Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pre-Opening Post

Hopefully reports will be more frequent, although the main poster is away from the farm for a couple weeks, doing some research up in AK ( The deputized bloggers maybe too busy to keep this as up to date as it should be.

Yes, we are going to open for picking on Aug. 1. No starting gun or anything, just show up when you want. We operate as self everything, so as long as you don't need change or help with anything, you can pick as independently as you can.

We are going to try to manage the picking a little more than usual, focusing on picking varieties/areas that are mostly ripe and protecting the varieties/areas that are not yet ready.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

3rd Report: Ripening Slow and Notso Sure

The berry ripening situation seems slowed by the lack of rain and, possibly, cool nights. We continue to estimate that we will open for picking Aug. 1, but keep checking this blog or our phone for updates as the 1st nears.

Do NOT try to sneak in and pick or peek, we have guard chickens placed around the property. Llamas and pigs patrolling the grounds, it is quite dangerous to be on the farm unescorted at the moment.

Sorry for the delay, we have filed formal protests with Ma Nature, but like how most mothers deal with insolence, she is ignoring us.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

2nd Report: Still early, still looks like Aug. 1 we'll open

These pictures were taken today, July 15th. Still some time is needed for the berries to both mature and ripen.

These ones are furthest from ready. Better prospects are shown below.

Ripening is slow. This should be comforting, because slow ripening means they will remain ripe for awhile. We have observed that ripe berries can last a week or more on the bush, which is why it is IMPORTANT to WAIT until they are ripe BEFORE opening. So, please, don't be disappointed if we delay the opening until we are confident in the amount of ripe berries.

These berries were green 10 days ago, so they are making progress, but more time is needed.

Gen snapped this picture of a leopard frog in our front yard on a pile of sand. Don't know what he was doing there, we have two nice ponds in the back, no reason to be out in the open and dry. Photography buffs, click on this image and focus on the frog's eye and see what you can see...

As a picture, this is not all that great, but in case you were wondering, the sushi was "ripe" and ready for harvesting the other night. These were made by Genny and Lynn, but I ate most. Yep, the tuna was raw and delicious.

Monday, July 09, 2007

First Real Berry Report for 2007: Opening Day Looks like 1 August

Please bear with us as we continue to learn about the management side of commercial blueberry farming. The two most common questions we encounter are: "How do the berries look?" and "When can we start picking?" The answers require us to develop some experience with this to be able to answer them specifically.

The berry crop looks better than last year, which was a poor year (less than 3000 lbs picked), but not as good as 2005, which was a banner year (more than 10,000 lbs harvested). So those of you with a memory capacity of 2 yrs or better, don't get your hopes up about 2005-like conditions but then don't fret that it will be as bad as last year, depending on when you come. As for "when," the berries are at LEAST 2, maybe 3, weeks from being ripe enough to start picking. We will announce the opening on our answering machine, this blog, and some classified ads in the paper. The pictures included here show a couple of varieties that photographed on July 6th.

Other common questions pertain to why do the berry yields vary so much? There is information at this link (also titled, "Blueberry Information on the right sidebar of this blog) that discusses some of the issues, which are multifaceted: winter conditions, moisture, pollination. Since we have different varieties (near as we can tell, about 4 or so) that blossom at slightly different times (over a period of a couple of weeks in early June (typically for us)), the weather conditions can negatively affect one variety while another experiences better conditions at a more optimum time. We see evidence of this in that some bushes are almost devoid of berries while others are loaded. This probably means that the bushes lacking berries blossomed at poor pollinating conditions. We tried to help the pollination by having some bees placed on the fields, but the beekeeper we were working with fell victim to poor beekeeping conditions and was not able to help this year. There were still a lot of natural pollinators around (the pictures below of some examples, although we see mostly swallowtail butterflies, bumblebees, and, to a lesser extent, honeybees (maybe because they are harder to see) were taken by Gen a few weeks ago down in Lansing) during the blossom season, but their presence does not necessarily guarantee pollination because they can be doing all that work for naught if the conditions are poor for the nectar/pollen. There really is no way to measure the effectiveness and so we are at the mercy of nature. We do not have the capacity to irrigate, so we are also subject to the vagaries of precipitation. We continue to mow the grass, which not only makes it easier to pick, but enhances air flow and keeps down weeds and diseases. Pruning, too, but we have not caught up to the neglect of decades ago.