Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heat wave problems...

Today was a long, hot day. Though we divide the fields into equal acreage for each day, we are finding that the last day of our rotation is lasting longer than the others…So far, we don’t know why. And when we finally finished tonight, it was too hot to do much deep thinking, or math, especially, to figure it out.

I was proud of my crew today. They recognized that one member was getting too dehydrated, so they stopped, sat her in the shade, and called for water refills. Whattacrew!! I love it that they take care of each other…I am so grateful for them.

The next few days are going to be tough as the weather gets hotter. I am sure the Not Hot Tub will be put to use. I think it will be medically necessary. Everyone will get soaked down good, and then get back on the machine and hope it takes a while to dry out. Cooling while you work…It will be a must!

Not only am I worried about the crew hanging in there during the heat wave. I have some concerns about the crop as well.

As I said in an earlier post, the plants did not come through the winter well. They never went dormant, and so kept using a little energy through the winter, depleting their stores for harvest season. Add to that the hot and dry weather, and I think I can safely say this will not be a good production year.

And I fear that the heat wave will turn it into a bad production year.

This picture illustrates the problem. See the dead leaves and drying stem with un-ripened fruit still hanging on it? 

This is something we often see toward the end of the season, when the plants are tired and dried out. The season has barely begun and we are seeing it already. To add to the plants’ low energy stores, it’s been a hot and dry spring. When the temperature reaches the mid-80’s – and especially the 90’s as it is predicted to do, this kind of die-off accelerates, and the fruit at the end of those stems never ripens. It dehydrates, and stays on the bush, or ripens but never sizes up. Lots of little berries? Not good…They don’t weigh as much, and when they completely dehydrate, they actually become a contaminant in the fruit...Not that they are harmful, they are just inedible and add to the HEM (Harmless Extraneous Material) that we must remove from the finished product.

The yellow leaves are on a fruit lateral with berries that have not ripened yet. With a lot of heat, they likely never will, and will just become dry hard little berries...HEM.

So, I am concerned what the heat wave will cost us in production. Undoubtedly, there WILL be a cost; remains to be seen how high it is.
There is nothing we can do about it, so I am not fretting. I’m just trying to be realistic about what is ahead. We do what we can, but there are many variables beyond our control. We try to be content with whatever God gives us, and over the years, it has been enough, and more. We’ll make it through, but it sure can take the fun out of it.

I will end on a positive: there are a lot of places in the fields that still look like this…

Aren't they pretty? These will survive the heat wave, as I'm sure we all will. I'll just be glad when it is over.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We've only just begun...

Harvest began five days ago, and I believe that we are now settling into the routine. The first few days I always feel a little behind because I haven’t reached total recall on all the daily things that need to be done. But I’ve pretty much got it now, and soon it will feel like I’ve been doing it for longer than I actually have.

Our first day of picking was Friday, June 19 – one day after our all-time record for early start: June 18, 1992. It was odd to me that all Spring, Rufus, our long-term weather guy, had been saying “If you want to know how this year will be, look back to your records of 1992. It’s going to be the same.” Indeed, when I finally looked up 1992, it was the year of our record early start – and probably finish too (July 24). Rufus is right again!
With the weather as it has been, it doesn’t feel early. It feels like it is already mid-July.

Our tradition is to start our season with a mandatory safety meeting for the crew. I always feel foolish telling these young folk to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, and to sneeze into their shoulder, not over the fruit – and other things that seem obviously common sense. But – it must be done, and you never know to whom it might not be common sense. In fact, we must document the content of our training, and get the signatures of the attendees because the buyers of our fruit want to know that our crews have been trained properly, and are responsible to keep the fruit as clean as possible.

All kinds of protocols and standard operating procedures must be defined and followed. No glass of any kind on the picker; no eating on the picker; long hair must be contained under a hat or wide headband, and so on and so forth. It’s a far cry from days of yore, when I used to sneak behind the picker and put wrapped candies on the belt. (They would magically appear in front of the sorters!) Or when we would sneak into the next row and bomb the workers with water balloons. Now I shudder to think of the contamination!!! Little pieces of burst balloons?! Candy wrappers?! Maybe nut allergens in the candies?!

We’ve come a long way, baby.

And some of those regulations border on micromanagement, and are more than a bit tiresome…And it can take longer to document what you do, than it does to actually do it…but I want our finished product to be of a quality that no one can question. And so, we adhere to accepted Good Agricultural Practices.

It always takes a little bit of reminding and adjusting at the beginning of the year for the crew, as well. I’m thankful that they are following the rules – even the ones they think are dumb.

Our production has been slow, very slow – but there is fruit that is old and soft and must be cleaned off so we are picking anyway. Yesterday, we started on our second time over the field, and thankfully, we started having more fruit come off the bushes. We are on the upswing. Other than the soft, older berries, the quality has been great.

So we have begun…and this week, we are missing 3 workers who kindly arranged their vacations for June so they would be done in July when it is harvest time… Oh the irony!! On my part, there was a bit of anxiety about how it would work out, but betwixt the crew and myself, we rounded up enough subs to keep us staffed until they all get back. Whew!

