Thursday, August 10, 2017

farmlife issue no. 15

I can almost catch my breath again. Berry harvest 2017 is almost one for the books.  Here is a random synopsis of this year's harvest-perhaps one day I'll be an organized, planned ahead blogger, but for now, this is what I can put into this little space. And I know you're all just here for the photos anyway;).  

This year I was a lot more removed from the process with the arrival of sweet Wendell June 2. But since we live on site now, I still felt very much a part. Many evenings when Dar was out helping the night crew get started, Fee, Wendell, & I were on our back patio, hearing the hum & watching the lights above the canes moving slowly through the berries like a benevolent cranking monster. 
Fresh market blackberries started our season. I did miss the interaction with the pickers. A lot of them come back year after year, & I'm starting to get to know them as much as one can with a huge language barrier. 
I wish there was someone writing down their stories: stories that when the method of berry picking evolves (surely it will?) & memories of Hispanic migrant workers are a thing of the past. Perhaps their stories will slowly disappear & only the echoes of mariachi music on hot July days in the Willamette Valley will be heard someday to remember that they were here. Although their tacos are here to stay, at least in our household. 

It was the first year Kenton was part of the farm. Seeing Dar work with his Dad the past four years has been an experience I've tucked away as one I want for my sons & their father. Throwing Kenton in too only feels natural. We're so close to them already, & having Alicen as a fellow farmer's wife will be a boon.
Our kids are already more like siblings than cousins. (re: fighting, loving, fighting on repeat)
(Just berries on her face, no worries)
They have no idea how charmed their childhood has been: aunts & uncles at their beck & call, late nights on the harvester, rides around the farm, berries in their backyard, rides in the berry trucks to the "canneria", short swims in the pond (mostly Fee, the others are a little leery), and always a constant stream of activity sweeping down the dusty dirt paths of the berry roads between our house and theirs. There are windstill nights when I'm out on our back patio that I can hear familiar voices from the little blue barn homestead (Kenton & Alicen) & the homeplace carried over the pond & across the road. Even in the dark, in the country, I never feel alone. 
Berry harvest is a group effort. I think that's one aspect that's so appealing to me. Dan, my step-dad, spent a few weeks here helping out. My mom joined him the second week. 

It was such a help to have him out! Alicen's dad was out, too, and I know our farmers appreciated the extra truck drivers, grunts, handymen, run-around "go-fors" that they were. 
Picking berries night & day 6 days a week takes all the help it can get. My role this year wasn't fieldhand, but support. I realized this year more than ever how to help Dar during his crazy busy season. Being a farmer's wife is a quiet, behind-the-scenes job. There isn't a whole lot of glory in it. Flexibility & patience are key! That said, I wouldn't have Dar be anything other than what he is. It's so satisfying to see how far we've come during this time of year!
Working around the clock is hard. And not seeing him often is hard. Taking care of two kids solo (while I had tons of help from family) is hard. But there is something to be said for hard: the reward is sweet. It makes the rest after the whirlwind feel like I imagine heaven must. 
The night crew this year put in a long season (they still aren't quite done). We loved having the extra kids around. Swinging on our back porch swing & seeing them dive into the pond before a long night's work brought back the feelings of being seventeen again. (Nearly a decade ago already!) It's formed relationships that never would've been made across the thousands of miles otherwise. I can see them already, one decade from now, watching my kids jump off the dock before a night's work thinking my same thoughts:). Blake & Weston became part of the "uncles" to Fee. She likes "those boys". 

Despite another summer with unusually hot weather, the berries fared well. Yields were down from last year in some fields. I'm still always shocked at the astronomical amount of berries that get picked on the farm! One local cannery (and there's 8 within 30 minutes of the farm) received 700,000 pounds of berries in one day. 

And here we are already/finally. The finish line is in view. 
We're ready for some slow time. For evenings spent together completely uninterrupted by switching on sprinklers, getting the night crew started, & equipment breakdowns. But we're ending the season better & stronger & more committed to making this thing we have going work, & work well.