Tuesday, October 31, 2017

International Ornament of the Week---Estonia

Christmas witches are familiar to European children. Consider the friendly Befana of Italy, who delivers presents on the Epiphany,
or Berchta, from North Germany, the witch who bestows her favors upon the good.
Or perhaps you are celebrating the American holiday of Halloween. In any case, these delightful witches made in Estonia would be a charming addition to your home.

Please visit our International Christmas Shop to see our full selection of Estonian witches and other handcrafted ornaments from the region.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pumpkin Power

Another beautiful fall day
I have had the opportunity to be up close and personal with pumpkins since I started working at Valley View Farms way back in 1972.  There must have been a bumper crop of them soon after that because we started selling all-the-pumpkins-you-could-carry- in-your-two-arms for $1.00. Yes, we had to be that specific to keep folks from wearing over sized shirts and jackets to get a big base for the large orange orbs. It was entertaining to watch the kids place piles of pumpkins in dad’s arms and then watch him walk to the cash registers alone and unaided by other family members. Those things were HEAVY!
The search for the perfect pumpkin

Nowadays, pumpkins are a little more expensive and families pick them out with the utmost care and attention to detail. Looking at folks choose their perfect pumpkin is fun. One person will look for a perfectly round fruit; someone else wants the pumpkin to be tall and skinny. A deep orange color is of paramount importance to one person, yet another must have the perfect green “curly-q” stem. Once home, the pumpkin may be painted or carved. Pumpkin Masters has created a huge following for their detailed carving stencils and some really fun, cool tools.

Pumpkin carving parties are being held all over the place, and, not so surprisingly, for adults. A get together at my home last year produced some really creative carvings using hole saws, drills, super pumpkin guts scoopers and the tools from Pumpkin Masters. Participants used regular orange Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, white skinned pumpkins, various shapes and sizes of gourds and even some of the mini Jack Be Little types.
We repeated the event with the kids a couple of days later, sans saw and drill. They had a blast too.

Tyler and the Webelos
After putting so much work and creativity into carving, it was sad to see one of the pumpkins dry up two weeks before Halloween. The search was on to find a technique to keep the pumpkins nice through trick-or treating.

Here are some hints for pumpkin preservation from Pumpkin Masters.
  1. Spread petroleum jelly on the cut edges of the pumpkin.
  2. Spray the pumpkin with water, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate when the pumpkin is not on display.
  3. Soak or spray the pumpkin with water and a touch of bleach to ward off molding.
  4. Should your pumpkin shrivel, soak it in water for several hours, allowing it to re-hydrate; the more shriveled the pumpkin, the longer it should soak. Dry out the inside thoroughly. It is surprising how pumpkins can be revived using this method.

Autumn’s cooler weather is perfect for outdoor entertaining. Oktoberfests, Halloween parties and family and friend get-togethers abound. Using pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, mums and corn fodder as decorations create a fall festival feel.
 Easy projects include hollowing out cool pumpkins and large cushaw melons or squashes and placing mums inside; cooks might place a bowl with stew or soup into a pumpkin too. Small votive candles can be placed in the Jack Be Little gourds to be used as place cards and table accessories. Safe, battery-powered votives are available now as are old-fashioned wax candles.
Enjoy the fall weather and a little pumpkin fun this Halloween season.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

William C Goard

The Great Pumpkin arrived at Valley View Farms and will remain on display from Wednesday, September 27 until Saturday, October 28. This year, Valley View Farm's owner Andy named the gargantuan pumpkin after his father and Valley View Farm's co founder, William C Foard, (known as Goard during this pumpkin season.)
Wild Bill from Cockeysville, October 2016
I can still hear Billy say over the phone, "that's Foard; F-o-A-r-d." Billy was also called Wild Bill from Cockeysville; both names will be on the pumpkin's display stage.
I don't know how long Billy and Andy have made their mission to get a giant pumpkin to celebrate fall and to bring some publicity to the garden center in Cockeysville. Back in 1989 , Billy had managed to get the World Record Pumpkin that year grown by Gordon Thompson and weighing in at 755 pounds. It was huge! We saw reports on the pumpkin all over the local news. My cousins on the west coast watched a report in their home state of California. We were even on TV as far away as Japan. The goal to garner publicity for the garden center was a success. People came from all over to see the pumpkin, picked out smaller versions from our displays, sipped on apple cider and gathered mums and other fall decorations for their homes.
Since then, we have hosted larger pumpkins, including one weighing in at over 1700 pounds. Andy began naming the pumpkins several years ago.
Cool Tim with Cool Moose

Goard brothers with Cool Moose 2016
Copius Gus, Gourdzilla, Rolling Thunder (the sound of the pumpkin in the back of one of our large trucks), Sasquash, Big Earl, and Cool Moose have all taken center stage.  This year's orange orb weighs in at 1536 pounds. Several others will join William C. Goard on display for the next month.
We get a kick out of people entering the contest to guess the number of seeds in the pumpkin. Tom Tasslemyer, WBAL's Chief meteorologist, counts the seeds on October 28th.
Tom and Billy a few years ago
Once the seeds are counted, we will look through the book for entries to see who's guess will win the $300 gift card for 1st prize and the subsequent guesses that will win $200 and $100 gift cards. Guesses range from 10 to millions of seeds.
The farmers and growers of the big pumpkins will get their seeds back to help them grow an award winner again next year. Bill always painstakingly cleaned all the seeds, spaced them out on a large cookie sheet or screen to air dry, and then carefully packed the seeds to return to the growers.
 Billy left quite a legacy at Valley View Farms. Andy's naming of the Great Pumpkin after his dad and business partner is a fitting tribute to the man.