Thursday, November 28, 2013


I am giving thanks for having a wonderful husband, children with their spouses, grandchildren, family and friends.  I am blessed to have all of you in my life although we are not able to be together for this holiday.  You are in my thoughts.

I am blessed and give thanks that my husband and I are able to celebrate another holiday together.  I am blessed and give thanks that we are able to work and enjoy our Back Forty Garden and Park.

To all you readers, I am utterly surprised and delighted that so many of you from all over the world are reading my humble blog.  I do appreciate you visiting.  I give thanks.

To all you bloggers, I am impressed with your blogs, your pictures, and your ideas.  Your blogs are enriching my life.  Such a variety!  Awesome!   I give thanks.

Enjoy this holiday with friends and family.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Once upon a time, when my husband and I cooked our first turkey . . .  All we had to do was put the turkey in a pan large enough to hold the bird and put it in the oven.  The turkey came out looking pretty good; however, it had a large visible discoloration on its breast.  It was a dark protruding spot.  What went wrong?  We poked at it, but nothing happened?

Oh, my gosh!  It's going to explode!  We carefully poked some more and found out that we had cooked the innards packed in a paper bag stuffed in the turkey.  We didn't know about innards and such things back then.  You don't want me to tell you how to cook a turkey, do you?

Homemade Stuffing
Since it is going to be my husband and myself for this holiday, we bought a small turkey.  I stuffed the large cavity with Satsuma oranges and tops of celery and put cut up onions in its neck.  I finally sprinkled the turkey with paprika so that it wouldn't look so sickly coming out of the crock pot.

I like to keep the meal simple for our Thanksgiving.  We bought sweet potatoes from the Farmer's Market and I plan to cook them in their skins.  When cooked and if need be, we'll add some margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon to the the potatoes and mash them up on our plates.

In time for the holiday, I cut one fresh broccoli from the garden and it will be cooked for a few minutes and served with the turkey and sweet potatoes.  I made the cranberry sauce the other day and the homemade stuffing is also ready to heat and serve.

My husband feels that it is traditional to serve pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert and that's what he'll dish out for us after a meal fit for pilgrims.  The holiday will be celebrated with a bottle of chilled Wildflower Wine from Hinnant's Vineyard.  I am already looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving with my Pilgrim.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Clara White Mission Friday Lunches

At a time when we are in the midst of preparing the best meals for important family holidays, the head lines in Sunday's paper printed in bold letters about the hunger in Jacksonville, Florida.  The face of hunger looks like us, the paper proclaimed.  Hunger hurts.  Ouch!  It makes me uncomfortable to blog about the abundance of food for the holiday when there are so many hungry men, women, and children in the nearby city.

I was browsing through the "Share what's New" with you bloggers when I came across posts about writing about hunger and how to help those less fortunate than us.  I was so inspired.  Here is my contribution:

The Clara White Mission was founded more than 100 years ago by a former slave whose compassion for humanity moved her into action:  Clara White helped feed hungry neighbors from her home and the Clara White Mission with help from volunteers now feeds 400 - 500 people daily at breakfast and lunch.

The Clara White Mission has a 20-week Culinary and Janitorial curricula that will give students an opportunity to practice their skills and prepare them for a career.  There is a training cafe featuring an upscale menu providing students with extensive hands-on training serving lunch  to the public (for a price) every Friday at St. John's Cathedral on Church Street downtown in Jacksonville FL.  For more information, check out the Clara White Mission on the Internet.

If you have surplus vegetables from your garden or fruit from your orchards, call a city rescue mission to find out if they will accept your donation.  Also, senior citizens at activity centers in your neighborhood will also be happy to receive fresh fruit and vegetables.

What really gets me is that I cannot share a sandwich or two or ten with hungry people downtown.  It's against the law to hand out bread to my hungry fellowmen but I may feed the pigeons.  Let me go look for worms in my garden before I get too carried away.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberries or Lingonberries

Is there a difference between the cranberries and lingonberries?  Yes, they are one ocean apart; they grow in different environments: the size is different; and the taste is different.  Cranberries are grown in the northern part of the United States and Canada, too, I am sure.  Lingonberries are grown in the northern part of Europe, e.g. in Sweden.

