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The Happy Berry

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2018 Newsletters

August 15 - Seedless Grapes, Figs & Muscadines

Published August 16, 2018

New Hours:
We are shortening our hours to  9am to 6pm on Monday through Saturday. We will still be open Noon to 6pm on Sundays.

Sweet Seedless Dessert Grapes!
Jupiter will finish this week but there are still lots of Mars and Saturn.  Grapes fill the bucket quickly. Remember to bring snippers and your bucket. They are oh so sweet!  They also are great to freeze for smoothies, or for pop-in-your-mouth frozen treats! 

Figs Fabulous Figs!
Figs are steady with best picking in the morning. The demand continues to be high so if you are making a special trip, be sure to call first.  We will plant more.   Be sure to read about how to pick figs in the last newsletter.

Blackberries continue but are very limited.  
Still Black Magic and Prime Ark 45 (primocane bearing varieties) and they will continue for about 6 weeks but we only have a small area and production per unit area is small. The price on primocane blackberries has to go up to $9 per quart for pre-picked blackberries.  It takes a lot of labor to maintain these varieties, and the picking is slow so we pay more to have pre-picked on hand. We have planted more so volume should be better in the future.  Be sure to call first if coming for pre-picked.

Blueberries at a trickle. There are still some but they are in pockets and it requires scouting- so probably just for the die-hards. Let us know at the porch if there are any left where you were picking. We have some pre-picked blueberries in the cooler, but when they are gone, there will be no more pre-picked blueberries.

We will start Muscadines this week with picking very slow and improving. 
The new variety of seedless muscadines, Razzmatazz, are also coming in. They have a great sweet-tart taste! We don't have much though. This was a trial run of this variety. It is a more expensive variety and so the price for the prepicked is $8 a quart on farm, and $9 off-farm (at the markets).  Let us know what you think if you try some!

Persimmons are still forecasted to begin about September 15. Persimmons are $3 per pound and they are only sold as pre-picked.


Thank you! 
We would not be here without you!
The Happy Berry Bunch - Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann

August 1 - Seedless Grapes, Blueberries & Figs

Published August 1, 2018

It is peak-of-season in the seedless grapes. We are picking Venus, Jupiter and Mars. Saturn, the crunchy one, is just starting. It is awesome in the grapes!

Blueberries are still loaded! Picking time per gallon of blueberries is now increasing, but there are STILL lots of blueberries.

Figs have started. To pick your own figs, it is best to come in the mornings.  Each day, around mid-day, we send the pickers in to the fields to clear the ripe figs from the trees.  We do this to avoid over-ripe fruit on the trees. 

The first two weeks of August is usually peak of Brown Turkey fig season

Picking Figs
A fig is climacteric- meaning it will continue to ripen after it has been picked- but only after the stem end starts to bend. When the stem is straight the fig will not ripen any further if picked.  Once the fig stem starts to bend it is in the first stage of being ripe enough to eat.  Usually the fruit will also begin to bend too. Next you will see a change in color which at first is a yellow cast and in some varieties, like Brown Turkey, they will turn shades of brown. In the final stage of ripening the figs will develop cracks in the skin. At this point they are very very sweet and are oozing sugar. The bees love the sugar and as they lap up the sugar, they make a wound which oozes more sugar. Before you know it, there is a hole that looks like a bird pecked the fig! When picking very ripe figs I always give it a little bump to scare the bee away before I pick.

You should try to pick the fig with the stem on it. If you tear it off below the stem (in the neck of the fruit) the life of the fig in the refrigerator is greatly shortened. Figs are best used the day you pick or in just a day or so and you should get them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Picked properly they will even ripen in the refrigerator. That is why you rarely see true southern figs in the store. They can not control the shelf life.

Muscadines will start soon.  Stayed tuned to the website home page for harvest updates. 

I (Walker) ate the first Razzmatazz muscadine today. Razzmatazz is the new seedless variety we recently introduced.  This muscadine is dark red and has a sweet tart taste. Perhaps in few days there will be enough for all to try. Razzmatazz are everbearing which means they should bear fruit from now until frost.  Like the seedless grapes, Razzmataz are harvested by the cluster and snippers are required to cleanly cut the cluster from the Razzmatazz vine. In this variety, the ripest clusters will always be the ones nearest the main stem.

