Friday, August 29, 2014

Re-Opening Today

Re-opening Today (Friday, Aug. 29) at noon and will be open through Sunday, Aug. 31. Closed Monday-Friday next week, in advance of the fundraiser.

3rd Annual Fundraiser to Benefit the Local Shelter Homes


Monday, August 25, 2014

Temporarily Closed Again

We are going to continue our pattern of closing Monday through Thursday or so, re-opening on Friday (maybe) or Saturday (certainly) and stay open on Sunday and, maybe, Labor Day, depending on how the crop looks and the amount harvested (both are unpredictable).  I will update about Friday on Thursday.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Re-opening Thursday.

I checked the patch this evening and it appears like there is some good picking conditions in the middle patch, near the solar array. So we are going to re-open tomorrow (Thursday). We will remain open through Sunday and re-evaluate conditions then and potentially close for a few days next week.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014 Opener

For those of you who only follow our blog, I apologize for not announcing the opener on the blog.  Sorry.  We opened today. Just over a thousand pounds harvested today, Pretty impressive picking by a modest and considerate crowd. We attended a wedding this afternoon and returned too late to assess the remaining crop. I imagine there are ripe berries to pick in the thicker rows, which usually see less attention. We will be open Sunday for those who want to enjoy the nice weather and quiet. We will be CLOSED starting Monday and continuing through Friday, re-opening Saturday. We might end up closing again after the weekend to give the blueberries another round of ripening.
We'll make the call next Sunday. Houghton County Fair next weekend, so make sure you get out for that. There are many berries to ripen, so do not despair if you can not get out next weekend.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

When? Growing Degree Days



As I have written about before, the most often questions asked of this farm are: How is the crop going to be this year?, and When will be able to pick?  Natural questions deserve natural answers, but we can’t characterize nature well enough to answer these questions precisely.  Crop abundance and quality is mostly affected by pollination and precipitation, and pollination is affected by temperatures during blossoming.  “When” is primarily affected by temperature.  After blueberries blossom and are pollinated, the berries and mature (to size), then ripen.  How long the growing, maturation, and ripening takes is not well quantified or understood with respect to environmental variables, hence why forecast tables use large windows of likelihood: “high-bush blueberries usually ripen from late July to mid August.” Ripening varies for different varieties and we see ripening that extends into September most years for some rows of our bushes. 

Although we do not understand the rate of maturation and ripening fully, we can track some variables, like temperature, in a way that helps us guestimate when the bushes might be ready for picking. One method commonly used by farmers and horticulturists is called “growing degree days” (GDD), which is calculated as the sum of the difference between mean daily temperature (i.e., average of the maximum and minimum temperature for the day) and a “base” temperature, which corresponds to a temperature below which there is not much growing/ripening happening (typically 50 F (10 C). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growing_degree-day, and references cited therein for more information about GDD and crops. I am not aware of anything specific for blueberries.  If you come across something, I would appreciate your sharing it.

Below is a table that lists our opening dates for the span since we have owned this farm and the GDDs as of the opener using temperatures recorded and GDDs calculated for the Houghton County Airport. A couple things to note: GDDs is not a precise predictor, it is an indication; and the data is from Houghton County Airport and farm climate can be quite different than the airport. The GBbF weather station has not collected data for a full growing season yet. Another thing to note is that we open in mid August over half the time. End-of-July/early-August openers are less often and typically for only very warm years. 

GBbF Opening Days and Growing Degree Days Calculated based on Temperatures Recorded at the Houghton County Airport. (Data and calculations from wunderground.com)
Year
Opening Date
Opener GDDs at HCA (wunderground.com)
2014
TBD
787 (as of August 1)
2013
August 17
954
2012
July 28
1136
2011
August 13
1104
2010
July 31
1105
2009
August 15
828
2008
August 9
829
2007
August 1
1091
2006
July 24
880
2005
July 29
942

We are HOPEFUL that we can open August 16 this year!

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.