Most loyal readers know that October at Peeper Hollow Farm is when we start trying to acquire pumpkins for our flock. Once Halloween passes, many of the stores that sell pumpkins end up having quite a number of them left over, with few customers looking to buy. I usually go from store to store earlier in the month, passing out business cards and offering to “clean up” their display after the holiday. It’s a win-win situation: they don’t have to worry about discarding so many pumpkins and sweeping the display area, while we get an additional feed source for our flock.
This October, I didn’t make my usual visits to these stores for a couple of reasons: first, my pickup truck was in the shop for some body work and I wasn’t sure when I would get it back; and second, I was so busy remodeling our laundry room (now finally finished!) that I had no time for driving around town looking for big pumpkin displays. I figured that under the circumstances, our sheep would have to do without pumpkins for one year. I was wrong!
Surprisingly, I got a call on Monday morning of last week from one of my regular pumpkin stops in town; the manager had kept my card from the year before and wondered if we wanted the remainder of his store’s pumpkins. He needed them picked up before the end of business that day, and he estimated that he had between 200 and 300 jack-o-lantern pumpkins, averaging about ten pounds each. I had just gotten my truck back the evening before, and I really wanted those pumpkins for my flock! I quickly rearranged my schedule and stopped by that afternoon.
When some helpful friends and I arrived, there were at least a ton of pumpkins awaiting us. It took two trips to bring them all to the farm. I’ve been feeding out about one pumpkin for every five sheep ever since, and the flock LOVES them! There’s something incredibly sweet about seeing my girls raise their heads from pumpkins where they have been slurping up the seeds (obviously the best part, if you ask my flock!). Their orange faces say it all — there is nothing better than a fresh pumpkin on a sunny fall day!
In fact, because the ewes are currently in the Fire Circle Pasture, I’ve been delivering their pumpkins using the ATV and its trailer, which allows me to deliver them all in one load. All it takes is the sound of the ATV engine for the ewes to run to the gate, knowing that the pumpkins are coming! My biggest problem is finding a space to break them, since the ewes mill about my legs as they wait for the next pumpkin to open. I could leave them whole, but that would mean that only one ewe could work on a pumpkin at a time — and I want the entire flock to enjoy this fall treat. As a result, I break each pumpkin into two to six pieces, spreading a single pumpkin out across enough space that multiple ewes can claim a piece.
This year’s bounty includes two different types of squash: the typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin and a wide and flat version with many warts on its surface. The latter is the flock favorite, creating head-bashing altercations that allow the ewe lambs to munch while their mothers fight over ownership!
At this rate, the pumpkin bounty won’t last long — perhaps another week or two. Having them available to the flock is a blessing, however. Not only does it stretch the remaining grazing, allowing it to last longer during this warm fall, but pumpkins are also said to be mild dewormers — something that we can certainly use this year! Regardless, the sheep love them — and that’s enough for me!