It’s autumn again. Autumn means harvest time. This would not be unusual if part of the harvest were not pumpkins. Many pumpkins are quite normal but some grow as big as houses. They are wonderful to live in. Every family here lives in a pumpkin. At harvest time, of course, the giant pumpkins stay in their place, which becomes the new property of a family.
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Note for guardians and readers.
The Valley of the Pumpkin Houses is a series of stories about children, especially Charly, who live in pumpkin houses.
The stories revolve much around village life, nature, and agriculture. Themes of alternative supply and disposal are also a natural part of the stories, without inciting a climate change or conservation movement. People live in their gourds because that’s the way it is, and because they live in a remote valley, have sun, wind, water and nature, and a low population density, they try to produce everything locally when it makes sense. The issue of self-sufficient supply is always topical with all rural communities. In countries or regions with unstable grid development anyway. It’s not lecturing and it’s more about how many bees you need for a liter of honey and how dangerous it can be to install a photovoltaic system on a pumpkin by yourself. That pumpkin plants can seasonally interfere with well-worn paths may bring the reader inclined to profundity to adventurous philosophical defeats. At some point, every child wonders where his or her sewage ends up. Here in microcosm, it will also have to be plausible somehow. It should be entertaining and easy to read and read aloud. Again, bees are great as long as you don’t step on them.
Pumpkins are great. They grow up quickly, the plants have large flowers and leaves, and when you want to harvest them, you do not have to dig or climb the tree. From your flesh you can make soup, eat it for salad or bake a pie. From some types of pumpkin, the seeds are pressed and the oil is used as salad oil. Birds also like to eat pumpkin seeds and the cows and bills on the farms also like to eat pumpkin. Funny faces can be carved from the shell and lit up for Halloween. This fits well because the pumpkin harvest always takes place in the fall and that’s when Halloween is. All hallows’ eve. The night before the feast for all the saints and prayer for the ancestors. But also a thanksgiving for the harvest and the time when the farm animals come back to the barns for the winter. The animals that were eaten were completely used and also burned their bones and the ashes contained valuable fertilizer for the vegetable gardens. Everything went and came back in some form and made sense. The bonfires were also where scary stories were told. Stories that were especially scary when a candle flickered inside a pumpkin that had a grimace cut into it.
Charly knows the problem of pumpkin harvesting all too well. He can´t lift the big pumpkins in the valley where he lives. No one can, because they are as big as houses. And if a pumpkin in the valley grew as big as a house, then a house was made out of it. That is a lot of work but making any house is work. The giant pumpkins grow only here in Charlie’s Valley and nowhere else in the world. You can’t see it, you can’t know beforehand if a pumpkin was going to grow into a giant pumpkin.
Maybe it is because of the seeds of the pumpkins. At least not when other seeds were planted here. The pumpkins stayed small. Never has a pumpkin from the valley been planted elsewhere as a seed or young plant. Already many thieves have tried to steal pumpkin seeds to try again. But the valley has two policemen who had caught every thief red-handed so far. That was easy. The valley has only one exit and the seeds are processed into pumpkin seed oil in the oil mill, which is powered by the force of the water. The policeman and his brother lives with their families in the mill, whose water power is used to produce electricity on the remaining days of the year.
The policeman was actually a detective superintendent from the town 30 miles away. When his brother, the miller had broken an arm while mountain climbing and could not work, he helped him during the harvest and in grinding pumpkin seeds. His family was delighted. The children could play almost everywhere.
There are no cars directly in the village, because at the entrance of the village has a parking lot, created for the residents, visitors and suppliers. This was necessary, because every year some pumpkins grew into giant pumpkins and their stalks, branches and leaves grew crisscross that the roads, which then sometimes could not be driven on. Every year it looks different in the valley and the paths are mostly made of sand. Only where many pumpkin houses are already close together, solid surfaces are built, like on the village square or in the pumpkin alley. No new pumpkin should grow on the village square, that was decided unanimously, so that one have a place, which one always have for celebrations, the weekly market and for emergencies, if nevertheless times a car has to go up to here. The pumpkin alley is an alley with small and large houses growing close to and into each other on both sides. This was not planned either. They all grew in a single year.