There are still some blackberries but they will be down to a trickle soon. You have to look down, in and under to find the treasures.

Remember we are open Rain or Shine - and rain at your house does not necessarily mean it is raining on the farm.

Thank you for your support! 
We so appreciate each and every one of you!
The Happy Berry Bunch - Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann

July 15 - Grapes Begin

Published July 15, 2018

Berry Picking Checklist
1- Dress for the weather (hats, loose clothing with coverage from the sun)
2- Bring bucket(s) if you have them. If you don't, we can provide them for you.
3- Cash is preferred, but we do accept credit cards
4- Bring water. We have water on the porch, but you will want to take some in the field when you pick.
5- Wear sturdy shoes. The terrain is uneven, and in places, sometimes steep.

Blueberries - Still Peak of Season
Picking is EXCELLENT!   Now picking Onslow, Centurion and Tifblue. 

It is "muffin berry" season in Climax and Premiere.  Muffin berries are more scattered on the bushes. The berries are small but they are so sweet and meaty. We call it "muffin berry season" because they are perfect to bake in muffins, or to add to your pancake batter.  

And don’t forget about stocking up your freezer.  Blueberries are easy to freeze and these frozen berries will make great smoothies on a hot summer day. And when the temperatures start to fall they are a perfect complement to your winter oatmeal!   See our tips for freezing blueberries.

Seedless Table Grapes Have Begun
Now picking Venus and we are just beginning Jupiter. Please respect caution tape if you see it in the field. The caution tape is there to let you know not to pick in that area.

Snippers are required to harvest the seedless grapes.  Table grapes are harvested in bunches. You do not pick single berries. The bunch must be cut off from the main stem using snippers. Grapes vines are easily hurt and damaged. If bunches are torn from the vine, it creates an open wound in the vine that makes it susceptible to disease, and can ultimately cause the death of the vine. 

While we have some supplies available for cutting grape bunches, if you want to harvest these types of grapes we ask you to bring your own snippers (good sharp scissors will work). Snippers with pointed noses are best. Because of the need for sharp implements, we do not allow children to pick grapes or even to carry snippers into the fields. We do not want them running with tools or cutting their own fingers. They can go with you into the grape fields and hold the bucket. Note that it will take two hands to cut off a bunch of grapes- one to hold the bunch and one to operate the snippers- so that bucket holding can be an important help!

How do you know when they are ripe? Venus, Mars, and Jupiter turn dark blue. Look for bunches with uniform dark blue color. If there is a red tinge they are not ready but will be in a few days. Be aware that the bunches on a vine do not ripen all at once- so you walk along looking for the dark blue bunches. Saturn will be a dark red, but the same guidelines apply.

Please be selective and take your time to evaluate each bunch before you cut. This means looking at the back side of the bunch before you cut. What a waste if you were to cut a cluster and then decide it is too green! It is also important to not throw unwanted harvest or other attractants onto the ground in the fields. Doing so can create heaps of problems with bees and ants.

Still Have Blackberries - but picking is slow.   
Mainly picking Chester. There are still some Von if you look down in and under the vines. 

FIGS are still looking good for August 1 and MUSCADINES August 15.  We are going to have opportunity to have a significant amount of Razzmatazz seedless muscadines this year.  We hope you like them. 

The PERSIMMON trees have grown so our persimmon harvest volume should increase this year – but will still be sold only as pre-picked.  They should start about September 15

Hope to See You Soon! Remember We Are Open Rain or Shine!
The Happy Berry Bunch - Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann

July 14 - Blueberries Benefit Brain Health

Published July 14, 2018

Building Brain Health with Blueberries
By Cheryl J. Dye, PhD
Director, Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging

Many people are concerned about their brain health as they get older. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, between 2000 and 2013, the cause of death due to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) grew by 71% compared to cancer which increased by only 6% and heart disease which declined by 14%. There is a lot we don’t know about Alzheimer’s Disease and,sadly, there is no treatment or cure.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association (2015) has shown that those who follow the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) were able to reduce their risk of AD by 53% if they followed it closely, and even those who followed it only moderately well were able to reduce their risk by 35%.

