Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Surprise Visitors from Bulgaria...

Yesterday, berry production jumped! We were on our strongest section of the field, and Randy had to unload the picker after each round – just not enough room for all the flats they were getting off each row. Exhausting for the crew to handle so many berries! And a long and busy shift at the plant later!

To add to our busiest day yet, a group of berry farmers from Bulgaria showed up at our place for a tour…a tour that Randy forgot to put on his calendar. (oops-mumblemumble) Of course, they would arrive when he was gone to town for supplies. My crew came up to the deck for lunch and excitedly told me that a whole bunch of Bulgarians were walking in the field, getting in the way of the picker and taking pictures of everything – even crew members!

I wondered if I was having a dream since I had just roused myself from falling asleep at my computer. “Bulgarians? Is this real?” I was wondering. “I think I’ve had dreams like this before…A whole tour group showing up and I’m completely unprepared…and I don’t speak Bulgarian.”

But it was very real, and gracious Bev, our researcher friend and director of the tour, briefed me on the event and told me that she had already talked to Randy who was on his way home and apologetic for his lapse.

So I ran to get my clipboard and get the signatures of the visitors on our Food Safety required Visitors Log, and tried to explain to people who don’t speak English what our Food Safety practices are, while attempting to corral them out of the harvest area. (Not entirely successful, I might add.)

Then I answered questions with the sound of confidence, though really, I was not sure of the veracity of some of my statements. How much does a harvester cost? How many tons of fruit are picked? What sprays are used?  Randy arrived back home just in time to unload the machines, answer a few questions and then leave to bring fruit to the plant. A couple of earnest-to-learn Bulgarians were visibly annoyed.

I invited the now restless tour group to the deck, quickly cutting my Royal Raspberry Cake into small squares and serving it with ice water – as if I had planned it all along. (Thank you Lord for prompting me to make a cake!)

Fortunately, before a few of the most…um…assertive guests became frustrated, Randy returned to answer more questions and show them more equipment. Before they left the farm to briefly visit the processing plant, they graciously presented me with a gift for our hospitality.

Then they continued their zealous investigations at the plant…which is much more sacrosanct than our harvest field. Thank you to JT for the security services…Oh my…I promise it won’t happen again.

It was really not a great day for visitors, as we were running around trying to keep up with the fruit production. We didn’t have time to give much attention, (and it didn’t help that we forgot they were coming {eye roll}). On the other hand, it was a great picture of the contrast for the Bulgarian farmers, where they do not use machines to pick raspberries and must get hundreds of workers to harvest their crop. I wouldn’t want to trade places.

They spoke of the great trouble they have getting enough labor to harvest their crops and asked how we keep our workers coming back each year. When I asked where they got their migrant workers, they said that there is a lower class in their country, the Gypsies, that provide manual labor -- no migrants. However, they are illiterate and undisciplined, wanderers, and obviously not respected by their employers. It struck me how politically incorrect Americans would find this information. 

Most of the guests were courteous and thankful for the opportunity, and the leaders of the group were very appreciative, and respectful. But they have their hands full with some of the group who are pretty assertive in their quest to learn, and unfamiliar with our culture. It’s obvious that US growers are far ahead in food safety requirements and procedures. They were not familiar with that at all, and very surprised and disbelieving about a number of rules that we must follow.

Some days, I am disbelieving about the rules too…but our guests lack of knowledge of food safety rules reminded me once again that food from the US is the safest in the world.

And I was also reminded to be more diligent with our calendars.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Kinda Ridiculous...

So we’ve been picking for 18 days and it’s only June 27. Kinda ridiculous.

Also kinda ridiculous? The weather acting like summer all April and May, then returning to typical June weather almost as soon as we needed to pick berries…

There were some rugged days out there for the crew. Most of the days, the rain was not steady – but while it rained, it dumped! And there were a couple of days where the rain was steady for some hours.

Normally, these conditions would have created a perfect environment for lots of mold growth. Our saving grace? It was downright cold – and we kept picking in spite of the conditions. I was sorry for our crew, but continuing to pick was the right decision. The cool weather was miserable for the crew, but it kept the mold from growing. Most of the times the weather changed back to sun were accompanied by drying breezes, and slow warm ups, if any. Perfect transitions!

To date, mold has not gotten a foothold in the field, and quality has been good. Harvest is going well, and I am very thankful…

…And just the same, looking forward to it being done.

In other news, the goaties have been growing like weeds, with the exception of Clementine. She’d been looking more and more puny as her brothers’ growth outpaced hers by several inches.  I feared that something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out any symptoms that made sense. Finally, I just brought her in and found out that the poor baby had an overpopulation of coccidia in her gut, and they were robbing her of enough nutrients to grow well. Five days of medicine and she is much better – feisty, and tail up happy! It makes me smile after seeing her so timid and overpowered by her big, strong playful brothers. She has always liked me, but now she loves me loyally because she loved to eat the banana flavored medicine that I administered. If I am in the pen, she just follows me around – and right out the gate to wherever I am going as if we belong together at all times.

The brothers all got fixed on Friday, and that made them a lot less playful for a day…but just a day. In a week, the babies will be 8 weeks old. Abner and Dexter will be moving to their new home. I’ll miss the little beggars, but they are getting a great home at my friend Jamie’s farm where they will not lack for attention from her and her 3 animal lover kiddos. Best way for me to give them up…

Bo and Clementine will be staying here with Barnaby and Imogene. I expect that both farms will experience a day of separation crying, and Jamie and I, bleeding hearts that we are, will feel terrible for a little while. But that is the way of farming, and soon enough, everyone will be happy on their own.

I had hoped to post so many more goat pictures and stories of their antics because they are kinda ridiculously cute! But early harvest messed up that plan… Abner, Bo, Clementine and Dexter have been a great gift of fun and laughter – and just plain therapy for the stressful days of an early, rainy harvest. I’ll try to catch a few more antics on video to share because I know you all like their ridiculous cuteness as much as I do.

So – a little catch-up on what’s been going on here. It’s a busy, busy season already this June…and to think that most years, we would just be thinking about starting to harvest now! We likely only have 2 weeks left to go…And after that, we will have a bunch of summer left to enjoy!

I can handle that kind of ridiculous.

About Me

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