The cranberries in this country are grown in bogs whereas the lingonberries are grown in a rocky, dry, and sunny climate. The cranberries are much larger than the lingonberries but they are both tart; however, I do believe that the lingonberries may be a tad sweeter:  they have been kissed by the sun.

During my years in Sweden, my friends and I filled a thermos with coffee, packed sandwiches and cookies in a rucksack, grabbed the berry picker, and headed for the sunny and rocky areas to pick lingonberries.

With the lingonberry picker, we scooped up the berries from the small evergreen shrubs.  The berries fell on through to the back of the picker while the debris was caught in the front and was easily discarded.

Most often I like to serve lingonberry jam or sauce with Swedish meatballs and I also like to have them with fried beef liver.  Actually, lingonberries go with just about any meat dish and potatoes.

The lingonberries are served at IKEA restaurants with their meatballs, and, of course, you may be able to purchase the berries at their food store.  You may also be able to purchase lingonberries at gourmet food stores.  Otherwise, cranberries will do fine.

In time for Thanksgiving, I made cranberry sauce (jam) from fresh cranberries purchased at the grocery store.  I followed the recipe on the package with some changes:  Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup cup sugar, and the cranberries to a boil.  I added another 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 Satsuma oranges (they are small) that I peeled and cut up.  I simmered this concoction for about 20 minutes.  It gave me almost 2 cups of sauce or jam.

Whatever you have with your turkey and all its trimmings, enjoy with family and friends.
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Green Leafy Collards

When planting a garden, I try to plant super foods that fight diseases such as diabetes.  The vegetables in the garden are free from pesticides and fresh with nutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Preparing and caring for a garden also gives me a full body exercise several times a week.  This is a great time to plant leafy green vegetables in Northeast Florida.

The powerhouse among the leafy greens is the Georgia Collard.  It is low in calories and carbohydrates.  It is said that in the South, you may be able to purchase collards throughout the year with the exception of July, August, and September.  I planted my collards in early October this year and I have started the harvesting by cutting off a leaf here and there for using in soups and vegetable medleys.

It is important to give these plants plenty of room to grow, at least three (3) feet to spread.  I put nine plants in the ground and they are all doing well.  The collards are rich in vitamins C and K, and calcium.  It also contains beta carotene; the darker the leaves, the more carotene.

I have come to appreciate the collard green so much that I am going to let them be my main leafy green.  I do plan to sow mustard greens and let them flower.  They have such large and bight flower heads and the bees seem to come back again and again to receive their nectar.  Hopefully, they will make the Back Forty Garden and Park their favorite spot.

There is no need to wait for the collard greens to become fully grown:  cut off the bottom leaves and cook them.  Remove the large veins from the leaf and feed the compost.  I do not have a time frame for cooking the collard greens.  Some cook them for hours and others until somewhat tender.  I cook the collards as little as possible and save the cooking juice/broth/water to use in soups, stews, and gravies.  This will save the nutrients.

I prefer to eat my cooked collards with the homemade watermelon rind pickles that I made early this summer.  Other pickle and its juice will also do fine.  Some people like to add pork hocks to the collards when cooking.  I did that one year and found not much of a distinction in taste,  maybe added calories.  Other people like to add some sauteed onions and garlic to the collards.

The Georgia Collards have been plentiful at garden centers this year and they are still available in NE Florida.

Go Green!
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Red Poinsettia

The leaves were dense and dark green and the bracts were a deep red color.  The fruit in the middle of the bracts were yellow, healthy looking, and the price was affordable.  I simply could not resist getting a luscious red poinsettia for the upcoming holidays.  The poinsettias were lined up in rows and tiers at the big box store in time for Veteran's Day and they really caught my attention.

The poinsettias come in pinks and off whites and a few colors in between, but the red is so seasonal and at this time of the year, I need some color in my house.  The poinsettias are easy to care for and they keep their color for a long time, hopefully through the holidays.  It is recommended that the plants receive indirect sunlight away from both cold and warm drafts.

