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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Gleanings IV: Don't Waste the Pumpkin!

Pumpkins from Linda's garden, 2012
Soon to be pie or bread or . . .
Once Halloween is over, I’m pained to see the gargoyle faces of pumpkins carved for Halloween slumping and turning truly grisly on front porches throughout November. What a waste!

Don’t let that jack-o’-lantern rot! A very small pumpkin, say 8-10 inch diameter, will produce 8-10 cups flesh: fresh pumpkin that can become pie, bread, cookies or a dozen other delicacies for the season.

When you carve the pumpkin, save the seeds for tasty eating. Wash and remove as much of the fiber as possible, but it’s easy to crumble off after the seeds are cooked. Spread seeds to dry on a towel. Bring to boil several quarts of water with 2 tablespoons salt added. Add pumpkin seeds; boil 10 minutes. Cool. Spread on a baking sheet. Pour over a mixture of butter, flavored oil (we like chile oil), soy sauce. Taste and see what flavorings you prefer. Bake in 300-degree oven for a half hour or so, stirring often to be sure they don’t burn.

When you’re ready to turn that carved pumpkin into food, first cut away any parts singed by the candle and scoop out any wax.

Put a steamer rack or pan lid in the bottom of a large pot– something to hold the pumpkin out of the water. Add only ½ inch or so of water– the pumpkin should not be touching liquid or it will absorb it like a sponge.

Cut the pumpkin into several pieces and place them in the pot. Steam on low heat until you can prick the flesh with a fork and it’s soft enough to mash.

When the flesh is tender, let cool. Then peel inside and out; the stringy lining scrapes right off. Compost the peels if you don’t have grateful chickens.

Mash the flesh with a potato masher and measure. Store in two-cup batches in plastic containers and it’s ready to use for pumpkin pie, bread, or to freeze until Thanksgiving.

Look for varied recipes: I have a delicious pie recipe from New Mexico that includes cayenne powder and another for a cooked filling ( smoother than most pies and lasts longer in the refrigerator– though that may not be an issue.

I’ve also successfully dried sliced pumpkin in my food dryer; (see for plans or to buy a completed dryer). Slice the raw pumpkin in thin slices, steam and then dry; the pumpkin keeps for months, years. To reconstitute it, place the slices in a bowl of milk in the refrigerator; they make delicious pie.

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Triage: poetry by Jane Elkington Wohl

Triage by Jane Elkington Wohl
Published 2012 by Daniel and Daniel Publishers.
Jane Elkington Wohl is an English Instructor at Sheridan (Wyoming) College and Creative Writing Instructor for the Goddard College MFA in Writing Program. Goddard is a low-residency college in Plainfield, VT, specializing in allowing students to create their own bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I’ve always meant to ask Jane how she manages that looooong commute and forgot again.

Jane’s taut poems were included in Leaning into the Wind and Woven on the Wind and I was privileged to comment on her book from High Plains Press, Beasts in Snow.

At the Equality State Book Festival in Casper during September of 2012, I bought Jane’s latest poetry collection, Triage. As its title suggests, this is a dark book; she warned me.

But like the best of dark poetry-- and the darkness of winter, of death, of life-- these verses lead us through darkness and into light. The series of twelve sonnets, “Meditations: Iraq War 2003," provide the most coherent, insightful and ultimately hopeful thoughts I’ve seen on that mess. Moreover, she creates this political commentary in sonnet form, a challenge few poets (including me) are willing to take these days.

“How hard it is to find any god right now,” she remarks; “today it seems our small round world’s gone mad.” She leads the reader through cynicism (the promises of our leaders “sound as dull and cheap as tin”) and despair as she observes young soldiers holding babies orphaned by war. These poems brutally recite the real facts, show us the real pictures of the war our soldiers have been fighting for so long; “it’s hard to find real poetry in this.”

And yet she does find real poetry in the war and all it means to us, whose sons and daughters are fighting as we have ordered them to do. Autumn leads the poet to a “Winter Sestina,” through layers and layers of living.

The second series of sonnets, “News: May 2004,” struck me most forcefully because throughout the dreadful news, she returns again and again to the blooming of pink poppies. In a very small way-- no sonnets!-- I took the same trip in my poem “Reading the Newspaper,” published in Dirt Songs, 2011.

Jane’s second sonnet series concludes, “The news is bad today, but still the pink poppies bloom.”

Reading the Newspaper in the Back Yard
by Linda M. Hasselstrom

Two Marines die in mortar fire in Baghdad.
Four red tulips open in front of the house.
Searchers find the child dead-- a green
plaster cast still cradles her broken arm.
Iris spears rise sharp above last year’s
dry curls. An earthquake shakes L.A.
Clematis shoots from sawdust
to climb the arbor’s trellised wall.
A soldier dies in a non-hostile incident.
Daffodils open beside the old cottonwood.
In Veracruz a gas leak kills six people.
Buds swell the twisted branches of a lilac.
A rebel bomb explodes in a crowd.
A Texas county’s first female sheriff
is also Hispanic, a lesbian, and a Democrat.

Blue bells bloom
on the same day
as last year.

Read Jane Wohl’s poetry and be heartened, given strength and courage to face the reality of the sometimes-brutal and foolish world in which we live.

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For More Information:

Wyoming Authors Wiki website for Jane Elkington Wohl

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