My crew is doing well together. Today, I heard much laughter from everyone as they had lunch break on the deck. I love to hear that! I try to keep them happy with Otter Pops and treats. And I purchased a larger Not Hot Tub this year – one with all the bells and whistles, like a filter, and pump and cover. This should keep the water from becoming unappealing too quickly. I filled it with cold well water the other day, so it should be less than hypothermia-inducing for the heat wave that is predicted to pummel us this weekend.

Won’t that be great…The pool, I mean. The heat wave, not so much.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kids and Grandkids...

A number of years ago, after the last of our senior horses passed on, and the horse girl moved to town, and the former pasture was appropriated for raspberries for machine harvest trials, The Farmer told me he was taking down the paddock fence. I strenuously objected. I wanted to replace the horses, with beef cows, or goats. I was told that there were not going to be any animals on this farm anymore. My cute little “horse shed” was commandeered for storage.

Once again, I strenuously objected and said, “Well, go ahead and take it down, but you’ll just have to put it back up again because when we have grandkids, I AM GOING TO HAVE GOATS BECAUSE I WANT THEM TO KNOW ABOUT TAKING CARE OF ANIMALS!”

And he took it down. The poor little horse shed got filled up with…stuff, and three, count them, THREE implements were parked in the lean-to. The plan was to pour a cement floor in the lean-to – but The Farmer never was certain how he wanted it to be designed – not an unusual problem around here.

But I won’t digress in that direction…

So for a while 3 little implements got privileged status under the lean-to. Meanwhile, The Farmer continued to accumulate more and bigger implements, and soon, it became ridiculous to think that the horse shed would be a storage shed. So last fall, I pointed out the incongruity of his purloined storage facility, and the need.

Bless my heart, he agreed!

So plans were made to construct an additional large and open storage shed, and I was given permission to appropriate the shed for animals…But not cows, which are my preference. Oh, how I miss cows! However, their needs and emissions, shall we say, are too voluminous for the space allotted. And I knew this, which was why I had planned on goats…though that beef thing still sounds good for my freezer.

With The Farmer’s acquiescence to animal usage of the shed, I decided not to wait for the grandkids that I had made a condition on my earlier demands. Besides, there was no word of grandkids – and I had been told that any requests by me for grandkids would result in an extra year of waiting per mention.

So I was good…really I was! Though 5 years of marriage had passed for my eldest and his wife, and I expected to hear something at that juncture, there was silence. I decided to get a head start, and get some goats before The Farmer changed his mind.

…which he did, but I had gone for the forgiveness option and informed him that the goats were already purchased!

I was able to purchase a lovely little Nigerian Dwarf doe, and her cute little buck. Conveniently, son-in-law Jon has a sister that raises goats – and she was reducing her herd.

So welcome, my new kids: Imogene and Barnaby!!


Oh! I am having so much fun with these two.

As I said, The Farmer was tempted to renege on his permission, and then figured that we must create a perfect enclosure/habitat that would take months of research and design…

Instead, Caitlin and I made a fence that will work until the dirt piles from the storage shed construction can be removed. This way I can enjoy them all summer. Sorry Farmer – not waiting til fall, and perfection. Of course, now he gets a kick out of them too, and also admits that our enclosure is quite sufficient to the need. In the fall, we will seed a little pasture for them, and put up a more permanent fence.

For now, Imogene and Barnaby are quite content with their home. They are getting more comfortable with me, and now will come to me for treats. I am the giver of raisins, and other good things! They were first quite fearful of Daisie, and Daisie was very intrigued with them…still is! They have come to some kind of understanding. Imogene no longer has her hair stand on end when Daisie comes close, and they are fine when Daisie is in the pen with me, though Imogene always try to get a good butt in as we leave. For her part, Daisie has been trying to teach them to play like boxers do, and mistakes Imogene’s charges for the boxer play bow. She gets inordinately hopeful when this happens that the goats are finally learning!

Ironically, and MUCH MORE WONDERFULLY, a couple of weeks after I purchased the goats, Dillon and Tiffany came by to tell us some news…


I still have trouble grasping this…it’s really going to happen!!! I have hardly dared to let myself ponder on it as we have had to keep it secret for several weeks now. Poor Tiffany was feeling quite poorly, and so they wanted to tell us and not have to hide her need to rest and bug out on some events. They weren’t ready to make an announcement. I could hardly trust myself to keep silent if I thought about it too much!

This week, they made it public, so I am free to shout it from the housetops, which I’m sure they appreciate… WE HAVE A GRANDBABY ON THE WAY!

Baby is due December 8, so we will have a super exciting Christmas time! Tiffany is feeling much better now that she is at 14 weeks, and she actually has a little tummy. It’s real!!!

She spent a week in Hawaii with her parents recently, and doesn’t she look cute?!


So now we are putting thought into what equipment we need to accommodate a grandbaby at the house…high chair, pack n’ play, extra car-seat...

But I don’t have to worry about the goats…I’m ready for the grandkids on that one!

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. (