WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
We've all had to find something to sustain us during the horrible year that is 2020. Knitting. Pumping iron. Hiking (when the state isn't on fire). Baking. Drinking. Gobbling Xanax.
Photographer Aaron Wessling has been indulging a hobby he started a year before: growing humongous pumpkins.
He has one this year that weighs an estimated 830 pounds, with more of the growing season to go. Last year's beast was 829 pounds.
Wessling—who occasionally contributes photos to WW—had been gardening for about five years when he got frustrated with the size of his pumpkins. So he turned to the internet and went down a rabbit hole. Soon, he was buying seeds from farmers in the Midwest who have been in the monster-squash game for years.
"It's become a neighborhood attraction, and it's been a distraction from literally everything," Wessling says. "The community connection has been the most enjoyable part."
In high-growth mode, Frankenpumpkins will put on 50 pounds in 24 hours. "They will go from volleyball to larger than a basketball overnight, Wessling says. "It's kind of freakish."
Last year, Wessling took 12th in the Pacific Northwest with his 829-pounder at the "Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off" at Bauman's Farm in Gervais. The winner clocked in at 2,000 pounds, he says.
"I'm small potatoes in this game," Wessling says.
He's hoping to get bigger, literally. He joined the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers, a group dedicated to growing obscenely large produce.
So what becomes of these huge pumpkins? Some are turned into makeshift boats for the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta. Many of them end up at the Oregon Zoo, where the elephants participate in the annual "Squishing of the Squash." Big animals need big food, and farmers like Wessling are happy to oblige.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.