November 6th, 2019
For the entire month of October, I felt like Linus, a character from the Peanuts Cartoon, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. I too was disappointed at the non-show of pumpkins in Labrador West. This year, unlike previous ones, was characterized by a pumpkin shortage here. We don’t have farms that one can go to and pick out a pumpkin. Pumpkins are imported in from Quebec or even further away. With only two stores in town that sell pumpkins, I kept my eye out for their arrival since the first week of October. I searched in vain for the elusive pumpkins on each grocery trip into town. My friend and I rely on pumpkins as a critical ingredient in our dogs’ diets. It is a vegetable rich in nutrients. The lack of pumpkins in the store was a major concern discussed on our daily hikes. October was the only time of year that pumpkins were brought in. We cook uncarved pumpkins, puree the flesh and can it so Bailey and Cas have enough for a year. The Saturday before Halloween, I was told to come back in the afternoon as the last shipment of pumpkins would be arriving. I found out on Facebook that the pumpkins had arrived 30 minutes after I reached home at 11:30 am and were sold out in 20 minutes. As Halloween drew nearer, I noticed an increasing number of Facebook posts asking if anyone had a pumpkin to spare. My husband even voiced his concern that without a carved pumpkin to advertise that we had candy to give out, would any children come to the door. I could see that a large number of children were also not going be carving pumpkins. It could have been a recipe for disaster. However, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are a very kind lot. Although many Martha Stewart wannabes had cleaned out each store’s supply of pumpkins to decorate their front doorways, they invited parents to come by and help themselves to pumpkins for carving. I decided to see if their generosity would extend to feeding two dogs.
And so, I found myself at the computer on Halloween Night. I was hopeful that by 9 pm, some people would be already thinking about decorating for Christmas. Perhaps, they would even be relieved about giving their sacred pumpkins to our cause. I posted on the local Facebook flea market page with a plea for 8 medium to large uncarved pumpkins for Bailey and Cas. I also put message to arrange pick-up. Thankfully, I had enough sense not to put our house address in the message. I pictured my husband unable to leave for work the next day due to a massive pile of dropped off pumpkins. Two minutes after hitting the post button, my notifications started going crazy. I went from having no pumpkins to quickly posting that I had enough (capping it to 16 pumpkins) and thanked everyone for offering. What I had not anticipated was the snowstorm moving up from Quebec. Friday morning was pleasant enough. However, as the afternoon progressed, the snow kept coming – quicker and lots of it. I was definitely not going to be picking up pumpkins on Friday evening. I messaged my pumpkin suppliers to reschedule for Saturday morning at 9 am and they agreed to keep the pumpkins longer.
After 2 hours of shoveling, the van could finally be driven. My husband and I showed up at the first place at 11:30 am. I noticed that the woman had messaged that the pumpkins would be on the back bridge. Now, I have lived in many parts of Canada and not heard this term. Did it mean that she had a bridge in her back yard and the pumpkins were on it? My husband who works with Newfoundlanders clarified that a bridge is another name for a deck. “Oh”, I responded as I got out and headed through the deep snow towards the backyard. I knocked on the back door when I didn’t see any pumpkins on the “bridge”. The husband answered and I asked about the pumpkins that his wife had offered. His face clearly showed that he hadn’t a clue about it. But, he reached down beside the door and grabbed two pumpkins – carved ones. I didn’t say anything and headed back to the van. I grumbled to my husband that the wife must have missed my request for uncarved pumpkins only. The next place was on the same street just further down. We pulled into a cleared driveway. At least, I would not have to wade through knee high snow. The wife had sent a photo of her 8 pumpkins sitting at her front door in the message to me. Where were they? I wondered if they might be on a back bridge. I knocked and discovered another husband with no a clue as to what his wife had agreed to do. He was a helpful husband who had, while clearing the snow from the outside entrance area and driveway earlier, decided to remove the snow-covered pumpkins and toss them into the rather large garbage bin. My disappointed face was enough for him to suggest that the pumpkins were the only items in the bin and I was welcome to help myself. And so I found myself dumpster diving for pumpkins. How I love my dog! The pumpkins were frozen and still in good condition. I handed off the pumpkins to my husband who loaded them in the van. As I got closer to the bottom of the garbage bin, I felt as if I might topple in. I envisioned my feet thrashing in the air as I plunged down all for a pumpkin. We left with my dignity barely intact. Thankfully, the rest of the places had the pumpkins out front awaiting pick-up.
We off-loaded 14 frozen pumpkins into the garage. My friend and I had secured a year’s supply of pumpkins. I checked my Facebook page and saw a message waiting for me. I had been given the wrong pumpkins by the husband at the first place. I guess the children there were upset that their carved pumpkins had been given away. The uncarved ones were sitting at the front door inside. I returned for them. As I added them to the growing pile of pumpkins, I was reminded of the Star Trek episode, “Tribbles”. It dawned on me that we had a lot of pumpkin to process. In previous years, we had the luxury of time. With frozen ones, I soon realized that processing had to happen immediately or the pumpkins would become soft and mushy. The marathon began. Three days were spent scooping seeds, cutting, baking and pureeing. My portion of pumpkin puree filled five 4 liter ice cream pails. Even the seeds were kept and turned into yummy training treats by my friend who cleaned, dried and toasted them. By Tuesday, she asked if we had to start canning right away. I reassured her that the pumpkin puree could stay in cold storage until the weekend to give us a break before the next marathon. In the meantime, Bailey and Cas are loving their freshly toasted pumpkin seeds. I guess the Great Pumpkin arrived after all.