October is my kind of month. It’s interesting.
The harvest is winding down; those shocks of corn so prized by decorators are actually passe’ . Nobody uses them any more, unless they’re Amish, of course. Corn pickers are where it’s at as far as harvesting corn is concerned. They’re also one of the reasons why farming has always ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations. Somebody is always tempted to just reach into the machinery to pull or loosen or wiggle some little glitch in the feed-in stream, just real quick, just a twitch…aarrgh! Lotsa farmers named “Lefty “out there. Of course, the alternative is to leave the corn standing in the field and go out with a wagon to pick the ears by hand and toss them into the wagon. Sometimes this doesn’t happen until ‘way into the winter and it’s a very cold way to spend a day. One of my most vivid memories was of being the driver (at age seven or thereabouts) of the tractor pulling the wagon while my dad walked along picking ears of corn–probably husking them too–and tossing them into the box of the wagon. Coldest I have ever been in my life! Holy Schmoley! Thought that my fingers and toes were going to snap off like the icicles they were to rattle around in my mittens and boots like the pebbles in a pair of maracas. Cold!
It IS the season of the pumpkin harvest though, and they’re everywhere around here. New England, now, the whole northeast, actually, is suffering from The Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2011. The heavy rain and subsequent flooding delayed the planting in the spring. Then a fungus called phytophtora–which just happens to thrive indampness –appeared to wipe out a lot of patches. Then Hurricane Irene administered the coupe de grace and knocked out whatever was left. One farmer said that he watched his entire crop–15,000 to 20,000 of the orange orbs–washed into Lake Champlain. Uh, oh!
We don’t have to worry about that. Neither did the guy in Rhode Island who grew this year’s biggest pumpkin, 1,661 pounds (150 lbs. short of the world record 1,810.5 lbs, raised last year in Wisconsin). It must have been feeling a little peaked after all of the surrounding disaster. There have been rumors of some unscrupulous types hauling truckloads of “hot” pumpkins to some of the more deprived states : pumpkin profiteers! Anyway, some of the more creative folks deprived of their usual carving canvas have suggested squash-o-lanterns or watermelon-o-lanterns…. How about going historical and carving scary faces on turnips as the original folkloric version has it, long story about a guy named Jack who tricked the Devil–not an easy thing to do–then was tricked in return and had to wander the earth looking for a place to rest, since he could not get into Heaven and he’d made the Devil promise not to take him to Hell. He asked the Devil how he could see to wander about at night so the Devil tossed him an inextinguishable coal from Hades and Jack carved out a turnip–his favorite vegetable–to put the light in and he roamed the earth looking for a resting place. Some times the ignis fatuus or will-o-the-wisp phosphorescence of the swamps is thought to be Jack, still out there looking.
And speaking of fungus…that was in a paragraph up there someplace, right?…the mushrooms are really something this year. In the woods, on the lawn on the backside of rocks, on the trunks of trees, yellow ones, white ones, big ones, small ones, wow, what an assortment! (See scientific descriptions elsewhere. DO NOT eat just to see if you can. Could be hard on your next of kin)
And October is National Cookie Month! What’s not to like?