Friday, July 31, 2015

We Have a New Blog Address. Come check it out!


 We have moved to a new blog address!  We think you will like it even more.  

Please click on the new address below to go to the new blog so you don't miss any u-pick apple updates.  The season is just about starting!

 If you have subscribed to the old blog, don't worry, you will still receive the updates in your email inbox.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Last weekend of U-Pick blueberries coming up!

This weekend (July 30-Aug 1) is the LAST weekend we will be open for U-Pick/We-Pick blueberries.  

Still plenty of berries left on the bushes.  Come pick your last round of berries to fill your freezers for the winter!

$1.20/# U-Pick

We will also have half crates, 1.5# clamshells and pints of blueberries available for you to pick up too.

Thur-Saturday 9am-4pm. 

5371 Brooklake Rd NE, Brooks OR 97305

Just 2 blocks east of the only traffic light in Brooks.  Close to 99E

Coming up next to pick at our farm is Gravenstein apples!!  I will post when those are ready but be looking in a week or two.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Blueberries: Machine Picking

NOTE:  We do still have U-Pick/We-Pick Blueberries.  Available Thurs-Saturday, 9am to 4pm.  Still lots of berries left!  5371 Brooklake Rd NE, Brooks OR 97305.  (4 blocks from U-Pick apple location.) $1.20/lb

Still blueberry picking time around here!

One of our fields we pick with a machine.  The rest we hand pick. This is a side row blueberry picker.  There are also more commonly used over the row pickers.  We use this side row kind because it fits under our low bird netting. 

We have 5 people on the machine.  One driving, and 4 in the back sorting and stacking empty and full crates.  This year we would start at 2am picking.  In the previous years, we have started later in the  AM but found that picking earlier helps the berries come off more easily.

Below is a picture of where the bushes go through the machine.  The beater bars shake the bush from both sides and knock the berries off.

When the berries fall, they are caught by these plastic arm sheets and roll to the white cups you see lining both sides.  The plastic arm sheets actually swing open as they hit the base of the blueberry bush.  So while they do catch many of the berries, we also lose much on the ground.  (Picture below)  One way to help reduce fruit drop loss is to prune the base of your bushes so they are very narrow.  


In the video, if you look closely, you can see the berries falling and rolling over to the side.

Here is how many berries that are lost on the ground.  Painful!

Another negative is the blueberry picker machine will also pick some greens.  Whenever you pick greens, you are losing some of your next picking.  It will negatively affect your yield.

(That to say, we are pretty novice at picking with a machine.  Plus our machine is very old.  I believe the newer over the row blueberry pickers and if we had more experience, would probably pick less green.) 

This is the other side of the blueberry picker.  Between where the 2 people are standing, there is a sorting belt and it is where the berries drop into the crates.

These crates don't looks so bad.  They have less green berries.

Why would a blueberry grow choose to machine pick over hand pick?

Some berries don't ship well to far away places, so they can't easily be sold fresh.  So instead that berry would go to the process market, which means, either frozen, dried or as juice.

It also can largely depend on the price you as a grower are being paid per pound.  If it is a low price, then you cannot afford to pick it by hand.  This year it cost us $0.70 per pound to pay a picker to hand pick.  When you are only being paid $1.00 per pound for fresh market, you are losing money after you add up all your expenses to grow the berries.

It costs $0.10-.15 to harvest per pound to machine pick so that is much less expensive.  The downside is you get paid less for machine picked berries.  This year it is likely $0.70.  Factor in the berries that get dropped on the ground (which happens also with hand pick but not as bad), and how much dockage you get.  Dockage is the percentage of berries that have to be sorted out because they are green, not yet ripe enough, soft or shriveled.  We have dockage for hand pick too but usually it isn't as high of percentage.

So it can depend on the variety you grow, what the market will pay you or if you just can't get any pickers to show up!

Anymore questions you all have?  Let me know!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Harvesting Grass seed: Combining

NOTE:  We do still have U-Pick/We-Pick Blueberries.  Available Thurs-Saturday, 9am to 4pm.  Still TONS of berries left!  5371 Brooklake Rd NE, Brooks OR 97305.  (4 blocks from U-Pick apple location.)  Also dark Sweetheart cherries available this week.  They are at their sweetest!  So amazingly good.

