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
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 Café
for a coffee, and as I arrived, a battered utility crunched to a
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
Café's own garden pumpkins had all got
mildew, and the drought meant that many people couldn't afford the
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.