Thursday, February 4, 2016

Still Sorting Apples, Cracking Pecans & Pruning Blackberries

   "What do you do all winter?" is a common question from customers.  This always makes me laugh, as there is far more work to be done in winter than I can get done.  I was asked this again the other day, by a woman who'd just bought 40 pounds of #1 apples.
   First I pointed to my apple sorting table in the sales building, and explained that I have to sort and clean all the apples we harvested last fall, which are stored in our coolers in large storage bins.  I pack them in trays that hold 20 pounds of #1 apples or #2 apples, and the #1 apples sell just about as fast as I sort them.  Since she'd just bought 20 pounds of #1 'Enterprise' apples and 20 pounds of #1 'GoldRush' apples, I had only one box left of #1 'Enterprise' apples and no boxes left of #1 'GoldRush' apples, until I got more sorted later that day.  I'd also delivered 140 pounds of #1 apples to schools two days earlier.
We have many 2nds 'Enterprise' apples, with small cracks, cork spots or other surface damage, in blue box at left.  These are great for baking or making applesauce or apple butter, and  buying 40 lbs. of 2nds apples saves $20.00 off the per-pound price of #1 apples. The #1 apples, such as this mixed box of  'Enterprise' and 'GoldRush' apples in green box at right, sell just about as fast as I sort them.
   Next I pointed to the 24 rows of thornless blackberry and raspberry plants behind the sales building, and explained that we have to prune over 2000 blackberry plants plus 400 raspberry plants.  The floricanes that bore fruit last summer died to the ground soon after harvest, and have to be cut off at ground level, and the dead canes hauled to the burn pile and burned to prevent spread of cane diseases to the new canes.  The primocanes, which had only leaves last summer, become floricanes this spring and will bear fruit this next summer.  We need to cut back the side branches of these new canes, so fruit will have good size and the canes won't break under the weight of too many fruit.
We've already pruned these 'Natchez' thornless blackberry plants. We cut off at ground level the dead floricanes that bore fruit last summer, and cut back the side branches of the new canes that will bear fruit this next summer.
   Blackberry pruning is a big job that will take all winter.  Our workers help with this on Saturday afternoons when temperatures are above 50 F, so we had two workers help prune last Saturday and will hopefully have several workers help prune this Saturday.  When we finish blackberry pruning, we then need to prune the apple orchard and the pear orchard.  We usually prune the peach orchard during the workers' spring break from school in mid-March.  All of these are huge jobs.
This evening Bill burned the pile of blackberry prunings that our workers helped prune last Saturday.  The 8 rows of 'Triple Crown' blackberry plants at rear still need to be pruned.
   On weekdays when temperatures are above 50 F, I'm usually out pruning by myself, and can't always see or hear cars come in the driveway.  That's why we ask customers to phone 620-597-2450 a day ahead, and leave a message on the answering machine saying the day and about what time you're coming.  I do not need to call you back; I will get the message and meet you in the sales building when you come.  (The phone rings in the house, so if you wait to call until on your way here, I probably won't get the message before you come, unless it's very cold that day and I'm working inside on the computer.)
   When outdoor temperatures are between 30 and 50 F, and the temperature inside the sales building is 44 to 56 F, I'm usually sorting apples there.  When it's below 30 F outside, I work on the computer in the house.  Besides sending out e-mails, posting blogs, and posting on the Brendas Berries Facebook page, this winter I'm working on a 2nd edition of the college textbook I wrote, with Bill as second author, Fruit and Nut Production.  The 1st edition took 5 years to write and was published in 2007, and last fall the publisher wrote us that supplies are getting low, so we need to update the 600-page book for a 2nd edition.
The publisher's supplies of the college textbook we wrote are getting low, so when it's very cold I work on updating the 600-page book for a 2nd edition.
   My husband Bill is still cracking 'Kanza' pecans, as the bags of cracked pecans sell, since pecans store better in the cooler in-shell.  I keep the bags of cracked pecans in the freezer.  Bill cracks the pecans, blows off the loose shells, and then weighs the bags to 5 pounds.  So you get the equivalent of 6 pounds of in-shell pecans in each bag, and when you pick out the pecans, you get at least 3 pounds of nutmeats.
   We should have cracked 'Kanza' pecans and 'GoldRush' apples for sale until mid-May, and 'Enterprise' apples until late June.  Prices are detailed in the previous post.
   As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "To everything is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven."