Saturday, November 4, 2023

And the Winner Is…

 After a year off from the contest last year, we were all extra-excited to do the Baldwin pumpkin carving contest this year, with Kitty on board for the first time too!

And after a few tense days of voting, I can safely announce that the winner of this year’s contest is…

Pumpkin A!

Mahon is thrilled to share that this entry—and the absurdly, delightfully charming story that went along with it—was his work. Personally, I am ready to find Willow Hazelnut III and be her best friend. How about you?

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Time to Vote in the 16th (Sort of) Annual Baldwin Pumpkin Carving Contest!

 Hello, friends! It’s been a while—but this year, we once again present you with a Baldwin Family Pumpkin Carving Contest. For the first time, this year has THREE entrants instead of the traditional two, and we’ve also added a new element: Storytelling! Because our theme this year was “Pumpkin Houses,” each of the carvers has created an original story to go along with their entry, explaining who the inhabitants of their house are and what kind of lives they lead. (Also note that each pumpkin house has its own tiny little Jack-o-Lantern as well!)

This year, there are no fully-dark pumpkin pics—because these really shine best (pun intended) as daylight or dim-light pumpkins. 

Voting will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, November 4th.


1. One vote per person, but everyone in your household can vote!

2. There are 4 ways to vote: In the embedded poll below, in the comments (only those with verified Google accounts can comment, sorry), or on Facebook or Instagram only on the initial pumpkin carving contest post.

3. All photography is done by me. This year, each contestant did write their own story in lieu of the traditional description done by me.

Scroll down to see the pumpkins and read the stories!

Pumpkin A: Willow Hazelnut III

Special feature to note: A fully-functional,
and adorable, carved chimney

Willow Hazelnut III lived in a small pumpkin in a small forest on a small island. The smallness suited her, because she, too, was small, small enough that she could live in a pumpkin in any case. Small enough to live in a pumpkin is remarkable however you put it, but there was another remarkable thing about her—at least it will be to you and me—she was a witch.  
Willow Hazelnut III's only companion was a small, dear, deer mouse whom she called Mr. Squiggle. Mr. Squiggle was quite a good companion to Willow Hazelnut III, and she had trained him to roll over, bring her parsnips from the garden, and smell the way to delicious truffles.  
Living in a pumpkin suited Mr. Squiggle just fine, as he felt that any time he wished he could have a little snack. Willow Hazelnut III didn't approve of eating houses, especially her house, but Mr. Squiggle was quite sneaky and got away with his indulgences, but the house was quite large for a small mouse and a nibble here and there can go quite a way, but if you look closely, you can see little mouse nibbles here and there.  
One day, as Willow Hazelnut III was tending to her garden, she heard a noise. In the forest there are often noises, so this is not remarkable, but this was not a normal noise. It was the hoot of an owl. She knew at once that she and Mr. Squiggle must retreat into the refuge of their home at once. "Here, Mr. Squiggle!" She called.  
But it was too late. She turned just in time to see huge talons close around Mr. Squiggle. Willow Hazelnut III was terribly frightened, and the terrified squeak of Mr. Squiggle echoed in her ears. She was stunned and frozen in shock.  
When she finally came to herself, she was resolved to rescue Mr. Squiggle.  
"The first part of any adventure is to find a proper map!" Willow Hazelnut III exclaimed. And Willow Hazelnut III had the perfect map. She and Mr. Squiggle had tirelessly worked on it for a little bit every day for several months.  

She traced the path to the owl's nest. Past the crooked red maple, over the stream, and around the craggy mountains. Willow Hazelnut III hesitated for only a moment as she looked at the map. Then she folded it, and set out.  
She made it to the red maple in record time. It was in full bloom and looked like fire. She put her head down and continued on.  
The stream was going to be strenuous, since for a small witch even a stream can be quite hard to ford. She stood on the bank wondering how to proceed. Just as she was about to put her foot into the water, a large dog came by and lapped at the water.  
Now, Willow Hazelnut III was quite used to hiding from large ferocious creatures like dogs, but the dog's long shaggy hair gave Willow Hazelnut III an idea. She leapt to grab some of the dog's shag just as it continued across the stream. The gait of the dog was quite rough, and it's a wonder she held on as long as she did, but eventually her arms tired, and she fell to the side of the path.  
Willow Hazelnut III was glad of the dog's help, but as she glanced at the sun, she was sorely dismayed since the hour was getting late. She still had to go around the craggy mountains! "There simply isn't enough time!" she cried.  
The choice she had been dreading, seemed to be her only option. She couldn't go around the craggy mountains at all, she had to pass through the dark tunnel that passed beneath them. Nothing in this world invoked more fear than the tunnel under the craggy mountains. While making their map, she and Mr. Squiggle had faced some of their worst nightmares in that tunnel—spiders and snakes!  
She stared at the entrance to the tunnel—and then took a step.  
What a shock! Out jumped the owl, Mr. Squiggle, and many other forest friends had gathered for a Halloween celebration. The owl, Mr. Squiggles disappearing, everything had been a trick to get Willow Hazelnut III to join a Halloween party.
They had sweets, popped corn, and pumpkin pie (not made from her house). It was a grand party.  
After returning home Willow Hazelnut III snuggled with Mr. Squiggle in her pumpkin home, she sighed, "This was the best Halloween ever." As Mr. Squiggle nestled closer, he squeaked in return.

