Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Experiment: Chapter One

Anyone who's ever read this before knows I'm a bit of a weather fanatic.  Pretty much anytime I get online I check my favorite weather site, forecast.weather.gov aka the National Weather Service.  I like their site because it's easy to use and I love their radar.  They also have links to local climatology, which I look at every now and then to see what they see trending as far as temps and precip for the coming seasons (FYI, this is another La Nina year, so expect more hot dry conditions just like last year through at least August.  Gotta love climate change!).  

But just because it's my favorite...doesn't mean it's the most accurate.  Last winter when we had our frost scares with the strawberries, I learned just how much difference one degree can make.  There's a fine line between a frost and a freeze, or a frost and nothing.  Mostly it depends on the dew point, which is the temperature at which dew/frost begins to form.  However, since a) no one predicts dew points and b) it's closely related to temperatures, I decided to take the path of least resistance.  

I decided then I needed to do some kind of experiment with a couple different TV stations and a couple websites, just to kind of see who happened to be the most accurate as far as temps go for our area, Goldsboro.  Almost a year later, I finally did it.

I chose my fav of course, the NWS, as well as weather.com, WRAL and WNCT.  I chose to do it last Mon - Fri.  I looked at the forecast high for the day at 8 am and the forecast low at 5 pm, since these sites tend to change their forecast throughout the day.  Then I recorded it in a spreadsheet (I am also the queen of spreadsheets.  I have one for everything, sometimes two for the same thing even.  Part of that is The Husbands fault, but that's another blog for another time...).  Then I recorded our actual high and actual low as measured by the thermometer in my backyard.

The results were surprising.  The overall winner for accuracy was the weather channel.  I usually don't check their site, because I hate it.  There's so much information I don't need on there and advertisements and all I want is the weather, plain and simple.  They nailed the high for Monday and low for Tuesday, and came the closest three out of the other four days.  WNCT and WRAL were the closest on Wednesday.  And my favorite, well, only came close one day when everyone was just a degree off the actual temperatures.  It's also worth noting that no one was wildly off, everyone was a couple degrees one way or another from the high or low.  We are talking about weather, no one is going to be spot on all the time.  There are just too many variables.

I plan on doing another one of these in a month or so.  I'm sure different sites are closer different times of the year.  I feel like unless I try it again and see which site consistently performs the best I don't have an accurate picture.  So check back, I'm sure I'll have a chapter two to report on soon.
Latest pics of the strawberry plants (mostly because I hate not to include a pic, but no one wants to see my thermometer)
Have a Happy New Year everyone!!!  (I don't mean it unless I put at least three exclamation points apparently.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two Front War

Please forgive me, I've been a slack blogger.  It's not because we've been doing nothing, it's because I've been a little stretched out fighting a two front war with strawberry planting/planning and everything happening at the same time the corn maze is going on.  And I have to say, because I always mistype (not to be confused with mispell because I do in fact know how to spell the word because.  It's chunkin' that apparently I have a problem with) the word because, that I love Google Chrome because they underline the mistypes like Word does and I don't have to do all that copy & paste stuff.  

On the corn maze front.  Obviously we shut her down Nov. 5 with a few remaining groups left until Nov. 12.  We had a great year this year.  I want to thank all of our staff, you are all awesome and we love hanging out with you.  Huge thanks to everyone who came out to support us and have fun on our farm.  I loved having you out and seeing some returning families.  It's fun to watch the kids grow every year (as long as it's not The Boy, who has to remain 3 forever).  That's kinda my end goal with this thing is to be a place people come every year to play around in the corn and chunk a few pumpkins (or gourds, because those little suckers will FLY).  I would love to have my farm be a part of someone's family tradition. We'll be back at it next year, hopefully with a few new things to do.  I want to add another pumpkin chunker, I'm thinking about having a trebuchet as well as the slingshot.  We also want to have a different pumpkin patch where people can cut their own pumpkin from the vine.

On the strawberry front:  We got them planted the first weekend of October and they are growing fast.  The lack of cold weather is causing them to grow like crazy, and causing them not to go into dormancy.  Last week we noticed some blooms even.  We are hoping for some cooler weather to come on in and slow them down and it looks like after today we'll get it.

First Blooms - notice how the center is dark, that is due to frost damage
One more new (exciting!) thing we are planning on bringing to you this spring is more vegetables on the farm. We want to start offering more produce throughout the spring and early summer.  We want you to be able to come here and get all the delicious vegetables you need, for you to be able to walk on the farm and see where it comes from and meet the guy who grew it and know exactly where it comes from.  

So, that's what's up with us.  I wish everyone a good holiday season and a happy new year!  My resolution: being more attentive blogger.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jeepers Creepers

I don't like to be scared.  I've never liked horror movies, although I did used to read ghost stories.  I was a little obsessed with aliens there for a bit.  But seriously, Unsolved Mysteries would keep me up at night (yes, I just admitted it).  So needless to say I never went to haunted houses, trails, mazes, insert correct noun here.  Never.  Until I started running one.

Last year, we had no idea if it would take off or even be something people would come and do.  So we went out there with our shoestring staff and family and tried to rock it best we could (after night one I was relegated to The Stand.  I would run out at people and scream and halfway through I'd burst into laughter.  I just can't commit to purposefully looking like a complete idiot.  On a regular day I do it all the time but that doesn't count apparently).  I think we did a good job with what we had to work with.  People went away scared and they had fun so I think it was a success.  

Now, this year, we knew we wanted to expand.  We put up more elaborate props (I heart fog), played around with sound (last night I heard a deer in the woods blowing and snorting and I almost came unhinged, we have to get that somewhere in there), got some more players (the crazy guys from SJAFB, the creepy girls from CBA, and some of our family + staff including Red Robin who's scared me to death at least three times, even after I reminded him that I signed his check and cut off Dr. Peppers) tried to organize a little better (huge thanks to Cousin Alvin, without whom this haunted maze would have never existed).  The result is pretty good I think.  It's creepy and scary and a lot of fun.  This is my favorite thing that we do here at the maze because it is just as much fun to scare you as it is for you to be scared.  So come check us out.  We'll be open all next weekend, including Halloween night starting at 7 pm.

The Players

Monday, October 10, 2011

Punkin' Chunkin'!

Over the past winter The Husband and I were having one of our usual nightly arguments about what to watch on TV, (see, he likes to be constantly changing the channel and it drives me insane, because just as soon as I get into something he turns it.  He also likes to watch bad reality TV, you know those shows where they argue, gripe, and complain more than anything, which drives me insane.  Nine times out of ten I give up, hand him the remote, and pick up a book or a computer.) when he decided to watch the pumpkin chunking tournament on TV.  It was in the middle of this show the light bulb went on.  What if we did punkin' chunkin' at the corn maze?

