Scarselli students craft storybook pumpkins

An example of one of the Scarselli student's work. Photo by Susan McNeall

An example of one of the Scarselli student's work. Photo by Susan McNeall


Students at Scarselli Elementary are getting into the fall spirit by creating “storybook pumpkins” modeled after their favorite book characters.

School librarian Mary Swisher initiated the voluntary project this year and said it has been met with enthusiastic participation. Over the past two weeks, students across all grade levels have filled the library with special squashes, which are grouped together by similar titles and genres. Pumpkins could either be real or artificial and decorated in any fashion except carved. Classes are touring the “pumpkin patch” this week during their scheduled library time.

Swisher said students are proud of their creations and that the pumpkin project “seemed like a fun thing for (students) to do at home with their families.” The positive response makes this first-year artistic activity likely to return next fall.

A near miss

The vigorous juniper bushes in our yard do a good job of covering ground across the berm — maybe a little too good of a job. Keeping them trimmed is a tough chore to manage on your own, so my husband and I tackled the task together last weekend and cleared quite a few old and scraggly branches from the spread.

As we gathered the prickly limbs, something caught my eye. Sure enough, the flash I saw was a praying mantis egg sac attached firmly to one of the freshly cut branches.

Dismayed by the thought that we’d just destroyed a nesting site, it took me a minute to recognize that not all was lost. The branch itself served only as the host spot to secure the egg sac over the winter months, so the fact that it was cut from the rest of the shrub didn’t matter. I tucked the branch holding the egg sac carefully among the remaining greenery in our herb garden container and am hopeful the attached foamy/flaky ootheca (egg sac) will remain protected from the elements and hidden away from hungry birds over the coming months.

When the weather warms again in springtime, maybe I’ll get another opportunity to watch the little critters hatch. Could this ootheca have been laid by my praying mantis friend that greeted me each time I went out to water the yard several weeks ago? There’s no way to tell, but the thought makes me smile.

If you’re doing some fall cleanup in your yard, keep an eye out for these inconspicuous sacs, which measure about an inch in length and are whitish-to tan in color. If you’re not sure what one looks like, try an image search for “praying mantis ootheca."

Female praying mantises often lay their eggs on twigs and branches, fenceposts, and walls. Should you find an ootheca, leave it undisturbed and you may end up with a garden full of insect helpers come spring.

Elks host dining events

The Tahoe-Douglas Elks host the last family breakfast and taco night for the 2021 calendar year this coming week. These events are open to the public.

Family breakfast is scheduled this Sunday from 8:30-10 a.m. The menu includes scrambled eggs, bacon sausage, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, orange juice, coffee, and a special make-to-order omelet bar with plenty of add-ins.

Cost is $9 for Elks members and $6 for Elks members’ children age 10 and younger. Cost for non-Elks members is $10 per adult and $7 per child.

Taco night takes place Oct. 28 from 5-6:30 p.m. A complete taco dinner including homemade rice, beans, fresh guacamole, chips, salsa, and dessert is $5. Extra tacos are $3 each with a complete dinner purchase. The bar will be open for beverage purchases.

These events are held at the Elks Lodge, 1227 Kimmerling Road in the Gardnerville Ranchos. Proceeds help fund programs for seniors, youth, and veterans in our local community.

Amy Roby can be reached at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment