Mary Smith, Historic St. Marys
At the end of October, it’s great to see all the bright orange Halloween pumpkins glowing like beacons on porches and doorsteps, even on the dullest days. The sight of the farm wagon loaded with giant pumpkins in this week’s featured photograph must have appealed to the photographer, even though it could only be recorded with black and white film. The two children, perched on top of the load, add charm to this picture, taken about 80 years ago on the Erastus Martin farm near Uniondale. It was among a number of photographs showing country life that late Louis Martin lent to the Museum for copying a number of years ago.
Today, pumpkins seem to be grown almost exclusively for Halloween sales and for the past several weeks, truckloads have been delivered to grocery stores and farmers’ markets. There are also several nearby locations where families could go into the fields and choose their own.
After October 31, there is little further interest in them. Often the unpicked pumpkins are left to rot down, returning nutrients to the soil.
In the past, a good pumpkin crop had more diverse uses. Pumpkins stored in a cool, dry location (but not allowed to freeze) would last well into the winter and could be used as supplemental livestock feed and, of course, for human consumption as long as the flesh remained sound enough to make pumpkin puree for pies and other baking.
If the internet can be believed, lots of people across North America still feed pumpkins to livestock, particularly to pigs. Various websites raise some entertaining questions: Is there any nutritional value to pumpkins as fodder? In other words, are pieces of pumpkin just a treat or do they actually contain anything worth feeding? Does over-feeding pumpkins give the meat of butchered hogs an orange tinge? Is it true that pumpkin seeds are a natural de-wormer for livestock? Is it safe to feed the seeds to poultry? These and other issues are debated with on-line vigour.
The farm wagon in the photograph, proudly proclaiming itself The Jackson was very possibly Ontario-made. The Jackson Wagon Company operated from 1904 in St. George, a village near Brantford. The South Dumfries Historical Society is helping to confirm the history of this wagon. If any Journal Argus readers have information, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.