Every year we want to kinda do some different things, add things, improve things, keep it interesting.  What is more interesting that hurtling a pumpkin through a field at 75 miles an hour in the hopes of watching it smash into pumpkin goo against a target?  That would be totally awesome.  No one else around was doing it.  It seemed like a no-brainer to me.  (Plus, and I don't know what this says about me, but hearing the sound of pumpkins smashing against the targets is akin to popping those sheets of air bubbles used in shipping on the soul satisfying level).

So all spring and summer I nagged The Husband about this (because apparently to him it was not a no-brainer) because I was determined we would be doing punkin' chunkin' at the farm this fall.  Persistence paid off (I WON!).  The last weekend of September he built the chunker (essentially a slingshot on a frame) and last weekend we had our first guinea pigs, a birthday party of twenty nine-year old girls (yikes!).  This weekend Cousin Alvin brought targets which is great because before they had to be cracked or in a state of decay to bust on the soft ground.  Now they whack against the target and bust which always results in cheers and claps.  

Yes, The Husband did build this all on his own
I'm really wanting to have a tournament Nov. 5, where everyone can come help us get rid of the old pumpkins and see who is the mightiest chunker out there.  Eventually I'd love to have a sort of tournament where maybe people brought machines, catapults and trebuchets and all (nothing as big as what they do in Maryland, but maybe a smaller scaled Goldsboro version).  It's funny to me (I'm sure no one else cares) that these machines that people used to hurtle rotting corpses over town walls in the middle ages to infect the townspeople with diseases during sieges are now being used to hurtle pumpkins across fields for mindless entertainment.  Welcome to the twenty-first century!

P.S. It is totally awesome!  Check out our you-tube channel for video:

Oh yeah and P.S.S.  For those of you who saw the sign I painted, I can in fact correctly spell chunkin'...but chunin' got you lookin', didn't it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Plugging Along

So, I promised a blog on plugging strawberries. I thought it deserved its own little post, since it is a bit of a process, and no one has thirty minutes to sit there and read a blog (okay so I promise it won't take that long, but when you combined it with everything else I was talking about last post it was a little lengthy).  I did a video blog about this, but I have to learn to hold the microphone on my camera a little further away because you can hear me breathing.  It's really bad. 

We got back from the mountains Tuesday night and first thing Wednesday we had the help here ready to plug. We got 20,000 tips from Darnell Farms in three varieties. You know when you're out there picking strawberries and it's been real hot, and the plants have started running? Well that's what a tip is, those runners that have been cut off the plant. Thursday we got 29,000 tips from Fresh Pik and they come from Nova Scotia. So we had 49,000 tips to plug asap.

First things first though, we had to get the trays ready. This is an extremely dirty process (not to mention the trays are a thin plastic so it's really easy to cut your hands like a paper cut, then they get filled with dirt, it's not pretty). Last year The Husband, Luke N (I say that since I have 2 Lukes now), my father-in-law and I filled all the trays with dirt on what felt like the hottest day of the year. This time since we were in so much hurry we had part of the help filling them. Basically it's the easiest thing in the world to do. We get these trays that put 50 plants in them and fill them with the equivalent of potting soil. The problem is that you can't pack them too tightly or you won't be able to stick the tips in them.

Getting an early start
After you have trays, it's time to stick the tips, or plug them.  The tips are usually shaped like a hook and you just put them in the dirt end of the hook in first.  Once you get the hang of it, and get in a groove you can plug a tray in no time.

Tips looking for a home

Then we put them in the ark beside our house.  We mist them with water every minute and a half for 12 seconds all day long.  It will take them a little over three weeks to be ready to plant, and over that time we slowly back off on the water a little.  Ours have been stuck three weeks now and they are looking good, growing new leaves and roots and some are even running just a little.  Next week they'll be ready to set out and provide me with another blog topic.  It's great how that works out sometimes :)  

(Almost) Finished product

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Catching Up

I have tried to write this blog about five times. I just cannot get my thoughts organized.

Now that that is off my chest, maybe I can get it written. Whew, it has been a crazy couple weeks here on the farm. Between Irene and strawberries and the corn maze (opening in 1 1/2 weeks OMG!!!) it has been one thing after another. So, I wanted to sit down and kinda fill you in on the happenings around here, hopefully it won't be too long of a post :)

Irene. Well, being the weather nerd I am I was tracking this one like a duck on a junebug. I figured it was just our luck, we have a promising maze that The Husband and his trusty assistant cousin Alvin (I'm not sure who was the trusty assistant, but I am really glad Alvin was there to stop The Husband from overcomplicating the process, which is he is absolutely certain to do. Thanks Alvin!) and here comes a storm to just flatten the whole thing. Of course in the grand scheme of things that is a bit of a trivial concern when there are people without homes and who lost every bit of tobacco they had and all, but still, it's our livelihood. All in all we got out really lucky so maybe our lucks improving. We had limbs down in the yard, only lost power for about five hours (we didn't have cable all day and The Husband has no concept of entertaining himself, so those five hours where we couldn't watch a movie just about drove me over the edge), and the corn wasn't completely flattened. It was blown down quite a bit, but we're slackers and didn't plant it until July (and let me tell you, I have been agonizing over it getting tall enough for two months) so it's still very green and has no ears. I know this sounds ridiculous to those who haven't seen it, but when the sun came back out it kind of 'pulled' the corn back up, so it is standing relatively straight now, just a little bend at the bottom.

Could have been a lot worse

Strawberries. So, it's time to plug our strawberry plants for next spring. the day after Irene, we left to go to the mountains and get half of our strawberry tips. It was a really nice trip. We hadn't been to the mountains in about 4 years so it was time. It was also The Boy's first time so that was exciting (he looks at them and says, wow mama, those are really big hills!) The weather was absolutely gorgeous, it made me wish for fall that much harder. We got to see some family and friends and have a mini-holiday. Then we went to Bryson City to Darnell Farms to get the tips. The farm is beautiful. If I had to work there i would never get anything done. You cross a bridge across one of those pretty rivers with the boulders in it and you are there. The river runs along the whole edge of the farm and there are mountains anywhere from 4,000-6,000 feet high on either side and 60 acres of strawberries down in this little valley. Amazing. If you have the opportunity to be up that way stop in, they sell vegetables and have a corn maze and Jeff, the owner, is a real character. He is so funny and even though I'd only met him a couple times we were welcomed in like family. (Stay tuned for a post about plugging these tips.  It's definitely worth it's own post.)

