Last week, I visited Bruce in his giant pumpkin nursery and learned a whole bunch of things about turning these big ol' seeds into big ol' pumpkins!
Bruce gets his seeds from the Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, and he spends quite a few weeks marinating them in some special growing sauce and planting them into small starter pots. They spend a few days in Bruce's makeshift incubator, which is a small cooler rigged up with a lightbulb and kept at a certain temperature.
When - and if - they germinate, these baby giants are moved from the cooler to a little bigger space: the back of Bruce's shop. There they stay safe from the cold temperatures under a heat lamp, and get the start they need to grow. The plants are all labeled (genetics in big pumpkin growing is a BIG deal - pun intended) and kept sorted until they are turned out to the field. This year, Bruce has about 10 pumpkins that have started to grow and each one has the potential to be a giant - one plant has grown from a seed that was harvested from a pumpkin that grew to over 1,000 pounds in size!
In the next week (if it ever stops raining!), Bruce will be transplanting these future giant pumpkins. I'll be following along the whole process, so stay tuned to see how these babies grow and grow and grow!
A year ago, Jane Henkel saw an ad for work on the farm and she thought, "hmmm...that sounds interesting." Today, this former food service director for Fennimore schools has a fall and a wedding season under her belt and is back in her "happy place."
Jane retired from 30 years' of food services last year, bought a place in Florida, and started looking for a part-time job that had a lot of flexibility and was something that she enjoyed. Food service in the schools is a lot of hard work, but here at the farm, Jane doesn't have to worry about the paperwork. She gets to do her favorite thing: be on the floor, prepping and cooking food.
The best thing about Jane is her sweet personality, but she also knows her way around the kitchen. During fall season, she comes in and helps prepare food for the busy weekends and make donuts. During our wedding and events season, she's here most Fridays getting our kitchen prepared for event menus. She loves to prep food. And like so many others, her favorite part of farm work is making donuts. "Seeing those kids with their noses against the windows watching us making donuts - It's just a real treat," she says.
Outside of the kitchen, Jane has a rich and wonderful life. She and her husband, Navarre, travel to Florida in the winter months and enjoy the beautiful sunsets, weather, and beaches. She loves to go up North, where she rents a cabin with her whole family in the summer, too. She has a daughter and son and two grandchildren who she adores and spends as much time with as possible. And her grandchildren LOVE to visit them in Florida!
For Jane, it seems that one of her happiest pleasures is visiting with others. Now that she's retired, her walks with her 11-year-old dog Maggie are frequently punctuated by chats with neighbors and friends. At the farm we get to enjoy her fantastic company and great conversation while she's dicing, chopping, slicing, and boiling. Any day on the farm with Jane is a really good day, and we're so happy that she chooses to spend her time with us!
Quinten Kreul's first years on the farm can be summed up by a blank white wall. He started, like many of our employees do, sugaring donuts in the old white barn when he was a sophomore in high school. It was a tedious job.
"For sure not my favorite," says Quinten, who goes by Q.
Since then, Q's broken out of the white-wall monotony. He's done everything on the farm: bartending weddings, setting up and tearing down from events, mowing the endless lawns, painting barns, building random structures and signs, even cleaning out the store room in the spring.
Though his job duties run deep here, Q's favorite things to do are driving the hay wagons to the pumpkin patch and bartending. He's a people person, after all, and he loves talking and hanging out with our farm guests.
Q is also Kyle's right-hand guy for a lot of off-the-wall requests. For example, when we were building the barn, after the trenches for the foundation had been dug, there was a heavy, heavy rain and all the trenches filled up with mud and muck. They couldn't pour any concrete until that was cleaned up, so Kyle called up Q and the guys spent a full day digging out sludge from the trenches. And while that may sound like a miserable job to many of us, to Q that's just a regular day on the farm. Plus, he has a low bar for misery.
"Really anything is better than staring at those white walls all day," he laughs.
Q is now a college student at UW-Whitewater studying cell biology. He plans to go on to chiropractor school after he's done at Whitewater and then hopefully land a job working with a sports team in Wisconsin. In his free time, he likes to do regular stuff - you know, watching sports and playing video games and hanging with his friends. But he's also a happy baker of delicious treats, a talent he picked up from his mom (also an employee here!), who made cakes on the side when he was growing up.
Even though Q isn't going to be the chef he wanted to be as a child, he's going to do great things with his future. How do we know? Well, anyone who can do anything from digging out muddy trenches to baking a mean batch of blueberry muffins is a force to be reckoned with.
Thanks, Q, for just being you and for all that you do for us at the farm. You're an absolute treasure...but we would like it if you brought us in some baked good every now and then. :)
Fun on the farm...in blog form!