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.