I think I'd just stare at this all day

Corn Maze. This past weekend we had a work day on the farm (okay, The Husband had a work day on the farm, Berry Girl had to clean her house since she'd running around like a banshee for the past week and a half and hadn't had time). We decided to change the flow a little, try and make it clearer where we want people to go, safer for kids, easier for us, etc. He put up a fence (or at least the posts) and constructed the two swing sets we bought for the kids to play on. He planted grass so hopefully it won't look like a moonscape. We're having another big work day this weekend this time assisted by Red Robin and our new hayride operator Luke. He doesn't have a handle yet. I'm sure by the end of the weekend we'll have a good one for him.

So, mark your calendars and get out your walking shoes. We're opening NEXT SATURDAY! Please come out and see what we've done. It's a bigger better maze than last year, with 10 acres of slightly bent corn for you to wander around in, punkin' chunkin' (my pet project), and other activities for the family to do. Sick of sitting around looking at one another? Had too much family togetherness due to the hurricane and the rain? Come run it off on my farm!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

So, back in May my friend Shanna told me about a Christmas in July show she was doing at the Micro VFD to help raise money for the ladies auxiliary. At first I thought it really wasn't something I could participate in. We wouldn't have anything in season then and what was I going to do, stand around and hand out corn maze stuff? Who was going to be thinking about October in July (other than myself)? But then I got to thinking...why not sell some jam?

Many of you ask what we do with the strawberries/blueberries we don't sell. Well, I'll tell you. About 99% of them go to our favorite dairy in the whole world Maple View Farm so they can make ice cream. If you've never had any of their ice cream you are missing a treat. Any time you are on 40 going west and come across exit 263 (New Hope Road exit) take it (turn left, go straight through the 4 way stop, then straight until you come to Rocky Ridge Rd and turn left, the shops at the end of the road). It's totally worth it, trust me, anyone who knows me knows I know good food. I can't even eat normal ice cream anymore I'm so spoiled. They have umpteen flavors but I always get the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (creature of habit) much to Chris's chagrin 'cause he's always got these great new flavors but I never try them. But this blog isn't about ice cream perfection, it's about jam.

Moving on. The other 1% or so I freeze and make jam out of to sell at The Stand. So I thought, hey, I have plenty of frozen berries, why not make some jam and sell it. I can give out flyers and coupons and promote the farm and maybe, just maybe someone will remember us and come out this fall to the maze. Can't hurt right?

Saturday I decided was Jam Day. Now, I've never made jam before. Last spring my mama made it, but this year I decided to tackle it myself. I got a late start (not a morning person remember) due to lack of motivation and the Wal-mart trip. I bought jars upon jars, like 10 boxes of Sure Jell and a 25 lb bag of sugar. I decided since the strawberries were still rock hard to start with the blueberries. I opened the package of pectin and skimmed the directions. Then I mashed up my berries and put them in a pot. Well, the pot wasn't big enough for berries and sugar so I poured the sugar in a larger pot and poured the mashed berries on top. Then I read the directions more thoroughly. Yeah, I was supposed to cook the fruit and pectin, and then add sugar. Luckily the fruit was so thick, it never mixed with the sugar so I was able to scrape it off and put it back in the smaller pot to cook. As mentioned before the fruit was thick and the pot was small. When it started cooking it didn't boil like liquid, it was like when you make cooked grits. the bubbles came up through the thick mixture and popped, sending blueberry places I never had blueberry before. I have a burn on my hand from molten blueberry lava and there is a spot on my ceiling. Yes. My ceiling. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I don't even like blueberries or strawberries or jam/jelly of any kind.
See, I'm not kidding

Anyway, so I cooked it and put it in the jars and got them canned, four jars at a time (it took forever). Luckily, they all set and sealed. So all in all, other than the burn it wasn't so bad. The next batches were a lot easier too, since I knew better what I was doing. I'm one of those people who try to find the most efficient way to do something. I try to eliminate as many steps as possible. So once I had my process down pat it was really a piece of cake.

So come by Micro VFD this Saturday for the Christmas in July show. There are a lot of vendors going to be there as well as food. I'll be there with my jams and the honey left from this spring and coupons and flyers. Come support a good cause and have a good time with us!

Jam Deliciousness

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

IT Department

Normally when you see super heroes or spies or these hip organized theft rings there's always someone on the crew who is a computer genius. I mean the things they can do are so awesome! Even when people go on epic quests there's usually someone who makes them super cool weapons or high tech gadgets that allow them to defeat the enemy.

Well, I don't have anyone like that on my team. The only person I have is me, I am my own IT department, and let's face it I'm no computer expert. I can't hack into anything. I can't make nifty gadgets. So, when it was time to create a website to help market the farm...I was feeling pretty inadequate to the task. Now I'm not computer illiterate. I'm on it a good part of the day either working or goofing off. I've taken several computer courses through high school and college and I really enjoy designing spreadsheets and flyers (yes remember, I am a dork) so I kind of know my way around. (The Husband can't do anything but get on the computer, search for tractors for fun or videos of tractors on you tube [then he says hey come look at this and it's some dude in the Midwest getting a tractor unstuck from the mud, as if I have any interest in that at all] and get off). However, when it comes to creating a website, I was clueless.

We needed a website though. When we started this agritourism gig I knew we needed a way to get our name out there, to show people what we were offering. When I go places like that, I like to look at the site, find ou the hours, check out the prices, look at pictures, get directions. People of my generation are way more likely to check it out online vs. calling me (at least I am, because I hate calling places. I always feel like I sound so stupid). However, I had no idea about getting a domain name, setting up the site, it always sounded so confusing and technical to me. With the help of my friend Lindsey, my expert on call, I figured out that once I had the domain name I could use some software to help me build the site. I don't like paying someone to do something I could do myself (if that's an option) and since this business is my job I felt like I needed to at least try. Well, the first day I did it it literally took me all afternoon, probably five hours, just getting it set up (I know someone's laughing at me real hard right now).

Now it's easier to update, when the software is working properly. I go on, change the landing page, move on. I really try to keep it current because I hate it when you go on these sites and it hasn't been updated since '06 or something. You have no idea if the information is current or if they're even open. The other day I completely updated ours with Corn Maze information and it took a while and every time I published it to the internet something wouldn't publish and I'd have to do it again. That was annoying.

