Thursday, April 01, 2010

Autumn Festival - Pumpkins, Sand and Straw Angels

Preparations in the sandpit

Our Autumn Festival combines sand and water, pumpkins and straw angels, toddlers and big kids in a fine celebration of harvest and earth. Mix them all up and you have a recipe for sand strewn around the house, a carpet of cut restios and raffia over the floor and a new generation of small kids discovering the delights of limitless space out on the farm.

Our kids are now the big kids. It seems not long ago that they were the littlies, loving chasing around after older kids after supper, playing hide and seek in the mysterious darkness of the stoep until way after their bed-time.

Now they are the ones who know what is what, spend hours constructing elaborate castles and try to stop the little ones from destroying them too soon. They can make their own straw angels without any help now, and they are no longer just straw but weave flowers and and all sorts into the making.

They are also very gentle with the toddlers helping them bounce on the trampoline and making sure not to leap too wildly themselves when a delicate little fairy of a toddler who has only just found her feet on solid ground decides to wobble precariously in their midst.

This year I gladly left the carving of pumpkins to the first volunteers to arrive and they cheerfully produced some gorgeous grinning lanterns.

Instead of pumpkin soup I’d planned on doing a baked pumpkin dish to go with the bean stew that my sister-in-law specializes in. I couldn’t find a recipe for what I had in mind, so just made it up and it turned out pretty well. Wedges of red onion tossed in with the pumpkin bits rescued from the lanterns, a sprinkling of cumin and cinnamon, olive oil, salt and pepper and then afterwards a generous scattering of Nomu egyptian dukkah. It was good, gentle enough in flavour to be a side dish and not steal the lime light, but interesting in its own right too.

One of our friends took the straw angel theme and went way beyond our usual creative efforts to produce a stunning restio/straw woman and man to go on the top of our archway. When the almost full moon came up behind them, it created a wonderful mystical energy that seemed to link back to the age-old harvest traditions of ancient Cornwall or Scotland, evoking fertility for the land and prosperity for its people.

This year our festival coincided with Earth Hour, and the prospect of switching off all the lights and appliances and lighting the house with candles with a bunch of toddlers on the loose was just a little unnerving. In the end it was fine. We just remembered to put out the lights at 8.30, by which time several of the little ones were drowsy anyway. Tea lights in glass cups glowed on low tables and high, and though we kept a weather eye on them there were no incidences of pyromania. That had already been indulged in by the big kids with the pumpkin lanterns in the circle, so no doubt the little ones will soon learn the joys of fire.


  1. What a fantastic festival, and what magical pictures!!!

    It's hard for me to imagine you celebrating fall while we are just welcoming spring's budding flowers with open arms... it's probably just as strange for you, reading our blogs.

    Pumpkin soup is one of my all-time favorite foods in the world. Now that you mentioned it, I may have to make some. Thank the gods for canned pumpkin!!!


  2. Fall is a pretty big deal out here in New England. Your fall traditions/festival are/is very interesting to me--pumpkins we do, but I'm curious about the straw angels and the sand castles.

  3. I loved looking at you photographs of your fall festival! Truly magical and how lovely that it fell on the same day as Earth Hour!

  4. pilgrimchick, we just made up our own traditions for this festival around the themes of harvest and earth. The sandcastles are of course directly linked to the earth and the straw angels... well, we started making them when we had some long wheat straw, grown from self-sown seeds from the straw bales that we built our houses with. None of us knew how to make traditoinal corn dollies, but we twisted them into angels with wings and wheat skirts and then carried on year after year. Now we use the restio / wild grasses that grow here, as there is no more self-sown wheat, and people just get more creative every year adding flowers and all sorts!

  5. Glad you enjoyed the pictures Marcheline and Natalian!
    Mmm i have to admit to being slightly envious of spring in the Northern hemisphere, with all the daffodils and spring flowers, when we are just heading into winter, but I know our winter isn't as long as it is up there, so we'll be getting flowers soon enough too.

  6. I love the idea of celebrating a new season! Your festival sounds absolutely magical.

  7. that looks like an amazing event - so creative! some real pieces of art there! i love the look of your pumpkins, very different from what we get here, they have a gorgeous colour.
    and what a sandpit... my boys would go crazy!

  8. You know how much I love your festivals... :) Particularly taken with the straw angels silhouetted against the sky - too gorgeous!


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