Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TV6 News

In case you saw the TV6 News last night and saw the nice story about our farm and great interview with my wife and some pickers (, I just wanted to point out that that story was done on our 3rd day of picking. The picking conditions have slowed tremendously since then (5-10% of opening weekend rate). Conditions have not "picked up." A bucket in 2 hrs or so is still possible.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Early Sunday Report of Saturday's Pickings

The pickings remain slim. Only 100 lbs recorded for the day at the checkout. Saw a couple reports of 10 or more lbs picked, but most of the reports were for 5 lbs or less. Those that had picked 10 lbs or more would make a note to the effect, "Found a great bush (or row)." This means that your time is well spent looking around and "discovering" some that others have overlooked. There are still those two long rows with a lot of berries, predominantly unripe. We wish we could tell you when they will be ready to pick but there is no way of knowing. Some years they have not ripened before the first fall frost. Everyone is welcome to come pick until there is nothing left.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Picking is slow

Today's harvest was less than 100 lbs, which was less than yesterday's (130 lbs) and the days before (200-250 lbs/day). The weather was not great today, but could hear a family having a great time in the back when I got home this evening. We will remain open another week or so, but come with low expectations. If things improve (there are still berries to get ripe), I will report when they appear ready.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Picking may be slower yet

Getting reports that it is taking longer than three hours to get a full pail. Don't know if it reflects actual conditions or the picker (my brother) is not skilled. Might have a better sense of conditions to report tomorrow morning, after today's harvest.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Definitely in the Doldrums

Average amount of berries picked per day are consistently about in the couple-hundred pounds per day but seemingly dropping. It is taking 2+ hours to fill a five-quart ice cream pail. Still lots of berries to get ripe, but experience suggests that there will not be another "banner" day this year and that the harvest will probably remain modestly steady for the next week or two. Even though the picking has slowed, the evening weather has turned great, with cooler temps keeping bugs down. If picking conditions change, I will post an update, otherwise assume the conditions above remain.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easy pickin's are over, at least for awhile

Picking has dropped off considerably. If you are coming from a long ways and/or expecting to pick 10s of lbs, we encourage you to wait for the unripe varieties to ripen (I don't know when that will be). If you are looking for a bucket, you can find them but you have to work the rows that are more overgrown and lift up the low branches and look under. The easy picking is over until the later varieties turn blue.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Opening Weekend Report

Opening day was pretty wet to start. The cloud cover slowed the arrival of daylight and so the first arrivals were later than normal (after 6:30 am) and pickers showed up in fewer numbers. Nevertheless, if you found the right bush, picking was good and those skilled at picking and disciplined at not eating half of what they picked could fill a 5-qt ice cream pail in about 40 minutes (some less). The weather conditions turned to great in the afternoon and the evening was beautiful.

Over the past 6 seasons that we have owned this farm, we frequently are asked about bears. Seems natural, eh: bears love blueberries (who doesn't?) and we are located in one of the richest bear habitats in the lower 48. I (John) was an avid bear hunter in the 1980s and so I know what to look for when it comes to bear sign. Well, if they didn't before, pretty much everybody who visited farm this weekend does so now, as there were enough bear droppings around to half fill a 5 gal bucket, even after filling the treads of dozens of shoes. The amount of bear sign is very unusual this year. We have kept track of previous signs of bear over the past 6 years: 2 different bear tracks and only one pile of droppings. This year the bear "piles" are too numerous to count. John and a friend chased a bear off the back patch while putting out the garbage pails the late evening prior to opening. About the same time and place tonight (second day of picking season), a picker got a glimpse of a bear picking berries and trying to get away without paying (fat chance!). Well, watch where you step and we will keep an eye on things.

Reports on the quality of picking have been mixed so far. Some think that the picking is better than last year and others less so (but still good). I am pretty sure it is not as good. We have crop insurance, which we started two years ago, and as part of that the adjuster visits the fields just prior to opening and performs some very standardized assessment and uses some sort of calculations to forecast the harvest. Last year the estimate was 15,000 lbs and we ended up with about 9000 picked. This year the estimate is a more modest 8000 lbs, which would still be an above-average year. Nevertheless, last year there were 1500 lbs picked on opening day and this year a whopping 1200 lbs, despite what seemed like almost meager numbers of pickers. There are still many, many 1000s of lbs to harvest, after they ripen. Blueberry ripening is still a mystery to us. If it were me, I would come on evenings late in the work week and/or very early on Saturdays. The evenings temps and breezes (if any) are quite pleasant this time of year, so any night would be nice, regardless of the picking. The mornings are quite beautiful, too. Often a little foggy, always very dewy, and lots of bird noises. I would skip the afternoon sun but that is just me...

First day "report"

Do not have the numbers yet, but a pretty good day of picking. Probably over 500 lbs by a rather spartan, but expert, crowd for a first day. Still lots of berries. The evening reports were that 5 qt-pails can be filled in 40 minutes. Thanks to everyone for their patience for opening and their participation in picking!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Let's get the 2011 season going on Saturday, August 13th

Well, the fields are not as ripe as we would like for the opener but we feel we cannot stave off opening any longer. So we are going to open on Saturday, August 13th, at daylight, and we will remain open during daylight hours until we are picked out (usually about one month).

Price and operation remain the same as the last couple of years: Open daily during daylight hours, self serve (we are not always home, so use a check if you don't have correct change, honest people have simply put in an IOU and paid up later, too), $2/lb. If you can, bring your own containers. New this year we will have a limited supply (100) of food-grade, 5-qt, plastic pails, artistically decorated as shown, available for purchase at cost ($2.50 ea.).

Check this blog (or our Facebook site: search Gierke Blueberry Farm on FB) or call to get reports of the picking conditions, especially if you are traveling long distances and you are one of those who wants to pick 10s of lbs per visit. We'll try to give you a sense of how the picking is. First two days are usually very productive. After that, depends on how thoroughly we were picked and how fast the unripe berries are bluing up!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Going out on a limb: Looking like the 13th

As I breezed through the rows this weekend, a brisk clip and while squinting, I assessed the status optimistically at about 50% ripe, which is more than double from the week before, so we are going to cross our fingers and hope that we can open on the 13th. When I refer to % ripe, it does not mean that X% of the bushes are ripe, rather that % refers to the fraction of berries amongst all the bushes appear ripe. Final decision about the opener will be Wednesday, evening. If we do not make any significant ripening between now and then, the opener will be delayed. Thanks for your patience.