So, if you get a chance, check out our website, www.odomfarmingcoinc.com. It's a simple site, I don't have neat animations or anything. Just pictures of the place and information about the corn maze. If you have a small business and like what you see let me know and I'll help you as much as I can. It might be the blind leading the blind but hey...if I can do it anyone can.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Daily Commute

Yesterday we had a rather interesting afternoon on the farm. I took The Husband and my father-in-law to move some equipment home from the field and when we were in the home stretch, on the road our farm is on, maybe two miles from home, it happened. The road curves by the Little River and there is a guard rail there (another completely unnecessary and worthless use of taxpayer funds but...hey who needs more teachers when we can put up a guard rail?  Oh right, we'll just raise taxes!) The curve is also at an angle, it's not flat road, therefore sometimes it can be hard to judge the distance in a regular vehicle. Well, (you can already see where I'm going with this can't you?) The Husband is rounding the curve on the tractor hauling the transplanter. He couldn't remain in his lane due to said useless guard rail, therefore he had to straddle the lanes. A man in a silver Lincoln approached and decided to play chicken. It was a case of steel beam vs. plastic mirror on Lincoln. You can guess which one won.

Yes, yes, everyone is okay. The Husband slowed to a stop once we saw the man in the Lincoln was not. I'm not even being bias I swear the dude never slowed up. He had at least a foot if not more of shoulder on his side he could have swerved into, however he chose not too. I really think he just wasn't paying attention. All that changed though when his car was hit. I just keep thinking, wow, if he'd have been just an inch closer he would have been injured and had it been six inches, that steel beam would have smashed his face in.

Moral of the story, please pay attention. I know you get all annoyed when you get stuck behind a tractor and I know they shouldn't make the equipment that big and I know some farmers are probably very inconsiderate. But please take into account that they didn't design the equipment, they have to travel the roads too, and if not for them you wouldn't have anything to eat. We hate it just as much as you do, but we all have to share the roads. Had that guy just scooted over a little or waited the thirty seconds it would have taken for The Husband to get around the guard rail and get on his side of the road, none of this would have happened. When people whip around and blow horns and make rude gestures it doesn't help, and I know it's easy to forget, but people die in cars every day. Is going around that tractor in a hurry worth your life?
Luckily it just got the mirror and the plastic between the windows.  Could have been a lot worse!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Operation Corn Maze 2011

Before last year, I had never been to a corn maze. I grew up in the country. I could run around in the corn all day long for free. Why was my mom going to pay for that? My Uncle Pat and Aunt Patricia probably wished I hadn't. One year a friend and I got the great idea to go in and flatten part of it, you know, like a crop circle. We were making a 'house'. I think I was like eight. Yeah, that went over well. (Now that I'm on the other side of the dilemma I'm surprised I wasn't strangled, 'cause some of these kids who like to ride four wheelers through our crops, yes I mean right down the middle of the feild ruining it like they have no sense of common decency or manners, yeah I'd like to pinch their heads off sometimes.) Ever since then I stopped making corn houses.

The corn maze however gives me that opportunity again. Last year was our first one and I think we did alright for a couple of folks that had absolutely no clue of what they were doing. If not for the help of our awesome family and friends and the best first employee ever, the Hayride Driver aka Red Robin, we would have never made it. This year we're really excited to get the ball rolling on our next maze (and we'll be excited until after the first weekend when we're so tired we can't move and then we'll think, is Nov. here yet? Everyone thinks it's easy to cut a path in some corn and take money, and it is a sweet gig because we have so much fun doing it, but it is a lot of work and effort and long hours.) We're in the planning stages of operation Corn Maze 2011. It's going to be different this year. I'm on a personal mission to be more organized and less messy. I've even drawn up a map.

One of the new things I want to do this year is punkin' chunkin'. I'm super excited about this. Not exactly sure how we're gonna pull it off, but essentially it will be a slingshot of some kind and you will just put the pumpkin in, pull back hard as you can, and let 'er fly. I think it sounds like a lot of fun. I don't think the Husband's too excited about it, but I'm determined to do it. It'll give the adults something to do and the kids something to watch and I think it's awesome.

We're going to do the maze a little differently this year. We want to have the Haunted Maze separate, so we can kind of ramp that up, add some more things, make it scarier. It's going to be about 4 acres, the size of our maze last year. The regular maze will be about 10 acres and we're going to have a design cut in it and hopefuly a scavenger hunt of some kind (haven't quite decided how I'm gonna do that yet, if you have suggestions, fell free to let me know).

Another new thing this year is the corn crib. I'm sure anyone whose been to Hill Ridge Farms has seen this, it's basically a sandbox filled with corn. A lot less messy for parents and something even the little ones can enjoy. Also for little ones, I want to do a straw maze this year, something smaller, more on their size that they can play around in without getting completely lost.

I spent last week updating our website (that's a whole other blog for a whole other time, maybe next week :)) for those groups who are already trying to plan fall activities. I know it's only July and you think it's not that far but we will be opening Sept. 17, which is only two and a half months away. If you have a group you think would like to come please check out the site, give me a call, shoot me an e-mail or message on Facebook. I'd love to talk to you about pricing and options. We had a lot of groups come out last year, some on the weekends, some during the week, and I think they had a lot of fun based on the responses I got.

So check us out, keep us in mind. I'll be at Micro VFD July 31 10-3 for their Christmas in July Show, signing autographs, er, I mean selling jams, blueberry and strawberry and apple, and giving away coupons to the maze with purchase so come out and support a good cause and get some great jam. We love to have groups of all shapes and sizes, don't think because you're groups not 30 strong we don't want you. We love to see kids out there having fun on our creations. And if you have any suggestions, something we didn't do right last year, something you'd like to see or do on the farm let me know.  We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bowing Out

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Okay, so maybe it's not dramatic as all that.  I doubt Frost was talking about strawberries in this poem but I love Frost and it is the end of strawberry season so it kinda goes right? 

The end is finally here.  All the battles meant nothing, this is the end, the epic showdown, the part where the valiant but flawed superhero meets the enemy twice his size and more powerful, and defeats him because he has the one thing the enemy will never have, usually love or something.  Well, this superhero story doesn't quite follow that mold because it is just me, little 'ole berry girl vs. mother nature.  Somehow I don't think all the tricks in my book are going to be able to win against 90 degree heat and humidity.

