about to remedy my annual pumpkin-buying remorse. We’re growing our own.
“OK, I think it’s time to get some pumpkin seeds!” I said to my wife the other day. Her look told me otherwise.
“That would have been weeks ago. We need to buy plants at this time of year,” she replied.
Uh, oh. This was starting to sound expensive — but not because I figured that a few pumpkin plants would be that pricey. My concern was that the “other” plants that would be “rescued” from the garden center could add up to some serious bucks.
We were able to, fortunately, get away from the pumpkin shopping excursion with relatively few “foster plants.” But the fun was just beginning.
It has been many years since I’ve grown pumpkins. I had forgotten that they need a mound of dirt to call home. The infamous description of Delaware County refers to this area of the Catskills as having “Two stones for every dirt.” In the particular section where we live, I’ve added a slight twist to the definition: “Two stones, a boatload of boulders and hardly any dirt” pretty much says it all.
The good news was that we had a bit of dirt left over from the last time we had to purchase this material. We decided it that a nice rock formation would make the pumpkin patch look nice. In my experience, there are walls built by people like me and then there are walls that look good. The two are not easily confused.
Still, I agreed to give wall-building a try. Despite my earlier comments about the ample amount of rocks around our house, finding wall-worthy stones proved to be a bit of a task. Fast-forward (many hours) — the wall was complete. I am pretty sure that it won’t fall over, but only because it’s just 10 inches high. In my book, that qualifies as an engineering feat. And while it may be a stretch, in a tribute to my childhood fascination with the Peanuts cartoon series, we dubbed the finished product, The Great Wall of Pumpkin.
The wall, of course, is designed for “looks,” and not to deter animals. Fencing out varmints will be another, totally different, type of annoying project.
Because the pumpkin plants required holes of only about three inches and we were boring into a combination of garden soil and compost, the “digging” was not terribly difficult. That was a bonus, since the “preparation” part of the project took considerably more hours than I anticipated.
In the evening, when I sat back to relax and start the countdown to pumpkin-mania, I made the mistake of tallying up the time and expense of this project. It was a lot. Fortunately, the stones were free — that would make the estimated $58 value of each pumpkin a little easier to swallow. And I mean swallow — at that price, the only thing getting carved was my wallet. Scary.