October in New Haven County is a beautiful site! The crisp, cooler air and the blazing colors of changing leaves can mean only one thing: Halloween time! Some New Haven County homeowners can’t get enough of the natural Halloween accouterments that are part and parcel to the rich, autumnal New England landscape. So, it’s not unusual to find jack-o-lanterns four, five or even six deep on your neighbor’s porch, ready to welcome visitors right up to trick-or-treat time.
Talk about spooky curb appeal!
Since carving the pumpkin is a very individual undertaking, we want to assure you that there is no such thing as choosing the wrong pumpkin. In fact, the unique images created by the variety of shapes, sizes and artistic approaches are what make each jack-o-lantern so smile inducing! We would never want any two carved pumpkins to look exactly alike, now would we?
Heading to the pumpkin patch
Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to photograph the kids doing something as simple and fun as searching a pumpkin patch for the big orange squash that speaks to them, it’s a great excuse for family time. Some families allow each child to select and then carve (with supervision) their own personal pumpkin; parents should check each chosen pumpkin out to make sure there’s no bruising or mold around the stem. Also make sure the pumpkin has a flat enough bottom to sit firmly in place without rocking.
Plan ahead before you start carving
Remember when your mom or dad used an ordinary kitchen knife to carve the pumpkin? Those bygone years were great for the nostalgic among us, but not the safest option for pumpkin carving. Today you can purchase pumpkin carving tools at most hardware or craft stores around Halloween, or you can root around in the garage for tools you already own: a power drill, a wood gouger, an awl—use your imagination! Remember the large spoon for scooping out the pumpkin innards.
Carving your masterpiece
Tradition calls for making the initial cut around the stem on top, creating a cap of sorts to access the insides of the pumpkin. However, if you haven’t done so already, try drawing a circle on the bottom of your pumpkin and cut the opening there instead. Make sure to angle your blade toward the center to create a ridge to support the cut area after you’re finished. Clean out the inside pulp and save the seeds if you like to make pumpkin seed snacks. Next, make sure to scrape the inside wall of the pumpkin while retaining about an inch of thickness in the areas you plan to carve. If you’re using a pattern, tape it on and transfer it by tracing with a poking tool. Then you’re ready to carve! If you’re using a pumpkin saw, it’s easiest to keep the pumpkin on your lap, holding the saw like a pencil and using a steady up-and-down motion at a 90-degree angle with gentle pressure.
To extend the life of your pumpkin, try spreading a bit of petroleum jelly on the cut edges to prevent them from drying out. You can also spritz it with water and keep it in the refrigerator while it’s not on display. If your pumpkin starts to shrivel, submerge it in cold water for a couple of hours and it should come back to life. Just make sure to dry it well on the inside to avoid mold. You can ward off mold and insects by spraying or soaking the pumpkin with a water-and-bleach solution.
If you like to place a candle inside your jack-o-lantern for illumination, cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin toward the back to act as a chimney and funnel out smoke and heat. Secure the candle by drilling a hole for it, or use a small, sturdy votive candle and holder. Battery-operated LED lights are another option. Try carving a design in the back of your pumpkin too, which will produce a shadowy effect on the wall behind it for a wonderful new layer of ghostly fun.