The MIND diet emphasizes vegetables, fish such as salmon which is high in Omega 3, and berries. The most beneficial berry is the blueberry, followed by strawberries. Blueberries are rich in flavonoids, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism (2017) showed that consumption of a blueberry concentrate supplementation for 12 weeks increased activation of brain areas associated with cognitive processes including memory and executive function (the ability to create and carry out a plan).

A colleague who was a bench scientist researching neurological diseases told me about the blueberry and brain health connection 15 years ago. She suggested that I eat one cup a day which I have since been attempting to do. In the summer I eat them with Greek yogurt and in the winter, I eat them with oatmeal. It is best to eat them fresh or barely thawed from frozen as blueberries lose much of their beneficial properties when cooked. Blueberries are a delicious way to take care of your brain!

Suggested read:
Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in health older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Bowtell, Aboo-Bakkar, Conway, Adlam, Fulford. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2017

http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/10.1139/apnm-2016-0550#.W0PYMtVKjRY

July 2

Published July 2, 2018

Open regular hours all week, including 4th of July, 8am to dusk!

Blueberries and Blackberries are at Peak of Season.  Picking is fantastic for both!  The bushes are just dripping with berries and need your help to relieve them of the load they are carrying!  There is no better time than NOW to come and load yourself up with both blueberries and blackberries.

And don’t forget about stocking up your freezer.  Now is a great time to start putting blueberries and blackberries away for next winter. They are easy to freeze and these frozen berries make great smoothies, pies, muffins, and more!  See our tips for freezing blueberries and our tips for freezing blackberries.

Coming to pick?  Don’t forget to dress for the weather and for walking in the fields.  We recommend long sleeve, loose fitting cotton shirts and light weight cotton pants. Cotton is great as it acts as a wick for evaporative cooling.  Also wear a hat to shade your face and remember to use sunscreen. Together these will protect you from sunburn and damaging sun rays.  Secure shoes with good traction are best for in the fields. Please no sandals or flip flops. The terrain is uneven, and in places, sometimes steep. We have ice water on the porch, but it is also a good idea to take water with you into the field.   

More Harvest Details:

BLUEBERRIES… DRIPPING FROM THE BUSHES!  
We are now picking Centurion, Tifblue, Columbus and Montgomery.  We are still picking Climax and Premier.  Even though there are fewer berries on the Climax and Premier the berries on these two varieties are mature and super sweet, including the small ones.  Most of the nutriceuticals are in the skin so picking small berries gives you more skin and a greater nutriceutical punch.  And ...chances are that all the berries in the bunch are ripe!  Putting a small basket under the bunch when you pick is a good way to do it so the ripe berries do not fall to the ground 


BLACKBERRIES…STILL FANTASTIC picking!   
We are finishing up the Kiowa and will start pruning them and the Natchez soon. There are some really nice berries down in and under in the Chickasaw.  The Von and Chester blackberries are next up and they are loaded.  These are the last floracane bearing blackberries for the season.  We will continue to have primocane bearing blackberries until October but they are slower to ripen so the volume will be steady but less.  The good news is that we have planted more Black Magic and Prime Ark 45 at a much closer interval.  In the future we should have more late summer and early fall blackberries.  We have planted Italian Stone pine several years ago and they are growing well amongst the blackberries.  Our plan is they will provide evaporative cooling for both you and the plants!  

SEEDLESS TABLE GRAPES
The seedless table grapes are in veraison now and  we are looking to start picking July 15 or possibly before.  Jupiter and Venus will be first up.  Then Mars and last will be Saturn.  Seedless grapes pick fast.  You pick clusters, and must snip the clusters off. Please bring your own snippers.  Scissors work...  Be sure you take time to evaluate each bunch before you cut them off.  This means looking at the back side of the bunch before you cut.  What a waste if you were to cut a cluster and then decide it is too green!  (See our picking tips for table grapes.)

FIGS are looking good for August 1 and MUSCADINES August 15.  We are going to have opportunity to have a significant amount of Razzmatazz seedless muscadines this year.  We hope you like them. 

The PERSIMMON trees have grown so our persimmon harvest volume should increase this year – but will still be sold only as pre-picked.  They should start about September 15

Come see us at the farm! Picking won't get any better than this!

