Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall Fun in the Pumpkin Patch

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Welcome to Fall! The calendar hits October and leaves begin to change, temperatures get cooler, and everything becomes Pumpkin related.  Just walk into any grocery store or Starbucks and the pumpkin flavored food is staggering.  Not sure when the pumpkin fascination began, but it is indeed overwhelming at this time of year. Unlike the Pumpkin Spice Frappe, one thing pumpkin related that has been around for decades, is the Pumpkin Patch.     

Some different ways to enjoy a Pumpkin Patch:

Pick Your Own Pumpkin Straight From the Patch
Going to a pumpkin patch allows you to actually walk the field where the pumpkins actually grow.  My daughters have always enjoyed running around the field looking for their very own special pumpkin. We always get different types of pumpkins, some will be carved, some will get painted. However, the downside can be dirt or mud, especially if it just rained.  One suggestion, if you want to pick your pumpkin from the field, you will need to do it early in the season.   

Picking Pumpkins Already Harvested
Unlike my children, I like picking pumpkins already harvested.  Many pumpkins for sale are not at a true pumpkin patch but on a church lawn or local business parking lot.  While this may not be as much fun as running around the pumpkin field, the end result is the same—picking out the perfect pumpkin! For many communities, this is the most common form of pumpkin patch, and for many organizations it is a seasonal fundraiser.  Simply put, pumpkins just don't grow everywhere and need to be brought in.   

Beyond Pumpkins, many local pumpkin patches offer a lot more to do while finding that perfect pumpkin.  My local Pumpkin patch offers hay rides, a petting zoo, horse rides, and the chance to pick your own sunflower out of the sunflower garden.  Hayrides come in several forms: tractor-pulled, horse-drawn and wagons.  Thanks to allergies, the hayride is not my favorite activity, but it is great fun riding all through the farm.

What to do with your Pumpkin

Carve it!
This is a favorite tradition.  While our pumpkin carving skills are not great, it is the fun doing it that matters.  While we carve, we like to reiterate the story of the Jack O'Lantern.  The legend comes from Irish folklore and is often told on the hayride around the Pumpkin Patch. The story goes:

Jack was a crafty farmer who tricked the Devil into climbing a tall tree. When the Devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, making it impossible for the Devil to climb down. In exchange for help getting out of the tree, the Devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven for his sins and turned away from Hell because of his trickery. Condemned to wander the earth without rest, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil, and used it for a lantern to light his way. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern."

For more info on the Jack O'Lantern Legend.

Roast the Pumpkin Seeds
1.  Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings.  This is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.
2.  Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
3.  Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes. You can also add any other spices to the seeds—salty or sweet to create additional flavors.
4.   Let cool and store in an air tight container.

Bake my Grammy’s Pumpkin Pie
1 crust pie
3 eggs
1egg yolk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups pumpkin puree

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, white sugar and brown sugar. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Gradually stir in milk and cream. Stir in pumpkin. Pour filling into pie shell.
3. Bake for ten minutes in preheated oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until filling is set.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Patchwork Revival

By Jeff Burns

My wife Veronica’s hobby is sewing, specifically quilting.  She’s looking forward to her fast approaching retirement from teaching, so she can spend her days quilting.  She loves the creativity and the process, but she’s equally passionate about the history behind it. 

Chances are, if you are reading this, you have great quilted memories.  Maybe your mother or grandmother, or even beyond that, quilted.  It seems that almost everyone has a story that begins, “When my grandmother died, we found unfinished quilt tops or squares, and we had them finished ,” or “We divided them up,” or “My most precious possession is a quilt my grandmother made.”  Quilting has been a part of civilization for millennia, with the earliest examples traced back to Ancient Egypt.  Before metal armor, warriors were protected by quilted accessories.  From the founding of the American colonies, the practice of quilting not only provided warm and functional bedding passed down from generation to generation; it provided a form of artistic expression that women may not have had otherwise.  Quilting bees, social gatherings where neighbors worked on projects together, were powerful forums of discussion and community bonding.

Many quilters, like Veronica, are very conscious of the history and heritage of quilting.  Veronica’s passion is finding unfinished quilt – tops and “orphan “ (unused ) squares and re-purposing them to make table accessories like runners, pads, and toppers, as well as pillows, bags, stuffed animals, along with traditional quilts.  She’s actively engaged in “patchwork revival,” recycling and repurposing old fabrics and quilts for new uses and new generations to enjoy.  Many fabric stores produce reproduction patterns from past times that are fun to use in projects, but we also find original fabric, sometimes going back to the 1920s and 1930s, in thrift stores, estate sales, and on Ebay. 
Are you interested in finding out more about quilting?  Maybe you’d like to find someone to make a quilt or finish a quilt for you?  No problem.  Many communities have a quilting or hobby store that can provide all the materials and info you need, including classes for the beginner and the experienced.  You can also find quilting clubs or guilds in many communities.  They often hold shows open to the public and their members are young and old, male and female.  Ask around at your work or at church or in your neighborhood.  Chances are, somebody knows a quilter.  The internet is full of helpful sites, and you can learn almost any technique through Youtube videos.  PBS has a couple of shows devoted to sewing and quilting, and there are numerous magazines.