At the end of the season, some people cut down the stems and supposedly let the plant regrow its green.  It is too much fuss for me.  Instead, I set the plant out and mulch around it to keep the plant from frost and the roots from freezing.

The poinsettias are rather pest free with the exception of white flies in the warmer weather.  This is easily taken care of by spraying with horticultural oils found in garden centers.

One year I forgot that I had put a few poinsettias outside.  They came back in the summer, stayed green, and changed their colors in time for the holidays.  It is too difficult for me to make sure that the plants get the required daylight and the timely feedings to regenerate growth.

It is much easier for Mother Nature to take care of the light and watering.  When the soil around the poinsettia feels dry to the touch, it needs watering when inside.

During  this holiday season, the weather is usually cool but the poinsettia will do fine when used for decorations in the the landscape.  If it does get too cold, I bring in the plants.  The poinsettia will also do fine inside regardless of temperatures but they do prefer a cooler temperature.

Finally, it is most important to enjoy the poinsettia.  The main purpose for the plant is to be visible and bring joy.  Because of the affordability, purchase several and in different colors.  A poinsettia is also a welcome gift.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Satsuma Orange Trees

Now that the holidays are upon us, have you considered giving a fruit tree as a Christmas gift?  We have two Satsuma orange trees, received as gifts many years ago, and they are heavy producers with the oranges ripening at about the same.  The Satsuma orange trees are small and will do very well in containers.  They are cascading trees and the branches, laden with fruit, touches the ground.

The Satsuma oranges are also known as tangerines or mandarins and a mix between the two.  They are also known as Christmas oranges, better make that Thanksgiving oranges.  These oranges don't last very long and therefore don't ship well.  That is one reason people outside of the growing regions such as Florida have not heard about this sweet and juicy fruit.  I know that our oranges many times hardly make it from the tree to the kitchen.

Some growers recommend that the citrus trees be planted in the spring time.  This is the time for growth and blooms.  Others believe that the late fall/early winter is the preferable season for planting because the trees are dormant and the shock of moving may not be so severe.  The trees will have a chance to grow into the much warmer season.  As long as the trees are initially grown in containers, the planting season doesn't matter.  We have planted citrus trees in winter time as well as in summer time.

As with all trees, a wide hole needs to be dug deep enough to cover roots but shallow enough to leave the graft area above the soil.  The roots grow very close to the surface and it is important to keep the area free from weeds and mulch.  The area will eventually be as round as the tree with all the branches within the circle (the drip line).

The citrus trees do require much care, watering, and fertilization several times a year.  The fertilizer must be specifically for the citrus and containing trace elements such as magnesium, boron, copper, iron, zinc and many more.  We used common garden fertilizer one time and the harvest was poor, next to none.  To find out how much fertilizer to use, the instruction is printed on the fertilizer bag.

It is also important that the trees be watered on a regular base.  A deep soak is preferable about two times a week.  We have trimmed our trees after the fruit has been harvested.  We trim away the dead branches, branches crossing each other, and branches touching the ground.  The citrus trees, including the Satsuma oranges, are susceptible to some disease which is taken care of by spraying the trees with horticultural oil.

This time of the year, oranges are so readily available at a farmer's market near you.  Check any market  out.  Also check out your garden centers for fruit trees for yourself and as a gift.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Meal in a Pumpkin

We had company and for a late lunch, I served steaks cooked in a crock pot with a medley of potatoes, carrots, and string beans cooked separately.  I ended up with so much left overs to last for a long time.  I also had my granddaughter's small pumpkin sitting on the front porch as a greeter.  What to do?  I checked on my blog and checked to see synopsis of blogs and pictures of other bloggers' work as well as Margareta's.

There was a picture of two small pumpkins in a baking dish in the oven and the blog contained one heck of a yummy recipe for cooking dinner in a pumpkin, actually to cook the pumpkin with dinner in it.  Who created that blog?  I meant to respond to it but.... Today, I can't find it.

