Monday, October 19, 2015

Cranberry Marsh Tours....(are coming to an end)

Technically speaking, cranberry harvest has come to an end.  A couple of truckloads of fruit still need to be hauled in and the trash rakers will still work a few hours and all the specialized harvest equipment will be put to rest for another year, but the cranberries have all been harvested and the harvest party is over.

I still have plenty of pictures to share and plenty of recipe posts in my draft folder waiting to be finished up.  Today is a mish-mash of pictures as cranberry harvest comes to an end.

These two boys enjoy one of their last days on the marsh during harvest.  It's one more chance to walk in the water with boots.

Running water down to the short beds.  Our own little Niagara Falls.

And yet another picture of a cranberry bed being boomed (corralled). 

A look at the berry cleaner getting set up.  Only has to happen a couple more times before the end.

Climbing up to watch the cranberries fall into the dump truck never gets old for Joseph.  He would stay up there all day if I'd let him.

Peter loves being just like dad with his hip waders, even if they have to be folded down to fit right.  

In the spring the irrigation pipes get put out for the growing season.  Before the bed is harvested in the fall all the pipes have to be pulled and placed along side the bed up on the dike.  It's a very unglamorous job, but Amber and our friend keep a good attitude.  Their motto is "pull the pipes, to get pipes".  We've had many a harvest worker quit after the first day (and more wishing they had) of pipe pulling because it's hard work.

Look at those smiles.  They are so happy to be pulling the last bed of pipe.

And Joseph is super happy to have something to jump over.

Another beautiful day of cranberry harvest in the books.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cranberry Cleaning & Binning Station - Field Trip

Yesterday I had the opportunity to ride along in the dump truck to the cranberry receiving station.  Dump trucks are not luxury vehicles.  They are loud and the ride feels a bit like jumping on a trampoline, not something I'd want to do all day.  And getting in and out requires a bit of skill when you're only 5 feet, 3 inches.

Once at the cleaning station, the berries are dumped into a pool.

The cranberries are elevated into a washing station where a pressure washer rinses/blows away any leaves.  The fruit also moves over a "bouncing" machine.  Fresh, ripe berries bounce, rotten berries do not.  The good berries continue on while any rotten ones drop into a waste box.

 The cranberries make their way to another hopper where they are metered out into large wooden boxes - 1000 pounds at a time.

The forklift operator picks up the boxes and transfers them to a semi trailer which in turn drives the cranberries to a freezer until ready to be made into sweetened dried cranberries or juice.

It was a fun outing.  Just me and the hubs alone in a dump truck.  It was almost a date.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Today on the Cranberry Marsh

It's cold out there today.  And windy, too.  And I'm not feeling well, came down with some sort of flu-like bug yesterday.  Still recovering today.  So our walk was short, but I still want to share a bit of what we saw.

Enjoy a look around at cranberry harvest from my view which is at ground level and sometimes from the top of a dump truck.

And for a look at cranberry harvest from drone's view click here.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Recycling Water....(it's an important step)

Cranberry Harvest is well under way, which means it's time to start moving water from one bed to another.  Our style of marsh is completely reliant on gravity to flow water from one end of the marsh to the other.  In a perfect world the cranberries would be harvested from the high end to the low end.  I don't know about your world, but ours is not perfect.  Each bed is assessed based on color, variety, and age of bed.  These factors determine the order in which they will be harvested.  Sometimes a bottom bed will have to be harvested before and upper bed and that's where the ability to recycle water is crucial.  We are blessed with a huge water supply, but we still need to be stewards of our natural resources.

Water from the bottom beds flows into the pump back ditch where we then transfer it back to our main reservoir to reuse.  The means of transfer is through an above ground/under ground hose.  The pump below pumps 12,000 gallons/minute.

A couple of farm boys wait for the hose to fill up with water.

Watching the water empty into the main pond.

After a couple minutes of watching, the boys settle into their favorite pastime - throwing rocks.

I can't help but look around at all the fall textures in nature.

Rural life and working outdoors affords us plenty of time for seeing the little things nature has to offer like this grasshopper Peter spotted in the sand.

One more look at the giant stream of water before heading back home.

I hope you enjoyed another tour around our cranberry farm.

For more on cranberry harvest 2015 click here


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Suzuki Violin & Piano Recital - #14

First the musicians performed.
This was Emily's senior recital - #14
Recital #5 for Sam.

