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.                                 

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