Friday, July 25, 2008

Proposing to Open on Saturday, August 9th

My return from travel the first half of July was bitter sweet: brought a nasty sickness that I am slowly recovering from and observed what seems to be a pretty good blueberry crop on the horizon. The outlook is for better yields than the last two years. We have been getting rain, but we still need some regular precipitation if the berries are going to ripen completely.

We anticipate a week later opening than normal. Local strawberries were about a week later than average and whatever caused their slow start (probably the cool start to summer) has likewise affected the rate of maturation of the blueberries.

August 9th is a pretty safe bet, and hopefully the crop will be enough to sustain a few weeks of picking.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

2008 is not Yet Ready to Start

Well, being remiss is becoming a more common character trait of the person responsible for posting to the farm blog. Rather than bore you with a litany of lame excuses, let's just forgo the whining and get on with another hollow promise to be better in the future.

Most of our readers are interested in the outlook for the blueberry crop. Before I start expounding on all the conditions and omens that suggest good, bad or otherwise, let me remind you that I have no business expounding because I have so little experience and every year seems to be different than the others preceding it. Lack of expertise has never prevented me from expounding before, so I am not going to let it stop me now.

Much like the plethora of signs to indicate conditions for fishing, hunting, etc., the longer we are in the "business" of blueberry growing, the more signs we learn of. The last two years have been poor berry years (less than 3000 lbs picked each year, the crop lasting only a meager couple of weeks), compared to the bumper crop in 2005 (more than 10,000 lbs picked and seemingly a similar amount going unpicked). 2006 seemed to be short on pollinators, based on the sparse berry production among the fields. 2007 was certainly the dearth of precipitation, as the crop appeared promising in July, but despite the warm weather, ripening was slow and eventually berries just dried up on the branches and fell off.

As soon as the last berry fell from the patch, it seemed, the rains started in September '07, and didn't stop until November. Seemingly, the precipitation lacking in June-August, showing up in September and October, AFTER the berries shriveled and fell off the bushes. We were told that the moisture in the soil in the fall is what determines the berry crop the next summer. Although this helps our optimism, it contradicts my sensibilities (and literature). Logic dictates that moisture is needed over the entire growing season, more so at critical parts, to be sure.

To add insult to injury, May and June have been really dry in Klingville. July is looking better so far (today is July 1) and it can not come too soon. There are a lot of berries on at least 2/3rds of the bushes right now. Some variety is still in blossom and another shows no berries nor blossoms, but these are a small fraction of the overall field. So, if the rain keeps up (unlikely), we should be better off than the past two years.

The spring was cooler than normal and summer started later, and so start to the growing season seemed to lag. We are anticipating opening August 9th, and will update as July progresses (next report July 18th.

For those who recall my threats to install irrigation, that was just a threat, hoping to fool Ma nature into raining more often. Well, the bluff is not working, and so I am actively researching irrigation systems (drip, supplied with water from a well or our ponds using a wind- or solar-powered pump). The cost investment is significant, and probably not justifiable with a kid heading off to college this year. If we experience a good crop this year, it might finance the a system for '09 that will help us overcome the drought conditions in the future.