Every year when I realize it’s really Fall, I head over to Houlden Farms on Old Westboro Road in North Grafton to get an assortment of pumpkins, gourds, squashes and mums to decorate our front yard.
They always have a variety of colors and shapes that would make Martha Stewart swoon.
One year I scored a pair of “Swan” squashes that were joined at the stem, so they looked like two birds kissing. Houlden Farms had white pumpkins before they became fashionable with great names like “Cinderella” and “Gray Ghost.”
But this year, as I came around the farm stand, headed for the greenhouse in back, this is what I saw in a place of honor:
It was a frowning Jack’o’Lantern carved, as Ruth Houlden told me, by a “very artistic” woodchuck. She said the talented groundhog nibbled on the pumpkin when it was green and it healed over and grew into a good-sized orange pumpkin with a ready-made face.
This struck me as a bit of a miracle, sort of on a par with the proverbial infinite number of monkeys tapping away on typewriters until one of them writes the complete works of Shakespeare.
After admiring the work of the groundhog (and another pumpkin which he had decorated with “maple leaves”) I headed into the greenhouse to pick out my prizes for this year’s display.
Ruth told me the names of each one—there was a “Fairytale Pumpkin” (the green one) and the flat peach-colored “Cheese Squash”, which she said is the tastiest squash of all. “Just cook it like a baked potato”. I also got one Swan Squash this year and a purple Kale.
My orange pumpkin weighed nearly 35 pounds. Ruth’s grandson Nicholas helped me carry the heavy load to the car, towing it on a dolly.
By Halloween I’m going to carve the biggest pumpkin in a design incorporating our family name—I got the idea in a pattern that came with my new pumpkin-carving kit. Then we’ll toast the pumpkin seeds and eat them, and maybe I’ll bake the Cheese Squash to see how it tastes.