May 29

Published May 29, 2018

Despite some Freeze damage (a result of early warm up in February and then 9 Freeze events in March and 1 in April) the overall summary is good to excellent! Blackberries will begin Saturday, June 2. The picking conditions will be slow and the volume limited, but we anticipate the volume will increase rapidly

The plants are looking great! With all this rain, they are saying "ooh! aah! yes! more!" They are lush and they are growing very rapidly! All the rain during primary cell division made lots of cells and with the more recently continuing rain, the cells are growing nicely. The result being that I, Walker, think we are looking forward to big berries this year!

Harvest Forecast

  • Blackberries--- June 2
    We will open Saturday, June 2 with picking conditions slow and volume limited but volume will increase rapidly.
  • Blueberries--- June 15 +
  • Seedless Grapes--- July 15
  • Figs--- August 1
  • Muscadines--- August 15
  • Seedless Non astringent Persimmons--- September 15

More details follow on various harvest problems and successes.

Blackberries- The Freeze damage was to mostly king-berries and very early blooms in Black Magic, Prime Ark 45 and Chickasaw. The Black Magic and Prime Ark 45 are still loaded! We have planted more of both these varieties at much closer spacing and changing our training system to emphasize spring floracane crop. Despite the problems of double blossom, leaf and cane rust diseases, poor site selection on my/our part and mites the 12 +year old Chickasaw variety has an excellent crop but not quite loaded. Kiowa's excellent, Von and Chester are loaded! Ouachita is suffering from viral decline after 5 years similarly what few Natchez we have left are in decline but both do have good crop.

Blueberries - They are loaded except for the north ridge Climax which had smaller than normal flower set last fall... My fault! I let blueberry leaf rust get ahead me and we did not have enough leaves during the critical 12 hour days last fall when flower set occurs. The rest of the Climax has an excellent crop despite some frost damage to the early flowers. We will be transitioning away from Climax but do not have a specific plan at this time due to lack of knowledge of performance of new varieties in our location. The new blueberry area below the drive way, mostly Ochlocknee with Powderblue and a couple of centurion as pollinators, has a good crop on these third leaf bushes...So we will get a good taste of this late season berry. The midseason variety Montgomery inter-planted in the Delight are doing well. We will continue the removal process of Delight transitioning to the more rust resistant varieties like Montgomery.

In addition to Leaf Rust - other disruptors of the blueberry system include mummy berry, cranberry and cherry fruit worm, spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and the Oberea stem borer.
Mummy Berry: By careful monitoring of temperatures and scouting we are able to get what appears to be 100% control with just 2 fungicide sprays during the bloom (before the fruit is visible on the bush). Compare this to university recommendations which were calling for 7 fungicide applications - every 7 days over the extended 7 week bloom season. Universities are developing a model to forecast inoculum presence- inoculum presence being the trigger for needing to spray- but the model has not been released yet so we are flying by the seat of our pants – but so far with good results.
Fruit worms and the Obera stem borer: We are able to control the fruit worms and the Oberea With "organic" procedures.
SWD: For the spotted wing drosophila (SWD), we need your help. The SWD (a fruit fly) is limited and killed by cold temperatures. We need you to refrigerate or freeze your berries immediately after harvest. We have done our best to control this invasive species but you can finish the job. SWD have, to date, extremely few natural enemies. One natural enemy, the hummingbird is a fruit fly specialist for whom fruit flies are a main source of protein. This is why you will see hummingbird feeders all over the farm.

The Seedless Grapes are loaded and we will get a taste of the two new varieties: Joy and Hope. They, the seedless grapes, seem to be pretty much on schedule. We had to replant 21 Jupiter, 24 Mars and 18 Venus grapes due to insect and diseases. Our long term plan is that we will eventually replace all the Venus with Joy variety, also a blue grape, by doing a gradual transition from Venus to Joy. Similarly we are transitioning the Saturn to Hope.

The reason we are having to replant, is due to infestations of the Grape Root Borer (GRB). The disease scenario goes like this. The roots of older grapes are damaged by the grape borer. We have been using male Grape Root Borer (GRB) confusion technology (a pheromone as a twist tie in every plant) for 5 years. The good news is that when we examined every plant as we dug them up we only found one GRB. The bad news is that these plants had all been infested/ damaged by GRB before the start of the confusion technology program and they did not recover. As result of the damaged root system by GRB and the resultant stress, a fungus called Botryospheria spp. colonizes the cordons and trunk presumably at pruning wounds, producing toxins which in turn result in diminutive growth, leaf puckering and the slow death of the plant. Even after the adoption of a fungicide spray to treat pruning wounds and a rigorous program of cutting out infected areas (the whole plant when necessary) the Botryospheria decline has continued.

