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My Blog

A Gourd-geous Season

Good morning to everyone.  One very brisk morning outside, yet the sun is shining and I have two feet placed on the floor.  So much to do these days as I am getting ready for the Craft Faire at the Grove in Glenview.  Yesterday was spent painting wine bottles using a new paint by Deco Art and I must say that I love it.  I painted birch trees in a winter scene that will have lights in the bottle.  I love them. 
I thought about today's blog and decided on gourds.  This is so typical of the season since a pumpkin and squash fall into that category. 
One of the things that I paint is gourds.  I have gone gourd picking in Michigan for them and I must say the cleaning of the gourds is biggest deal.  I spent a few days this summer out on the patio with hot water, bleach and steel wool and scrubs them clean.  They are then painted and sealed.  I have purchased a drill to carve one out one day.  That perhaps will become next years project.  I have seen them stained, carved, made into bowls and spoons.  I often wonder if that is where pumpkin carving and Jack O'Lanterns came from. 
Well, then the curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out more about these wonderful objects. 
The carving of vegetables has been a common practice in many parts of the world, with gourds being the earliest plant species domesticated by humans 10,000 years ago, predominantly for their carving potential. Gourds were used to carve lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago, with the Māori word for Gourd'ue also was  used to describe a lampshade. But the innovation of carving a Jack-O-Lantern specifically to celebrate Halloween was first recorded in the U.S., with the earliest known reference occurring in 1866. There is a common belief that its carving came to the U.S. from Ireland.
In Storytelling, the story of the Jack-O'-lantern comes in many ways retold in different forms across the world, with variations being present in the folklore of Norway, Sweden, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Italy and Spain. An old Irish folk tale from the mid-19th Century tells o f Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who used a cross to trap the Devil. One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down. Another tale says that Jack put a key in the Devil's pocket while he was suspended upside-down
Today, pumpkin carving has really changed from the days of old.  Sections of the pumpkin are cut out to make holes, often depicting a face, which may be either cheerful, scary, or comical. More complex carvings are becoming more commonly seen. Popular figures, symbols, and logos are some that can now be seen used on pumpkins. A variety of tools can be used to carve and hollow out the gourd, ranging from simple knives and spoons to specialized instruments, typically sold in holiday sections of North American grocery stores. Printed stencils can be used as a guide for increasingly complex designs. After carving, a light source (traditionally a candle) is placed inside the pumpkin and the top is put back into place. The light is normally inserted to illuminate the design from the inside and add an extra measure of spookiness. Sometimes a chimney is carved, too. It is possible to create surprisingly unique and artistic designs. Today they even use drills and cookie cutters to help in the cuttings.  Amazing how ones mind can create some of the wildest looking art. 
Well, one of the better things about carving a Jack O'Lantern is the seeds that you get to bake and salt for eating.  That has always been the one part of the ritual enjoyed by my children growing up.  I, myself, love the small pumpkin that I cut up and make into Pumpkin Soup with cream, bacon and onions, accompanied by some homemade noodles.  That's the way my Grandmother did it and the tradition continues on. 
I hope that you have been enjoying this months reflection of the season.  Next month, being the month of Thanksgiving, I thought a thanks for the day might be an appropriate blog...I welcome anyone's suggestions.  Just post your comments.  I look forward to reading some of them. 

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