The Farmer is crazy busy in the fields these days. Our yearly crew of bees has arrived and they are also busy in the fields.
By my calculations, which are usually close but no cigar, we should be picking berries around the 17th of June.
That would rival our record for earliest start ever…which, on the good news side, may mean our earliest FINISH ever. Time will tell.
All these developments made me realize that a lot has happened in the fields since harvest ended last year, and some of them are interesting.
Last August, The Farmer took out the five acres that were weakest, and had earned the moniker, “The Desert”, from our harvest crew. Those poor little elderly plants had been hammered by the winter and were puny and spotty. The Farmer had killed the grass off between the rows, and burned back the new shoots so there was no competition for their needs, and they put out more than we expected. But, it did indeed look like a desert in that field.
As soon as harvest was over, the plants were cut down from the top wire, and the wires removed. The posts were pulled. The bushes were mowed down. The drip tape pulled, -- by hand, which I note because they were my hands -- rolled up and disposed of. The rows were disked and ripped to loosen up the mass of roots left behind.
And then the real fun began.
The Farmer has a theory about the ongoing problem we see in raspberry fields that are replanted. Despite the addition of manure and other wholesome soil amendments, the berries’ growth never matches the vigor of the original planting. That “virgin” soil (meaning it hadn’t grown berries before) just grows bushes of jungle proportions! We, so far, have never been able to equal that in any of our replants and, in fact, struggle with spots where the new plants never grow, or start well but then collapse.
The Farmer theorizes that the roots of the old raspberry bushes harbor disease, and as they rot in the soil, the disease organisms are released to affect the new planting.
Those old root masses are gnarly and knobby, and a force to be reckoned with as there are lots of them left behind when you take out a planting.
So The Farmer decided they must be dug out and disposed of…
But you can’t just run down to the farm implement dealer and purchase a Raspberry Root Digger, because there is no such thing. Undaunted, The Farmer spent much of that last couple winters researching what he could build or modify for this operation.
As a result, he bought a beach cleaner over the internet and drove down to Southern California over a weekend to pick up his new toy, a Cherrington Beach Cleaner…designed to screen and clean beach sand.
Last spring, he ordered parts and began the modifications which were finally accomplished at the last minute (it’s how we roll) in August when the Root Digger formerly known as the Beach Cleaner was put out for its inaugural run.
And it worked pretty well on that first try…But we were taking up too much dirt, and couldn’t run the tractor slow enough to do a thorough job of digging. More modifications followed and soon, we were in the root digging sweet spot. Lucky Me, I got to drive the following tractor with the dump trailer, and Lucky Farmer got to watch me do it…and wait for me to return from the root pile. Suffice to say that I am still working on my backing-up-trailer skills.
Suffice to say that there may not be enough time in this life for me to perfect my backing-up-trailer skills…However, I work for the right price, and am available at crazy hours. “It’s Friday night…Let’s go dig roots!”
I thank God for the inventors of tractor cabs with radios.
We ended up with a LARGE pile of roots, and a fair amount of rocks, which we won’t miss either. We are excited to see what results we enjoy from The Farmer’s efforts toward the proof of his theory…But it will be awhile. The field will lie fallow for at least a year while we build up the soil with manure and other amendments. You’ve got to be patient when testing your theories.
And you have to be a patient Farm Wife when you have a Farmer who loves to think outside the box about solutions to problems. You just never know what kind of implement will end up in your fleet.
Sometime I’ll have to tell you about his manure equipment collection.