Sunday, March 25, 2012

What a week! We have been in a frenzy around here trying to get everything done. This week we tackled the prickly black raspberries and blackberries. Everything got pruned, though by the looks of my arms, I think it was the plants that had the last laugh.

Apricot blooms

Much to our dismay, the apricot trees were in full bloom this week. Last year they bloomed on Mother's Day, which would put them a good 5 weeks ahead of schedule. Yet, despite the early arrival of the blooms, our busy bees found the trees and were buzzing happily as they gathered pollen from the flowers. A big thank you to James White for his great beekeeping skills... for keeping "his girls" happy & healthy throughout the winter months so they can continue to help us both in pollination and providing yummy honey!

Along with the apricots, the grapevine buds are beginning to swell and we are seeing green leaves shooting up in all our bramble fields (red raspberry, black raspberry and blackberry). Only time will tell what this will mean for our fruit season. We continue to monitor the weather, hoping that nighttime temps do not drop below freezing. If temps do drop that low, any flower that is exposed or new grapevine shoot will be at risk.

Autumn Bliss red raspberries
As far as the strawberries, they are still holding their own. We have yet to uncover the straw from atop them, as we are holding off as long as we can to protect their tender blooms from a MN frost. Strawberries in bloom are highly sensitive to cold weather and should a frost strike at the wrong time in the process of blooming/setting fruit, we could lose the crop.

On top of all the frenzied pruning,  this warm spring has also brought an early amount of weeds! The greatest challenge for us as growers who do not use chemical pesticides or herbicides on our crops, is weeds! The fields we will plant strawberries in next month had already become inundated with weeds as of this weekend, so Dean was out there already this afternoon tilling -- something we generally don't do until right before strawberry planting in late April.

All that said, it was a treat to be out tying grapevines this afternoon in the warm March sun. In the year and a half that we have been here at Firefly Berries I have come to think of myself not so much as a fruit farmer, but rather a caretaker of the land and the plants. It's funny how when you spend so many hours with the fruit plants -- particularly the grapevines-- they start to take on a personality of their own, letting you know where and when they need a little TLC.

Today, for instance, as I was tying up the fruiting vines and straightening out the crooked vines, my mind began to wander into the greater food system we have here in America. So many of us get our food at Target or Wal Mart and don't really stop to think where it came from or who grew it. We are missing that connection to the plant or animal that is our food. But, being on this side of the food chain now, I can see things differently. 

And yet some days, when I am knee deep in farm tasks, I think how nice it would be to have a machine to help me do all these chores. And just when I'm having this crazed machine-wishing thought, something happens -- I see something, a vine that isn't quite right or a weed that is just a little too close to a raspberry plant. And I fix it... because I can... because I am not a machine... I am a person... a person who can see and feel... so much more than what a machine can.  And very quickly I am reminded why I love this job so much... it is the connection... the connection I feel to the plants... to the land and to the earth --that is what this labor of love is all about.                                 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

With the help of the warm, dry weather we completed our grape pruning this evening, a relief to both my husband and I. How we did it all in just 2 1/2 weeks... just the two of us.. is a wonder. In fact, many things are "a wonder" to me. People often ask me how we get everything done... and you know what? Honestly, I do not know sometimes.  All I can say is that we just keep doing. We don't stop too long to contemplate how much work we have to do or to fret over what to do next... we pick something and we go.  Because, really... if we sat down to think about it, we would never get up!  Oh yeah... and then there's that other thing... we don't have television!

Friday, March 16, 2012

(a warm day to prune!)

In our homeschooling fruit farm household we don't experience "Spring Break" like the Public Schools, rather we have "grape pruning" break... which if truth be told is far from a break. Literally speaking, it is more like a frenzied marathon of pruning shears and square knots. You see for each grapevine we must prune everything away except for 4 fruiting vines and several buds per fruiting vine that will be the fruiting vines the following year. Then, using the versatile square knot, we must tie the 4 fruiting vines to the wires so that they grow in the right direction. Sounds easy enough, you think? Shouldn't take too long one would reckon.

The reality is it is pretty simple once you get the hang of it and it does only take about 10-15 minutes to prune and tie a grapevine. And, it is actually pretty fun! The kicker is that we have approximately 650 grapevines... so multiply that by 10-15 minutes and you quickly realize that is a lot of minutes. 

And so, here we are smack dab in the middle of grape pruning season. Only this year, we seem to be panting profusely as we run the marathon-- since we have to keep up with Mother Nature. This week long of 70 degree temperatures puts us in a flurry to get everything pruned before buds begin to swell and break, lest we harm those buds on accident while pruning. No buds = no fruit come fall. I'm happy to report that we have just shy of 100 more vines to prune. The finish line is close at hand, and when we get there it will be a wonderful thing!
(It was much colder last year!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It is 10:25 pm --not really that late for a 30 something mother of 4, but then again perhaps it is. You see I am not only the mother of 3 crazy, full-of-life young boys... but also the mother of a 4th boy... a 3 month old, super cute, can't sleep without my Mom right next to me boy.  But, a girl has to have priorities and tonight's priority is at least starting a blog for our family business, Firefly Berries. So here I am.

I never imagined in a million years that my family and I would be running a fruit farm at this stage in our lives, but despite the hard work, it is the best decision we ever made. Not only do we have fruit ala plenty to help feed our family, but we have the satisfaction in knowing that we can provide fruit for lots of other families as well--not to mention a great way to teach our kids the value of a hard days' work. And so... here in lies our story... the story of Firefly Berries, a little dream and a lot of heart.

Whether you get the chance to come out to visit us and pick some fruit of your own, or simply live vicariously through our blog, we hope you enjoy your time with us.