The jack-o-lanterns are getting good now, growing their fuzzy pumpkin mold and getting mushy: it's rotting season. Their faces are collapsing on themselves. Some of the kids are saying they're stinky, but I'm not smelling it. I think they're using their imaginations.
We don't have room in the garden anymore to let all 10 of our jacks rot out there the way we've done for the past 8 years, but we have salvaged a small rectangular patch of ground that we've dug out to accommodate 3 or 4 of them.
Living in the city, we sometimes have look harder if we want to observe natural processes. The countryside or forests are full things in various stages of decay, but in the city we tend to clean them up before they get interesting to avoid those unpleasant odors (phantom or otherwise) and the real possibility of attracting vermin.
We played a game of "break or bounce" yesterday, culminating with the last fairly solid pumpkin. This game is a version of the classic preschool game of "sink or float," whereby we climb atop a table or ladder and drop various items onto the asphalt, predicting whether that particular item will break when it hits the ground or bounce. We dropped the large jack-o-lantern three times for good measure (although I think the kids might have been more impressed with the baby food jar).
We'll spend the next few weeks discussing the pumpkins as they become increasing indistinguishable from the dirt, using words like "decomposing" and "decay." Many of our families have taken this project on at their own homes, finding a place where their prized squash can slowly melt into the ground. We'll aid the process by chopping, digging and adding choice morsels to our worm bin.
One day, months from now, someone will discover a woody stem and we'll all remember the pumpkins that used to be there. In the spring a few of the seeds that the crows and squirrels have missed will sprout and we'll have vines to tend.