We've known this day was coming for a couple of weeks now.  When a strawberry plant endures stress, whether it's disease or hot temps or not enough water, they begin to send out runners.  We've been seeing those for quite a while now.  Some of them are even bigger and better looking than the plants.  Too bad they won't produce fruit.  Some of our plants stopped producing last week.  The berry size is getting smaller, some of the smaller ones are drying up, the blooms are burned on the edges.  It's too hot for people to come pick (and I don't blame you.  I picked some last week and let me tell you, NEVER again.  It was hot, and like the strawberry I don't do well in the blazing heat.  The Boy kept complaining about flies and mud and being hot and you name it.  Then there was all that up and down, up and down.  I believe I'd rather take out a barn of tobacco than pick and you can ask my Aunt Patricia, I wasn't so keen on that either.)
Everyone's pet peeve, dry berries
Those pesky bugs.

Nice healthy runners.
We've been irrigating them and fertilizing them under the plastic, but that won't even knock a dent in a 90 degree day.  If the air temps 90, its about 100 on that black plastic.  We can irrigate them overhead to cool them off (the idea being that the process of the water evaporating off the berries cools them down) but that's an involved process of watering them every twenty minutes or so for twenty minutes and at this point in the season we don't see the economics of it. 

And too, we've started to see more insect damage.  They like to burrow in the berries and lay their eggs (it's a rude awakening to cut into a berry and find it full of worms), eat the berries, and eat the leaves.  We can spray them, but that poses potential harm to pickers so we'd rather not worry about it. 

So we just decided to throw in the towel and let mother nature do it's thing and we'll quit while we're ahead so we can be back next year.  We've really enjoyed having the strawberries and we've enjoyed having y'all come out to the farm and pick.  We'll be starting our next crop in August, so don't worry, I will still have adventures to post even though we aren't open.  Next up for us is our corn maze (which I am super, super excited about).  I have some awesome new activities planned (did anyone say punkin' chunkin'? :)) So stay tuned to watch berry girl conquer fall!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

I apologize for being a slack blogger the last couple of weeks.  Originally I intended to do this once a week.  That was a great plan until we actually started selling berries.  Now when we close up and I'm home I am so dead tired I've actually been going to bed around ten or eleven like a normal person.  The other day my back hurt so much from carrying berries that I had to take Ibuprofen to get moving the next morning (The Husband turned thirty Sunday as if I needed another reason to realize that I am starting to get old!)  Let me catch you up on the last two weeks.

The Mon and Tues after we opened, we had the pleasure of hosting the Kindergarten from Northwest Elem.  There were a total of 155 kids split over those two days (yes you read that right, 155!!!).  Luckily it was all hands on deck around here.  I had my wonderful employees, Michelle, Amy, and Tiffanie here, oh and The Husband (almost forgot!) was here to help me.  Thankfully there were no bus-sliding-into-the-ditch disasters, the kids all seemed to have a great time, I had enough ice cream and coloring books, and they seemed to think my strawberry lesson was a little fun (only because I let them plant strawberry plants, so they all got to get their hands dirty.  I assure you it wasn't my stunning educational skills on display.)  The only problems really were that a couple of the kids were allergic to eggs (which we solved by giving them honey straws instead) and a logistical problem with the ice cream (someone had to run up to my house and get it from the freezer, since I currently do not have electricity at The Stand, I cannot run a freezer there).  All in all we had a great time and I really loved seeing the kids get excited about picking berries. 

I have to say I am a little surprised at the number of you-pickers we have had.  Not ever having done this (I've never even picked strawberries before I owned a farm), I never realized how much people enjoy picking berries.  Hey, I think it's awesome.  I love the sound the cap makes when it separates from the vine.  That little pop just sounds neat to me.  And yes, it's perfectly okay to eat some in the field.  I love it when people come to The Stand with sheepish grins on their faces and strawberry juice on their shirt.  We understand and accept that yes, you are going to eat while you pick (The Husband probably eats a half a flat everyday straight from the field.)  I promise we don't have scales in the field to weigh you coming in and out and scanners for strawberry seeds in your teeth at The Stand (yet anyway :)). 

This past week has been a week of problems.  First it rains Tues, Wed, and Thurs, so that we weren't able to be open Tues and Wed afternoon or Thurs all day.  That week also happened to fall about three-four weeks from the big frost, so our berry production was in a lull.  When it frosted, we saved the fruit, but we lost some of our blooms.  Approximately 28 days later and voila, lull in production.  Unfortunately that meant we had to shut down the you pick, and then because it rained we weren't even able to pick some to sell, so we had to close Thurs.  I apologize greatly if you were one who wanted to come during this time and were disappointed.  Trust me, we were just as disappointed that we had to close as you were for us to be.  Hopefully we won't have any more lulls like that. 

We have high hopes for a better week this week.  I'm thinking we may have to open a little late Wed morning, but if that's the only problem then bring it on.  We need the rain.  Hopefully all other types of weather will stay away.  I see the destruction in Alabama and think, man we dodged another bullet.  We're having a treasure hunt for Mother's Day on Saturday.  This was an idea I picked up while perusing a comrade in arms website (yes, not only do I scope out their prices, I scope them out for good ideas for things to do at the farm.  The Berry Girl is always on the hunt for a great idea).  They hide little things like earrings and gift cards in the berries and while people pick they come across the goodies.  I'm really excited about it and I hope some of you decide to take us up on the offer (if not I know what I'm giving out for Christmas and birthdays this year). 

Next weekend I really want to do something for military appreciation and I was hoping to donate a percentage of the profits to a charity/association that does something to help local military families.  We appreciate our military and we love having them come out to the farm.  We would like to give something back to the community to let them know that we appreciate all they do.  If anyone knows of such an organization please let me know.  So far I have come up empty.  I don't know how much the ultimate amount will be, hopefully it will be decent if we can get some good support for this, but giving back to my community means a lot to me and I really want to do this, not only with the military but other great causes as well. You have all helped and continue to help support us, we want to let you know how much we appreciate it!

Oh, and as a sort of update or PS, that mortal enemy is back plaguing our feild.  Yes, the deer have realized there is tasty sweet deliciousness in the field.  Everyday I see new tracks in the field and yes, I get extremely peeved.  The Husband sneaks (he slams the door and stands down wind) out with the rifle in the attempt to shoot them off (it's more like scare them off, his aim isn't exactly what it needs to be to actually shoot them).  It works for about five minutes and then I'm sure they're out there sampling the buffet that we apparently planted just for them.  The sweet potato beds are beginning to fill in so now they will have their choice between juicy berries or sweet tender leaves.  Hmmmm...decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


So we've hired and we've advertised and we've fought the mortal enemies and the fickle foes and now comes the big test.  Now comes the big test.  It's finally here.  D-Day.

