Forget Elf On A Shelf

For those of you who are waiting for the magical red suited sprite to leap out of the cupboard to do your holiday makeovers, you may have a long wait coming. I, however, must have my own elf who pops out when needed and least expected.

A few posts back I had mentioned that I had not gotten around to the gardening fall chore of cleaning up the raspberry bushes to prepare them for the winter onslaught of weather. After writing the story, I again put that chore on the back burner while many old projects continued to nag and new tasks kept piling on. I had pretty much forgotten about the raspberries at all.

It was a very pleasant surprise when I came home from a meeting to find my very own Elf On A Shelf had wrangled the beast of the prickly canes into submission. All the spent canes had been removed and the canes that are now a year old and will produce in the spring, have been trained into clean rows. The weeds and grass that invades the bed had all been pulled and the bed itself got a nice trimming around the perimeter.

The raspberries are all trained up inside their wires and look like they are ready for a comfortable slumber through the rest of the dormant cycle. In my mind I can already taste the delicious fruit that will arrive right after the strawberry season. My garden sprite had taken on that task (she must have been reading my blog) and the garden looks beautiful. Thank you for an early holiday present!

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Before The Plants Are Planted

Those delicious berries sitting at the grocery store have a long history before they ever become available to the consumer. I had the opportunity to make have a short tour of the Sierra-Cascade Plant while at the REAL Oregon session last week and it was an eye opener.

Driving in from the road showed only a small sign announcing the property. Not showy or heavily decorated, this complex of facilities is the workhorse of getting seedlings to the fields that grow those berries in the supermarkets.

Inside the main building was about 200 people nearing the end of their work day. They were chopping roots of raspberry plants. This is a piece-rate job, the workers are assigned partners for this harvest with up to 20 people on a team. Boxes of completed product are counted as the day goes on and the team gets paid by the amount of boxes properly filled for the customer before the amount is split evenly between team members. The teams are pushing themselves throughout the day to keep the production level up. Even at the end of this long day, the tables were a blur of activity.

Quality control workers are inspecting and weighing each box as it is filled to assure final product is acceptable. Spot checks are performed by a second set of QC after the initial inspectors have done their job.

Time is a valuable commodity not only for the workers but for the health and well being of the seedlings. The lines of processing tables are all about the plants, the knives and blades are sharp, the facility is kept at a temperature comfortable for the tender roots. There is moisture everywhere from the mixture of the newly dug and washed plants mixing with the heat and breath of the workers, to the cement floors where small puddles are a part of the process.

Outside this building, the activity is just as frantic as inside but add to the mix large equipment and lots of root stock getting moved first from a chilled holding building to an area where the dirt gets cleaned off the roots. A machine usually used to dig strawberry plant stock out of the ground had been brought in, hoses attached to spray into the cylinder while the barrel is rolling to remove a large amount of dirt and mud from the roots. From there the roots are distributed into bins that had just been disinfected since it had been used previously. The full bins are moved inside to where the workers are chopping.

After the main building of workers has called it a day, the boxes begin the next leg of their journey. Each of the finished boxes need to be chilled to the correct temperature before they can be stored for shipment a full rail car load of boxes can be chilled all at the same time with a high-tech pressurized box that can perform the task in less than an hour. The entire load can then be set into refrigerated storage containers where they will be shipped to the grower to for planting.

Raspberries take two years before they begin to produce so these bits of root will be at your local retailer no earlier than spring/summer 2021.

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And On The Other Side Of The Garden

overgrown raspberry bushes in the gardenI finally got the row of beans cleaned up on one side of the garden, the cows in the show barn were very happy that they got their share of the vines and overgrown beans.

But I didn’t have much time to stand around congratulating myself on a job well done, because just on the other side of the garden there are many jobs that still need my attention before we really get too deep into the fall season. The raspberry¬† and boysenberry vines need to be trimmed, the old vines removed and the new one re-strung on the trellis. Continue reading

Caning The Raspberries

The raspberries did not last very long this year with the hot temperatures. The spent canes need to be removed from the bushes so the new growth enough room to remain vigorous.

Canes removed from spent raspberries.The canes that remain are trellised back up so they can continue to grow. Many of the canes that are left are showing signs of that there will be fall berries, so removing the old canes had to be done carefully so it didn’t disturb the newly developing fruit.

The old canes are not discarded. They are cut into sections and will be used on the hill when we are replanting the logged sections.




