Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Pumpkin Story

Hey, Friends.

I hope your 2017 is off to a good start!  We're only a few days into the year, so hopefully it hasn't totally gone to shit on you already. Lots of time to make a comeback and turn it around if it isn't going so well.

As you may recall, back in October I went apple and pumpkin picking with some of my friends.  It's pretty much what everyone does at least once in the Fall when you live in this area.  Need a refresher? You can click on this handy-dandy link right here.  We picked apples and I got to be the Official Tree Climber. It was a fun day.

I kind of fell in love with one pumpkin because I thought it was just adorable -- particularly it's sort of droopy-looking stem.  I had to get it even though I was going to be in Texas for Halloween.  It was too perfect to leave behind!

My pumpkin, happily living on my front steps

Now, I've had issues before with people messing with my decorations on my front steps.  When I am going to be home during Halloween, I usually have a ton of pumpkins on the front steps.  One or two are real, and the rest are the foam ones that you can buy at the craft store.  A few of the foam ones are carved, and then I can use them every year and just put flameless candles in the them.  The rest are solid foam, and they stay out on the steps right through Thanksgiving.

A couple years ago when I was home for Halloween, I had a party.  It had been pretty warm out still, and we had been in the house and on the front porch, lots of windows open.  Everyone had gone home, and I was trying to do a quick clean up before passing out for the night. It was probably about 1-1:30 in the morning. 

I noticed this weird thumping noise coming from the street in front of my house. There's a guy out there, and he had one of my pumpkins in his hands.  He lifted it over his head, and threw it at the ground while saying, "Stupid pumpkin!"  It didn't smash, as he had clearly been hoping, but simply bounced off the pavement. Luckily for me, and much to his apparent frustration, he had picked one of my foam pumpkins to try to smash.

He picked the pumpkin back up again and threw it at the ground with a little more force, getting a little louder with his "Stupid pumpkin!" mantra.  I was pretty sure the guy was less than sober, judging from his slightly uncoordinated movements. I had my phone ready in case he decided to up his attempted vandalism, or tried to come in my house. 

Friends, that dude was persistent!  He must have been out there for a good 10 minutes trying to smash that foam pumpkin.  I have no idea how long he had been there before I heard the thumping noise. He didn't touch anything else, but he kept picking up that one pumpkin and trying to smash it over and over again.  Finally, he made this kind of a "Mrah" growling noise, waved his hands at the pumpkin, and stumbled off down the street.

I waited until I was sure he had wandered off out of sight, and went out to recover my pumpkin from the street.  Not even a dent!  No wonder the dude was getting so frustrated.  I would guess that he probably had zero recollection of his little pumpkin-smashing adventure the next day.  If he did, he was probably a bit confused at his spectacular failure.  I found it hilarious!  Drunk people can be highly amusing.

Back to my point....and I swear I do have one.

So, this year I left my adorable pumpkin on the front steps when I went to Texas. Poor thing was all on its own, and I hoped I wouldn't return to find it a pumpkin-colored splotch on the street in front of my house.

I'm happy to report it was just fine on my return, so I left it on the front steps to act as Thanksgiving / Harvest decor.  Maybe it was because I hadn't carved it, maybe I had found it the perfect little habitat sitting on bricks and spending the day in the sun.  All I know is my little pumpkin showed no signs of being anything less than as perfect as when I had picked him.

Thanksgiving came and went, and my pumpkin was still on my front steps.  People had their Christmas decorations out (including me -- my lights were on the house), and my pumpkin was still sitting on my front steps.  It was still perfectly fine, and I did have a coworker who said he wanted it to make into pies -- he just didn't want it yet as he was maxed out on pumpkins at the moment. So I left it there.

I left my adorable pumpkin on the front steps until I started to get a world of comments from my parents and my neighbors about it.

Yeah. It was time.  Either my adorable pumpkin needed to move on, or I needed to put up decorations from all different holidays and be that one crazy house that seems to exist on every street.

By this point I was pretty sure my coworker had forgotten about my pumpkin.  The thing was still perfectly fine!  Not sure what to do with it, I moved it to the back of the house to sit next to my garage.

