×

Snowberry

When I rolled up into the barn lot this morning, I couldn’t help but scoff at all the predictions of snow that I’d been hearing all weekend. The air felt warm and breezy; none of that stiff, sharp electricity that so often precedes snow here in the mountains. One of my friends in high school used to claim he could smell snow coming. He maintains to this day that his percentage for accuracy far outstrips the weather channel.

Zach and I were surprised to see a few flakes begin to fall as we moved the cows a little after ten. It still felt too warm, too like a rainy day to be seeing snow. With the cows happily munching away at their new strip of pasture, we headed up to Berry Hill to continue pruning the blackberries. By this point the snow was coming down hard, in big, clumpy flakes, the kind of picturesque snowstorm you might see on a Christmas card, though nearly all of it was melting the moment it touched the ground.

Our management of the blackberries has been slowly improving over the years since we planted the canes. Last growing season we hit a bit of a low point. After a particularly brilliant bloom, the fruit began to set far too heavily on the plants. We tried to go through and thin things out, but our efforts were too little too late. Overproduction caused energy shortages in the plants that lead to many of the fruiting clusters rotting and falling off before they ever ripened. It was disheartening to see so many green fruitlets that would remain hard and dry until they shriveled off the stem.

This year we’re trying to stay on top of our game and so Zach, Walker, and I pruned with much less reserve than in previous years. After taking out all the dead floricanes (fruiting canes from last year), we trimmed back the number of primocanes (fruiting canes for the coming growing season) until only the healthiest remained. We then clipped back all the stems that were too small to support fruit clusters or that were situated in unproductive or particularly crowded space.

By the time we’d finished with the first row and were ready to take lunch, the snow, still falling heavily, was beginning to stick to the ground and to the blackberry canes on which we’d been working. It seemed like our blackberries were already bearing new fruit.

 

 

 

Happy Sledding!

Sweetbread

Growing Blackberries

Food is personal. That is true for everyone and it remains true despite all the cultural differences of history, geography, language, etc…

Jamie, Walker, Zach and I went out to Hendersonville a few weeks ago for a discussion about blackberries. We learned about a lot of things we’ve been doing wrong. That always seems to be the case. The more you know about a subject, the more you recognize you don’t know.

Our over-producing blackberry canes

 

Farming is a constantly humbling profession. One that is so complex it is often difficult to understand the outcome of any particular action until several years later. On the way back to the farm, we talked about the frustrations of growing small fruits and apples, things that seem susceptible to such a multitude of pests, diseases, and fungal problems. In the blackberries, for instance, we thought that we were on top of our game because we’d pruned them well early in the winter and bedded them in the spring with hay to prevent weeds. Of course, we soon discovered that blackberries don’t really like thick bedding like ours, nor did we prune them sufficiently for the varietal type, a mistake that cost us half of the crop this year. At times, the pitfalls just seem too numerous to handle. It is as if any positive action is negated by unknown factors before it has the chance to provide any benefits. BUT, I think that one of the most rewarding parts of working on the farm is wrapped up right there in that very frustration. Despite all the dangers; despite the beetles and flies, despite the fungi, despite the rots, specks, blotches, and blights, growing good, healthy, organic fruit can be done. It can. We are doing it. And when it comes out right, when you pluck that apple from the tree and sink your teeth into the firm, juicy flesh, or pop those warm blueberries into your mouth, you know that it was worth it.

Food is personal. Everyone’s relationship with what they eat is different, but there are strong feelings involved whether a person eats primarily KFC, or Hickory Nut Gap chicken. Farming or gardening is, in this modern age, a way for us to understand our own relationship with food more completely. I enjoy knowing how my food is grown. Not just knowing the process, but intimately knowing and taking part in that process.