As children grow up, graduate from high school, college in Maine, they venture out, explore, begin their adult life.
And what they learn, they share with parents back at the ranch. Or when a trip is taken to where they are a long way from the childhood Maine home.
Oldest son Alex is swinging back through Maine from Colorado rafting, working winters at A Basin ski area to do his annual blueberry and potato pilgrimage.
And Maine blueberry living on the barrens is not something I experienced growing up on a potato farm.
So interesting to hear about the Maine blueberry gathering process that starts at 5AM with no delay due to frost like fall potato harvesting. Wyman’s is the central blueberry in Maine giant that runs the processing / distribution centers. The summer blueberry harvest like Maine potato fall operations is about three weeks long.
Tines, rakes to comb through the Maine blueberry bushes gather the precious fruit. Strings for lanes are laid out in a field to follow for the blueberry picking. It helps if you get between two seasoned Honduran blueberry rakers / pickers as it serves to help like NASCAR drafting. You get pushed, pulled along by their momentum. Alex had a blueberry rake with 70 tines. To glean a great deal of blueberries with each swipe, swath taken with the rake. As you follow a course across the barrens marked out with a simple white string for lanes.
A Mexican family shows up, puts on the apron, serves the blue berry workers meals out of a cook shack with many gas burners.
Five dollars for lunch, six dollars for dinner which is unlimited. Breakfast is on your own with egg sandwiches made at 4 am to prepare for a Maine summer day that will only get hotter as it runs it course. As you wield a blueberry rake, the bigger the better for box count production.
Strategy for more productive Maine blueberry raking, picking for the boxes that head to the processors to be frozen and distributed around the world? Find a section, row, lane that is not overgrown with bushes, rock out croppings to work around. The lower to the ground, cleaner sections have more blueberries per square foot. Less culch, other vegetation to wrestle with.
Like potato sections in Maine that are grass free, not clumped up like end rows that grow longer or contract, these type of conditions for blueberries are more efficient to glean, rake. Not so much a hide and seek, hunt and peck process to maximize the fruit collected which translates into more boxes. Twenty five pounds is a half bushel of blueberries which the raker earns $2.50 for raking.
In Alex’s two years of blueberry raking, staying at migrant shanty cabins for his exodus back to Maine before potato harvest and the sling shot back to being a Colorado ski lift operator winters, white albino berries have been seen once. Rare and used for jam for the locals.
Thought to have some special powers, he said he spied only one ten foot section of the stand out white Maine blueberries.
I asked if sampling the Maine blueberry happens on the barrens remembering nibbling on fresh strawberries during picking as a kid myself on the farm. He said with pesticides folks are warned not to, that it could cause rumblings down below.
Maine, big state, the people here spend more of life outdoors.