People had lots of suggestions on what I should do with my pumpkin.  One person said they painted theirs red and green and left them on their front lawn to act as Christmas ornaments.  Someone else told me about kits you could buy to decorate them and make them look like elves.  Most people told me to take it to the woods somewhere and leave it for the deer.

Wait....deer eat pumpkins?  I don't know why I found that so strange, but it gave me ideas.

I have more wildlife friends that visit my back yard than I ever could have imagined survived in this area.  There are: deer, squirrels, birds, skunks, bunnies, cats, raccoons, groundhogs, possums, and apparently a bear (at least once).  Exactly how long could my pumpkin sit in the yard before something decided it looked like a tasty treat?

I don't know what exactly I thought was going to happen during my little wildlife experiment, Friends. I expected to see some tooth marks after the first few days -- some sort of evidence that something had found it and started to chomp its way into the yummy pumpkin seeds at the center.

Well, the birds seem to like visiting the pumpkin

My poor pumpkin had lived such a sheltered little life before it got moved to the back yard.  Now it had been rained on repeatedly.  It had snowed a few times.  Other than signs that the birds liked to visit, it still seemed to be completely intact.

Sunday night I was contemplating my pumpkin.  Maybe all those people were wrong and deer really didn't eat pumpkins. Maybe I had finicky wildlife that lived in my neighborhood, as they clearly preferred to eat all of my bird food from the feeder rather than touch the pumpkin.  Was it the placement of the pumpkin?  It was near the bird feeder, but maybe if I moved it over to the other side of the yard and put it in the garden that would make a difference.  It was farther from the house. If nothing ever touched it and it slowly rotted away, it would probably be good fertilizer.

I completely spaced on moving the pumpkin before work Monday morning.  It was cold and rainy, and I just didn't want to be outside any longer than necessary.  I figured the pumpkin would be fine just chilling by the garage for another day or two.

I was wrong, Friends.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this upon leaving for work Tuesday morning:

Flat pumpkin

Can pumpkins explode?  That was my first thought.  Like maybe it had frozen and thawed enough that it just burst somehow.  A closer examination, however, proved that one side was completely gone, most of the pulpy goop inside was gone, and the seeds were scattered about in front of the garage door. Clearly something had decided that it was hungry enough to go after the pumpkin.

Experiment on, Friends!  I left my pile of pumpkin right where it was, curious to see what would happen next.  Maybe the thrill was now gone and I would end up moving the pumpkin mush to the garden.  Maybe this was just step one, and now other neighborhood wildlife would get in on the action.  

Wednesday morning brought yet another stage in the experiment.

The pumpkin has vanished!

My pumpkin was totally and completely gone!  Literally nothing there except the cracked shells from some of the seeds. What could possibly have done this?  I wish I had a camera out there, because I would really love to know if it was like one animal, or a joint effort -- did one thing eat the pumpkin itself, and then the squirrels and birds took all of the seeds?

It wasn't until I was heading off to work this afternoon (I work the late shift on Thursdays) that I noticed something in my yard that looked odd.  There was a beige-colored lump on the other side of my yard in between the garden and the raspberry bush.  I decided to go investigate as it would not be the first time one of the feral cats had made a kill in the yard and left a random pile of bird feathers in its wake.  Thankfully, it was not a pile of feathers or a mangled little bird body -- it was the stem from my pumpkin!

Pumpkin stem photo shoot on the back steps

The thing has been picked clean.  There is not the slightest trace of pumpkin attached to it any more. Whatever critter had gotten the stem was either ambitious or desperate enough to remove every edible scrap from that stem.  I don't know if the stem was actively being dragged across the lawn to another destination, or if the trip was made accidentally while the attached pumpkin bits were being eaten.  Hell, for all I know one of the feral cats discovered it and decided it would be a great toy to bat around the yard.

So, what conclusions can we draw from the experiment, Friends?

-- If you leave a pumpkin outside long enough, something(s) will eat it.
-- The wildlife in my neighborhood is not nearly as finicky as I believed, and just like to fuck with my bird feeder out of convenience.
-- I might have recycled my pumpkin in the best possible way.

Will my yard now be the new popular spot for all the wildlife to hang out looking to score a treat? We'll just have to wait and see.

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