Often in the evening, the villagers meet at the pub. The children have their own play pumpkin. This is handy when it rains or snows outside. The pumpkins are not only extra large, they didn’t mind the frost and snow. Nevertheless, the houses have to be cared for. Every five years, the homeowners approach with friends and neighbors, and wax the house. They polish the gourd with beeswax made from old honeycombs of honeybees. This helps prevent cracks in the hard shell and water and ice from settling there. Moss, which gradually formed on the side of the gourd protected from the wind, also could not stick to it when it was waxed. To wax a house needs 5 large buckets of wax. That’s as much as a quarter of a million bees produce here in the valley each year. That doesn’t sound like much, but each year more houses are being waxed and the older houses have to be waxed sometimes every other year.
The many millions of bees are not even noticed in the valley, even though everything is buzzing and humming. Everything is full of blossoms until late in the fall and the winter is only short here. The bees have everything they need. Only to fertilize the squash blossoms, a great many bees has to collect pollen and carry it on. The flowers are bigger than Charly’s father. In the meadows everything is full of flowers and flowering herbs and the fruit trees are also fragrant and blooming. On the roadsides there are bushes with berries. The bees also needwd them for their blossoms.
No one who lives here, wants to leave. Except the mayor. Only a few knöw why he wants to leave.
The valley nestled long and with rolling green hills with meadows and forests against high mountains that almost completely blocks it from the outside world. The highest mountain is Mount Courntey at 5,300 feet. This is not high, but the mountain range is too steep to simply walk over.
In the valley is a lake, the Dark Lake. It is called that because it was very deep and in some places most of it is shaded by the mountains. But it is also called that because there are dark stories about it. Strange animals, especially very old and big fish that became legends because people only thought they had seen them or almost caught them. Other animals everyone in the valley know. There is the old Smitty, the paddlefish. He must be 8 ft long and has a snout like a paddle. He often swims around the mill and even let people feed him by hand. But there is also talk of a huge white sturgeon that is supposed to be 3 times the size of Smitty. He was rarely seen and is only in the lake for a short time each year.
The valley is divided by a small river, the Dark River. It is only called that because it flows through Dark Lake. There is nothing dark about the river at all. It is shallow, at least in the area of the village square, and does not flow fast. It has bays with aquatic plants that also blooms. Its bottom is gravelly in places where the water flows faster and sandy where there is a cove or a bend. The meadows go right down to the water. There are only two bridges in the valley. One is a narrow wooden bridge for pedestrians. The other is at the mill and is also too narrow for cars. Therefore there are two small cars on the other side of the Dark River.
There are far fewer pumpkin houses on the mill side than on the village side. No one knows why. But Charlie’s family’s house is here. And not just anywhere. It is on top of a hill above the mill. From here you can almost see the whole village, the river, and part of Dark Lake. Behind Charlie’s pumpkin are pastures. The farmers brought their cows there to graze and they stay there most of the year unless there is a sudden onset of winter. Behind them the mountains steep again, and right by the river a forest begins that goes up to the mountains in a side valley and becomes more and more gloomy. In the forest there are wild animals and different birds than in the rest of the valley. And there are mushrooms. Lots of mushrooms, which are also a bit too big. Mushroom season is actually more than half the year, but the best time is from September to November. That’s when it is still warm in the forest and it got wetter. It rains more in the forest than in the main valley anyway. The clouds drift up to the mountains and rain there. Often you can see a rainbow over the forest.
Charly is not often in the forest. What should he be doing there? His friends live in the village and even though the village has only 470 inhabitants, there is actually always something going on there. Whoever claims that you have to go to the forest to climb, or to build tree houses, has never climbed around on a gigantic pumpkin plant, in the sunshine, high above a flower meadow.