Any way, I thought I give it a try with my left overs.  I remember reading that you had to cook the meat and the vegetables before putting the dinner into the pumpkin.  The pumpkin adds another colorful vegetable to the dinner and to add more flavor to the pumpkin, dash some cinnamon on the yellow parts.

 With a sharp knife, I cut of the top of the pumpkin, removed the seeds and the slimy innards, and set the pumpkin in a glass dish with water for baking in the oven.  I filled the pumpkin with cut up steaks, onions, mushroom, and green peppers that was already cooked along with the vegetable medley and put the cap back on.

I filled the baking dish half full with water and I should have rubbed some canola oil on the outside of the pumpkin, but forgot.  Occasionally, I checked to make sure that the dish had water in it.

I guessed at the oven temperature and thought that 400 degrees F was too high.  I compromised and set the oven at 380 degrees F and baked it for an hour.  To check to see if the pumpkin was soft, I inserted a toothpick in its side.

Source:  Another blogger who is in Margareta's circle or who has me in her circle.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Last month we celebrated my husband's birthday with lunch at an Italian restaurant that served a take home entree in addition to the one you ordered and ate at the table.  It was a drizzly and dreary day, a good day for a hearty vegetable soup.  The waiter thought that was an excellent selection, too.

The soup was delicious.  There were so many vegetables in the soup.  I jokingly told Stephen, our waiter, that I would like to have the recipe.  In a few minutes, he came back with a listing of ingredients!  The following vegetables were included on his list:  Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, cabbage, green beans, basil, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, kidney beans, and Northern beans.  Pasta was also added to the soup.

I modified the recipe based on my harvest from the garden and what I had available:  I chopped sweet onions and a clove of garlic.  I chopped carrots and celery.

From the garden, I chopped string beans, a medium sized leaf of Georgia collard and a leaf of red cabbage.  I had one lonely sweet potato that I brought in some time ago and didn't know what to do with until now.  Chop, chop.  I still have green peppers coming in--chop, chop.

I cooked the vegetables in chicken broth, a mix of home made and from cubes.  I also opened a can of Northern beans and added them to the pot.   I had dried Chinese seaweed that I also added. I picked some sweet basil, oregano, and rosemary from my herb garden and tossed them into the pot, too.

After I served my husband this soup with toast and cheese, I still had soup left over.  I could add cooked pasta and kidney beans to this soup.  This is a nutritious soup with many possibilities.  For your information, the kitchen sink is still in place and free of dirty dishes.

Thank you for visiting my blog. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

Another holiday is upon us to honor our war heroes and veterans.  If you, like me, is unable to attend wreath laying ceremonies, parades, and other memorials for those who served this country, there is something that you can do:  donate your gently used clothing and household items.

When I am cleaning the house (it happens), I try to recycle items that I no longer need.  I save these items for the Vietnam Veterans of America.  They need gently used clothing. They need bedding, drapes and curtains, housewares and glassware, jewelry and cosmetics, toys and games, books, small appliances in working order, and so much more.

The Vietnam Veterans of America have truck drivers that come and pick up your clearly marked items that you leave on your porch or drive way. They are sending out flyers with a date for the pick up but you have to call to confirm this day.  The Vietnam Veterans will also call you to let you know when they will be in your neighborhood.

Your donation is tax deductible.  Keep this worthwhile organization in mind and check them out on line:  WWW.VVA.ORG and schedule a pick up for your items.

Another worthwhile organization to aid veterans and those still serving in the armed forces is USO.  Please, check them out on line to find their locations and what you can do.

Also, the Parade Magazine, an insert in many Sunday newspapers, listed  Among other things this organization encourage is sending care packages to soldiers.  This may include books, toiletries, and sundries.  You will have to register to participate.

Bless our Veterans and those still serving.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

Atrial Fibrillation - Heart Health

I was sitting with my husband in the cardiologist's office last Thursday morning.  My husband, the most valuable gardener to me, has suffered from Atrial Fibrillation many times.  I am not an expert on heart ailments; I have no medical training, but I want to share with you the following information from a St. Jude's Hospital leaflet.