Then came the party.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Cranberry Marsh Tour....(in the comfort of your own home)

How exactly do those little ruby reds get from the cranberry bed to the truck?

First the bed has to be flooded.  This bed is in the process of being flooded.  Like a four-chambered heart, cranberries have four tiny air chambers inside, which allows the fruit to float, but still attached to the vine.

A tractor with a harrow rake is driven through the bed in a rectangular spiral.  

This is a closeup of the front harrow bar.  The spring steel bars push the vines down, allowing the fruit to float upwards and is then plucked off the vine.  The berries float to the surface.

There's a back rake which picks up any straggler cranberries because every berry counts.

The process of booming a bed corrals the fruit and pulls it to one end for the harvest.
Here, Nick is actually doing the cleanup round.  The first booming corrals the vast majority of fruit, then the boomers make a 2nd corralling using blowers to get every berry that has wedged itself in the grass along the edge.  

Depending on the wind direction, this can be a berry wet job.

 Once the fruit has been boomed and pulled to the pickup end of the bed, the berries are elevated from the bed into the berry cleaner.

Here's the first elevator carrying fruit, twigs, leaves all up to the water sprayer.

The white PVC in this picture is the water sprayer bar.  The water is used to clean the majority of leaves from the cranberries.

Then the clean fruit is elevated into the dump truck, and eventually delivered to another cleaning station.

 There you have it, another day in the life of harvesting cranberries.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Down Syndrome Awareness

And apparently that's the chromosome for 
because I have extra of both!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cranberries and Water.....(they go together)

Myth:  Cranberries Grow in Water

Truth:  Cranberries grow best in acidic soil with a good amount of sand on top to provide adequate drainage.

Truth:  Cranberries require significant amounts of water for irrigation, frost protection, harvesting, winter flooding and February sanding.

As we went for our daily walk on the marsh yesterday, I really took notice of the movement of water around a cranberry operation.  We are fortunate to live in an area of Wisconsin with abundant water.  Of course, there was the Drought of '88 and more recently, a lesser drought in 2012, however, for the most part, water is abundant in our area.  This is one reason for the prolific production of cranberries in Wisconsin.

As a cranberry wife, I often hear, "I'm going out to check water."  Depending on the time of year, that simple statement has many meanings.  This time of year, harvest time, it typically means the water levels in the ditches have to be checked to see if they are coming up enough for flooding the bed.

Yesterday the ditch out front looked like this to my left.

And like this to my right. 

 Today this ditch is filled to the top.  This water is being moved from the main pond (or reservoir) down to the bottom cranberry beds which are in the process of being flooded, raked and harvested.

Here you can see the reservoir, which is where all the water moving begins.

And how is one man able to control the movement of all this water?  With a series of bulkheads.  Below is a bulkhead boarded to the top, currently keeping the water in the ditch and not in the cranberry bed.  Take a walk around the marsh and one will see many, many bulkheads of varying sizes.  The one seen below is rather small.  

And here I caught Warren in the act of dropping in a couple of boards.  Again he's keeping water out of cranberry beds and directing further down the ditch.

So that's a little about the movement of water from the reservoir to a cranberry bed for the purpose of harvesting.

Now back to the myth about cranberries growing in water, which they don't.  Typically during the growing season the ditches around each cranberry bed have only a small amount of water, even less than in the picture below.  Remember, cranberries like good drainage and that's why each bed has a ditch around it.

Once all that water's been moved to the cranberry bed needing harvesting, boards are placed in the bulkhead to keep the water in, as in this case.  These cranberries have already been raked from the vine and are floating in water waiting to be corralled and elevated through the cleaner and into the truck.

Yet, another way we move water around is through pumps. Behind the dump truck is a berry cleaner which uses water to clean leaf trash off the cranberries.  The pumps pull water from the ditch to use in this process.

We also use water jets to help push the cranberries toward the berry cleaner.  The jets can be seen in the picture below.  

Water also has to be moved through irrigation pipes for frost protection and irrigation during the growing season.  So sometimes water is transported through pipes next to water-filled ditches.

And other times, pipes transport water over water.

There you have it, a bit about water use on cranberry marshes.  And just for your knowledge, tonight, I heard another common phrase uttered by cranberry husbands everywhere:

I gotta go move water. I'll be right back.