Monday, September 28, 2015

Berries! CRANBERRIES, I say!

Three giant pools, Olympic-size...
Hydropower pouring over and through each pool...

Is this a new training facility for athletes of any given sport?

No.  It is the very start of one of many receiving facilities for one of America's famous holiday fruit: the cranberry.

Right now, just this week, and in some parts, just this morning, marks the start of "cranberry season".  Along with corn harvest, soybeans, and soon to be sugar beet harvest, this week also means cranberry season for farmers in the north, from Massachusetts to Washington state, up to British Columbia and beyond.

Think: fresh cranberries, cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, cranberry muffins, Craisins, and more!  This very brief window of cranberry time, this last week of September to the last week or so of October, marks cranberry season!

That Spouse o' Mine and I happened to be in Wisconsin this week.  We made a few calls, met with a few people, and enjoyed a full day of cranberries today!  In some places, I could take photos.  In some places, uhm...not allowed.  But I can give a fun recollection and description of the cranberry harvest we enjoyed today.

Shall we start at the beginning, the marsh...or bog...or cranberry bed?  Each place we visited, I asked which was the operative noun.  Each answer was politely different, and no one offered an argument.  Each replied, "Well, I just call it a cranberry ..."  And then followed with a twinkle of a smile.

Bogs, as I will call them, are years old.  Some, maybe decades old.  Maybe even older.  But the tending of such is certainly not willy-nilly.  A cranberry farmer we met today explained to us part of his "downtime" - that is to say, his winter.  Every three years, he explained, his farm lays a very precise amount of sand onto the cranberry vines in the bog/bed/marsh, in order to maintain the proper mix of boggy soil required for proper cranberry farming.  "Not to much, not too little...JUST RIGHT..."  Several (being ~ three) times each winter, his farm floods each "bed" with water, enough to flood the plants, for ~ ten days.  This is to keep the vines and the roots from freezing.  And then they must drain the beds, and keep records of the temperatures to maintain proper vine and root health in Wisconsin winter.  It must be pretty bitter there in 0* Wisconsin, gauging the cranberry beds.

This particular farmer had many, many beds.  Bogs.  Marshes.  (He called his , "beds".)  I asked permission, and he allowed me to take the following photos of his team, out on their first day of their "season".
A cranberry vine with one of our favorite holiday fruits:
 A bog/marsh/"bed", before it is flooded for harvesting:
 One source of the water for flooding the bogs, and the sand piles in the background:
I love this!  This is where our cranberries come from!  The dry bog, flooded, and then harvested:
 More berries:
 This bog/bed/marsh was flooded, and this machine went through to raise the vines, sort of "trouble" them, and that makes the cranberries rise to the top of the water.  From there, a boom, (a net) swings around wide and gathers all our cranberries.  From the boom to the truck, and then to the receiving station, usually a co-op of farms.    
 A cranberry farmer.  And he is not even in a commercial!
From the cranberry farm, we can follow the semis, full of cranberries, to the receiving docks.  HUGE trucks.  The trucks drive up to a platform which locks them into place, tilts them backwards to about a 45* angle, and then the back doors open. SWOOSH!!  (That should be in GIANT font.)   There is a man hanging on the side who opens the back doors and rushes back from the stream of cranberries.  I asked about this: apparently this is a dangerous job - one must make sure one does not lose balance and end up in the cranberry/water flood below.  That would be very bad.

From the three pools mentioned above, these cranberries go into indoor housing by means of water ladders.  Up above our heads, workers who were dressed like the Morton Fisherman have huge hoses, not unlike firemen's, and their job, in shiftwork, is to spray down the cranberries as they come in from the initial water bath.

Once again, the cranberries are moved by water ladder up to the next level.  All-in-all, the cranberries are cleansed three times at this facility.  I do not know how many times more they will be washed.  From this upper-level, they are "poured" into awaiting giant crates, and from here, by forklift and then into awaiting semis, they go to some packing and/or processing facilities, somewhere.

That Spouse o' Mine and I enjoyed visiting a couple of receiving facilities today.  I have written about this before, when we went to Chile and worked with Chilean cherry growers.  This morning we were required to don hairnets.  Paul and some other men were required "beard nets".  We had hard hats, safety glasses, and ear plugs.  And Neon Yellow vests.  Later, we two remarked that our sensory deprivation really did play a part in our clumsiness, both physically and conversationally.  The funny part?  I was not allowed to photograph.  Picture that sweet Spouse o' Mine.  Now, with a hard hat.  And, underneath that, a hairnet.  And, a beard net.  Couple that with giant safety glasses.  But then - WAIT!  I looked across the way at some point - he and I were working at two different computers, and I see him, all of the above, and he has raised the giant safety glasses to his high forehead, and has put on his reading glasses.  Oh, a sight to behold and to photograph!  And yet, I was not allowed.

Tonight, we drove back "home" to our now-Wisconsin daughter's home in Madison.  We enjoyed hors d'oeuvres of many Wisconsin cheeses, Amish cranberry summer sausage, and cranberry relish with our pulled-pork and pumpkin dinner.

So there you have it!  Cranberry harvest.

"If you tickle the earth with a hoe, she laughs with a harvest."  ~ Douglas Jerrold

1 comment:

Louise Plummer said...

This is more education on cranberry production than I ever expected to have. I have seen the Cranberry bogs on Nantucket and Prince Edward Island, but I didn't realize all those other places grow cranberries as well. As usual, you make my world a larger place.

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