Raspberry Pest

Frick the cat is not always hanging around, but when he is home he is very, very clingy and wants attention all the time.

A black cat inside the raspberry bushes.As I was trying to pick enough raspberries for breakfast with enough left over to freeze a cookie sheet full of the fruit, Frick kept getting in the way.

I would stop picking, pull him out of the bushes and set him down. Then I started setting him farther and farther from the bushes.

Before long, I was carrying the black cat out of the garden, across the driveway and to the other side of the woodshed. All the while he would snuggle in my arms, purring away and rubbing his chin on me. He would stay a little while, then come right back to once again climb into the bushes to appear where I was trying to harvest.

I finally had to give up picking and go into the house in order for the cat to finally leave me and my raspberry bushes alone..

Strawberries Ending And Raspberries Beginning

Just as the strawberries are are at an end, the raspberries are starting to pink up.

The first of the season raspberries are ripening.The strawberries were not a very abundant crop this year. Usually I am sending out containers full for visitors to the farm, family and friends. This year, with the buttercups taking over the garden strawberry bed, the harvest was quite a bit smaller but still enough to share a little and freeze enough for wintertime.

It looks like the raspberries will have a better crop than the strawberries, but it will depend on weather and the birds who are staking out their perches in anticipation of ripe berries for their own meals.


A Sunny Day In The Garden

It turned off sunny for a half day and I was able to get all the old canes off the raspberries and the spent vines off the Logan berries.

The fall cleanup on the raspberries and logan berries is complete.Once the old vines were removed from the tangle, the vines that were left will be next years fruit. The cleaned up vines were strung along the wood and wire trellis.

The raspberries are the lighter green foliage at the far end of the structure and the Logan berries are the ones that are closer.

The canes of the new raspberries are already taller than my head and were fragile as I tried to corral them into their growing space. I did break a few of them while getting them situated but hopefully there are still enough to produce a good crop to ripen just after strawberry season 2018.

To keep the weeds down a good hoeing will be done around the base of each plant and a new coating of wood chips laid down. As the chips decompose they will provide nutrients to the plants while suffocating the weed seeds as they germinate and try to emerge in the spring.

The nice weather did not last long and by afternoon the clouds had once again moved in and threatened rain.


Second Season Raspberries

The raspberries came to an abrupt end when we had several days of 100 degree weather in early June. The plants could just not keep the berries from shriveling up even before they started to turn red.

Now after the dog days of summer have turned to a more temperate nature (I hope that those 100 degree days are behind us at this point) the raspberries are sending out a last hurrah before the cold weather sets in.

Late summer ripe raspberries.About 20 stems have become loaded with sweet, ripe raspberries.

There are not enough berries to do anything grand, but it is sure nice to have a few with pancakes in the morning. I know it will not last maybe only a week or two.

The canes that produced earlier in the year and these that are producing now will be cut off at ground level after these are taste treats  are gone. Any canes that did not produce this year will be the ones that will produce next year.



Raspberries Cleaned Up For Winter

Another fall task completed in the garden.

Raspberry plants in the garden all trained up for next year.After the trellis failure and the caneberries flattened to the ground, repairs have the trellis back up and functioning.

All the old canes from from raspberries and marionberries have been cut out (not without significant thorns puncturing my hands) and next years canes woven into the trellis.

This is how the patch will sit, dormant through the winter weather, before it will spring to life again when the weather warms back up. I will be content with the packages of frozen berries that were harvested and stored until the new berries come on right after strawberry season.

Ripe Raspberries

With the end of the strawberry crop, the focus is now on the raspberries. At first it was just one or two getting ripe at a time. Now, every 3 days we are able to pick a quart or two at a time.

Aside from eating them fresh by the handfuls, we are enjoying them in the evening over ice cream and have been freezing a few for winter. If I get a cooler day this coming week and when not busy in the hay field, a raspberry cobbler will be bubbling away in the oven (I am hoping this will entice a hay-bucker or two to not only stop for a visit, but to hang for a bit and throw a few bales around for a fruity desert reward).

PS This is just a side note, but as I look out my dining room window this morning, I see a suspicious looking spot in the lawn. A new mole is beginning to work in the grass. This slow-motion invasion must be the off-spring of the monster mole that was caught during the winter.

Current score, moles 4- Mike 3. Stay tuned for further mole adventures.