I lifted the pumpkin over my head and threw it down to the concrete floor. The pumpkin split neatly down the center, exposing seeds and their attendant gooey stuff, while four cows watched. The cows waited while I picked up the halves and put them within their reach. These were substantial carving pumpkins given to us by Cole Gardens in Concord.
As the name implies, carving pumpkins' primary purpose is to be cut into Jack-O-Lanterns. Once Halloween is past, they no longer have value – except to livestock. While cattle might prefer the taste of sugar pumpkins (also known as pie pumpkins), they aren't picky.
Pigs love to eat pumpkins, too. My mini-pig, Tazzy, who lives in our farmhouse, will nose-dive to clean up any seeds missed by the cattle. I also love pumpkin seeds. When roasted in oil and sprinkled with salt, they are food fit for gods.
Although cows find all pumpkins delicious, it's not so easy to to start eating the carving pumpkins. They have thick shells to help them hold their shape after being sculpted, and cows have trouble biting through that rind. Cattle only have lower front teeth and without top teeth they can't make that initial bite into the pumpkin. So they need 'em smashed.
It took me awhile to perfect the art of pumpkin-smashing. I've tried tossing them on the ground, breaking them on a rock, and bowling them down a hill. But I've discovered that nothing splits a pumpkin more efficiently than slamming it onto a concrete floor.
Why do I find smashing pumpkins so satisfying? Maybe it's because as a child I was told never to smash pumpkins. Each October, anyone naive enough to leave their jack-o-lanterns out overnight, would find that young delinquents had smashed them in the street. (They already had the technique figured out.) I didn't want to be a bad kid, but I sensed that I was missing out on some fun.
I'm not alone. When I asked a 10-year-old girl if she wanted to smash a pumpkin, her face lit up (like a jack-o-lantern), and she had her grandmother make a video while she splatted a big pumpkin on the concrete. Inspired, I posted an invitation on Facebook, and dozens of people showed up at Miles Smith Farm, where they destroyed pumpkins with a glee that went beyond performing an act of kindness for hungry cattle.
If only all our other farm chores came with that forbidden whiff of vandalism! We could sleep 'til noon while eager volunteers were mending fences, dispensing hay, trimming hooves, and shoveling manure.