5 Fun Ways to Use Carved Pumpkins After Halloween

5 Fun Ways to Use Carved Pumpkins After Halloween

Halloween is almost here and pumpkins everywhere are waiting to make their way to homes, stoops, and porches. What to do with them after the carving and decorating is done? Here are 5 fun ways to use carved pumpkins after Halloween is over…

 

1. Pumpkin Bird Feeder. What better way to use a good chunk of pumpkin than to feed the neighborhood birds? There are several ways to make a bird feeder depending on how you carve your pumpkin.

If the bottom, top, or side is left as a bowl or curved shape it is quite easy! Just cut the piece away from the rest of the pumpkin to form the bowl. If it is large enough you can cut small holes on each side to form handles to tie twine and hang. If not, use two lengths of twine and attach to the bottom where they crisscross and hang. Fill with birdseed (including any leftover pumpkin seeds) and wait for the neighborhood critters to come enjoy!

2. Pumpkin Planter. Choose a nice fall plant you’d like to transplant or buy from a local nursery (look for one that does not treat with neonicotinoids) as you won’t have time to grow much from seed. Fill your pumpkin with your plant and fill in with organic potting soil.

Your pumpkin does need drainage, but works best when your jack-o’-lantern’s face is not so large it loses much soil. It would be ideal for a painted or etched pumpkin too (add small drainage hole(s) at the bottom)!

3. Pumpkin Guts Stock. Every wondered what you could use those super slimy pumpkin guts for? Wonder no more. Use those guts to make a flavorful vegetable stock and reduce food waste!

Take all the pumpkin guts and place them in a stock pot full of water. Throw in any other veggie parts you might have, like carrot and celery tops, plus a whole chopped onion and up to 2tbsp of olive oil (optional). Boil for 30 minutes or so (or until it starts to change color), then strain all the veggie pieces out. You have just made yourself some delicious Pumpkin Guts Stock!

Use it in any soup or freeze for later!

4. Pumpkin Compost. – Once it starts to get rotten, just bury the whole thing in your backyard as a soil amendment. Either bury it whole in or break it up into smaller pieces. If there are any seeds left, you might have some volunteers next year. It is also easy to toss into your backyard compost as a green layer!

5. Pumpkin Catapult or Batting Practice. If you have little people in your home who love to build take this chance to create your very own catapult! When those pumpkins start to go, the entire family will have a blast watching them go splat. Then toss the results into the compost (see #4).

Alternatively if you have any budding baseball/softball players in the house that won’t mind getting splattered a bit, work on their hard hits straight at an incoming pumpkin.

Note: I highly recommend some serious supervision with this idea if you have kids giving either a try. But won’t you be the coolest parent ever?!? ;)

 

So tell me:

  • Do any of these ideas strike your fancy?
  • Do you have any other ideas to share?
  • Have you carved pumpkins yet?

 

Save Us, And The Bees, From Ourselves

Calvin and Hobbes - Meet Giant BeeLike too many things in this world, the bees ought to fear the humans. And we ought to fear ourselves. The good news is there is always hope! No need to wallow in fear when there is work to be done! 

 

Bees are a keystone species?

Many of us grew up thinking of bees somewhere along the spectrum between picnic nuisance and deathly fear of all buzzing pollinators. Unless you lived on or near farms you may not have realized how essential bees are in the agricultural puzzle – $15 billion in increased value and about one in three bites of food we currently enjoy. As a child, I only had a vague idea bees were important to their ecosystem.

Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It’s the one stone that keeps the two halves of the arch together. […] If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.
  

 –May Berenbaum, PhD, Entomologist.

Bees have long suffered from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, but at no other point in history has their decline in numbers and safe havens been so rapid and fraught with controversy and uncertainty of cause or solution. Many studies point to pesticides, neonics (or neonicotinoids) in particular, as one factor of the recent massive bee die-offs, and therefore putting our entire food system in peril.

Living in Oregon, it was hard to escape the horror of the tens of thousands of bees who fell dead to the ground in a Target parking lot. That is the stuff of nightmares. This led the state to issue a temporary ban on the use of the harmful insecticide to determine what plans need to be put in place going forward.

