Local News

September 16, 2013

A love affair with groundhogs and butternut squash

PLATTSBURGH — Don Papson loves butternut squash, and this year, by chance, he has gargantuan ones to adore. 

“It’s my favorite squash,” said Papson, who lives with his wife, Vivian, in Plattsburgh.

“We eat a lot of butternut squash in the wintertime. This amazing plant grew out of the compost. I had one several years ago that did very well and this year, I just let this one go. It is like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ It’s just unbelievable.”

He dubs 2013 the Year of the Squash.

“Every year is different,” he said. “One year it’s the Year of the Tomato. We haven’t a Year of the Squash for about four years. It’s just an amazing plant. It’s a marvel. The leaves are 15 inches across. They (squash) are huge. They’re way bigger than you find in the store.”

Papson is a retired educator, historian, founder and former director of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, which operates the North Star Museum at Ausable Chasm.

In his native California, he was raised on a farm.

“My father had a garden. One year, he had an amazing garden. He had tomatoes that he staked up, and they were two times as high as a person. They were just huge. I grew flowers. When I lived in Chicago, I started growing food on vacant lots. And the problem with that was people would steal the food.”

With three friends, he purchased a six-flat building.

“There was a vacant lot next door where there had been an apartment building. There had been a lot of arson for profit so that building had been intentionally burned down for insurance. I started growing food on the lot. One day a guy came down the alley and said, ‘You can’t grow anything in there.’ But I did it anyway.”

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