A newly emerging problem is a disease I am calling "blackfoot" as it fits the description of a malady described in Europe. We don’t know what is causing it, but the root damage that we are calling “blackfoot” is also resulting in symptons of Botryospheria spp. caused decline. There were only 3 vines of the 63 vines examined this year, but we fear more in the future.

We believe that if grapes are to be a successful production system on our farm and in the southeast these disruptors will need to be addressed. Currently, to our knowledge, there is no research addressing these issues in grapes.

Figs - We believe that the February warm up, 245 growing degree days (GDD) to the base 50 degrees, when the ten year average has been 119 GDD, followed by a cold early March(only 71 GDD through almost the whole month) resulted in cold damage. Many young plants were damaged to the ground line but are now growing rapidly. Older trees have been much slower leafing out but now seem to be actively growing. We pruned out obviously damaged limbs. To be frank, we do not know what this means for the fig crop. Figs are born on current seasons growth so we are hoping for the best. We will update you later.

One of the disruptors of fig harvest are yellow jackets. Yellow jackets and other bees have a rough tongue which they use to lap up the sugary fluids on the surface of fig and with persistence and help from their brethren they will cause a conical hole in the fig that many think are caused by birds but the real culprit is bees. To manage yellow jackets we use "Why Traps" available at most hardware stores along with refills. I have heard, use 6 traps to the acre but have not seen any good data on this number. The traps attract bees three different ways and the traps must be tended to about every 2 weeks. If put up early enough they will catch queens and limit the number of ground nests.

Muscadines - We got them pruned in time and the field is uniform in appearance. We do a detailed pruning on each vine thinning fruiting spurs, limiting the number of buds on each spur to 12, removing dead tissue branches and any cordons that show evidence of brown discoloration of Botryospheria when examined in cross section and old fruit rachis. The detailed pruning, a half hour or more per vine, removes the sources of inoculum for disease, especially of the fruit. Muscadines by virtue of their thicker skin are resistant to spotted wing drosophila. They are much more resistant to the GRB than seedless grapes but over a longer period time can still have a problem, so we use male mating confusion in the muscadines also. All-in-all the muscadines are almost organic.

Persimmons have made significant growth and the trees are loaded with flowers. We expect them to start about September 15. Because we keep our non astringent varieties (Izu and Matsomoto Fuyu) separated to achieve seedless persimmons, the flowers and developing fruit will naturally thin themselves. This can become disconcerting to persimmon lovers when halfway through the summer the tree drops developing fruit. The dropping of fruit is normal. Persimmons are bore on current seasons growth hence are always at the end of the branch. To date, only ground hogs and squirrels have been a problem. Both eat the fruit but the ground hogs, because of their size, also break limbs as they climb to the end of branches.

Mulberries - We are making zero progress. The deer are eating the trees so they have not made any growth. Meanwhile our daughter has three wild mulberries on her place which the deer have been ignoring...resistance? The quantity of fruit is low though and won't be enough to harvest.

Strawberries - We do not do strawberries but there are local growers that do. Check out our link to local farmers for more information. A note on the strawberry harvest: All this rain has been very conducive for disease but the cool weather will favor a late set of new flowers. It takes about 30 plus days for strawberries to go from flower to fruit. Usually strawberry season ends June 10-15 but may a go a "tad" longer.

Tea- The tea plants are growing and look good. Table Rock Tea Company has a book on how to make your own tea. Just Google them. Perhaps in a year or two you can pick your own tea leaves.

Chestnuts - They are growing. We are growing Bouche de Betizac, Maravel and Szeao. All three varieties are resistant to ink disease, a root rot and chestnut blight, the reason chestnut trees are no longer found or are very rare in the USA. Three of our trees have died back to the graft union and two have been replaced. The cause is unknown. We plan to replace the other or perhaps try top working it??? Since these trees are hybrids the seedlings segregate and seed quality declines. To prevent this the nursery germinates Maravel seeds then grafts the parent, high quality seed, scion to the Maravel rootstock. Same is true of the other varieties. Perhaps someday you will be able to go chestnut picking of these sweet nuts. But for now, we are still trying to figure it out.