 

What do we know about the role of neonics and bee deaths?

Bee pollinating peach flower
photo credit: “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos”

     

     — We know that neonics cause certain harm, death, to bees under certain conditions. Those conditions are what the scientific community is debating.

     — Although “low level exposures do not normally kill bees directly, [but] they may impact some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.” Meaning bees will be harmed one way or another after enough exposure.

     — The European Food Safety Authority, when asked to perform a risk assessment of neonics, found “a high acute risk to honey bees,” as well as both flaws and data gaps in the industry-sponsored studies used as scientific evidence in safety assurances.

     — Bees are exposed to neonics through commercial agricultural uses (dust drift, residues in nectar and pollen, reduction in pollen diversity), commercial landscaping (direct insecticide use for ornamental plants and trees), and home landscaping and garden use (potting soil and direct insecticide use).

 

What can we do about these bee die-offs right now?

E.O. Wilson - Natural World

 

      — Read, learn more. You’ve already read this so we are off to an excellent beginning! Now direct your attention to this lovely Buzz on Bees and Making Your Garden Count Blog Carnival and all the information you can glean from it.

     — Choose neonic-free products. Grow organic plants in organic potting soil. Avoid shopping at the mega-garden centers who sell plants and soil that have already been treated. Avoid neonic-based insecticides for home use.

     — Take action! Call on retailers to commit to stop selling neonics, as well as plants and seeds pretreated with these pesticides. Sign the petition and share it widely!

If these are big steps for you, take your time to learn as you go. Use the wisdom of your locally-owned plant nursery or college extension program. There are a lot of resources to help you continue on your path to creating a better world for the bees around you, but we all need to take the first steps!

Please share any tips on how to make your yard and garden more bee-friendly! Will you take any action today?

Plant-based nutrition and an urban homesteading giveaway!

Fall is really here. It is gray, rainy, and has us all thinking of baking bread, pumpkin patches, hot apple cider, and snuggling up in front of the fireplace. The leaves on the trees are starting to turn as our lifestyle changes from being outside as much as possible to more indoor activities.

Did you know that October is also Vegetarian Awareness Month? Saturday, October 1, was World Vegetarian Day and the kick-off of a month of awareness about the benefits of a vegetarian, plant-based diet, especially one that is grown locally and sustainably.

I was recently sent a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever, which was perfect for this month.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition“What we used to call being a vegan or vegetarian is more accurately called a plant-based diet. What makes a plant-based diet different from veganism or vegetarianism is that it defines the composition of what is included in the diet, opposed to what is excluded from the diet,” says Herver.

I love that the author mentions the difference between focusing on what to exclude from your diet and what to include. This leaves room for those that don’t exclude all animal products, but are willing to look at the health end environmental benefits of a plant-centered diet. Although the more you learn, the more you may lean toward that whole-food, plant-based diet.
Baby steps. You know I am a big believer in small steps as the key to real and permanent change.

Hippocrates said, “Let thy food by thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” You are what you eat. And if you eat foods that promote health and well-being… well you’re all not idiots and can certainly figure that out. The latest information and research about a plant-based diet is proving that it protects against many of our health-related illnesses (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis).

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition guides readers through the transition to a plant-only eating ensuring you get all the necessary vitamins and nutrients. In addition, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition helps clarify myths and facts about plant-based diets, offers special diets for athletes, pregnant women, seniors and children, and shares specific exercises that enhance a plant-based diet.

This is not a book for idiots. It is a book for anyone that is interested in learning more about a whole-food, plant-based diet or a seasoned expert looking for the latest research and delicious recipes. I have been a vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) for 18 years and even I learned a lot from this book.

Another book that I am excited about reading throughout this season to get me ready for when the weather warms and help keep me educated about new things I can do during the short, cold months to be gentle on the environment is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Elizabeth Kraft.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban HomesteadingThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading gives clear, practical advice on how to live sustainably and responsibly—and save money and time—in any urban environment. Expert urban homesteader, Sundari Elizabeth Kraft, shares her hands-on knowledge of growing and preserving organic foods, composting, raising small livestock, saving money on transportation, creative recycling and more.

