Crops – Berries

June 17, 2013 – Strawberries

While they are a bit late this year, the wet spring has insured a full strawberry crop this year.

bowl of strawberries

In fact, it seems like for this week or so they are somewhat like children in that they are responsible for how we spend our time. They must be picked and then moved on – moved on to the freezer, the dehydrator, made into shortcake, passed on to others. I’m sure after the glut is over, they will once again become a welcome sight.

October 15, 2012 – Fall Berry Maintenance

Since our blackberries were so good to us this year, I thought I should take good care of them this fall.  So, even though it is one of the most unpleasant jobs on the farm, pruning blackberries it was.

Here’s the rows of blackberries and raspberries before pruning,  The blackberries are very vigorous, and have a tendency to grow side shoots that are at a 90 degree angle from the main stem.  Pulling them out is irritating as your head often times get scraped as you are hunched on your knees, huddled under the canes, trying to cut the old canes out at near ground level while trying to pull out the old cane.  After it’s done the row looks much better.

Although this “after” shot doesn’t show it well, the blackberries are pruned of this year’s fruiting canes and all the raspberries are pruned as well.  That “pruning” is much easier, since all it consists of is mowing down the entire row!

August 21, 2010 – Canning Raspberries

When the berries come on fast, in addition to freezing, we like to can some whole berries – they are great in the winter in yogurt, cold cereal, and pancakes. they are easy to can as well.

First heat some water and sugar for the liquid to a boil – add sugar to taste.  Heat up canning kettle to boiling.  Soften up the canning lids by getting water to nearly boiling and putting lids in and then take off the heat.

Put berries directly in jars.

Fill to within a half inch of the top of the jar with the boiling sugar water mix.

Wipe the rim of the jars dry, put on lids, hand tighten rings, and put in boiling water bath for 20 minutes, making sure an inch of water is above the jars.  It’s a quick and easy way to put up food for later.

one year ago…”Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program”

July 14, 2010 – On the Land

Away from the water, the wild blueberries are abundant this year.

Some fun with a camera setting that just detects one color.

Wild blueberries in full color. Picking blueberries is rather relaxing and it’s a great excuse to get out and tromp around the woods, sphagnum bogs, and powerlines.  There’s a fine line between getting lost and not knowing exactly where you are!  I also managed to scare up a covey of young ruffed grouse.

Blueberries collected for human consumption!  We had blueberries on pancakes, blueberries in mixed fruit salad, and Linda made a blueberry pie as well.

Of course, we couldn’t go a whole week without picking and preserving some food!  In addition to the berries we ate fresh and froze, we canned over 30 jars of these delectable little morsels!

one year ago…”Overnight in the BWCA in the Rain”

March 30, 2010 – Winter Damage

Now that we are getting out and about, a couple of crops have taken a significant hit from the deep snow and drifts this winter.

Many of the blackberry vines were bent over and cracked.  In some ways it greatly simplified pruning – just getting rid of the damaged vines accounted for much of the pruning.  The patch should survive the damage just fine, however.

The white pine Christmas trees are another story.  I’d say at least half of the trees were damaged beyond repair.  Here’s as example of the type of damage.  The Canaan Firs held up much better, probably due to their nature and the fact they were a couple of years ahead in growth to the white pines.

one year ago…”Willows Emerge”

September 22, 2009 – Golden Raspberries

The golden raspberries are particularly prolific this year. We only have about 15 feet of row, but it’s more than we can use at the moment.

golden raspberries

The flavor isn’t quite as good (to my taste buds) as the red berries – not quite as strong as the reds.  However, I think this winter we’ll make a “raspberry lovers” gift box with red raspberry jam, golden raspberry jam, and raspberry jelly.

one year ago…”Apple Peeling, 2008 Style”

August 30, 2009 – Raspberries!

It’s more or less the peak of fall raspberry season.  We’ve jammed, canned whole berries, made canned raspberry sauces, pies, crisp, and frozen whole berries.  We also sent 52 cartons to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market yesterday.

These are the golden raspberries – we only have about 15 foot row of these and that is enough.  They are not quite as tasty as the red and seem slightly more susceptible to fungus.  They do however offer a beautiful contrast in the box mixed with the reds.

The old standby fall raspberry variety – Heritage.

one year ago…”Honey Extraction”

June 15, 2009 – Drying Strawberries

We’re getting close to a loss on what to do with all the strawberries. The easiest is to freeze then whole on cookie sheets and then put in freezer bags. This year we are going to try drying them for the first time and I’ve overdocumented different drying methods below. All the pictures below show on the left side of the photo what they looked like before drying and the right side shows what they looked like after they were dried.

dried strawberries

This photo show berries cut in half lengthwise and put cut side down.

This tray shows sliced strawberries.

This tray was sliced lengthwise and put on the tray uncut side down.

Finally, whole berrries put on the tray.

As for results, the easiest to take off the trays were the berries sliced lengthwise and put cut side up.  None of them were difficult to remove, but the lengthwise down were easiest.  Our dehydrator has the flexible sheets – it was easy to bend those – if you were using a rigid drying tray, it would take longer to get them off.  The whole berries took a long time to dry, even though they were all the small ones.  I’d cut them all next time.

The dried berries turned out better than I expected, taste-wise – so we’ll be doing more.

one year ago…”Emma at ISU Basketball Camp”

April 13, 2009 – New Blackberries

When I read about the first variety of fall-bearing blackberries, PrimeJim, I knew those would go in the 70 foot row I had prepared last year.  This is the first type of blackberry that can be mowed down every fall instead of pruning 2nd year canes out of the patch.

So, I did the old trick of laying down some cardboard and old straw and punched holes it to plant the berries – with the mulch conserving moisture and keeping weeds down.

one year ago…”xxx”

September 9, 2008 – Never-ending Raspberries

Aaah, raspberries.  Fruits of the Gods, as one of our customers is fond of saying.

Again, the fall-bearing varieties are not disappointing.  I love these guys because the bear so long and at the end of the season, they are just mowed down – no pruning out the dead canes.

This picture about tells it all – a few are already picked, some are ready to be picked, and yet others are still on their way.

one year ago…”File Under: It Works”.

September 1, 2008 – Blackberries!

This year’s crop of blackberries has been phenomenal!

The berries this year are large and plentiful – we’ve made jam (my favorite), frozen some, sold many fresh, started soaking some in spirits (brandy, rum, and vodka).  We found out last year that whole canned blackberries aren’t worth doing, so we have to find other uses – nothing like homemade blackberry brandy to put you asleep on a cold winter night as an antidote against a sore throat.

one year ago…”Honey Extraction”

August 17, 2008 – Blackberry Skeptics!

We packed up some goods to be sold by someone else at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market yesterday. Among the items were our gorgeous blackberries.

Customers at the market were suspicious that such nice berries could be grown in Iowa and certainly, they must have been shipped in from Oregon or elsewhere.  This page is an invitation for all skeptics to type the word “blackberries” in the search box to the left to find photos dating back to May 2006, when the blackberries were first planted!

Here’s another testimonial straight from the field!

one year ago…”They Call me the Batman”

July 6, 2008 – New Blooms

There are a few new blooms on the farm this week.

These are a variety of allium that were on super close-out late last fall. They add spunk to bouquets and attract beneficial insects as well.

These are the more common elderberry blossoms – this is the first year we’ve had a profusion of blooms, so we’ll have to figure what, if anything, to do with the elderberries, other than wild bird food.

one year ago…”Black and White”

July 4, 2008 – Strawberry Renovation

This might not look like much, but it is an important part of strawberry health.  After the berries have completed bearing for the year, I mow them down at the highest level I can and then spread compost on the patch.

This encourages the plants to send out healthy runners to improve the patch.  The berries were plentiful this year due to the rain, but the taste was not as sweet as year’s past until the very end of the season when things finally dried out a little.  I hunted down the last few hidden berries after I mowed, for a sweet goodbye to the strawberry season.

one year ago…”Three Minutes at a Time”

May 27, 2008 – Weeding Raspberries

After lots of excitement on the farm, it’s back to work that has slid with all the recent activity. Some of the raspberries needed some weeding attention.

Here’s a stretch of berries with weeds doing a good job of competing.

A section showing the weeds lost the battle with Linda the weeder and the berries once again have better air circulation and chances to get sun and water, although water is not a problem this spring!

one year ago…”Soap Making Day 1″

September 8, 2007 – Raspberries & Apples

Today was another big picking day – both raspberries and apples.  I even got tired of picking raspberries today.  We also started on the peach harvest, they seem to ripen better off the tree.  But those will be for another day.

So, 24 more jars of canned raspberries, 11 pints of peach-applesauce, and 22 pints of raspberry-applesauce.  The apple sauce was from some apples we had peeled and frozen earlier in the season, plus some apples the girls picked and peeled today. ‘Tis the season for harvest.  I was thinking, although it might seem like a lot, 33 pints of applesauce is not even one jar a week.  OK, you can subtract summer months when other fruits are in season, and that leaves us with one jar a week from today’s batch!

one year ago…

September 5, 2007 – Fall Raspberries

The fall raspberries are really coming into their own – it seems like by the time you pick to the end of the row, more have ripened at the beginning!

I much prefer the fall-bearers to the summer berries because they are so much less work and produce more.  It would be hard to give up all the summer bearers, as waiting until September is a long time.

one year ago…

July 31, 2007 – Blackberries!

The blackberries we planted in the spring of 2006 are giving their first fruit this year!

They have a sweet/sour taste that has to be sooo good for you!  The row looks very healthy and there are many more on the way.  Like most everything we do, we weren’t too sure how we’d like them or how they’d grow here, so we just put in one 75 foot row.  Looks like a thumbs up for blackberries so far.  If I was forced, I’d say blackberries make my favorite jam.

one year ago…

July 10, 2007 – Blueberries for More than Sal!

We tend to enjoy things on vacation that others might not think are enjoying!  Being the preserving/putting food away folks that we are, we bring canning jars along in case we get enough blueberries!

The blueberries this year were exceptional.  I had resigned myself to a bad year since there were fires earlier this spring and the whole arrowhead region was dry.  But the rains must have been well-timed for the blueberries.  The berries were large and plentiful.

We made sure to “eat local” even while on vacation!  We had fresh blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry cobbler and fried walleye.  In addition to all the blueberries we ate fresh, we brough home 24 half-pint jars of whole canned berries and many gallons more fresh to make jam and freeze.  I think we must have picked about 6 gallons of blueberries throughout the week.
one year ago…

June 25, 2007 – Strawberry Renovation

Today was the beginning of strawberry renovation (or more accurately, retirement). This is an ugly strawberry patch. We harvested the last of the berries today and that is the end for this patch.

Strawberries are difficult to keep weeded, especially organically-grown berries and this patch is five years old or so and the weed pressures finally made it unbearable to weed. We planned the retirement and planted a fresh patch this spring. Next year, that one will be ready and nearly weed-free!

So we just mow the old one down, spread some manure and old bedding (seen in the photo above) then cover the soil and let the critters of the dark take over the decomposing and kill all the weeds that remain. Next spring this will be available for general garden planting.

one year ago…

April 20, 2007 – Putting Down Roots

Once you figure out which side is down and up, even a five year old can be a great asset in planting strawberries.  Out current patch is starting to decline as some grasses have invaded from the corners and rather than burn them out with grass herbicide, we will move the patch to fresh ground and cover the old patch with cardboard and straw to kill the old berries and grass.  It takes a couple of years to get a patch into production, so this will be the last year for the old, and will give the new patch a time to settle in.

The roots on strawberries are fairly long and each one needs a hole about 6 inches or more deep.  We ordered 200 new plants and put about 130 in today.

The varieties we put in today are Earliglow, Honeoye, Mesabi, and Jewel.  We order our strawberries from Nourse Farms – they provide a handy variety comparison chart for berry varieties.  We’ve been happy with their berries (straw and rasp) over the years.

We also got 5 new fruit trees in the mail the same day (4 peaches and a nectarine) to replace the trees we lost in the ice storm and got those in the ground as well. 


one year ago…

November 8, 2006 – Short Shirt Sleeve Day

Today might be the last day in the mid-70’s for a while. I used it to take care of lots of nagging little jobs. Fixed the oyster shell dispenser that was leaking oyster shells on the ground outside of the coop, painted the south side of the peach trees white, moved all the chicken tractors in the barn along with most of the summer outdoor furniture, started on rabbit guards on the new trees, put another coat of poly on some bookshelf shelves, and so on.

My favorite task is “pruning” the fall raspberries

Here is a row before pruning.

This is the row after pruning. The “pruner” in this case is a riding lawn mower! This beats the heck out of individual cane pruning the summer bearing berries. I’ll just throw some compost on, and they’ll be ready for next spring.

one year ago…

September 24, 2006 – Raspberries Won’t Die!

The frost was not a killing frost – only a handful of tomato plants bit the dust. The raspberries keep going…

Someone asked the variety – they are the old traditional fall variety – Heritage.

One of the neighbors had a “block” party this afternoon(A block meaning a couple of miles square) for all the old and new neighbors to get together. We had some a few years ago, but hadn’t had any for a while, so it was nice to have the tradition picked up again.

September 15, 2006 – Peaches and Raspberries

Our raspberries refuse to surrender. We’ve been picking since mid-August. On Monday we picked 2 gallons and today (Friday) 6 more quarts. This is from a 50 foot row!

The oldest peach tree was ready for harvest as well. Three crates of peaches from it this year – about 1/2 or less of last year’s harvest from the tree, but still lotsa peaches.

So, time to make more jam, and depending how the mood strikes us tomorrow – canned or dried peaches. I would not be disappointed if it froze tonight (it won’t for quite some time yet). I’m ready for something else besides picking and putting food up (at least for a while). I don’t think I’d do very well in a place without seasons. It’s nice to anticipate, enjoy, and exhaust each season. I look forward to fall – typically a time to fix up buildings/create contrivances in the workshop after the gardens die.

September 9, 2006 – Market Goods

Here’s a sample of what we bring to market. This may be one of the last weeks as the garden winds down.

As Martin’s Kindergarten class was discussing colors this week, nobody believed that peppers were purple. (Doesn’t anybody teach “Peter Piper picked a peck of purple peppers anymore?) So, for share day, he brought in some Purple Beauty peppers to show.

Some of the fall bouquets are striking with the dark reds and browns.

Our fall raspberries are just going nuts this year – lots and lots of big berries.

June 12, 2006 – Berry Moon

Last night’s full moon was also known as the “Berry Moon” in times gone by. I’ll vouch for that!

Today was strawberry day. This was the biggest one day harvest from the patch so far this season. This strawberry season we’ve made canned strawberry sauce, froze whole berries, made jam (strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb). About the only thing left are fresh strawberry margaritas!

June 7, 2006 – Strawberries/Attic Building Continues

The strawberries are here!

Linda is being diligent about getting the fruit in. Claire made strawberry shortcake from scratch for dinner and the rest are destined for the freezer.
Today was a bit of clean-up in the wake of re-roofing. It is now very hot up there since there are no windows to open. I moved all the boxes and cleaned up all the nails, dust, bits of wood and asphalt shingles that fell down inside during the re-roof. We had about a dozen sheets of plywood left over and I moved them from the hay rack to the barn and finished hauling the branches that were trimmed to the burn pile.

Spent most of the rest of the day behind a paint brush.

Here’s Claire a couple of days ago, wiping the stain on the floorboards and window and door trim. Since it was hot and dry – it was a good day to throw a finish on the trim and beadboard for the attic. We’re on our 17th day in a row of above average temps and the grass is finally starting to turn brown. I’ve got two hay racks full of freshly finished boards.

May 17, 2006 – Strawberry Fields Forever

The strawberries have loved the rainy weather of late.

Today, it warmed up to the mid-70s and Linda was out of school, so it was the first day for a long time we could work on the farm at the same time. We finished weeding and pruning the raspberries, weeded the perennial flower garden, got a few herb, some okra and parsley planted, lawn mowed and other odds and ends.
The newly planted raspberries and blackberries are starting to come to life as well.

May 3, 2006 – Catch-up

Today was one of those days that I felt like no matter how much got done, I’d need another day and still not be where things need to be for the season. It must be the weekend+ worth of rain that set these wheels in motion.

It won’t be long before the strawberries are here!

This shot shows some strawberry flowers and a very small green berry.

April 21, 2006 – Planting Raspberries

Today, among other things was raspberry planting. I ordered about 75 feet of fall berries, golden and red, along with 75 feet of blackberries. We hope these spread our berry season out a little more and offer a little more variety.

Here I am using the wheel hoe to make a shallow trench to plant the berries. Yes, I do feel like a horse. The berries are being planted in the place we had the paper and straw laid down on sod last year and had tomatoes planted.

Here are the newly planted berries. The new plants will come up from the roots, not necessarily from these stumps.

ere’s Claire helping put a little mulch along the side of the berries to conserve moisture and help keep weeds out. We lucked out and had some calm winds at nightfall, so were able get the paper down and mulch.