All in all though, we are looking forward to a great season and hope to see you on the farm! Thank you all for your support!

March 30

Published March 30, 2018

Weird Weather!?  Cold Damage report
You are right!  It has been very cold.  It is March 25 at this writing and for the month of March we have had only 71 Growing Degree Days (GDD) to the base 50 where the 10 year average is 245 growing degree days and last year we had 290 GDD in March.   The flowers have grown extremely slowly.  This has been a blessing as the more immature the flower the greater it's tolerance to cold.  We have had 8 nights in March so far where it has been very close to significant damage.  We have had no significant crop loss in the blueberries except for the variety Climax... We have been reduced down to about 80% of a crop in this variety. 

Blackberries appear to be all right... you can see just an occasional king flower bud.

Wind Machine Status
Our wind machine is still not working.  When we swapped out gear boxes last year we did not realize that the new gear box was running clockwise.  Our new blade requires counter clockwise. We have the right gear box now and hope to get it changed out in the next day or two.

Pruning Report
Blueberries - done! Grapes - 1/2 done, Figs and Muscadines - zero done.  It just takes time!

The Happy Berry “Doings” - aka Upcoming Events
The following is a list of events that we have coming up.  We hope to see you soon!

March 31,  Farm Day at Bart Garrison Agriculture Museum, at 120 History Lane, Pendleton SC from 10am until 3pm.  Our booth will be listed as the Clemson Farmers Market.  In addition to having willows for sale we will give free lessons on how to grow-your-own.  We will also bring eggs, jams and jellies. 

April 7, We will be at the Easley Spring Fling from 9am until 3pm, selling woody floral sticks and stems including willows

April 10, Easley Rotary Club at West End School beginning at noon. Walker will speak on "The History of Agriculture."

April 14, Anderson Library from 10am until 2pm.  We will teaching how to grow your own willows as well as having them for sale

April 21, The Azalea  Festival on Main Street in Pickens, an all day event. We will have sticks and stems for sale.

April 23, Upstate Seekers at Keowee Keys. We will make a presentation on the history of agriculture in the upstate with a peek at a possible future. Willows and woody florals will be available for participants. 

April 26, The Garden Clubs of South Carolina at the Embassy Suites, 200 Stoneridge Drive, Columbia SC. An all day event.

May 1, Walker will be speaking to Newcomers Club of the Foothills.  

FARMERS MARKETS

May 3 the Clemson Farmers Market at Patrick Square will start and be every Thursday this year 3 to 6pm.  Note this is a change from Fridays to Thursdays for 2018.

Also the Six Mile Farmers Market will be on Thursday evenings 3 to 6 PM. We don't know the start date yet. If Zoe is not working off the farm, she will be handling this event.  Otherwise we will not be able to be there.

May 26, will start TD Farmers Market on Main St. in downtown Greenville SC, Saturdays from 8-12.  

June 5, will start Mauldin Farmers Markets at the Mauldin Cultural Center, 101 Butler Road in Mauldin Tuesdays from 5-8 PM


Thank you! 
We so appreciate each and every one of you, and all of your support!
The Happy Berry Bunch - Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann

March 2

Published March 2, 2018

Pussy willow sale at the farm this Saturday March 3, 2018 from 11am to noon
Bouquets, plants, grow-your-own cuttings (with instructions) and handmade wreaths by Zoe will be available. Eggs and Jams will also be available.

Pruning Report
We are still pruning and sweating out whether we will get it done in time... Blueberries 80% done, Blackberries 98%, Grapes 5%, Muscadines 0%. Any volunteers?

Chill hour report
Just like you need to sleep at night so your body can sweep/clean up all those chemicals in the brain generated by thinking during the day... Chill Hours are when plants organize all that energy stored from the previous season, prepare growth regulators, other instructive chemicals and gather nutrients for that burst of growth when temperatures warm up.

