Archive | October 2014

Jack O’ Turnip?

Jack O Lantern

Ten or so years ago, the Schuyler County Times (Missouri) published an article of mine about how the tradition of carving Jack o’ Lanterns began. Here is my “blog-version” of the article.

According to Irish legend, we carve Jack o’ Lanterns today thanks to Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack was a drunk and miserly man who got his meals by snatching pies cooling in an open window sill or snagging a chicken from a distracted neighbor. Once, Stingy Jack tricked the Devil himself into climbing a tree to fetch an apple. When the Devil jumped onto a branch, Stingy Jack carved crosses in the trunk and wouldn’t let him down until he promised never to ask for Stingy Jack’s soul again.

A few years later, Stingy Jack died in a turnip patch. His soul was left with no place to go because he’d been too miserly to go to heaven, and since the Devil had promised not to take his soul, he couldn’t go to Hell either. He could only wander in darkness. The devil gave him a glowing coal which he put in a carved-out turnip to serve as a lantern to guide him.

Jack’s lantern, the Jack o’ Lantern, became known as the symbol of a doomed soul. Hollowing out turnips and placing candles or burning embers in them to ward off Stingy Jack and other doomed spirits became a Celtic tradition.

Irish immigrants in the 1800’s brought their Halloween traditions to the United States. But since turnips were not as readily available as in Ireland, they substituted pumpkins for their Jack o’ Lanterns. Good idea, wouldn’t you say?

Happy Halloween!                        dead bat


Autumn Joy

Gourds & Marigolds

It may sound strange, but this gardener loves autumn just as much as spring. I love the crisp air, the geese honking above as they migrate south, and the vibrant red, yellow, and orange leaves that swirl in the wind. I even admire the poison ivy’s beauty–but from afar, very afar.

fall bucket

It’s fun to decorate inside and outside the house with pumpkins, gourds, chrysanthemums, Indian corn, and those hardy old marigolds. This year, I added ornamental peppers to the decorating mix. As you can see in the photos, they look like little red tomatoes. They should turn orange soon and look like tiny pumpkins…at least that’s the plan.

pumpkin peppers

I love fall food, too. On a chilly night, our food is soup filled with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, herbs, beans, corn, and carrots (and whatever else I find in the freezer and pantry) that have been harvested and preserved from our garden.

The real reason I love autumn is that it’s a season for taking a deep breath and giving thanks for our garden produce, be it edible or just decorative.  I realize there is a day in November set aside for that purpose, but Thanksgiving gets short shrift as we rush into December and the holiday season. Besides, one day of thanksgiving isn’t nearly enough.

I encourage you all to grab a cup of hot cider or hot chocolate and walk around outside and enjoy the colors, the sounds, and the feel of autumn. It’s such a gift of joy!

joined gourdsmums