Pumpkin B: The Pumpkin on Skullcrusher’s Lane

Special features to note: A beautiful bark doorway 
and two sets of shutters carefully crafted from sticks
(the set on the left is closed, the set on the right is open;
unfortunately one of the open ones fell off by the time pics were taken)

It was a dark, stormy night. Rain pounded down in a torrential downpour that did not cease for days. Whether it was a pouring, pouring sky or the lightest drizzle, it did not stop. There was lightning that caused fires that were quickly put out by the rain, and there was thunder that shook the earth like a Taylor Swift concert or an earthquake of approximately 3 on the Richter scale.

A certain colony of miniature cats was looking for a place to shelter. They looked like little balls of puff, and were about the size of a mouse, but much fiercer, and with much less of a taste for grain. But apart from that, they looked exactly like cats, and they still had the same colors as normal-sized cats. All of the humans that they had killed had all rotted, so they made very poor nesting places. They searched and searched for days. 

Until they finally found a little pumpkin, and they stayed there for a month, until the storm ceased. They clawed out little windows and a little door, and added sticks, and they hollowed out the inside completely (they had a lot of experience with skulls), and they added some nice flowers for decoration. They made shutters that could open and close, like they sensibly do, unlike all those human houses that have shutters that are just for show (seriously, what is with those?). And they made a circular door out of tree bark. 

They carved the inside walls into shelves and made a bunch of tiny books and put them on the shelves. They used a few bones to make a nice little loft, and flattened it and stabilized it with a few large scraps of tree bark, and padded it with cotton and sheep’s wool and squirrel tails and feathers and moss. 

It turned into a cozy little library/bookstore/murder training course, and they all lived happily ever after in their little pumpkin. It was never eaten by anything like mice, because everyone knows that cats would be excellent housekeepers, especially if that house was made of pumpkin—as, if rats or mice chomped or nibbled or came even close, the cats would rip their hearts out, and make easy work of it. And then, hey, free dinner! 

Pumpkin C: Mouse Hollow

Details to note: Lavender wreath, acorns above the top window
(can only be seen in the 2nd pic since apparently they'd
fallen off by the daylight pic... oops! Glueing things to pumpkins
is hard, as it turns out.)

Once upon a time, in a world in which pumpkin houses were only ever inhabited by gentle, cozy creatures and never murder cats intent on mayhem, lived a small family of mice. They were nothing like the dirty, squabbling mice that live in the walls of human houses. These were highly civilized field mice, who wore tiny aprons when sweeping out their pumpkin house and never allowed guests to wear their shoes* indoors and washed their childrens' mouths with soap if ever they used profane language. (Common mouse profanities include such phrases as "Oh pinecones!" and "Fox droppings!")

The Mouse Family were, in addition to being civilized, highly industrious. As soon as the first crocuses began peeking above the soil in the spring, they spent their days foraging—filling the pantry with seeds threshed from nearby grasses, wild onions dug from the banks of the creek, and sun-dried blackberries. 

These mice weren't only foragers, either. They were also gardeners, growing a small but beautiful garden right outside their pumpkin home. All of the flowers they grew in their garden were edible, as well. "Food tastes twice as good if it is beautiful also," as Mama Mouse always said.

And every autumn, after they had finished gathering in their harvest, the Mouse Family held a harvest festival. For all of October, they celebrated with bonfires, harvest songs, and storytelling. Every October 31st, they crowned their front door with a special wreath woven from the choicest plants they'd foraged, and hung acorns from the roof, in preparation for the Harvest Mouse to come in the night and fill their shoes with sweet seeds.

*Obviously, your average field mouse does not wear shoes, but again—the Mouse Family of Mouse Hollow is highly civilized.

And now: To the voting booth!