A normal heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute.  If there are disorganized beats, it is called arrhythmia.  Any arrhythmia where the upper chambers of the heart beat 300 to 600 times per minute is called Atrial Fibrillation (AF).  This makes it very difficult for the chambers of the heart to pump blood properly.  The cardiologist said that often patients were not aware of their dangerous predicament.

Some symptoms of AF are dizziness, palpitations, a racing heart, and lack of energy. Many times a patient may become exhausted by walking from one room to another in the house or the patient becomes fatigued by going a short distance to the mailbox.  Why am I so tired?

The risk of stroke increases 5X with atrial fibrillation.  The risk of stroke increases for both men and women as they age.  There are 2.3 million AF patients in the US and approximately 160,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  Timely detection and invention decrease the stroke risk.

The cardiologist said that for a normal person, diet did not much matter BUT that obesity did.  He said that what might trigger Atrial Fibrillation are obesity, caffeine, sleep apnea, and alcohol to name a few.  He also said that AF could occur regardless of a seemingly healthy life.

If you are concerned about your heart, the first defense is to know your blood pressure.  There are several blood pressure machines available and tested by Consumer Report.  I have checked our machines with the various doctors we have seen and they have given me the nod.  Otherwise, many drugstores and the big box stores have blood pressure machines available for public use and they do provide an indication of your heart's well being.

An Electrocardiogram (EKG) is a "test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart" (NIH).  An EKG is performed in the doctor's office and serves as an accurate monitoring system to see what is going on with your heart.  It is quick and painless.

Atrial Fibrillation may be treated by using medication therapy.  It may also require shock treatment that is done in a hospital but requires no overnight stay.

The very best you can do is listen to your cardiologist and follow his advice.  We are blessed to have excellent and caring heart doctors and I trust them with my husband's life.

A healthy gardener is a happy gardener.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gone are the Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer

The hazy, lazy days of summer are beginning to fade rather quickly.  We are already into November with major holidays fast approaching.  The garden with its fall crop is growing, the citrus are maturing, and the Nor'easter is whipping up the ocean.  The Daylight Savings Time is over:  fall is in full swing.

It is time to close the summer kitchen and bring the coffeepot inside to our screened in sun porch.  It has vinyl windows and a small air conditioner is tucked into one of the north windows and that made it a Florida Room according to the taxman.

During the early summer mornings, I often glanced out through those windows and noticed the haze rising from the pond and the scenic creek.  On occasion, there was a fine mist from the ocean.  Hmm!  It must be the humidity, I thought.  By the time I went outside to the garden on the Back Forty, the mist was gone.  It was usually so clear and crisp, especially after a rain shower.

Company is coming and we'll have lunch out on the sun porch where we can enjoy the greenery and the Cassia's yellow bloom outside.  If that is what we're going to do, I have better clean those vinyl windows.

I have looked for liquid cleaner specifically for vinyl windows but the helpful people couldn't help and the assistants at the home improvement centers had no idea what I was talking about.  Never mind!  I'll let Dawn help.  After all, she gets oil removed from ducks.

The windows are removable and I cleaned two at a time.  I used the liquid washing detergent and water.  I didn't bother to rinse.  I washed the windows using soft rags and dried them off with kitchen towels.  Even if I only removed two windows at a time, the trick was to put them back in order.

I used a soft brush to remove dust and dirt from the screens.  This time I decided to wash the screen with water and Dawn.  Wow!  I have never seen anything like it.  The fog has lifted and I can see clearly now.  (Isn't that a song?)  But the hazy, lazy days of summer are gone.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The very Yellow Cassia

I thought that I had a rather common Cassia bush growing on the Back Forty and Park.  Of course, that is not the case.  It is known by many names and has as many descriptions.  One of the names is Butterfly Bush.  That did not surprise me.  I found it quite fitting because small yellow butterflies are often visiting the Cassia; however, the description and the color do not fit my tall bush.

