Yes, I know it’s a cliche. But I’m going to say it anyhow: What a difference a single day can make.
About seven miles up the road from us, a big operation called Pregitzer Farm Market sells all kinds of wonderful produce. It’s the kind of place where you can take the kids to a corn maze, let them pet some sheep and goats, and come home with a bundle of fresh vegetables and eggs.
They also have one of the biggest pumpkin patches I’ve ever seen. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s easily five acres or more. Throughout October, you can go out to that field and pick your own pumpkin; this year, I think they were charging five bucks in the days leading up to Halloween.
But it’s not Halloween anymore. Who wants to spend five bucks for a pumpkin on November 1st? What’s a farm market to do with that many acres of leftover produce?
Simple: they open it up to anyone who wants to pack their own truckload of pumpkins. Price per truckload? Ten Bucks. In other words, one of the best deals ever. You just need some kind of use for those pumpkins.
And we do. Our sheep and goats love pumpkins. The chickens and turkeys peck at the leftovers all day long, too.
Our truck isn’t currently road worthy, but Pregitzer’s isn’t picky about the type of vehicle you use — or how full you load it. They just want the pumpkins out of there. I decided to take all the back seats out of our minivan, and load it to the gills.
And I do mean to the gills:
I bet you didn’t think a person could fit that many pumpkins into a Dodge Caravan. Here’s a view from the front:
I made a total of four trips, sometimes with a kid. The almost-eight-year-old boy thought this was especially great fun. My biggest challenge was convincing him to leave the huge pumpkins alone, and to focus on gathering the smaller ones. (Naturally, he went straight for the ones that probably weigh as much as he does.)
If you’re a kid, how many times do you see the family minivan transformed this way? And get to ride in it? He had an absolute blast. The biggest challenge for me was driving slowly and carefully back to our farm. To say that the van’s handling characteristics were a bit more sloppy than usual, and that increased stopping distance was required, would be gross understatements.
Once home, we tossed several pumpkins to the goats. They came running, and went right to work chowing the things down.
We also gave several pumpkins to the sheep, out in the pasture. We will continue to feed a few of these to each group of livestock, every day.
I got every available kid to help unload the van into the upstairs portion of the barn. This wasn’t nearly as much fun as making the trip to the pumpkin patch, but many hands made light work.
As I said, I made a total of four trips over the last week. Even so, and even with other people getting their own loads, the pumpkin patch looks barely dented. My understanding is that Pregitzer’s people will soon be running a disc over the whole field, plowing the remaining pumpkins under in preparation for next spring. Kind of sad, and I hate seeing a single pumpkin go to waste, but the weather’s turning nasty (and I really don’t have time to get over there again, anyway).
Besides, the supply we do have should last us a good long time:
I must say: finding these kinds of surplus produce deals, and putting to good use something that would otherwise be wasted, is one of the things I especially enjoy about having livestock. There’s an apple orchard a few miles from us, and every fall our oldest daughter runs over there and gets boxes of damaged windfall fruit that otherwise would’ve ended up in a compost pile. Instead, thanks to our daughter, these apples become a wonderful treat for the sheep and goats.
And hopefully, in just under seven weeks, we’ll again be loading up the van with unsold fresh Christmas trees!