Well the swathing of grass seed is finished and now we are on to combining!

Like I explained in the previous post, combines separate the seed from the straw.  We keep the seed and the straw gets blown out the back to lay on the field.  It is a slow process because you can only drive 1.9 - 2.2 mph!  But it is the best job on farm- air conditioning, radio, low stress, and there is a buddy seat so sometimes you can have a friend! ha

You have to watch the humidity to know when you can start combining.  You want it less than 50% humidity otherwise you might not be shaking all the seed off that is there.  If it is a good, dry day, combining usually happens between 10am and 10pm. But Saturday, I was still sitting here at 3pm waiting to combine because there is too much moisture in the air.  When it is a cloudy or wet season, sometimes you have several days of 4pm-10pm, and it makes for a long season because you can't get much done each day.  Rain is not good for grass seed harvest either.  Sometimes you have to wait and wait days for the rows to dry out, seed can mold, or the grass underneath the swathed rows can start growing again and you will see it trying to push through!

This week, my son was excited to come ride with me.   He is almost 4.  Last year he rode with me and I thought he would last about 1/2 hr and he'd be ready to move onto something else.  He ended up lasting 3 1/2 hours, talking and asking questions the whole time!  I was pretty amazed.  This year he lasted quite awhile too but feel asleep after an hour.  And this for a boy that doesn't nap anymore! 

My daughter got her chance to ride in the combine for the first time too this weekend.  She rode with my dad while I got a little break.  Looks like I'm going to lose my combining job sooner than I think.  First time in, and she is already driving!

After a field is combined, the straw that is left in the field is either baled or it can be chopped up and let lay on the field.  A lot of times it depends on what price you get for the straw and also the field needs.

Lastly the field gets mowed and it waits to grow another year!

So that is what is happening right now on the farm.  Thanks for checking in!

Grass seed Harvest: How to Know When to Swath the Grass.

If you are looking for blueberry u-pick/stand information, check the 2 previous posts.  Yes there are TONS of berries available to be picked!

It is harvest time for our grass seed fields.  Beforehand, we check each field to see which one is the most ripe. 

Below is the grass seed.  To check if a field is ready, we randomly pull off some seed heads.  If they have any green color they are not ready.  If they look tan, then you push down in the middle of the seed to see if it feels firm or doughy.  We want it firm and that means it is ripe!

There are other methods of checking ripeness, including microwaving the seed but above is how we did it this year.

To start harvest, we have to cut the grass and lay it into rows.  We use a swather for this and the process is called swathing.  We swath the grass late at night and early morning because there will be dew on the fields.  The wetness helps keep the seeds attached to the stem so we don't lose any on the ground.  If we did it in the heat of the day, it could just shatter right off.  We have no way to harvest the seed once it hits the ground.  We let it lay in rows for 10 days to dry out. 

The combine then picks up the rows and separates the seed from the straw.  The seed gets collected into a big bin in the combine and the straw gets discarded out the back.  Next, the seed gets dumped into a big truck.  The truck will take the seed to a seed cleaning plant.  There the weed seeds and grass seeds that are blank (not viable) get removed so only pure seed remains.  It gets bagged up, then eventually makes it to the consumer to plant their lawns, etc! 

Above is the swather we use.

What I learned one of the mornings we swathed is that it gets light before 5am and there was lots of thunder over Mt. Hood.  And that I will definitely sleep really well tonight after starting at 2am!  But I do love this time of year!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We will be CLOSED for U-Pick on Saturday, July 4th.

We WILL be open Thursday and Friday from 9am to 4pm.

The blueberries are still beautiful and super easy picking.  You will love it, I promise!

We will have the dark Sweetheart cherries available too.  This may be the last week they are available but they may surprise me and hold well on the tree until the following week.  If you must have some, I'd get them this week though just to be safe.

Thanks to all who came and enjoyed our berries last week!


Hope you all have a great 4th!

(For location and more information about u-pick blueberries, please check the previous post.)