Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Economics

 Oh thank goodness!!  I feared the cold temperatures were here to stay and I am so happy to have lovely fall days again!  After nearly 2 straight weeks of rain every single day, the sun has come out and the ground is drying up. The ducks seemed to be the only ones truly happy with all the rain as they splashed in the puddles and searched in the mud for tasty things to eat. I'm not one to complain about rain, I love rainy days! We needed the rain and it's good for us, and there's nothing sadder to me than a dried up creek, but being cooped up in the house with four crazy children can take a toll on me. I think if you look close enough, you can see footprints going up the walls and along the ceiling!

With such perfect weather this weekend, we just had to go somewhere and take advantage of it. Money being tight and trying to be frugal, we looked for a pumpkin patch that had free admittance.  Most places around here charged entrance fees and had all sorts of activities, like hay rides and slides, and while those would be fun,  we cannot afford those little extras on top of the entrance fee for our large family of 6. I knew of a regular farm stand / apple orchard not too far from us that would be sure to have a pumpkin patch, and without looking at their website, decided we should go there to walk around and take pictures of the kiddos. Little did I know! They were packed! Apparently everyone from Washington, D.C. and their cousins in Nothern Virginia decided to pick apples and headed down there, too, for a day out in the country.

Of course, right when we get there, a little train of cut-out barrels filled with kids being pulled by a tractor roars by and then shortly after, a huge tractor towing a tractor float with hay bales filled with people sitting on them go by. The kids all holler for hay rides and jump up and down excitedly. Damn.  This was exactly what we were trying to avoid. Serves me right for not checking their website and learning they were more commercialized than I thought. We tell the kids to "hold on, let's go see how much and what else they got to offer," and hope that there's no entrance fee or charges for anything else going on.

We find the pumpkin patch and take pictures, but the kids are so excited it's hard to take any decent ones. Hopes for a family picture for the Christmas card pretty much fade away. While I'm sure there were plenty of pumpkins grown here, all the pumpkins present in the patch were already cut away from the vine and I found a pumpkin with a label on it! I wonder if they sold all the ones they grew and had to truck in some more from some other pumpkin farmer??  Did they "plant" the bought ones in the patch to give the city folks a taste of picking a pumpkin from the patch?

Whatever. I knew pumpkins would be pricey here, so we already picked up pumpkins from Walmart before coming here. We got them before going to the pumpkin patch, so we wouldn't have to deal with begging, whining, whimpering children who would just dieee if they didn't get a pumpkin! By getting pumpkins first, we nipped that in the bud! Genius thinking on my part, I think.

So the kids lose their interest in the pumpkin patch as another train of kid-filled barrels go by and we bite the bullet and get closer to the action and the crowds of people. $3 per person for a hay ride and $2 per kid for the barrel ride. No, Thank You. "Come on kids, let's go inside and see what they got in there," we say, pulling them away from the sight of the rides and into the big faux barn. Ugh. Packed with people and completely a commercial-style farm stand. A bakery, cafe, fake vintage farm trinkets, and bins of apples everywhere!  We duck through the crowds and out into a blocked-off parking lot filled with vendors. Some kids walk by with their faces painted and I wince, waiting for it. "Mom! Can we get our faces painted?" Sigh. I crane my neck looking for the booth and I spot a sign: Faces Painted- $5.  Hmm, don't think so. I shake my head and it makes me sad to see the disappointed looks on their faces.

While looking for the painted faces sign, I spotted a play area that was teeming with kids and I quickly turned towards Andrew and silently gave him the "look."  The look that says, "move it or lose it!" I point with my eyes and he looks and quickly understands my point and we steer the kids in the other direction. There isn't much else to do but head back to the car and the kids quickly express their displeasure at this. I try and suggest walking through the apple orchard we parked nearby for pictures and the kids whine and groan, but they're good sports and pose for a few pictures.

You can just see their hearts aren't into saying "cheese" for the cameras. They complain the apples are too big, or too small. They fidget and look away from the camera. They finally say "cheeeeeeeeeeese" and this is the best one of the bunch, taken by Andrew and his camera while they're looking at me and my camera.

I make a promise to stop at the store on the way home and pick up some treats for us to enjoy when we get home. I try to be cheerful and upbeat, but they're on to me. Finally, after we get in the car, we explain, "You know daddy hasn't worked in a while, right? Well, that means we don't have a whole lot of money to spend. We can't spend $20 on face painting that will get washed off and down the drain in the shower tonight. We can't spend $8 on a barrel ride or $18 on a hay ride. You get to ride in the wagon at home when daddy hooks it to the tractor and ride around the yard, so you know it's kind of bumpy. Why would you want to ride in an itchy hay wagon that's all bumpy around someone else's yard? Isn't it more fun to ride the wagon at home and when you want to stop and get out, all you have to do is yell and Daddy stops and let you out?" They seem to understand and stop protesting and settle into their seats in defeat.

Their moods improve once we get home and the prospect of making pumpkin faces become a reality.
Andrew and I moan and groan at having to carve pumpkins. We're tired, both physically and emotionally, and hand out pumpkin-head face pieces instead, telling the kids we'd carve tomorrow. They're happy with that thought and make silly faces on their pumpkins, borrow my camera, and take 126 pictures of pumpkins and silly faces.

Today, we put off carving again and encouraged them to paint their pumpkins instead. They spent 4 hours outside painting, washing off, re-painting, washing off, and re-painting their pumpkins. I called it off when the paint started landing on the blue bench and Peter had paint in his ears!

I admit, I hate to carve into these pumpkins. With money so tight, it's such a waste of perfectly good pumpkin that could be turned into pies, cakes, and breads. I'm hoping to convince the kids to stick with painting faces, then I can wash the paint off and cook up the pumpkins later, but 3 out of 4 kids are pretty determined to carve into them. It might be hopeless at this point, all those holes poked into the pumpkins with those face pieces have probably doomed those pumpkins already. Of all the things related to Halloween, the one I enjoy the least is the waste of pumpkins.


Ron said...

We've always had Abby draw on the pumpkins. The nice thing is that she can be as creative as she wants to be. Then, her and mom carve it and enjoy it overnight... but the next day we cut it up so we can make pumpkin soup with it.

I'm always incredulous at all the wasted pumpkins and bales of hay at this time of year.

jenny said...

Ron-- We did that one year.. carved it then the next day I cooked it up. I made the mistake of saying we'd carve them, but I should have said we'd carve them the night before Halloween.. All those pokes from the face pieces will surely start to rot wayyy before Halloween rolls around, so I'll just have to admit defeat and let them carve the pumpkins.

These kids feed off each other sometimes and when one kid pipes up, the others follow.. which is the case this time. I'll have to remember next year to be more careful with my words.