Monday, October 27, 2014
At Grace & Gratitude Farn in Norfolk, VA - Pumpkins Rule
Imagine: a pumpkin calling the shots.
That's the case over at Grace and Gratitude, a 1-acre urban homestead in the Newtown section of Norfolk.
"Just go for it," Kayleigh Felderman told about a dozen students who gathered under tents in her backyard farmette to learn the art of pumpkin etching. "The pumpkin will tell you what to do."
Step back, Jack! This fall, after traditional fare has dominated Halloween decor for eons, it's time for another kind of pumpkin to bask in the lantern light.
These whimsical pieces of art trump their triangle-eyed cousins on a few counts: no excavating slimy pulp, no wielding sharp knives, no flame, no ill-fitting lid. Plus, the pumpkin stays fresh until it's time to turn it into dinner or dessert.
"It's common that they last through Thanksgiving," said Felderman, who co-owns Grace and Gratitude with her mother, Carolyn Felderman. "I've had them last more than a year."
But here's the best part. Etching is easier than it looks.
It seemed that one minute Kayleigh was instructing her pupils how to hold the upholstery cutter - a screwdriver-like tool with a cup-shaped blade at one end. The next minute students were covering practice pumpkins with spiders and webs and elegantly curved vines with leaves and berries.
Kayleigh is a self-taught etcher. She's a graduate of Virginia Beach's Princess Anne High School and the University of Virginia, where she majored in cognitive science. But after college, she was drawn back to the small farm and farmers market terrain where she toiled while in school.
"I had no intention of doing this," Kayleigh said, glancing around at the backyard that sports a pesticide-free garden; greenhouse complete with a chandelier; chicken coop; beehives; and mountains of heirloom pumpkins and squashes.
"But I couldn't be prouder of her," Carolyn said, "that she's being a good steward of the earth."
Chickens clucked and roosters crowed as Kayleigh showed her students how to turn the pumpkin with one hand while holding the carving tool like a pencil in the other.
"Make thick and sure lines," she said, warning them not to go too deep, which invites spoilage. "The color underneath and the resistance you need will vary from variety."
Behind her, a rustic sideboard held Kayleigh's completed works of art - squat orange, green and white squashes and pumpkins etched with vines, ginkgo leaves, wedding doves and even an owl.
Pumpkins and squashes make the perfect canvas because of the contrasting colors hidden beneath the skin. The dusty green Jarrahdale pumpkin skin gives way to orange. The deep green of the Fairytale pumpkin yields to a parchment color. And depending on the degree of ripeness, the common orange pumpkin gives way to green, lemon or taupe.
Over time, Kayleigh said, the etchings will cure and the color of the grooves will become more pronounced.
"Just follow the lobes," Kayleigh told her students. "No pumpkin is perfect."
"But," her mother added, "every pumpkin is beautiful."
Lorraine Eaton, 757-446-2647, firstname.lastname@example.org