Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Harvest

My grandfather, was a cranberry bog owner. He was also a talented finish carpenter, but that's another story. When I was a kid, Grandpa owned several cranberry bogs on the Cape and in Mattapoissett. All year long, he would work endless hours, weeding, watering, and worrying about his bogs. Picking machinery needed to be fixed? He fixed it. Pumps that didn't pump? He fixed them. He built sheds to house the materials needed, he layed irrigation pipes, he got up at 3 am to turn on the bog sprinklers when frost threatened to destroy his crop. He spent countless hours bent over pulling weeds in the hot sun. (I remember how the back of his neck looked like leather!) He very rarely sprayed his bog with pesticides. (Remember, DDT was still okay to use back then!) One of his bogs, sat down in the holler, behind my Mom and Dad's house. As time passed, he eventually sold most of his bogs. By 1973 the bog behind my house was the only one he owned. As kids, we were very much a part of the harvesting process. Grandpa always "dry-picked" his bogs. Instead of flooding the bog, he ued a machine called the Furford Picker. The picker scoops the berries off the vines, carries them up a little elevator to a burlap sack, and fills the sack. (I can still smell the burlap! He used to keep all the sacks in the little shed at the edge of the bog and whenever he would open up the door to the shack, you were immediately hit in the face with the odors of burlap and motor oil.) A full sack generally weighs 40-50 pounds. He would then bring the sacks to the edge of the bog and put them in a pile, where my brother would load it into a wheel barrow and bring to the hopper.

The Furford Picker - shamelessly stolen from google -

The sacks are then poured into the hopper. The hopper is a contraption that allows separation of berries from any vines that got pulled into the sacks in the picking process. We used to stand at the hopper and pick any berries that didn't come loose of the vines and drop them down through a wire mesh, into a wooden box that held the "cleaned" berries.

It's that time of year again, when folks start using the cranberries in their recipies... fall, harvest, pumpkins, scarecrows.... I often think of those days when as a kid, I couldn't wait to be done with cranberry picking so I could get back to the business of riding bikes and playing with my friends. Now, well, I wouldn't mind one more harvest with Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Aunt Carol, Uncle Allan, Aunt Mary, Uncle Bill, my brother Rick, and all the assorted cousins....


  1. What wonderful memories! Isn't it funny how smells stay with you and bring back those memories?

  2. Oh, if we could just go back to the "good old days" whenever we wanted and then return. How fun that would be now that we can appreciate everything so much more! Thanks for sharing this story with us. I envy these farming be so close to the earth and so dependent on mother nature's good tidings. I think that is what life was really meant to be, not all the big cities and hustle and bustle that most of us have to live with.

  3. I can relate to the smells. As I lived on a farm. Thanks for the memories. I could recall the smell of burlap bags just from your taliking about it.

  4. Thanks for this, Alison. I'm really envious of folks who have rural roots... and I mean REAL roots, like family farms... since the only farms I've ever visited were up in North Dakota (BIG ol' wheat farms in those parts) or touristy sorts of things. I never had these sorts of experiences as a child. Or as an adult, either.

  5. yup, know what you mean with the smells bringing back memories.

    The smell of fresh hay just in from the field,
    the smell of an old barn filled with horses and cows,
    the smell of tobacco curing,
    the smell of diesel fuel from a semi truck.

    or the scent of a skunk will always bring "ahhh, good ole country air"

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