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Happy Accident

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About two years ago I started a compost pile in a back corner of our property. I don’t know why I did this. I firmly believe that compost piles work for one of two people: 1. the Prairie Restoration types (neo-hippies who have, along with the plants they grow, a very back-to-Mother Earth bent) and 2. the organized gardeners (who understand the system of compost and actually tend, tumble and reuse the compost from their compost pile).

I am neither of these people.

I am a lazy gardener who has a great idea, then never fails to tire of it before bringing it to full fruition. (See: urban koi pond, apple tunnel, and Secret Garden idea.) So when I thought to start a compost pile, a mental alarm should have sounded in my brain: “Halt! You are only making a future garbage dump of self-loathing!” But no. I went ahead, dug a hole, and heartily dumped in potato peels, grass clippings, and last year’s jack-o-lantern. I went gang-busters. Until I tired of it.

As I was touring my estate a few weeks ago, I spotted a curious plant growing in the compost pile. It was pretty, with broad scalloped leaves and sturdy, sprawling stems. It was a pumpkin plant, birthed from last year’s jack-o-lantern! I’ve never grown pumpkins before, but I cannot argue with a plant that redeems my pathetic compost pile. Thank you, pumpkin plant, and welcome!

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I think pumpkins and squashes are glorious. In the fall they just make me happy: they’re so fat and festive, all bright and orange. But in the summer, I think they have tons of overlooked style. Their leaves have a classic, fig leaf shape while their wily-spry tendrils give pumpkins a “Crazy Aunt” persona. I think I’m most taken with squash blossoms. They start as architectural little buds, then unfurl from fiddlehead into flower. And their color knocks me out: yellow with a bit of mango orange. I love them.

I will not gloat about my compost pile-made-good moment. I know my pumpkin plant was a gift, a mitzvah. But I’m not going to lie: I will be a little smug when I when I bake a pie from a homegrown pumpkin this fall.

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