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NEW AMERICAN GOTHIC

COLUMN: Decorations today, backyard snacks tomorrow

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I have a few businesses that I provide small fall displays for, some pumpkins, winter squashes, hay bales, corn stalks, a couple dry ears of Indian corn and the like.

Some people remove the displays right after Halloween, others wait until around Thanksgiving. It often depends on the year. If we get a few hard freezes, the pumpkins and the squashes start to fall apart, grow mushy and rot.

When I’m out, if I remember, I’ll take a quick look and if something is awry, like a swiped pumpkin, corn stalks blown over or whatever, I’ll usually stop and straighten things out as best I can.

Now, though, I’m trying to beat the displays to the dumpster.

I’d much rather take them away and feed them to the animals than have them decorating the inside of a garbage bin.

The goats want the stalks, the chickens want the seeds and flesh from the inside of the winter squash, the goats also want the pumpkins, and the ducks, even though they don’t seem equipped for the task, want to work the dry kernels off the cobs and make it their feast.

When the oxen ruled, after Halloween my friend Ned, who owned Sunnyside Gardens, would let me take as many leftover pumpkins and corn stalks as my pickup would hold for Marty and Peanut Ox.

A ton of that stuff wouldn’t last more than a week.

Marty especially loved eating pumpkins. One big pumpkin, too heavy for me to lift alone, would take him about half an hour of delight to break into and finish off. The chickens would surround him, gathering the seeds that flew around following each chomp.

Add to that all of the cornstalks and pumpkins I picked with John Bennett at John Vincek’s farm and we would have two or three weeks of real Thanksgiving going on.

The whole mountain of stuff would be garden ready, if you know what I mean, just after Thanksgiving.

All the goats together don’t equal that kind of mad consumption.

So, I’m no longer out in a field with my corn knife loading up the back of a truck every year. I pretty much can grow enough around here to meet early fall needs. Besides I’m not sure I can work that hard anymore.

If I stack a cord of wood, I pretty much feel pooped the next day.

You probably already know how I am once the icy weather comes.

I walk down stairs in the morning, look at the thermometer on the front steps, and if it’s below freezing, I contemplate a solemn months-long period of meditating next to the wood stove.

The problem with that is, I realize I have to go outside to get more wood every now and then off of those carefully stacked piles.

Then I’ll have to throw some hay to the goats and make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water.

After that, I’ll remember the chickens, throw them some scratch, and make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water.

Oh, and I can’t forget the ducks. They need their tiny pond to be full of plenty of fresh, clean water and unfrozen.

Then I’ll think: This is just as hard as stacking wood or cutting corn, and should I sell Christmas wreaths this year?

The goats would like them after the season’s over.

Forrest Hartley lives the life of a rural eccentric in Hadley, N.Y. Leave a message at new_americangothic@yahoo.com

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