Last week I ran missions preparing the farm for opening day.  Thursday I went to Southern Container to get some pulp quarts and pint clamshells to put berries in.  Friday I spent all day on the road to Greensboro to Lewis Shipping Company to pick up flats from Mid-Carolina Packaging and to Hillsborough to pick up buckets and ice cream from Maple View Farm Dairy.  Not to mention the various errands around Goldsboro to get signs, pay for advertising, buy miscellaneous supplies, etc.  The Boy and I were on the road pretty much all last week. 

Finally it arrives, the day we've all been preparing for, Saturday April 16 2011, D-Day.  We knew all week they were predicting awful weather (remember, I'm a weather geek).  I wake up that morning around six thirty to you-pickers waiting on me.  I run out the door without even my phone in a rush to get there and let them pick.  My scale wasn't even out of the box.  My help arrives, Tiffanie and Keith (aka Red Robbin the hayride driver) and we get started folding flats and whipping the place into shape while the wind whips us into shape.  The bee man comes and we get an up close and personal look at the hive (this was super neat, even though the smoke smelled awful that they use to subdue them and the sight of all those stinging creatures buzzing around me and crawling around did give me the heebies, I persevered, got within a foot of them, and got some nice pictures, even one of the queen!)  All the while I've got the National Weather Service pulled up on my phone and we're watching the clouds just boil knowing something big is coming.  Saturday also happens to be my mom's fiftieth birthday (my mom is the best mom ever, without her and my mother in law I wouldn't be able to get half the things done I do) and my dad has planned a party for her.  So The Boy and I leave The husband, Tiffanie, and Red Robbin to it and go celebrate.  As I'm sitting there letting my food digest (in THE most comfortable chair ever.  I don't know where Uncle Pat got it but it's a-mazing.  He says he's going to use it to hunt in, I think he'll be doing more sleeping than hunting) I pull up the radar to see the line of storms at around the Greensboro mark.  The entire line is filled with tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings.  That's when I knew that this was for real.  Normally when the meteorologists on TV go crazy about severe weather it turns out to be nothing really, it's when they don't talk about it that it's bad.  This time they got it right.
All Hail the Queen!  She's the one at the top right corner of the knife.  She is all golden colored and has a longer abdomen from the others.

Creepy Clouds

Opening day U-Pickers
I get back to The Stand and we have some pickers who couldn't make it to the air show.  I'm watching the radar constantly.  When it gets to the Johnston county line and we start getting thunder, Tiffanie and I give up and pack up The Stand.  The Husband and I are freaking out because we just know we're going to get hail at least.  Strawberry slush anyone?  We've already resigned ourselves we will.  Power goes out before the storm hits and our phones are dying (that's the problem with smart phones, especially my Droid.  I can't use it a full day and it hold a charge.  I love it, but I'm glad I invested in a car charger).  The storm hits out of nowhere and the wind and rain are so bad I can't see out of my windows.  I'm staring at the ground, looking for the inevitable menace, those horrible little white balls of ice, hail.  Miraculously, I see none.

So this was how our season opened.  The next day we had no electricity at our house and they closed our road for no reason at all.  Like I said in an earlier blog, everything that can go wrong will, and it will, but we were so fortunate that we didn't get the worst.  Some of our fellow strawberry farmers in the county lost their entire crop, and that's nothing to the poor folks who lost everything.  My heart goes out to them all, and every time I look at our berries and my unscathed house I get goose bumps thinking about how fortunate we really were.   

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spy Games


The soundtrack above for today's blog says it all.  My mission for yesterday, should I have chosen to accept it, was to investigate the competition in order to perform a price and quality comparison.

As some of you know, our berry patch is opening for business this week.  I spent yesterday morning fulfilling my duties as vice president of part running (I do have to throw a shout out to Durand of Auto Parts & Supply of Princeton.  The Boy was absolutely thrilled to be in a parts store as usual and as I was checking out Durand gave him a little paper bag of Tootsie Rolls and a Hot Wheels Car.  It's yet another reason to patronize an independent retailer :)) and yesterday afternoon I fulfilled my duties as President of Two Mule Farms (it sounds way more important than it really is).  I made phone calls and when The Boy awoke from his seista, we went and ordered shirts and signs for the farm.  Then, I got the call, "an unnamed competitor (I'd tell you the name but then I'd have to kill you) has set up around town today, why don't you go and see how much they are charging?"  I accepted the mission before it could self-destruct.  Time for me to fulfill my duties as Berry Girl (my third career change of the day) and run reconaissance on the competition.

The Boy and I went incognito as just a normal mom and kid.  I wore normal everyday clothes, he had on his Bass Pro Shop t-shirt.  I disguised my face with dark sunglasses.  We drove out to a location I knew they had a small u-pick patch on sight in order for me to get the most information possible.  Once we arrived I realized I had caught the stand attendant off guard (ha!).  She didn't have time to get out of her car before I could sneak up to the stand.  It was completely full of berries.  I nonchalantly asked her the price.  I decided to buy what they call a flat to bring it back to the lair and study it.  I wanted to run tests to see how much it weighs and how does it fit into one of our buskets.  I wanted to see how many quarts are in it.  I asked her about the u-pick.  Once I have gathered the necessary surveillance I safely return to my vehicle and return to the lair to report on my mission.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not out on a vendetta against my competition.  I really have nothing but hope for success in my heart for all my local comrades in arms.  I believe there is plenty of business for all of us.  We've sold plants to them, we talk to them to see how their farms are coming.  We believe that by working together we can get further than engaging in a capitalistic blood sport over berry business.  However, the unnamed competitor I am speaking of is not really a local operation so I do not feel the least bit guilty for scoping them out.  The object of my mission was really just to make sure our prices are in line with what the rest of the county has.  I have no doubt that they have absolutely no idea who we are, and if they did they couldn't possibly consider our little farm competition.   

So what where the results of my mission?  I believe we may change the sizes in which we sell our berries.  We may move to the smaller flats and not even have the busket size we had last year.  This change is mainly due to how much easier it will be for us to handle.  The flats will stack easier, and it will be less overhead for us to not have to buy the buskets which do not stack.  Plus, it will be more efficent since we can pick them straight into the flats and not have to move the berries in the buskets (I'm always looking for smarter ways to do something), which will cut down on time and bruises to the berries.  This is still in a planning stage, as I have yet to purchase these flats, but I am pretty sure we will be moving to those, if not this weekend then next week for sure. 

Don't forget that we'll be open on Saturday!  Come check us out!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Here!