I also found out that the Cassia has been renamed to Senna.  Some refer to the Cassia as a Cinnamon Tree and others as a legume.  I tasted the flowers of my Cassia and they did not taste anywhere near cinnamon.  They are tasteless.

I can't recall seeing any pods developing and growing on my very tall Cassia bush either.
The Cassia on the Back Forty and Park blooms profusely in the fall.  It really brightens up the area.  The blooms are sunny bright yellow and they last a long time.  Eventually they die down and the Cassia drops its leaves.

Pruning is the key to abundant bright blooms.  The Cassia wood is weak and therefore breaks very easily, so handle with care during the growing season.  When the bush is in a dormant stage, I prune back the branches rather severely.  The Cassia is a fast grower and comes back vigorously in the spring.

My Cassia requires little care, seems to be pest resistant, and thrives in poor but acidic soil.  I mulch around the Cassia but let it grow as it pleases.  An interesting observation about the Cassia is that when evening comes, it folds its leaves.  The blooms remain the same.  I will now fold by blog for today.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Contender Snap Beans

I had a very nice surprise when I went out to the garden at Halloween:  some of the snap beans were ready for picking.  The seed company stated on the package that the beans would be ready in 40 - 60 days and they were right on the nose.  I have picked almost two pounds in the last few days.

The beans were grown in the raised box, 8x4 feet, that we built earlier this fall.  I sowed two rows of beans along either long side of the box.  It was a little bit crowded but this could also be called intensive gardening.  I am pleased that every seed sprouted, grew, bloomed, and provided me with a good crop of beans.

I gather that the name, snap beans, refers to the beans being snapped into bite size pieces before cooking.  Another name for these beans is string beans referring to the "string" running from top to bottom and is pulled before cooking.  A third name for the common snap beans is 'Haricot Verts'.  Huh?  I believe its French.  The name for the snap beans that we use is "Contender."  It's a true and tried cultivar in our family.

Once upon a time when we had our first garden, there was a church supper and I decided to bring snap beans as my covered dish.  I know I rinsed the beans and snapped them, put them in a pot of salted water and let them come to a boil.  After a few minutes, I removed them from the stove and put them in a serving bowl.  It was fine until a lady at the church demanded to know who the heck had brought those beans.  They were more raw than cooked.

Nowadays I let the beans with the ends off cook for no longer than five minutes and then I rinse them off under running cool water to stop the cooking..  Some say that the beans should be immersed in ice water.  To make my dish, I pour a little canola oil in a frying pan and when hot stir in the drained beans with a little bit of Hoisin sauce.  The beans need no further cooking and may be served warm with the rest of the meal.

The beans are also very good when cooked until tender in salted water.  I don't think that I am the right person to tell you how long you should cook your beans.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Freezing Pumpkin

Halloween is over; ghosts and goblins have been treated, and that left me to face the big pumpkin this morning.  How do I cut this pumpkin?  Maybe I should just smash it?  The serrated knife was of no help but a sharp filet knife did the trick.  The easiest way is probably to cut the pumpkin in half, put the skin side up on a cookie sheet, ant roast it in the oven.

I prefer to cut the pumpkin up in manageable pieces after the seeds and slime are removed.  I also trimmed the pieces of what was the inside of the pumpkin to make it look neat.

I filled a large pot with the pumpkin pieces, added lots of water, and put it on the stove to cook for about 45 minutes.  I checked with a wooden stick to see if the pumpkin was soft.

When the pumpkin was soft, I removed it from the heat, and poured out as much water as possible.  After a while, the pieces were cool enough to handle and it was so easy to cut the pumpkin meat away from its rind.  I put the meat in a bowl and smashed it down with a potato masher.

I filled three quart size plastic zip lock bags with smashed up pumpkin and put them in the freezer for baking pumpkin bread at a later time.  We do have the holidays coming up soon.  I didn't use all of the pumpkin:  enough is enough.  It was a large pumpkin and it will be a good addition to the compost pile in the garden.   It is now time to move away from the pumpkin and enjoy the weekend.

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