Martin had an interesting few days. We had been getting him ready for Kindergarten roundup today and he was very apprehensive saying he “didn’t want to sit at a desk all day.” He goes to day care two days a week and is home the rest of the week, and at day care, he was hugging everybody and saying good-bye (including getting in trouble with his friend – see here at this blog entry) by hugging her and not letting go! He thought he was saying goodbye to eveyone at Tiger Tots forever as he thought Kindergarten was starting today, not next fall. In his mind, he was saying good-bye forever, and everyone else thought he was saying good-bye for the day. At any rate, he was excited about school after going through an abbreviated day of books, recess, singing, and snack in the lunchroom.

January 9, 2006 – Gravy Raspberries

Today was gravy. It was about freezing with a strong north wind, but it was sunny and there’s always something fruitful to do at high hopes. Today I started pruning the dead canes out of the raspberries. The raspberries are on the the south side of the barn and in the sunshine and with the barn blocking the wind, it was more or less pleasant.

It was gravy in that January 9th isn’t always a time when I can get at the canes. It gives a little more time in late spring for something else. Also continued hauling burnable wood out of one of the old sheds to the burn pile.

Here’s what the canes look like before pruning:
before pruning raspberries
Here’s what it looks like after the pruning:
after pruning raspberries
The summer berries grow one year without fruit, the second year they fruit, then they die. It’s good to get the dead canes out to give the new ones more room to grow, help prevent disease, and make it easier not to have to move around dead canes. It’s a good task since it is not a “must do” during a particular day or week, like picking strawberries.

July 19, 2005 – Blueberries

It is a good year for blueberries in the northwoods. Always the foragers, we brought our canning kettle and canning jars and canned and froze blueberries (can’t get the farmers out of us, I guess). Grandma Jo even made a fresh blueberry cobbler.

The berries were particularly luscious this year. We went out a couple of times and got about 3 gallons of berries. My grandfather, Walter, was an avid blueberry picker, who did not live too far from where we were. I find comfort in the spongy, sphagnum places the biggest berries grow.

June 19, 2005 – First big Flush of Fruit

Today was the first big flush of putting food away. The cherries are beginning and the strawberries are at peak. We’ve got strawberries freezing on cookie sheets, cherries reserved for pie, cherry jam made, cherries drying in the dehydrator, and strawberries left over for eating fresh or waiting for an empty cookie sheet.
strawberry patch
Emma’s helping out in the strawberry patch.
Grandma Jo helped out too!
cherry picking

Martin helped for a short time picking cherries.
cherry picking

Martin examines a cherry.
Later today cousin Jill arrives fro m L.A. and Graunt (combination “adopted”aunt/grandma)arrives from Minneapolis as well.

June 11 2005 – Strawberry Gorging

It’s strawberry season!

That means that it is that sweet time of year for strawberries with each meal, snacks, made into jam, and frozen. The season is so sweet and fleeting.
strawberry jam
Today we made one batch of jam – that’s all the Sure-jelll we had leftover from last year.

Today the ponderous bee swarm swayed in the wind. We located an empty hive down below the swarm in hopes that they may move in there. They were too high in the tree to try to move. We were weeding the garden when they decided to blow this popsicle stand. They all swarmed in a cloud, moved over the raspberries and took of to the east and were gone in a a matter of a couple minutes. I wonder where they went? Do they send scouts out to find a new place? How do they decide where to go and who to follow? Is it like the Borg from Star Trek? Perhaps its a simple HTTP protocol?
At any rate they are gone.

Blue came home very ragged after a T-Storm yesterday. He looked very sheepish and very dirty. He was bleeding a bit this morning and then disappeared. Emma came home from her week away and wanted to show her friends how Blue jumps, and I had to tell her he was hurt and we couldn’t find him. She eventually found him and we brought him to the vet for an exam and some anti-biotics. I don’t know if he was hit by a car, had a run in with other dogs or barbed wire?

Emma took the camera this nightfall and took this picture of some yarrow in the garden from the perspective of an ant!

April 29, 2005 – Getting Ready for Raspberries

The wind finally stopped blowing today, so this afternoon, I had a chance to prepare the ground for next year’s new berries. Rather than fight with digging up sod, or spraying it, we first put heavy paper over the grass.
Next, we put some old hay we scavenged from a nearby farm.
By next spring, the ground will be ready to plant. These two rows will probably contain fall raspberries and blackberries. How much many more rows to do???