Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

I live a second life in Farmville. In the evenings and on weekends I am an enthusiastic farmer with three dairy houses, a chicken coop and acres of fruits and vegetables. I've been reluctant to admit my addiction to virtual farming, fearing your ridicule. But recently I heard that more than 73 million people farm like me including my neighbor across H Street. She's now my Farmville neighbor, too.

If you're not familiar with Farmville (FV), it's a Facebook application that allows you to cultivate a plot of ground into a farm that blossoms on your computer screen. You can plant crops, acquire farm animals, collect trees, barns, tractors, yard art, etc. Seeds purchased with virtual gold coins are harvested for more coins. Coins give you buying power for more stuff, like in real life. And you can even earn ribbons (like at the fair) for achievements (harvest 25,000 crops and earn a blue ribbon for "Cream of the Crop"; harvest 5,000 trees and the "Knock on Wood" ribbon is yours).

FV neighbors visit each other's farms to fertilize crops, shoo away critters and feed the chickens. The more neighbors you have the more activity on your farm. There's lots of "chat" back and forth among neighbors behind white farm fencing and rows of morning glories.

My 15 neighbors are a diverse group including friends from high school, people who went to high school with my children and new friends I've met through FV. Our interaction is what Facebook calls "social networking."

Sunday morning I planted short-term crops-crops that would mature in a few hours. With the storm blowing in and nowhere to go, it seemed like a good day to farm. But when the Internet went down, I was stuck. I desperately and unsuccessfully tried to access FV while the tomatoes and strawberries I planted withered and turned brown.

I was upset about the game and upset that a game could have such power over me. At one low point I even entertained the idea of grabbing my laptop from the office and searching the county for WiFi. How desperate is that?

I opened the front door to check the weather, and my eyes fell upon a lone pumpkin sitting on our front porch. It grew faithfully all summer and into the fall from seed I'd saved from last year's pumpkin, then served as Halloween and Thanksgiving dandeacute;cor.

I was embarrassed that the pumpkin was still there. It was time to forget about silly virtual crops and transform Mr. Pumpkin into Sunday dinner.

Leftover-from-Fall Pumpkin Soup

Cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces. Coat a shallow pan with olive oil. Sprinkle pumpkin with pepper and seasonings of your choice. Bake until tender (I baked at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes).

When cool to touch, scrape pumpkin meat off skin. Put 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in stock pot over low heat. Sautandeacute; one leek and a couple of chopped carrots until tender. Add pumpkin and 32 oz. chicken broth (I use organic "No Chicken" broth). Add water to cover pumpkin (shouldn't be very much), and simmer covered for about an hour.

Add 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. ginger and salt to taste. Puree in batches in food processor or use submersible blender. Stir in one can coconut milk and garnish with cilantro. Serve with French bread right out of the oven.

Much better than any food grown on my computer!