Friday, October 09, 2015

Cranberry Marsh Tour....(in the comfort of your own home)

How exactly do those little ruby reds get from the cranberry bed to the truck?

First the bed has to be flooded.  This bed is in the process of being flooded.  Like a four-chambered heart, cranberries have four tiny air chambers inside, which allows the fruit to float, but still attached to the vine.

A tractor with a harrow rake is driven through the bed in a rectangular spiral.  

This is a closeup of the front harrow bar.  The spring steel bars push the vines down, allowing the fruit to float upwards and is then plucked off the vine.  The berries float to the surface.

There's a back rake which picks up any straggler cranberries because every berry counts.

The process of booming a bed corrals the fruit and pulls it to one end for the harvest.
Here, Nick is actually doing the cleanup round.  The first booming corrals the vast majority of fruit, then the boomers make a 2nd corralling using blowers to get every berry that has wedged itself in the grass along the edge.  

Depending on the wind direction, this can be a berry wet job.

 Once the fruit has been boomed and pulled to the pickup end of the bed, the berries are elevated from the bed into the berry cleaner.

Here's the first elevator carrying fruit, twigs, leaves all up to the water sprayer.

The white PVC in this picture is the water sprayer bar.  The water is used to clean the majority of leaves from the cranberries.

Then the clean fruit is elevated into the dump truck, and eventually delivered to another cleaning station.

 There you have it, another day in the life of harvesting cranberries.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Down Syndrome Awareness

And apparently that's the chromosome for 
because I have extra of both!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Cranberries and Water.....(they go together)

Myth:  Cranberries Grow in Water

Truth:  Cranberries grow best in acidic soil with a good amount of sand on top to provide adequate drainage.

Truth:  Cranberries require significant amounts of water for irrigation, frost protection, harvesting, winter flooding and February sanding.

As we went for our daily walk on the marsh yesterday, I really took notice of the movement of water around a cranberry operation.  We are fortunate to live in an area of Wisconsin with abundant water.  Of course, there was the Drought of '88 and more recently, a lesser drought in 2012, however, for the most part, water is abundant in our area.  This is one reason for the prolific production of cranberries in Wisconsin.

As a cranberry wife, I often hear, "I'm going out to check water."  Depending on the time of year, that simple statement has many meanings.  This time of year, harvest time, it typically means the water levels in the ditches have to be checked to see if they are coming up enough for flooding the bed.

Yesterday the ditch out front looked like this to my left.

And like this to my right. 

 Today this ditch is filled to the top.  This water is being moved from the main pond (or reservoir) down to the bottom cranberry beds which are in the process of being flooded, raked and harvested.

Here you can see the reservoir, which is where all the water moving begins.

And how is one man able to control the movement of all this water?  With a series of bulkheads.  Below is a bulkhead boarded to the top, currently keeping the water in the ditch and not in the cranberry bed.  Take a walk around the marsh and one will see many, many bulkheads of varying sizes.  The one seen below is rather small.  

And here I caught Warren in the act of dropping in a couple of boards.  Again he's keeping water out of cranberry beds and directing further down the ditch.

So that's a little about the movement of water from the reservoir to a cranberry bed for the purpose of harvesting.

Now back to the myth about cranberries growing in water, which they don't.  Typically during the growing season the ditches around each cranberry bed have only a small amount of water, even less than in the picture below.  Remember, cranberries like good drainage and that's why each bed has a ditch around it.

Once all that water's been moved to the cranberry bed needing harvesting, boards are placed in the bulkhead to keep the water in, as in this case.  These cranberries have already been raked from the vine and are floating in water waiting to be corralled and elevated through the cleaner and into the truck.

Yet, another way we move water around is through pumps. Behind the dump truck is a berry cleaner which uses water to clean leaf trash off the cranberries.  The pumps pull water from the ditch to use in this process.

We also use water jets to help push the cranberries toward the berry cleaner.  The jets can be seen in the picture below.  

Water also has to be moved through irrigation pipes for frost protection and irrigation during the growing season.  So sometimes water is transported through pipes next to water-filled ditches.

And other times, pipes transport water over water.

There you have it, a bit about water use on cranberry marshes.  And just for your knowledge, tonight, I heard another common phrase uttered by cranberry husbands everywhere:

I gotta go move water. I'll be right back.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Homeschooling With Down Syndrome

Joseph has Down syndrome.  Joseph is homeschooled.  Him being the 5th child in our clan, it only seemed natural to us to homeschool him just like his older brothers and sisters.  However, the rest of the world doesn't always agree.  There's a common belief that children with special circumstances need special education teachers.  I know special education teachers and they are wonderful people.  We didn't choose to homeschool Joseph because of the teachers or the students or any political reasons.  We chose to homeschool him because it's what we know how to do - we're comfortable with homeschooling and after living with Joseph for 5 years it didn't seem like it would be much different homeschooling him with Down syndrome than his siblings.  So when his time in the Birth to 3 program was coming to an end and we were barraged with paperwork regarding his placement in Early Ed at our local public school, I politely declined, sharing our intentions to homeschool him just like his older siblings.  At first they seemed quite surprised and kept sending me the info, but after numerous polite declines the packets stopped coming and he just fell out of the system.  And here we are today with a 1st grader on our hands.

And what does it look like to homeschool with Down syndrome?  Take a look.  It looks pretty much like it did when his older siblings were in first grade.

We bake bread together.
It's a good excuse to strengthen his hands.
It should help him hold his pencil better.

Baking bread is like playing with Play-Doh, only you get to eat it at the end.  After it's baked, of course.

A little hippotherapy anyone?  Joseph loves riding horses with his sisters.  Helps to strengthen his core muscles.

 Here's my teacher box where I keep all the workbook type supplies.  All the traditional schooly stuff.
We use Mother Goose Time, Handwriting Without Tears, All About Reading level 1.

We practice drawing Mat Man.  Good pre-writing exercises to practice pencil grip.

He's trying so hard to hold it correctly.  See that face.  It's the first time he put eyes on a face in the correct spot.  Happy day!

His completed Mat Man.  This is an activity from Handwriting Without Tears.

 Hanging out in the reading corner with one of his favorite books.  And apparently someone was disrupting his quiet time.  SHHH.

A little fine motor development, sorting cranberries.

Nature Study on the marsh.

Dancing to classical violin tunes.  Music appreciation and gym class wrapped up in one.

And more dancing.

And when he's finally tired out enough to sit down, we practice word families.  Say each sound.  Blend each sound.  Say it fast.  Wow, Joseph, you're a reader.

We play reading games from the All About Reading program.  This time he had to unlock the treasure chests by identifying vowels and consonants.  If he unlocked it, he got to eat the animal crackers.

This is just a snippet into a day of homeschooling with Down syndrome.  It's not always easy; it's not always pretty, but it's always rewarding.

This post is in honor of #Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Down Syndrome Awareness Month - October

Bringing the Cute Factor to Cranberry Harvest

Cranberry growing is a lot of hard work.  Cranberry harvest is like adding steroids to the mix.  It's hard both physically and mentally.  Little kids just live in every moment.  They don't care if the cleaner is broke down or the crop isn't what was hoped for or the weather is bad.  To them it's just cranberry harvest.  Everything about it is intriguing and my littles want to spend as much time as possible out on the marsh during harvest.  Sometimes they (we) get in the way, but I think the smiles and energy they bring to the crew is uplifting.

The harvest gets underway again, tomorrow.  Stay tuned for Everything Cranberry.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce

We've had a garden every summer since 1996.  The vegetables grown have varied, except for tomatoes.  I always grow tomatoes.  I've never canned spaghetti sauce.  Never.

Tomato Juice?  Yes
Salsa?  Yes
Pizza Sauce?  Yes (once)
Spaghetti Sauce?  No Never

Until this year.  The tomato plants just won't (present tense) quit producing tomatoes.  So I decided to finally try my hand at making spaghetti sauce.  We're not huge spaghetti w/ meat sauce eaters, but I think that's about to change.  I like to write just how I think, so here goes.

My friend makes spaghetti sauce so I asked her for the recipe.  She obliged and emailed it right over. The email began with, "I loosely follow this recipe."   Then she went on to share her directions.  My first time.  Loose directions.  More directions.  The original recipe starts with canned tomatoes, but I'm supposed to convert that into garden fresh tomatoes.  I just couldn't do it, so I did what any woman with an entire cabinet full of cookbooks, canning manuals, and food magazines would do.....I Googled "Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce".  I found a recipe with similar ingredients to the original "loosely followed recipe" only this one started with a 1/2 bushel of garden fresh tomatoes.  Now that I can understand.  Even better it claimed to take only 3 hours.  Perfect!  Because that's exactly the amount of time I'm willing to spend on this project.

Approximately 32 hours later, I began ladling spaghetti sauce into clean, hot Kerr jars.  I'm not sure where exactly the "3 hours" number came from.  Maybe they assumed the tomatoes were already picked, washed, weighed, and quartered.  Maybe they thought my food press was hooked up to an electric crank with endless energy for cranking and saucing tomatoes.  Maybe they were home alone without any butts to wipe, books to read, writing assignments to edit, clothes to wash, lunch to make, dinner to make.  Maybe they were simply in a time warp.  I'm going with the last one.

Anyway, the sauce is on the canning shelf ready for our next spaghetti supper, which looks to be sometime in December based on our spaghetti eating history.

Here's the picture version of what I did...basically.

By the way, more tomatoes await picking.

The recipe I used, which I followed to the "T" came from


Friday, September 25, 2015

Cranberry Nut Pie

Today I'd love to share a recipe with you that we LOVE.

Cranberry Nut Pie

This is so easy to make.  First make or buy a single pie crust.  Fit it to a 9 inch pie plate and flute the edge.

Pour in 2 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional).  I only had a tablespoon of walnut crumbs so I sprinkled those over the cranberries to add a bit of nutty flavor.  But my favorite is to add the nuts.

Top with 1/3 cup brown sugar.

Mix together 1 egg, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup softened butter.

Mix until it's very light in color. 

Top pie with mixture and spread around to cover cranberries.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  The top should be nicely golden.
Allow to cool and serve with whipped cream.

Recipe for 1 Cranberry Nut Pie
1 pie crust
2 heaping cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. butter, softened

Line pie pan with pastry crust.  Add cranberries and walnuts, sprinkle with brown sugar.  Mix the following and pour/spread over cranberries:  egg, sugar, flour, butter.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Cool, cut and eat.