It’s Blueberry Season

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I thought I should tell you all that I am 3 weeks into blueberry season. We started picking June 20th and will pick until around the first week of August. So if you don’t hear from me, its not that I don’t care, I am just consumed with blueberries.

So far its been a great season. I have a terrific bunch of pickers and the berries are sweet and abundant and beautiful. My buyers continue to purchase my blueberries year after year, for which I am very grateful. Cannot believe it is my 10th season.

I have an acre of blueberry bushes which provide more than enough for my small business and the local fauna. I use bird scare tape as a deterrent, but honestly, I think this is the last year I will use it. For all the birds are in there, crows, cardinals, finches, hummingbirds, mockingbirds and so on. You never know what you might find in those bushes.

It was an absolute thrill when one of my pickers found a hummingbird nest. I’d never seen one before and we all were just amazed at how beautiful it was. Once there was a groundhog up in the bush. I suspect the dog might have chased it up there. Although I see groundhog holes all over the farm, never thought I’d see one hanging out in the bushes.

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And of course, the deer feast daily in the patch. Early in the season it starts with one or two and by the end of the season, I think they have a family reunion in there with does, buck, and fawns all meeting for a snack. Often when I go out after dark with the dog, I hear a deer snorting in the bushes. No sense in chasing them away. They’ll just come back later.

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Its hot work and the humidity here can shorten the picking times because its just too dang hot. We pick starting at dawn for 3 to 5 hours depending on weather. My job is to juggle pickers, cullers, buyers, berries and try to anticipate the weather when I make up the picking schedule. I deliver 5 days a week and fill with pride when my chefs are so happy to see me and my blueberries.

Two friends who I lovingly refer to as my blueberry pimps take orders and deliver pints of berries to friends and co-workers. They tell me how everyone walks around with blue tongues and big smiles on their faces the day they bring in the berries. Getting feedback like this makes all the hard work worth it.

So if you don’t hear much from me in the next few weeks, know that I will be back at the end of the summer. I will continue to post every week. I try to carve out a chunk of time to sit and write whatever messages I receive to share with others.

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I love living this life, even though I do work very hard and wonder where I get the stamina to keep it up. But when I can walk through those rows of berries and graze, oh that is heaven to me! Being on this farm, living in the country, never knowing what might show up, be it the neighbor’s cow or a praying mantis guarding the hummingbird feeder, a snake in my HVAC unit or saving bunnies from my dog. It is a wonderful life and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to steward this land.

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I tell my shaman friends that my land is my mesa. I bless it daily and offer gratitude for being able to live in harmony with all the other creatures who call this piece of real estate home. It is also my canvas to paint as I add trees or bushes, flowers or an herb garden to the mix. It is my sanctuary and I will steward it as long as I am able.

So enjoy your summer, my dear readers. And think of me when you have a blueberry or two for breakfast, for dessert or just for a snack.

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Out with the Old

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It’s that time of year when many of us go through our closets in order to weed out all the things we no longer use. Clearing the air, making room for new things, perhaps just allowing ourselves to feel lighter and less burdened. After all, spring is around the corner and with it comes new growth and the promise of lighter days and endless possibilities.

This is the time of year that I am heavy into pruning my blueberry bushes. I started the last week of January and will be out there at least till mid-March trying to get rid of the old canes. It’s not that difficult a concept to prune. Get rid of the canes that are too tall or too close to the ground. The pickers can’t reach the blueberries on the tall canes and blueberries growing too close to the ground will affect weed control. But most of all, the canes should not overlap causing damage as they rub each other. They also need room in the center of the bush for air to circulate. They need to breath just like us.

People ask me how do I know when I’ve pruned enough. My standard reply is ‘When I hear the bushes say Ah!’ I know it sounds crazy, but I noticed it when I took a blueberry pruning class. After the instructor showed us how to prune, I could feel those bushes sigh with the new freedom of movement. I asked a few of the other students if they could feel the difference in the bushes and they just looked at me like I was crazy. What can I say? This is how I move through life, feeling empathy not only towards people but also towards other sentient beings. Because I do believe my blueberry bushes can feel.

When friends come to visit, they tell me that the bushes greet them as they come up the driveway. My response is, ‘Of course they do, they have had good home training’. And when I need a hug, I just walk out into that blueberry patch and always feel so much better.

It’s like a time warp in there. You get lost and think you’ve been out there for just an hour and realize its been at least three hours. It’s addicting. Even when we pick, it’s difficult to come in because you just have to get that one last ripe berry, or those few ripe berries over there. I have to tell my pickers that they are now ‘off the clock’ to get them to come in some mornings.

