For the past six years, Polly Dennler of Juliaetta has grown a whimsical bounty of pumpkins, gourds and squad that enchants adults and children alike
By MICHELLE SCHMIDTIf you hear “pumpkin” and think “big, orange, round,” you’ve got it all wrong. That’s not what most of the pumpkins at the Dennler Farm look like, anyway.
White, flat, warty, green, striped, pink, speckled; that’s what you’ll find – in addition to “big, orange, round” – at the Dennler Farm Pumpkin, Squash and Gourd Sale on Saturday and Sunday.
Polly Dennler is the one responsible for this whimsical bounty that enchants adults and children alike. She’s a long-time pumpkin-squash-gourd aficionado and has been growing more seriously for the past six years on eight acres of the family farm. For the sale, everything is picked, sorted and ready to be discovered. Labels help customers identify the variety and figure out what to do with it.
“There are a lot that are good to look at, but not that good to eat,” explains Dennler. It’s the playful, unique look of these vegetables, after all, that compels her to grow them.
IF YOU GO
What: Annual Pumpkin, Squash and Gourd Sale
When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Dennler Farm at 1041 Dennler Loop (off the Juliaetta-Genesee Rd.) in Juliaetta
Cost: Free. Pumpkins, gourds and squash are sold per unit.
While walking by the sorted bins, she rattles off name after name, throwing in an endearing quality – “it’s a good keeper” or “it’s sweeter than the others” or “isn’t it beautiful?!” That last one seems to be applied of most of the varieties, perhaps because it’s the quality deemed most important.
“It really is more about how they look,” Dennler says.
Dennler combines contrasting colors and textures to create festive table arrangements and dramatic outdoor presentations. Stacked up with rebar through the center, she creates vegetable totems that line the road. Many of the varieties she grows hold up in the cold longer than a typical pumpkin.
A number of the gourds can be dried over the winter and used to make birdhouses the following summer. But the uses for the dried gourds don’t end there – if you Google gourd art, she says, you’ll find plenty of creative ideas.
But her creativity is in the selecting, planting and growing of the vegetables; it’s up to her customers to add their own once they leave the farm.
OTHER LOCAL PUMPKIN PATCHES
Clearwater Corn Maze: Most people come for the corn maze, but there are also pumpkin-picking opportunities. The Clearwater Corn Maze is open every weekend in October: 6-10 p.m. Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays and noon – 5 p.m. Sundays. The maze is at a new location this year at Lewiston Community Park, 1100 Park Ave. in Lewiston. Cost is $6/person, kids four and under are free. Pumpkins are available at additional cost.
WSU Organic Farm: WSU’s Annual Fall Harvest Celebration takes place 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at WSU’s Organic Farm inside Tukey Horticultural Orchard. Activities include hay wagon rides, games, face painting, apple cider and food. The event is free; u-pick pumpkins and u-pick apples will be for sale (cash and checks only). Pumpkin varieties include jack-o-lantern types, baby pumpkins and specialty pumpkins and gourds.
Wilson Banner Ranch: The Wilson Banner Ranch pumpkin patch opens Oct. 1 and remains open through the end of the month during normal business hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The pumpkin patch is open during the annual Harvest Fair, which takes place 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on the weekends of Oct. 11-12 and Oct. 18-19. Event access to the patch is free – although the pumpkins themselves must be purchased – as is the area with vendors and music by Forgotten Freight, Diamond Joe, Natalie Carver and more. An all-day pass to the coliseum events – treasure hunt, rooster run, horse wagon rides, straw fort, farm animal petting zoo and more – is $8/person or $25/family.