Chill hours are recorded from November 1 until end of February of each year. We use a web site called getchill.net and our own Weather Underground station [free app] ( our station number is KSCsixmil4) for our results. This year we recorded a total of 1126 chill hours, which includes hours below 32 degrees. The really good chill hours, called chill units, are when the temp is between 32 and 45. This is when the plants are able to clean out the old, organize their energy and prepare for a burst of new growth. We recorded 791 chill units this year. This is the most chill hours and chill units we have measured in several years.

Once the bushes satisfy their required chill units, they will start to respond to warming temperatures. Generally warm-up is measured in Growing Degree Days (GDD - base 50 F) and for us, we start measuring the first of February each year. You can get a free App entitled "Growing Degree Days" in the App store (it has a corn stalk on its icon) if you want to try this at home.

We are at 245 GDD for the month of February and we think we are ahead of schedule by maybe 10 to 12 days. Blueberry bushes are already budding. Flowers are from buds "well cracked" to "well defined flowers" all the way to Pistils extending beyond the Corolla (flower petal). In blackberries we are in bud break (buds are starting to swell) to mostly 1 inch bud burst. These stages of growth are susceptible to frost, so now we start to sweat the weather forecasts.

Our current forecast is calling for 34 degrees with 21 degrees dew point for early Sunday morning March 4, with light to no wind...so frost damage is likely. If nothing changes we will probably run the wind machine 3/4/18, the earliest we have ever run it in ten years!

Wind Machine Report


Last year we ran the wind machine with a cracked blade...really scary! So we invested $3750 in a new blade.

Image left: Brad from Superior Wind Machine Michigan Is 37 feet up the pole grabbing the new Plastic blade to mount on the top gear box. The blade is about 21 feet long and weighs a little over 200 pounds. Michael Marchbanks of Six Mile is operating the 60 foot boom truck.

In addition to the blade repair, each year it is a challenge to make sure the motor (314 Chrysler industrial) is running properly because if the motor dies while the blade is running it will tear up the gear box(s). Just this year, we have already had a bad starter solenoid, bad bushing, water condensate in the gas tank and replaced spark plugs. The bottom line, we think we have it running, and we anticipate we are going to need it.

Why spend the money and what does the wind machine do? Because of the inversion effect that is created by our geographic location near the east side of Lake Keowee, there is warm air above the farm when lower temperatures set in. The wind machine creates a vortex which sucks the warm air down and spreads it over the farm. The moving air keeps the flowers from super cooling and keeps them at the ambient temperature of the moving air. The difference of 1 to 4 degrees can mean the difference of a crop or no crop.

Right now, barring a catastrophic event like a frost, (or damage from the marauders- see below) things are looking good for this year’s harvest.

Winter Marauder Report
As you will remember, last year we had serious damage from wild pigs. Last fall one of our muscadine trellises was pushed over by wild pigs. It was heavy with ripe berries at the time and the 4x4 posts just snapped at the ground line. Other damage done includes rooting for worms at irrigation emitters which busts up the trickle irrigation lines, not to mention the mess they leave behind. And unfortunately, they are still here! A family of 13 was seen just the other evening. There are rub signs on all our trees and poop showing up. We have a permit to hunt them at night, but have not had much success. Just to keep the population from growing it is necessary to eliminate 70% of them, and so far only 1 wild pig has been gotten. We also have a depredation permit for deer. Last year the deer ate thousands of dollars worth of blackberry flowers and ate immense amounts of blackberry foliage, mainly on the thornless varieties.

Threat very high for mummy berry and Exobasidium leaf and fruit spot Over the last several weeks, we have had several 24, 48 and 72 hour periods of continuous wetness with temperatures in the sixties and even low seventies. This kind of weather creates ideal conditions for these two diseases to infect blueberries. We use lime sulfur to control both. Stinky stuff but it is considered organic. It does a great job on the Exobasidium which resides on the stems of the plant to spread to developing berries and leaves and is a onetime spray. It also kills mummy berry spores on the buds and also burns back the source of the spores on the ground if we get the timing right. We tried. If we prevent primary infections then we do not need to spray for secondary infections. The problem is it is readily washed off by rain.

That is it for now!
The old timers say that if you can get past Easter without frost damage you are probably good. Let's hope we make it. Easter is early this year.

Thank so much for your support!
Walker for "The Happy Berry Bunch"