An urban homesteader is something that I aspire to be, even with my somewhat brown-thumb. And it is a big part of my family’s plans for the coming year.

What exactly is urban homesteading? Kraft defines it as, “a collection of practices, which can be done within a city, with the aim of meeting basic daily needs in a self-sufficient and sustainable way.”

If we want to make a real, positive impact on the next generation, I believe that this movement is one way to do that. As a society, we have lost our taste for self-sufficiency, for understanding where (and how) the products we consume are made and what it entails, and for quality.

I will never forget when friends brought over some eggs for us from their backyard chickens and having my husband exclaim every time he cracked one about the incredible color! And we all were excited about their incredible flavor. We have lost that knowledge somewhere along the way. This is the book that can bring us back to it.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading has a wonderful section on gardening for any situation you might encounter in urban living: from small containers to windowsill micro-gardening, converting your yard to growing in someone else’s there is something for everyone and more information about “how-to” than any other resource I have found.

My family and I are planning on raising backyard chickens next year and I was excited about the section on livestock (chickens, goats, rabbits, bees, and aquaponics) in the city, but was again impressed with the breadth of information from the basics to the advanced. Between this book and many trips to the Urban Farm Store, I think we will be ready.

One area that I think is so important to work toward a green lifestyle is making what you need (compost!) and making do with what you have (water conservation!). This book covers all that and more, even urban foraging! If you have any inclination toward urban homesteading, even if just one small piece is appealing, then you will find yourself coming back to this book again and again.

Want to win a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading of your own?

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This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Kate, the winner of a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading who said, “I want to win because I was just looking at this book the other day,really want to read it.”

Why we make this organic garden grow

Little gardeners
We are just now getting our little garden started again for this year. We have been lucky to not have the horrific weather that has been affecting so much of the country lately, but we have also not had the best gardening-with-small-children weather.

Let’s face it, I am not about to get out and work in the yard in the rain and the cold.

We are amateur gardeners at best. Some of us like to dig in the dirt and feel the mud oozing through our fingers. Some of us like to learn about the plants. Some of us like to eat. We all enjoy the garden.

Our garden is not about growing and saving for the winter -not yet anyway. Our garden is not about reducing our grocery bills, although that would be a nice benefit. Our garden isn’t even about a love of gardening, although if we all learn a bit more of that along the way, it would be a good thing.

We have a garden to simply teach our children about growing and caring for plants, understanding that food comes from hard work, fortunate weather, and the earth – whether that is in our own backyard, the local farm, or a large cooperative of farms farther removed from our daily lives. Food does not come from the store. Let me rephrase, food does not originate at the store.

We have an organic garden so our children can run barefoot in the yard, in the dirt and in the grass. So they can stand in the raspberry bushes and pluck the juicy berries with muddy little fingers and enjoy the sun-ripened goodness right then and there without a thought that they should not.

Muddy hands eating berries

We have a garden because of then I can hear my 7 year old tell my 5 year old in his knowing voice that the tomatoes that we grow in our garden taste so much better than the ones that we get from the store. It amazes me to hear two boys that ordinarily would not willingly eat tomatoes become excited about the tomato plants that we have growing out back and look forward to the fruit they will bear.

We have a garden to try vegetables that might otherwise be passed over in the store or varieties that are simply not available there. I might not love Brussels sprouts, but we are going to grow them and I’ll eat them! They might not love broccoli, but we are going to grow it and they’ll try it. Planting heirloom varieties you don’t see everywhere is fun and exciting and lends itself to more adventurous eating on all of our parts.

We have a garden to experience it in all the triumphs and failures, in all the deliciousness of the fruits of their labor and the healthfulness of the vegetables we grow despite how we may really feel about them, the patience and work, the learning and careful tending. There are life lessons to be learned here and I hope to let my children find them as they’re growing.

Tell me about your garden! Why do you have one and what do you grow?