Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter on the Raspberry Farm...

A big cup of coffee, sunshine on frosty ground out the window, a comfortable snoozing dog at my feet…perfection!

The only thing bothering me is that Barack Obama is speechifying on the radio. Perfection will return when I turn it off. I just can’t listen to the guy. It’s all blah, blah, blah to me because he says things, but doesn’t do them. I believe the Bible talked about those who like to tickle our ears, and he is one of them. And woe to our nation that we are so content with tickled ears.

Enough of that…

Today I am thankful for the frost because it reminds the berries that it is still winter. The temperatures have become quite mild, and it doesn’t take too many days like that before the berries start believing they should grow. Then we have tender little buds pushing out, only to be frozen when winter reappears.

I haven’t even looked to see if buds are beginning to push. Ignorance is bliss, you know, but a couple of frosty mornings will help…and I will wish for more!


Our winter crew is out in the field, pruning, tying, making the jungle rows all tidy and precise. They’ve been working since November. We had hoped that they would finish before the end of the year, so we could include that expense in 2013. One of the vagaries of the berry business is that, while you sell your product during harvest, you don’t get paid until the buyer pulls it from the freezer to be shipped.

The fruit from Harvest 2012 sat in the freezer until Spring 2013. The fruit from Harvest 2013 hardly got to sit in the freezer. Most was pulled for shipping before the end of 2013. The result is that we took in 2 years of income in one calendar year.

The IRS likes that…and we don’t.

So we try to get any appropriate expenses pulled into the double income year, and try to anticipate our needs for the coming year and buy ahead…but there is only so much of that we can do.

Of course, other berry farmers are in the same situation. Everyone wanted the pruning/tying crews to be done by the end of the year. As it turned out, the crews would work a few days here, a few days there, to keep everyone on the hook, As a result, none of us got done before the end of the year. And really, I think that’s about as equitable a solution as could be crafted. I know the workers were just trying to prevent us from giving their job to someone else who might come in and finish when we wanted, but it also made it fair for them and for us. We all got some of the expense to claim, and they kept more work for the rest of the winter.

I do so appreciate these guys. Their job is hard manual labor, sometimes done in miserable conditions. (We don’t require that they come in terrible weather. In fact, they work on their own schedule.) What they do in the field can make our crop good or bad. The Farmer is responsible for growing good canes for them to tie, but the way they tie the rows makes it possible for us to get the berries off. We need them to do a good job.
Each arc is a bundle that has been tied by hand in multiple spots!
I’m proud that The Farmer is generous in his payment, appreciating that they are raising families and making a living doing a job that few would. We respect that they are taking the opportunities that are available to them and making the most of them.

So that is winter out in the field, along with a bit of tractor work for The Farmer. When it is dry enough, or frozen enough, he chops the canes left between the tied and finished rows. It looks so nice!

The rest of winter hours, The Farmer spends going to meetings, meetings, meetings, and does the paperwork required for end of year record-keeping. He ventures into the shop once in a while, but it is cold out there. He saves most of the maintenance for early spring when he is itching to farm, but there is not much to do yet.

Oh – and we always save a few (?) things to do at the last minute before harvest – because it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t make sure we have high stress to begin.

I could really live without that part, but it ALWAYS happens…so be it.

Since Harvest Time is always frantic and a frenetic pace, we are so thankful for the freedom and flexible winter schedule. I know we couldn’t keep going if we didn’t have the offset of our winter schedule.

{Sigh} I love Fall, and I like winter…I might love it too, if it weren’t so close to Spring.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Could they come to my house please? It wouldn't take long...only 2 rows left, and they aren't nearly as long as yours...easy peasy!!!

About Me

Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life ( and one where I can vent. (