A personal diary about life in a country town, Bungendore NSW Australia

Saturday 12 June 2004

The pumpkin seeds were already sprouting so Helen Quirk makes the cut, and we scooped them out.
After the ball.

Once you've grown the biggest pumpkin, what do you do with it? Fairy godmothers and princesses in glass slippers aren't an everyday experience around here, so reasonably I hadn't thought about what happens next. (If you're a regular you may remember I enthused about the Collector Pumpkin Festival in a Country Diary entry here.)

I found myself back at Collector last weekend because James McKay and his wife Kate had offered to do some fact checking on some material I'd written about the 2004 Festival. In the earlier Diary entry I told you the story of how James and Kate had been working in Italy, and were impressed by a festival that was dedicated to pumpkins, in a nearby small town. When they returned to Collector they suggested a similar idea as a focus for an event there. Two successful festivals later, it looks set to be an annual high point in the region's calendar.

We'd arranged to meet at the Lynwood Caf for a coffee, and as I arrived, a battered utility crunched to a stop at the front. I walked past it and the two big pumpkins that flanked the door, and into the warmth inside. I introduced myself to James just as his help was enlisted to help the driver of the ute, Collector resident Helen Quirk, to lift one of the pumpkins into the back. Now, lifting a big pumpkin isn't easy so I also offered my help. We quickly realised that it wasn't going to move in one piece, and as it was destined to be chopped up for stock food, (and they wanted to save the seeds inside), we'd be better to cut it up first.

Helen attacked it with a small kitchen cleaver and I was surprised at how soft and thin the shell was. She made a big hole and we all  scooped out handfuls of the soft stringy pulp and separated the seeds. As you can see from the photograph above, there were a few that had already sprouted. Leaving the harvest any longer would have meant that the surprisingly small number of seeds inside would have been useless. The special varieties that are grown for size  don't waste much on heavy fleshy centers or seeds, they pour all that growing into a large shell. Helen said that her prize pumpkin 'took a tank full of water and half a dam', not so easy to spare in the current drought.

We asked her if she was going to feed it to the cows, but she said they didn't seem to like the pumpkin but the sheep weren't as picky and pretty hungry, so that's were it was going.

James said that he thought that the success of the Pumpkin Festival with the town had been because it wasn't an established local crop, so it came with no expectations or conflicts. He said that locally it had been a lousy year for growing them, that the Caf's own garden pumpkins had all got mildew, and the drought meant that many people couldn't afford the water required.

As I was leaving, another local resident, John MacInerny arrived with friends for lunch. James introduced him as the man responsible for initiating the display of historical information that I was so impressed by, in the lovely St. Bartholomew's (there's a photograph in the Diary entry here). I said how much I'd liked it and how it really added to the festival, giving a real sense of the history of the town. It was obviously a lot of work to set up the display and he said that they weren't going to do it next year and were thinking about putting it into a book.

While I'd love to see a book, I believe the display was an important part of the day. I really hope they do it again next year and they should charge admission as part of the fundraising, I'd happily pay as I'm sure others would as well.

I'm not tempted to try growing a big pumpkin but I will be there to appreciate them next year. From the gleam in her eye and pride in her 3rd prize this year, I reckon Helen will be the one to beat. 
 






The seeds went into a paper bag and the pulp into the bucket.



Then into the ute and off to the sheep.



Helen Quirk proudly shows off her 3rd prize ribbon won in the Largest Pumpkin competition.
 


Kate and James McKay rugged for a typical Collector winter morning.


John was away on the day of the Festival and didn't see what a great success his history display was. Don't stop!

 

  Fred Harden 2004 <thinktag> After a few days, these entries are added to the Archive Menu

 

Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden