the permaculture pumpkin

Just a little late for Halloween, I thought I would explore the pumpkin as an example of the way permaculture works in a food growing system like mine.

This is one of the pumpkins I grow each year. Called Rouge Vif d’Etampes, it is a French heritage variety and is, as its name suggests, a stunning shade of deep red/orange. It’s skin is very thick which enables it to be stored in a cool, frost-free place for manypumpkin months and we will still be enjoying these a full 6 months after we harvested them.

The supermarket Halloween pumpkin has rather wet and mushy flesh and is destined to be hollowed out, carved then left to sag and rot on the front path. The disappointing flesh may sometimes be turned into soup but isn’t fit for much else. The fibrous centre and seeds will end up in the bin, destined for landfill.

Rouge Vif d’Etampes also makes a beautiful Jack O’Lantern but the flesh is firm and tasty and well suited to roasting and putting in curries and pasta sauces. A single fruit will produce enough flesh for many meals for our family so I usually portion it and freeze it. It freezes very well.

The fibrous centre, the skin and the seeds are greatly enjoyed by my dairy goat, Tuzzie, who will convert them to the milk we drink every day. She benefits from the fibre and also from the potassium and magnesium. The pumpkin seeds are also a natural anthelmintic, reducing the need for chemical wormers.

Tuzzie and her friends are usually outside on pasture during the day but at night and in poor weather they come into the barn where they are bedded on barley straw (a waste product of our local arable farms). Over the weeks their bedding gets well dressed with goat pee and poo. When the time comes to muck out the barn I will barrow the contents of their pen down to my vegetable plot where I will row it up and cover it with cardboard or landscape fabric until my little Rouge Vif d’Etamps plants that I have raised indoors are ready to plant outside in June. My row of old goat bedding will be quite well rotted by then and ready to provide the perfect growing medium for the little pumpkin plants; fertile and moisture retentive.

Come October the pumpkins will be ready to harvest. The goats will be more than happy to eat the vines and turn them into meat and milk. The chickens will happily peck away at any pumpkins that are damaged. We will store the rest and give some away to family and friends. My brother will take one to the school where he works to show the children what a real pumpkin looks like. And so the cycle begins again.

This is what permaculture design does. It enables us to create abundance by considering what our resources are and working with nature to close loops so that nothing is wasted. Best of all, it enables us to share what we produce and to live lightly on our land.

Here’s the thing…

… writing a blog is so presumptuous!  It presumes somebody – anybody – might be interested in something I have to say, which seems both unlikely and alarming and has stopped me getting started for a very long time.  message-in-bottle-drawing-1841592

So I’m going to write about what we do here on our smallholding and, maybe, a little about why we do it.  Then I’m going to throw it into the vast ocean of the blogosphere like a message in a bottle. And if anybody who is passionate about the same things as me finds this blog and feels like sharing their own adventures in food growing, fermentation, goatkeeping or any of the other eccentric activities featured here … you will be ever so welcome.