Tag Archives: grow your own

Perfect pumpkins

The unschooling diaries: week forty-one

This is not a reflection on my amazing pumpkin-carving skills, but rather just a realisation of how the humble pumpkin makes a perfect vehicle for learning.

Our pumpkin journey began back in May, with three tiny plants from Rocket Gardens. Arthur helped me plant them, and over the weeks that followed we watered them and watched them grow.


And grow.


And grow!


To be honest I had probably been a little ambitious with the amount of plants we tried to squeeze in to our raised beds, but the pumpkins soon made a break for freedom and found the space they needed by crawling across the deck.


Arthur has been asking since August whether it is Halloween yet – he has been desperate to bring the pumpkins inside and carve them into lanterns. And this weekend we finally did.


He was bursting with excitement as we cut the pumpkins open and scooped out the seeds and flesh from inside


He had very clear ideas about what he wanted to create from his pumpkins: a ghost, a spooky dog, and an astronaut (we had to pilfer a squash from our veg box for the third one).

We looked online for images that fitted his vision, and then he guided me as I drew the outlines on the orange skin. We worked together to carve the shapes out, using Arthur’s ‘ghost knife’ that we’d picked up this time last year and a handy little saw.



As soon as the lanterns took shape Arthur sought out candles to illuminate them, insisting that we took them somewhere dark immediately for a better view and staring full of wonder when night began to fall and he could watch the flames flicker at the kitchen table before we finally dragged him off to bed.


This was only the start for the pumpkins, though.

Whilst Arthur and I had been carving their shells for Halloween lanterns, Leigh had been busy making pumpkin pie for Sunday lunch.


And once the carving was done, we dried and roasted the pumpkin seeds for snacking on – a real treat in my nut-allergic world where every packet of commercially available seeds warns of possible cross contamination!


There is even a portion of pumpkin puree left in the fridge, waiting to be cooked up into Halloween cupcakes this afternoon.

Honestly, who would have thought a simple vegetable could bring so much joy – and so much learning? I think we’ll all be sad to see the pumpkins go once this week is out. I’d best get thinking about what we can grow next…

Green fingers

For a few weeks now, Arthur has been desperate to get out into the garden whenever he can. He’s had a very particular mission: spotting his little watering can has triggered memories from last summer, and now every day without fail he asks “Arthur water plants please mummy?” image

Naturally I can’t refuse – not only because of the extreme cuteness of his polite enthusiasm but also because I am RUBBISH at remembering to keep plants watered, so this would be an extremely handy tendency to foster. It has all seemed a bit pointless though with the state the garden’s been in, and I found myself cringing as I’ve watched him water the weeds that had usurped the vegetable garden and the dry husks left from last year’s herbs. But this week we finally did something about it. image

The weather has continued to be glorious, and we seized the opportunity to go to the garden centre. Arthur was utterly enthralled by the huge variety of plants, and it was all I could do to keep up with him as he darted between them. image

We decided to focus on edibles – Arthur really enjoyed picking dinner from the garden last year, and I’m hoping it might help with his increasingly ambivalent attitude to vegetables. So we got a courgette plant, and a variety of lettuces. And more herbs. And, most excitingly of all, some strawberries, with a special pot and everything. image

There’s definitely space for more, but I figured it was best not to get too ambitious straight away…

And in between another hectic week of campaigning we managed to get it all planted. Clearing out the raised beds was the hardest bit, though Arthur was thrilled by the worms and woodlice we discovered. We kept the kale as it seems to have a bit of life in it yet, and now just have to wait for our new specimens to catch up…


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Arthur loved getting his hands dirty, and whilst his efforts were perhaps more hindrance than help in the planting stage he was back on form with his watering efforts and had made sure I haven’t forgotten our responsibilities as the week unfolded. I’m keen to get some more plants in before my enthusiasm passes – maybe some sweetcorn? Or peas? I had my eye on a miniature apple tree too which I think Arthur would really enjoy… image

What would you recommend for a green fingered toddler and his decidedly novice mummy to get started with? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

My word of the week this week is planting.

The Reading Residence

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall