Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pickin' the perfect pumpkin

Visitors to the Pheasant Fields Farm search for the perfect pumpkin as an employee moves pumpkins with a front loader.

- image credit: Seraine Page

The crunching leaves, hot cocoa and cool, crisp air are all signatures that a blissful time of year has arrived. But the fall season isn't complete without a trip to the local pumpkin patch.

Since opening her gates on Oct. 1, Pheasant Fields Farm owner Nikki Johanson has seen hundreds of visitors flock to her pumpkin patch. Her favorite part of owning a u-pick farm is watching the children come in to go through the corn maze and pick out their very own pumpkin.

"They have a good time. It's fun," she said, smiling as she looked around the families milling about on a recent sunny day.

The farm has been around for more than 120 years, and it was opened to the public for picking in 1999. Her pumpkins go for 40 cents a pound, something she prides herself on when she knows she is competing with big-time supermarkets in the pumpkin sales department.

"I think our prices are good," she said, placing a pumpkin on a scale.

Johanson credits the recent sunny weather for an uptick in visitors. And, despite the drought her farm and others in the area suffered through over the summer, she's happy with her turnout of produce and pumpkins this year. Surrounded by falling autumn leaves and a variety of produce in the farm's store, it is easy pumpkin crafts to fall into the mood of Halloween and fall festivities, like the selling of locally-produced jam and the corn maze refined just for kiddos.

The Danskin family found that three times is a charm when it came to hunting down the perfect pumpkin patch. Pheasant Fields Farm was their third stop of the day, and the group was relieved to see the patch was open. They visited the farm the previous year, but this was the first year that 8-month-old Jaiden had the opportunity to visit her first patch. Her family picked up four pumpkins in a wheelbarrow and took time to introduce Jaiden to the pumpkins.

"She's all kinds of smile until you put a pumpkin in her face," said Brian Danskin.

Danskin said that for him to pick a pumpkin, there are certain traits the round, orange fruit must possess.

"They gotta have a good handle," he said. As for what he and his family will carve into their pumpkins, he was unsure even as he picked his perfect pumpkin.

"It doesn't usually hit me until we start carving," he said.

While carving is always an option, there are other ways to get creative with the favored fall centerpiece. Painting and using a variety of pumpkins to make a bigger creation are always options as well, Johanson points out.

"Some people are really creative," said Johanson. One of her favorite ways to decorate the pumpkin is not to carve, but to paint the outside. A variety of designs can be painted on the outside with acrylic paint, she said. She also advises a pumpkin with a good handle and "no soft spots" as that indicates the pumpkin may be rotting.

For adults looking for a little more thrill than what's offered in the pickings of the patch, Wild Woods is another option available at the farm. On Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26, Johanson's woods are overtaken by volunteer actors to provide a haunted 5-acre walk through the woods. In addition to a wagon ride, a guide will take groups into the woods for a 30-minute trek that brings guests face-to-face with the grim reaper, a crazy butcher, a jailhouse, a haunted house and more.

The first year wasn't exactly what Johanson would call thrilling. One of her guides got lost, and the guests were climbing over logs trying to find their way out of the woods. Another went in the back way and did the tour in reverse. Nowadays, the volunteers are all trained and safety comes first, ensuring that no one gets lost in the haunted woods forever.

"It is supposed to be scary and funny," she said.

The tours are from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and cost $8 per person. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Check out our local listings to choose the perfect patch for the whole family to enjoy:

* Minder Farm Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch: Pick your own pumpkin in this U-Pick patch. Kettle corn, apples and other snacks available. Military discount for those with a valid ID.

Sunday: noon to 6 p.m., Wed.-Thursday: 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Friday: 4 p.m.- 8p.m., Saturday: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Located at 1000 Gluds Pond St. NE, Bremerton. Call 360-620-3707 or visit

* Santos Family U-Pick Farm: Check out this family farm that uses organic practices for cultivating its pumpkins. Thurs.-Saturday: noon until dusk. Located at 9573 West Belfair Valley Road in Bremerton.

* Creek House Farm

This farm has an organic pick-a-pumpkin patch, a variety of farm animals and autumn crafts. There's also a "Patch the Pumpkin Forest Adventure" and pumpkin games. Friday: noon to 6 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday: noon to 6 p.m. Located at 6060 East Collins Road in Port Orchard. Call 360-871-7267 or visit

* Pheasant Fields Farm: This farm offers a pumpkin patch, corn maze and haunted woods tour.

Located at 13274 Clear Creek Road NW in Silverdale. Open Mon.-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Call 360-697-6224 or visit

Source: Bremertonpatriot

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