Getting on the blueberries
A lot of this farming business has been pretty humbling – as a newbie farmer, we have seen lots of disappointments. Tree-lings we put in the ground that fail to thrive or die. Mushrooms that don’t grow or get moldy. Sheep wool that can’t be sold. Blueberries that get a disease and shrivel up. Oh dear.
But every now and again, there are small signs of improvement. As with those blueberries I just mentioned.
In our very first months of being with this land, late 2019, we walked our fields, and noted various patches where bittersweet and grapes had created large tangled piles. In the back of the field was one such pile, which we investigated, and we noticed – wait! Are those.. blueberry bushes??? What a gift! How many bushes could there be?? With three generation family help – daughters Charlotte and Josephine, Mark, and my dad and his partner Armi, who were visiting from Finland – we tore out ginormous piles of bittersweet and uncovered three rows of about 50 mature bushes. We were ready to become blueberry farmers!
The next summer (2020), we were so excited and started harvesting some blueberries! One week we got 18 pints. I went straight to a farmer acquaintance from Just Roots Farm and said we had blueberries – would they like to sell them at their farm stand? Enthusiastic “Yes!” How exciting, our first business! And then …. A disease hit all the bushes and the berries shriveled into pale little raisins. I brought my farmer friend the last 6 pints as a gift for her workers, and that was that. I was embarrassed at having been so over-confident and wanted to slink into a dark corner.
The following winter (2021), we forgot all about pruning blueberries while we were building our house. Spring came and I asked Charlotte and Dana to help prune, which they did, mostly hitting small, dead branches and the bittersweet that had sprung back up. When the blueberries came, we went out and picked a decent harvest – no disease! But I never managed to figure out a system to sell any and I was afraid to go back to my farmer friend. So, we have lots and lots of yummy berries in our freezer, which is also a good thing, but it’s not quite what I imagined as a business.
These are setbacks for sure. The only way to get over them is just to keep going and try something a little different the next time. Put aside that bruised ego and do some work. In my case, doing work starts with planning work – that is, putting the tasks on the scrum plan for 2022. Winter prune blueberries. Cut bittersweet back in summer. Set up a blueberry sales table. Harvest blueberries.
Improvement! In February, 2022, Charlotte, Emma and I spent two days with clippers and loppers giving the overgrown bushes a good, solid, and beautifying pruning. We followed the teachings of a fantastic University of Maine YouTube video. It felt good. We are on top of it. We may get this blueberry thing somewhat under our belt yet. Stay tuned for Summer progress!
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