Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blossom-time Post for 2014

Each region seems to have its own "signs" for the starts of seasons. For example, at the GBbF, the first sign of spring is when the llamas break out of their pen in vain attempts to browse the slightest grass sprouts appearing where snow has melted. 

The first sign of summer for us is the start of phone calls checking on the blueberry situation. The first call usually comes from Joann in Crystal Falls, which occurred this past weekend. But others follow soon after, and Joe from Iron Mountain called the day after. Well, Joann, Joe, and others, the bushes have fully blossomed, as of about a week or so ago, and blossoms are hanging onto a few bushes, probably because of the cool temperatures. 

We will fuel optimism with an unquantifiable claim that there were lots of blossoms. But there always are, it seems. Lots of blossoms are necessary but insufficient. The blossoms need proper conditions for pollinators to do their business, and it helps if there are lots of pollinators. Conditions (i.e., temperatures) can be quantified but pollinator populations can't. We try to hedge our bets and boost the pollinator numbers by raising honeybees, but our hive inventory is paltry compared to the number of bushes. Luckily, there are more types of wild pollinators than you can shake a stick at, and we saw many in the fields, although not as many butterflies (usually Eastern Yellow Swallowtails) as we normally see. 

A dose of reality: temperatures have been cool. Long-term forecasts, for what they are worth, are for colder-than-average temperatures. Temperatures are important for growing and ripening the berry themselves. The cool temps do not bode well for an early (or even an average) opener.

We are anticipating a later opener, like last year, middle of August. Too early to make bets or to request vacation days, so stay tuned for updates in July.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Last week, last day is Sunday, Sept. 15

Last week for picking. Open every day this week. Closing at dusk on Sunday, Sept. 15. Not much time left, not many berries out there. Picking is very slow. The middle patch (where the solar array is) all picked out, except maybe in the hard to reach rows along the tree line. Not much better, but better, in the front patch.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Limping to the finish line...

Quick update after a day of picking: Pretty picked out, again. We'll be open tomorrow (Sunday) but the prospects are bleak. Light at the end of the tunnel for 2013 is now bright and clear: We are closing next weekend. Not sure if we will be open this week. Will update the status for the work week late tomorrow (Sunday).

We are taking the highway signs down to deter drop-ins, as I think they would just be disappointed in the conditions. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Prospects for the Penultimate Weekend

I checked the fields this evening. Progress is still slow. Those rows of late-season varieties are still pretty pale. I would like to discourage pickers coming far away and/or those expecting to haul in 20 or more pounds. We are still opening Saturday and have been strict about no picking this week. There is a long list of disappointed folks who can attest to this. I suspect that picking will be ok in the morning on Saturday, but will diminish rapidly by afternoon and Sunday will be a bust. We will close again Sunday evening and re-open Saturday, September 14th.

4 Pigs of Apocalypse

Yesterday I was driving the last leg home, on Klingville Rd, and there were four pigs walking up the road, AWAY from our farm. All were ours. I rolled down the window and called to them. They turned and followed. Apparently they know my voice. Called home and got Lynn to come out and meet us at the pen with some pig feed. The pigs followed my car all the way and returned to their pen. I toyed with seeing how fast they would run, but thought better of it and was just grateful they chose to follow instead of take off. Got them into the pen and repaired the fence. Really got lucky on the timing of when they escaped and when I decided to come home. Also lucky that there is not much traffic on Klingville Road and most people drive carefully. Also glad that there was no one "watching" (hearing)...

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Changes in the Picking Schedule

We have had to close in mid season to allow more ripening only one other year. We need to do so again. We are closing for public picking during the weekdays this week, to give the remaining crop some undisturbed time to ripen. We should have a great picking day on Saturday, September 7. We will probably do the same thing the following week(s). We will see how this pause/pick this week works. To enforce the moratorium, we will have the place patrolled daily:

The weekend fundraiser was a rousing success. Today's harvest was paltry, given how picked out of ripe berries we were/are and the weather. Nevertheless we saw some nice people out in the patch and volunteering to work the blueberry building. I am sure the customers appreciated the change in help, at least getting my curmudgeony self off the line, so to speak. Saturday's harvest made up for today's. There were almost 800 lbs in total harvested over the two days. Nice work public! Thanks for supporting these two worthy groups.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Yesterday was very good harvest (700 lbs) for this year. The picking in the morning was ok-good in spots. Good spots were fewer and farther between as the day wore on. Data and history suggest that the availability of ripe berries will be very limited today. Because if this, we are discouraging pickers from farther away than Houghton or L'Anse to hold off until next weekend, and give the remaining berries (still lots) more time to ripen. The harvest trends are showing the affect of ripening, as the harvest tends to increase during the week, peaking on busy Saturdays, then precipitous drops on Sundays/Mondays. The patch is very wet this morning and forecast for today is scattered showers and thunderstorms. We'll still be here today, all day. Thanks to all who came and picked yesterday, and for the volunteers from the Michigan Tech Preschool and HoCo 4-H Endowment Committee. The harvest exceeded our expectations and everything went very smooth!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Post-2nd-Weekend of 2013 Picking Season

We have tallied about 4500 lbs of berries have left the fields in buckets.  Not sure of the amount that have left in gullets. There were a lot of pickers here yesterday and it shows. Ripe berries are everywhere but, unfortunately, sparse in among unripe--similar to last weekend after the opening day onslaught. Some (rosy outlook types) are satisfied with the available ripe crop, others (normal pickers and naysayers) are disappointed. It is about as hot and humid as it can be out there right now, so if you are reading this, I would grab a cold one and lay low. I would also hold off visiting again until after mid week.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Second Saturday of 2013 Picking Season

Depending who you talk to, picking is good to excellent. I have heard unreliable reports of bucket filling in a half hour, which is about as fast as one can pick; more reliable reports put it at an hour. We don't charge more if it takes you longer, so consider the extra time spent here a bonus. As usual, the best strategy is to spend time looking for the "right bush". 

Complaints from the past week about "the berries seem smaller than last year" are a mere memory as the recent pickers have been complimenting that the berries seem huge. There are enough bushes and berries and pickers of different varieties and view points that we have long since learned to not put a lot of credence in peoples' memories of conditions. This year's crop is not like last year's. Not sure there ever will be another 2012, but this year is going to end up fine (average).