This is hard work. It’s time consuming and tiring and this time of year I usually spend my evenings on the couch with a heating pad on my back. But at the same time, it is a joy for me. Being out there helps me clear my head. I’ve been struggling lately with all that I have on my plate and how to prioritize; questioning if I have made the right decisions or if I need to make some changes. I’ve been stalling on doing some things I feel I need to do and have been feeling guilty about it.

My main goal right now is to prune as many bushes as I can before the sap begins to flow. Yet, I’ve realized that pruning is helping me to work through my stuff. I’m helping those bushes by clearing out the old canes and they are helping me by providing me a nurturing space to figure out my life. It’s the connection, the back and forth, something I’ve written about often in this blog.

I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to be a blueberry farmer. I tend those bushes with love and all my clients rave about how good the berries taste. My friends tell me that I am not only spreading love in my writing, but also through the blueberries, and I can see the truth in that.

All aspects of our lives are connected in some way. And I know that if I move through these other parts of my life one step at a time, as I do when I prune the bushes, then I’ll be okay. If I can move through the other parts of my life with the same tenderness I feel for those bushes, then I’m in balance.

I never know what each season will bring. Drought or a late frost could affect the yield and I just have to trust that all will be well. Because I can’t control the weather. I can only send loving energy and gratitude to those bushes for coming back to me every year. I tell them often, no matter what the yield is, I will always love them and be grateful for what they have given me. And they haven’t let me down yet.

The blueberries are teaching me to approach the other aspects of my life as I approach farming. The truth is that there is only so much I can control and sometimes I just have to trust my intuition and wait. Wait until I feel the time is right, rather than judging myself for not doing enough or for not doing it sooner. Life has a flow. It has a season, just like in nature. And sometimes we just have to allow it to bloom in its own time.  Thank you, my dear blueberry bushes, for sharing your wisdom with me once again.

My Deer Ones

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Deer hunting season in North Carolina ended on January 1st and I’m always happy to see it go. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the deer population needs to be culled and many hunters do it responsibly and with respect. It is just hard for me to hear the gunshots or a pack of hunting dogs on a scent behind my property. I cannot think of anything more terrifying to a deer that a pack of dogs on its trail.

I know that some take refuge in a certain area of my land at night and I bless them in the morning when I see where they have bedded down. The truth is that I love these magnificent creatures and consider them MY deer.

These are the ones who come onto my land in the spring and leave their fawn for safekeeping as the doe go off to feed. I have come across these young, speckled fawn over the years. Once when I was quietly pruning blueberries, I almost stepped on one nestled in between the blueberry bushes.

Another fawn had a particularly challenging start to its life when my dog found it untended in the woods. I heard this scream and looked up to find a very young fawn being pulled out of the woods by my lab. No! You cannot kill Bambi!, I thought, and ran over to get my dog off of it. Separated and unharmed, the poor little fawn wobbled off down the slope to get away from this canine. I knew mom would find it and took the dog in the house.

A few weeks later, once again, I was outside working and heard that scream again. Sure enough, my dog grabbed that fawn for a second time. It was now a little older and stronger and after I separated them, it lay there panting for a few moments before it got up and calmly returned to the safety of the woods. Another close call for Bambi, but saved. I like to think my dog just wanted a playmate, but I also understand her hunting instinct and take no chances.

And yes, the story is not quite over. This fawn appeared once more a few weeks later. I noticed the mother first, grazing on the grass. Then I saw the fawn, much larger with fewer spots. It saw us too, but this time it just tossed its head and gracefully pranced out of range of the dog who found it twice before. I just laughed with the knowledge that it survived at least into its adolescent years.

They come, first one or two and then in larger groups into the blueberry patch to feed in summer. Does bring their fawns, some with twins, some accompanied by a buck. I don’t worry about it. There are enough berries for all of us. I realize that I am not the owner of this land, only the steward. And I am also not the only creature to call it home.

One summer, I watched three deer walk into the blueberry patch to feed. I went out onto the porch and whistled. All three deer came out of the patch, stood in a row with ears peaked, looking over at me. I could just hear them saying to me, ‘What? Can’t you see that we are feeding?’ I told them that I was just about to come out with the dog and thought it would be best if they left. And they did, begrudgingly. I’m sure they came back later to continue their dinner when they could do so undeterred by the ‘guard’ dog.

And so the cycle begins once more. Those who survived the hunt will return and leave their fawn for safe-keeping as they go off to feed. Later in the summer, I will see blue scat in the blueberry patch as they continue to enjoy the blueberries. Another year of living in harmony with MY deer on the farm.

The Spiritual Side of Farming

Some of my readers have asked for more insight into who I am and what I do. So I am providing a link to a piece I just had published in the Elephant Journal. Growing with Love: 4 Surprising Rules for a Healthy Crop

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/08/loving-my-blueberries-the-spiritual-rules-of-farming-celine-koropchak/