Monday, September 8, 2014

My adventures in babysitting (giant pumpkins)...

My friend, the giant pumpkin grower, went out of town for a few days and asked me to babysit his giants. One might wonder what babysitting a giant pumpkin entails aside from giving a plant some water? Well, my friend left me a page of instructions including how much to water each how, extra watering depending on temperature, watering the main vine and lots of other little details. 

Day 1:
I visited the gardens, watered, uncovered the pumpkins, told them they are both beautiful (I remember reading a study that discussed the benefits of talking to plants and if it helps, I will tell them they are beautiful while they are in my care).  

Day 2:
I woke up and headed out to the patch for my first visit of the day. I watered and again told them they were beautiful and to grow big.

pumpkin A

There are two giant pumpkins and one long gourd. I will label all the giant pumpkin pics to help keep them straight.

So far we are off to a good start. Uneventful is exactly how you want things to be when you are babysitting someone giant pumpkins (since they have put so much work into growing them this big, and there are only a few more weeks before the giant pumpkin weigh off).

pumpkin B

Day 3: Storms are coming
Seriously, bad thunder storms while the pumpkins are in my care?!?! UGH!!!! I checked the weather forecast and saw numerous warnings about how ugly the weather could be. I was nervous! My friend emailed me some additional storm instructions for how to keep the pumpkins safe and well protected during a bad storm. I just kept saying nothing can go wrong with these pumpkins while they are in my care.

pumpkin B
I bundled up pumpkin B. The forecast said there was a chance of hail so I put a towel under the tarp to give it some padding to protect him.

The sky went from sunny to thunder and lightning in a matter of minutes, and I raced to get pumpkin A covered and make sure the long gourd was safe.

pumpkin A
There isn't much I can do to protect the long gourd. I was just hoping the storm wouldn't involve strong winds. I took down the ladder so it couldn't get blown over and knock into the long gourd.

pumpkin A

Day 4: We survived.

The storms were short lived but intense. I wanted to photograph the pumpkin patch while the rain fell, but the rain was so heavy it was impossible to see through the rain far enough that I could keep my camera protected in my car; and it was raining too hard to take my camera outside.

When I woke up and saw the sun, I raced over to check the pumpkins. I breathed a big sigh of relief that they were fine! They survived the storms, tarps remained over them and all looked good.

pumpkin A

Remember how white this pumpkin was in some of the earlier pictures? He is starting to turn a light orange.

pumpkin A

pumpkin B

To give you an idea of the size of this giant, that is my beach towel that I put under the tarp. It is a regular sized beach towel (not a child's small towel) that I lay on at the beach. It looks tiny on the top of a giant pumpkin.

pumpkin B

The pumpkins are covered during the day with a sheet. Here is pumpkin A with his sheet fresh from the dryer. Again, nothing was going to happen to him under my watch. I took home his sheet after the storm to dry it. I was not going to take the chance of leaving a damp sheet on him to damage the outside of the pumpkin (if the outside of a pumpkin is damaged, it will be disqualified from competition in the weigh off).

pumpkin A
While I love spending time in the pumpkin patch and watching these giants grow, the storm in the middle of my long weekend of pumpkin babysitting was stressful. After photographing several pumpkin seasons and seeing how much work goes into growing a giant pumpkin (and after my unsuccessful attempt at growing one), I realize how much of themselves the growers invest in growing a giant pumpkin. It is far more than throwing some seeds in the ground and watering the garden. I am so grateful that the storm wasn't worse and that my friend came home to two giant pumpkins (hopefully a bit bigger than when he left) and one long gourd (still growing).

pumpkin A

In my 4 days of babysitting, the long gourd grew about 4 inches. 

If you are in CT and want to see giant pumpkins, squash and long gourds in person, be sure to check out the official event page,  Ridgefield's Pumpkin Weigh Off

Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to see more of my work.

pumpkin B

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I have a confession...

I tried to grow a giant pumpkin, and it was so much harder than I thought. I have grown tomatoes and zucchinis, and even won a prize for a zucchini as a child at a county fair. I totally thought growing a giant pumpkin wouldn't be that hard. I wasn't hoping to grow one of the really big several hundred or even thousand pound pumpkins or squash.  I was simply hoping to grow one that would be big enough to carve into a jack-o-lantern, or if I did really well, one that outweighed me (still considered very small in the giant pumpkin world, but I thought one that big would be awesome).

So I got some giant pumpkin and squash seeds from the CT Giant Pumpkin Growers (more about the seeds on the seed auction post). I started both a pumpkin seed and a squash seed. Whichever plant grew would be planted in the garden (and if by some chance both grew, then the one that looked stronger and healthier would get the coveted garden spot).

I followed each step in the instruction packet my friend, the giant pumpkin grower, gave to me. I sanded the edge of the seeds with a nail file.

I soaked the seeds in a mixture of peroxide and water.

I planted them in their little pots and waited. While waiting, my awesome giant pumpkin growing friend brought this monster tiller over, and helped expand my garden. I was ready to plant a giant.

When the seeds finally sprouted, I was thrilled. Step 1, start seeds...success. Ok, at this point, I really thought I could do this. 

The plant was ready to move to my freshly tilled garden. I was excited and ready to watch a giant grow. I was planning the photos I would take (lesson here---don't count your chickens before they hatch or in giant pumpkin terms, don't count your pumpkin before it grows). The garden was fenced in, the plant was safe, let the watering and watching begin.

My fence wasn't as secure as I thought it was. These cute little groundhogs found their way in, and ate and ate and ate. They seemed to really like the flowers best of all. Without flowers, there can be no giant pumpkin. As soon as a flower grew, they ate it. I blocked every spot in the fence where I thought they were getting in, but they still found a way. 

Despite my plans to grow a giant pumpkin or squash, I grew a lot of leaves and some weeds and some flowers eaten by groundhogs.

While it was disappointing, I learned a lot. Growing a giant pumpkin is a lot more than getting some special giant pumpkin seeds and watering the garden (a lot). Giant pumpkins take up a lot of space, as my newly expanded garden is a decent size, and will still only fit one plant. One plant grows one giant pumpkin. So that means, unless you have a gigantic garden, you have one chance to grow one giant each year. 

I may not be a successful grower (yet), but there is always next year. I will try again. I will continue to visit my friend's pumpkin patch and photograph his giants as they grow. I will photograph the giant pumpkin weigh off, and I will definitely have the utmost respect for the growers who put in so much work to get their giants to the scale (and those who don't make it to the scale because something went wrong). 

If you are in CT and want to see giant pumpkins in person, be sure to check out the official event page,  Ridgefield's Pumpkin Weigh Off

Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to see more of my work.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer tradition..County Fair!

Every August, we visit the County Fair. It is a summer tradition. We  visit every 4-H barn to see all the chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, cows, goats...well, you get the idea. In each barn, my children see a sign for an animal for sale, and decide we need that animal; until we make it to the next barn and see another animal for sale sign. We somehow leave each year without a new pet.

The sheep below was so funny. He was rather vocal during the entire competition which lead to lots of giggles in the crowd. He was beautiful though, and won his competition.

On our first trip through the pig barn, every single pig was asleep. We made a second visit later, and this cutie was awake. 

We love watching the dock dogs and were so impressed to see how far these dogs could jump. Out dog is drawn to water, so we spent a lot of time wondering if she would like to participate in this. Although most of the dogs competing were retrievers, it was exciting to see a Spaniel, German Shepard and a New Foundland compete.

No dog is forced to jump. Those who got up there and didn't want to, didn't jump. Those who did jump, really wanted to jump. They were so excited and the moment they were given the command that they could jump, they leaped into the water to retrieve a toy.

Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to see more of my work.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Watching pumpkins grow.

A few chilly nights have reminded me that Fall is coming soon. As you may know from the blog, Fall is my favorite season. I look forward to it for months and spend the months of Fall embracing everything pumpkin. I love that my friend grows giant pumpkins and gives me the opportunity to photograph them as they grow. When I show up at the pumpkin patch, and see these giants, who are so much bigger than my last visit, I'm reminded just how close Fall is.

I visited the pumpkin patch this past weekend. Watching giant pumpkins grow is nothing like watching grass grow. Once they start growing, they grow pretty fast. You can see the difference each time you visit the pumpkin patch. The giants have grown so much since my last visit almost two weeks ago. 

Below, a picture of the same pumpkin two weeks ago. It's amazing how fast they grow.

The other pumpkin is growing too. He is still such a cool color.

For comparison, here is the same giant pumpkin, photographed almost a month ago (on the left) and two weeks ago (on the right).

Each giant pumpkin grows on his own plant. Each plant can only support one pumpkin growing this big. The plants is huge, covers so much ground and has these enormous leaves.

The sheet over the pumpkin protects him from the sun. When it gets colder out, he will have a blanket at night to keep him warm. 

The long gourd, which looks a lot like a green baseball bat for a giant, is growing too. Once they start growing, the can grow several inches in a day, and it is so wild to be able to see a difference in just a day's time.

Want to see these giants in person? Many giant pumpkins will take over Ridgefield at Ridgefield's Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off on September 28th. Be sure to click on the link to check out the event webpage. 

Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to see more of my work.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Giant Pumpkins Are Growing!

I visited the pumpkin patch this weekend. The giants are growing! Despite being so light in color, this is giant is a pumpkin. I visited the patch nine days earlier, and it is amazing how much he has grown in just over a week. Seeing these giants grow is making me very excited for fall!

Here is a side by side view of the same giant pumpkin taken nine days apart.

This little green guy is a new squash. I really like green squash, so I am hoping this one will grow really big. The cloth over the leaves is to protect the squash from the sun. I'm hoping to go back and visit him again this weekend, to see how much he has grown.

One of the squash flowers.

The second giant pumpkin.

If you would like to see these giants compete in the giant pumpkin weigh off, be sure to check out the Ridgefield Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off page.

Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to see more of my work.