YACOLT — Picking the perfect harvest pumpkin is no simple task.
There are certain practical and aesthetic considerations at play: Should it be big or small, white, green or traditional orange? Should the stem curl, like a gnarled oak branch, or be a stubby little nubbin?
For youngsters picking through the vine-covered soil at Yacolt's Pomeroy Living History Farm on Saturday, the hunt for that one faultless gourd was all a matter of perspective.
"I want it to be huge," said Julia Hale, 12, who came to the patch with friends from Shahala Middle School.
Her friends had other ideas. Anastasia Belesiotis, 12, wanted something with a bit more character. After all, anyone can find the pumpkin with the most girth.
"I'm looking for one with a big stem," she said. "I'm looking for something that stands out from all pumpkins."
At Pomeroy Living History Farms, there's no shortage of pumpkins, or pumpkin-related activities. The farm has been holding its annual "Pumpkin Lane" for 18 years.
What's grown from a one-weekend festival has turned into a month-long celebration of all things pumpkin and harvest-related. The farm's Pumpkin Lane, open every weekend through the end of October, features tractor rides through 40 acres lined with dozens of fancily dressed "pumpkin people," games, live music and animals.
Along with the tractor rides, the pumpkin patch is the top draw. And despite everyone having an opinion on what makes for a perfect Halloween decoration, there's no art to finding that one-in-a-million pumpkin, farm owner Bob Brink said.
Flawed is sometimes exactly what folks are after.
"Some people go out there and look for pumpkins that have weird scabs on them because they like to use them for jack-o'-lanterns," Brink said. "We used to think people wouldn't like the green ones, but we found out we were wrong."
All shapes, sizes and colors are popular with the little ones.
Tromping through the pumpkin-scattered patch at Pomeroy in her polka dot galoshes, 9-year-old Rachel Levanen carried an oblong gourd half her size. Dirt caked the bottom of her paisley dress, but she didn't appear to notice -- or if she did, she didn't mind.
Her mom, Jeannie, stood aside and watched. Jeannie had brought her six children to the patch for a morning of scavenging for pumpkins and farm fun.
While some of the kids had no trouble finding what they were looking for, Rachel's younger brother Lucas, 6, was struggling with making a decision.
"Lucas still hasn't found a pumpkin?" his mom Jeannie said, chuckling softly. "That boy is fickle."
When he finally picked one up, it proved too rotund, sending him into a hunched-over scamper toward his parents.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, sister Rachel lifted a small pumpkin over her head and declared it the perfect one for the family's baby. "It's free," she declared.
Parents may take a small, free pumpkin for children under the age of 1.
After an hour spent trammeling through the farm on a crisp, overcast Saturday, middle schooler Hale came away smiling, and with exactly what she was looking for.
"This one is perfect," she said, her back bent, straining to lug the oversized pumpkin out of a wheelbarrow into the back of a minivan. What made it such a flawless specimen was simple, she said: "It's huge."
So big, in fact, it had Hale's friend Belesiotis in awe.
"They said it was one of the biggest ones they had," Belesiotis said.
Pomeroy Living History Farm will be open every Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 27. It costs $6 for adults, $4 for kids 3 to 11 and is free for children 2 or younger.