I remember the night we decided to open our farm up for agritourism (this is the part in the superhero movies where the audience learns of how the hero came to be 'super'; imagine a faded out image of this conversation with my voice narrating as a voice-over)  So, The Husband had decided to do the strawberry gig and he went to his first NC Strawberry Association conference (check out their webiste for some good information, recipes, and farm listings if you live too far to come to ours http://www.ncstrawberry.org/).  He came back choc full of information that I paid no attention to whatsoever.  Then he was talking about how a lot of these growers also do corn mazes in the fall.  He seemed excited about the idea so I said to him, well, if we're able to buy your grandma's farm, why don't we do a corn maze.  He looked at me like he couldn't believe the words that had just come out of my mouth.  I asked him if he thought that was stupid and he said he just never thought I'd want to do it.  From this conversation, Two Mule Farms was born.

One thing I figured out quickly was saying you want to run an agritourism farm and actually running it are two different things.  I learned from last fall was if it is going to go wrong it will.  We had bonfires that wouldn't light, straw that got wet, tractor batteries that died (this was a result of me learning how to drive one, yeah, that worked out well), school busses that ended up in the ditch, you name it, it went wrong.  Another thing I learned was that someone's gotta be the boss, and that someone is me.  I'm not a naturally bossy person, not a natural leader, so this is a continuing struggle for me personally, but sometimes you just have to put your big girl panties on and take over.  The most important thing I learned last fall was that I have some really incredible family and friends who stepped in when we needed it most, either helping us bodily on the farm, watching The Boy, or just giving us great advice. 

So, now we're coming into a new season.  We'll have berries in about a week (YIKES!!!) and I'm freaking out.  I have supplies to get, things to order, prices to work out (yes, my name is Emily and I am a procrastinator.  Procrastination is the root of all evil, I'm tellin' you).  We're trying to get the farm ready; we're ditching water, moved the stand for better parking, filling in holes and expanding the driveway so no more busses will end up in the ditch.  I'm trying to implement the things I've learned.  I’m trying not to stress, everything that can go wrong will.  Once I accept it and move on I can take it as it comes (yeah, still working on this one).  I’m trying to be the boss (another one easier said than done).  I have hired some great girls to work in the stand and in the field to free me up so I can make sure everyone has what they need.  Also, I can't forget my other job as errand runner extraordinaire.  Plus, we're going to be getting ice cream from Maple View Farms so I'll have to be running back and forth from Raleigh (hopefully a lot!).  Hopefully this will let me be free to handle those inevitable problems as they come up.

One thing about this quest I have embarked on that has genuinely surprised me is how much fun it is.  I really like having people come out on the farm and have fun.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing little kids running around playing like I used to do when I was younger.  Of course I want to make money doing this, I wouldn't be doing it otherwise.  Honestly though, I get so much more from just having people come out and have fun that that becomes a secondary purpose.  I feel more like I'm hosting a big party at the farm rather than working and that's what I love about it.  When people come, I want them to feel like they're coming to some relative's house for a reunion (just without the covered dish, that one great aunt that pinches your cheek, and the cousin Eddie type, 'cause you know everyone's got one of them stashed away on the family tree that you're hoping no one will realize you're related too).  So please consider this your formal invitation to come hang out with us.  I'm going to be having events here on the weekends, doing some fundraising for cancer research, treasure hunts for mothers day, military appreication.  Come and get a cup of ice cream and hang out in the shade in the picnic area or bring your kids to pick some berries and maybe find a nice surprise for yourself on mothers day weekend.  Or, if nothing else, just come laugh at the latest screw up, there's bound to be a lot of them.  We'd love to have you out, no matter the reason!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I've always been a bit of a weather nerd.  Okay, a bit is exaggerating.  I loved it, still do.  For a long time when I was little I wanted to be a meteorologist.  I checked out weather books in the library, especially about tornadoes. I was obsessed.  I think part of what drew me was that if I knew everything I could, I could protect myself from them.  I could help my family get to safety.  I would know what to do.  Whenever they predict us having bad storms and the like I'm glued to my computer, checking out my favorite websites and animating radars, trying to predict where the storms are going to go.  I go outside and look at the clouds and see how they're moving.  I always thought it would be the big storms that posed the greatest threat.  I never thought a calm clear night would really be my biggest worry.

It's on those cold clear nights when that dreaded enemy creeps up on you.  It's been lurking in our minds all year.  All spring it's been nice and warm and misleading.  We knew the shoe was going to drop sometime, but we hoped it wouldn't.  These last two nights it did.  These last two night the beautiful weather betrayed us.  These last two nights, it frosted.  (Insert ominous dum, dum, dum).

We started working on this Sunday.  We had everything planned out.  The Husband set up the overheard irrigation.  He and I put out row covers at the end that the water didn't reach well (yeah, that was fun.  The middles were full of water from Sat. night's rain and what was dry was slippery shoe sucking mud.  I have no balance, and I'm trying to pull cumbersome wet row covers over these plants without punching holes in the plastic or stomping on a berry plant accidentally, all while The Boy is whining because his hands are cold and The Husband is whining because I'm slow.  I told him he'd rather me be out here and slow than covered in mud and leaving when I fall down.  He shut up.) We stayed up late waiting to watch the weather (well it was late for him, and for me incidentally since Sat. night we were celebrating Lynette Howell's 21st birthday :)).  Of course all they could talk about was snow near the border.  All day I was on the net, checking out forecasts.  We subscribe to a service called Berry Alerts (through strawberryweather.com for any grower happening to read this) that sends us information about the weather and frosts and where they think it will.  From everything we gathered, no frost.  It was going to be cloudy which of course keeps temps up because the air is trapped under the clouds, and windy which wouldn't allow the frost to settle anyway.

Night One.  We set the alarm for two.  No change.  We set the alarm for four.  Big change.  It was clear and a low of 33 with 31 in some places and a north wind of 2.  The Husband gets up to check out the field and cut on the pump.  There was frost on some of the irrigation lines and a little light frost on some leaves.  I get on the Internet and monitor the temps.  The clouds roll back in around five thirty and we decide after looking at the forecasts it probably won't get colder and stop the irrigation.  The water is not freezing on the plants, so we take that as a good sign.  Yesterday I spend my afternoon slipping and sliding and sinking in six inch deep mud ditching out the middles (fun times!).

