Maine Garden Love: Gretchen’s Giant Pumpkin
Weather permitting, I walk our little dog, Scamp, around the block every day. I can’t say I’d be motivated to walk that consistently without a dog. It’s one of the many reasons for having one.
Now I know most everyone in Mahoosuc Mills, some better than others. Gretchen and her husband Bill moved down the street about ten years ago, and we’re mostly, “Hi! How you doing?” neighbors, with a “Nice day, huh?” occasionally thrown in for good measure. They’re usually just getting back from work, or I’m trying to get home and start supper.
Well, one day this summer I’m walking Scamp, and there’s Gretchen working in her yard. When I ask her how she’s doing, she goes, “I’m trying to grow a giant pumpkin.”
Gretchen was just bursting with enthusiasm. “I have some great female buds, and I’m trying to prevent just any old male from pollinating them.”
Well, that got my attention. So Scamp and I mosey over to her garden patch, and sure enough, Gretchen’s got a little bondage thing going in her garden. She’s got the big, yellowy-orange flowers on the pumpkin vine tied shut.
“I have some nice males on the vines out back. I got plastic cups over those, so they don’t open ‘til I’m ready for ‘em!”
We went to check those out, too. Yup. There were plastic cups over these taller bud-like things. “Tell me, Gretchen,” I says, “is Bill helping you out, or is this your project?”
“Oh, at first he was pretty blasé about it. He tilled a little plot for me, but that was the extent of his interest. But, now that we’re about ready to do the pollinating, he’s all jacked up.”
“There you go. It’s been my experience, it’s up to the wife to hold the greater vision for the couple.”
“Isn’t that the truth?” she says. “I never thought of doing this before. Then, I was at my dentist, looking through the National Geographic, and they had this picture of a guy with his giant pumpkin. I mean, it was huge! And that night, I had this dream of growing one myself.”
“And here you are.” I says, heading back to the street.
“Here I am! You want to be on my email list? I’ll send you updates.”
Gretchen was just glowing, I thought, as Scamp and I walked home. Radiant. It’s amazing what having a passion can do for your overall well-being. It doesn’t matter what that passion is. It almost made me want to grow a giant pumpkin myself. Just kidding, but that kind of follow-through is inspiring!
A few days later, I get my first email update. Talk about commitment! Gretchen and Bill had gotten up at six in the morning to pollinate pumpkin flowers. This involves taking the male bud-like things, removing the outer petals, opening up the female flowers and rubbing several male buds inside the female flower. I don’t know if this sort of thing is even legal in Maine! Their photos made it look like there’d been some major partying going on, plastic cups all over the yard.
Well, sure enough, two pumpkins started to form on Gretchen’s vine. But apparently, if you want to grow a giant pumpkin, you have to make some hard decisions: only one pumpkin per vine. So Gretchen did what she had to do, and Godzilla was born.
Godzilla started off kind of slow, but then it began growing by leaps and bounds, an average of ten pounds a day, once it hit its stride. And the bigger it got, the fonder Gretchen grew of it. “Godzilla’s bringing back all those motherly instincts of mine,” she wrote. Gretchen and Bill even made a little tent out of a blue tarp to protect it from the sun. And now that the weather’s turned, they have got to tucking the thing in under a blanket at night, to keep it from getting cold!
Laugh all you like, but that bugger has topped out just shy of 300 pounds! People in town started driving by to gawk at Godzilla. (What can I say, there just isn’t all that much to do ‘round here.) I’d be talking with Gretchen, and a car would slow down, the folks inside smiling and giving a thumbs up. Her passion’s got everybody buzzed. I love seeing how this kind of thing can have such a ripple effect!
So, I went over to Gretchen and Bill’s to take the photo you see here. They’d just gotten back from the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts, where they have a Giant Pumpkin Contest every year. And it’s serious business, let me tell you. Big as it is, Godzilla wouldn’t even qualify to enter.
Gretchen goes, “They had some big pumpkins at the Fair,” (and here’s where she winks at Bill) “but none were as beautiful as Godzilla!”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)