Shoe sucking mud

The Husband's solution to shoe sucking mud.
Cutoff waders.
Night Two.  Tonight, we have our game faces on, they're predicting 29 at the NWS, it's going to frost.  I make The Husband get a nap while I stay up to monitor conditions.  At eleven I see it's down to thirty six.  This is the magic number.  So I suit up and walk the field looking for signs of frost.  There's frost on the grass in the middles, but due to the black plastic we've planted the strawberries in the dew on their leaves has not yet frozen.  If I could have cranked the irrigation pump I would have, however, since I cannot, I have to leave the task coating the berry plants with ice to The Husband.  We start at 12 and after some minor issues (at one point he comes in soaking wet because he had to change a nozzle.  I have to try real hard not to laugh at that mental image) ice starts forming around four.  By six thirty when the sun begins to rise and things begin to warm the plants are coated in ice, making the field a winter wonderland.  I have a feeling I'll be ditching more today.

We're crossing our fingers for no more cold weather like last night for the rest of the season, but you can never be sure.  I remember once when I was younger it snowing in April.  The Husband doesn't like me to mention that.  We're thinking right now that we were able to save most of the blooms and berries we have on the plant now, and as far as I know we're still hoping to have berries in 2 1/2 - 3 weeks.  Hopefully.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Allies

When I was a girl, I was afraid of honeybees.  Heck, I was afraid of anything with a stinger.  Especially those huge hornets that stand guard over my carport or my mom's barn, protecting their nest.  Those things will chase you in a heartbeat and they're so loud.  I'm always trying to act real brave, like the adult I am, but when one comes after me I run like an idiot.  Then look around hoping someone didn't see me do it but knowing someone is rolling with laughter watching me run around like a crazy person from a bee (that's alright, I feel like an idiot most of the time anyway, and if I were watching myself I'd be rolling so...who am I to begrudge someone a laugh?). 

Really though, honeybees are an insect we take for granted.  They're just kind of there, yet another bug you have to deal with.  It wasn't until I started dating The Husband that I realized they are actually essential to a plant, instead of an annoyance or a decorative insect for little girls clothes.  We need these little yellow and black bugs to fly around and pollinate our plants so the vegetables come out right.  Even the shape of the fruit can be determined by pollination.  You know those strawberries that come out looking like two berries grew together, or that have two points instead of one perfect point.  That is a result of how the plant was pollinated.  I think it's amazing that something that seems so insignificant can have that much significance.

So, every year we rent honeybees to put on the farm to pollinate the strawberries.  Our bee man comes and drops some hives off in a place where they'll get plenty of shade and water (I know this sounds stupid, but I never thought of a bee drinking water.  You can actually see them go to the river and hover just above the surface drinking water.  It's so weird) and they fly around the field from blossom to blossom getting that yellow pollen all over them and depositing it around to the different plants.  They are our allies in the fight. 

I watched a TV show on PBS about this (yes, remember, I'm a dork.  I watch PBS).  There are farmers in China who have to pollinate their pear trees by hand with the equivalent of feather dusters because all of the bees have been killed off by pollution.  The other farmer The Husband works for raises over a hundred acres of watermelons.  Can you imagine having to go around to each plant and dust the flowers with a feather duster full of pollen?  I have real bad allergies and I could sneeze right now just thinking about having to do it.  Scientists aren't sure why the bees are disappearing, but they are, and it could have real consequences for your food in the future.

I’ve been toying with the idea of keeping bees.  I think it would be good for the farm, it would be neat to show it to the kids who come out and visit, and it reminds me of my granddaddy.  Honestly though, I’m too chicken right now to do it.  It hurts to be stung, and I’ve never been a masochist.  I think this Berry Girl will just stick to running missions for parts and combating the mortal enemies.  We can let some other super hero who’s just a bit braver handle the six legged ally.

Allied Territory

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rain Makes Berries

When I was in college, I took Geology and Oceanography as my sciences.  I had biology twice in high school; I didn't even want to tackle chemistry.  Turns out I really loved it and even seriously considered changing my major.  Looking back I kind of wish I had.  What can I say; I've always been a dork.  I remember my professor saying that eventually water was going to become the most important, sought after, and fought over resources in the world.  When I look at last year’s crop, I believe it.  I think it rained maybe four times all summer and things, especially the corn, just dried up in the field never making a crop.  It was awful.  I see things like that and think, how can people not believe our climate is changing?

So what is that saying, when Muhammad won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Muhammad?  It's a proven fact that plants need air, sun, and water to live.  We have plenty of sun and plenty of air, and if nature doesn't provide the rain it's up to us to make it happen. 

When we first bought the farm, we knew we wanted to dig a pond to use for irrigation.  It was supposed to be a simple pond.  Well, if any of you know The Husband, you know it wasn't just a simple pond.  A month later we have a 20+ foot deep hole in the ground.  It was an odyssey to have the thing dug.  The up side was he got to use the excavator, which always makes his day.  Then comes the fun part, watching it fill up.  We knew we'd tapped into some underground streams, you could see them flowing in.  However, as mentioned before, it might have rained four times so the underground streams weren't exactly at capacity.  It wasn't until we got thirteen inches in just a couple days last September that it filled up. 

Then we had to get a pump to pump the water from the pond to the berry field.  In comes Berry Girl to save the day.  It took two missions to Clinton, but I was able to complete my objective and secure the necessary parts. (Everyone knows that superheroes must have a sweet ride to cruise to missions on, well, I have a Mercury Mariner.  Fitting pump parts into this thing was a challenge.  I think someone needs an upgrade, I'm just sayin'.) 

So now we have our pond and our pump.  As per usual, The Husband puts his over analytical mind to the task and comes up with a plan to lay pipe.  Him and his dad take on this mission (I will not have any part in this), and several arguments later the pipe is laid.  Fast forward to now.  Our berries are blooming, and we even have tiny green berries (!!!), so if it freezes, we have to a) cover the berries up with row covers or  b) run water over them all night long to create a protective coating of ice over the fruit so it is not damaged.  We choose option a usually.  So far this year that has not been a problem (knock on wood).

If you look right in the middle, you'll see a tiny little berry
Our problem is the dry weather.  I know, I know, it rained last week, it's supposed to rain tomorrow and Wednesday, but it's not enough.  We've had a dry winter and the climate forecast is for a warm spring (yes I look it up, I’m a bit of a meteorology nut too, I’m a dork remember).  We haven't forgotten last summer.  We're preparing to irrigate.  We planted our berries on black plastic which allows us to get the maximum effect while using less water.  Irrigtion is great, but it only holds out as long as the rivers/ponds/aquifers do.  So the next time you say, I wish it wouldn't rain, think about your local farmer and how sweet those berries are going to be in about a month.  Think about what you eat tonight when you sit down to supper.  Without rain none of it would be possible.  What is that song...rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby get a little frisky?  What if we change it to rain makes berries, berries make wine, wine makes my baby get, ah, well you catch my drift.