Farmer guy left the farm in early April taking with him 10,000 plants that he dug up from the rows in the field. A 200 foot row planted with 120 plants will give you about 2000 plants the next year! So when we move on to the farm and we plant 4500 strawberry plants as per instructions from farmer guy in bare dirt he had prepared for us. We have help from Linda-a special person who needs a post all to herself. We dig up his first year rows and replant them 20 inches apart in rows 50 inches apart 200 feet long. It takes 3 of us a week. We phoned everyone we knew for help babysitting. The two older boys had diggers in the field beside us for hours. They loved every minute! (It felt like heaven to have kids be able to play outside all day with minimal supervision and no bugs attacking them!)
The next job was putting fencing around our two huge deep steep irrigation ponds. With 3 young boys and upick customers coming on the farm the wide open ponds made us very very nervous. Not a fun job but seriously necessary.
Then we sit back and watch everything grow. I mean the strawberries and raspberries that is. No weeds grew. The strawberry plants flourished weedless and the aisles between our raspberries looked like a moonscape. I spent a few days in the raspberries tying up fruiting canes and eventually we put down straw in the aisles of the strawberries. We really didn’t have to do much. It WAS easy. The spring was hot and the strawberries were ripening in early June.
The hardest jobs were hubby’s. He had to figure out the tractor, implements and irrigation. ACK! We had to track down and purchase aluminium ‘hand move’ irrigation pipe so we could water our fields. Which farmer guy told us we wouldn’t have to do much. Another misconception. We put an ad in the paper and miraculously someone called us with exactly what we needed. The 40 foot sections of pipe 1500 feet in all were delivered, by tractor in June. Hubby then had to figure out how to set them up and get the water flowing. I had NO IDEA there was so much involved in setting up farm sprinklers – PSI, water flow, gallons per minute, evaporation, run off. And it being a hot hot spring and turning into an even hotter summer, we had to water, a lot. And that’s a lot of sets and a lot of pipe to move around. I can balance a 40’ pipe on my shoulder pretty darn good thank you very much.
I hate to admit but we followed farmer guy’s chemical application advice the first year, well nearly. He gave us a list of sprays we needed and when we needed to spray. So we ordered them all and hubby practiced with water in the sprayer behind the tractor until he knew how to spray ( a whole ‘nother skill that blows me away!) Then he went out and bought a rain suit, a respirator, a rain hat, boots and goggles. He looked like he was going out to fight aliens. I took the kids off the farm. I remember reassuring our neighbour that we weren’t doing anything different than farmer guy, who sprayed without protection. We never did follow his program exactly for pesticides and fungicides. I remember hubby saying to me “God, I feel terrible, I got out and looked at the bugs and there was this cute little white spider that sits in the strawberry flower, and it was dying…..” We never did get herbicides on the fields. Just couldn’t figure out a good time – all we could read said if you did it wrong you’d affect the strawberry plants…..
So all is going according to schedule, the berries are reddening and then we noticed some problems. Strawberry rows next to our new plantings were dropping dead, with reddening berries on them. HAY………What’s going on? Farmer guy didn’t tell us about this happening, did he? We called and he told us it was the bugs. (Remember he also told us he had dealt with the problem and he’d spray his “special” spray in early April and water it in before we took possession that would control the problem for this year….and that he would tell us what the special spray was. – He didn’t so that makes us wonder what the heck it was!) We also noticed other parts of the field going down. We called them “crop circles.” The evil Weevil. You know, the bug he told us he had under control. The bug he neglected to tell us caused him to pile up strawberry plants and burn the whole farm in 2002. (Some of his staff told us later on in the summer)
We started to research.
So we spent a lot of time researching and researching and bugging (pun unintended) the BC Agriculture Berry Specialist. Who knew of our farm and its problems. Isn’t that special.
The saga continues with a different branch of problems involving the highways department and their road salt storage shed on the property just uphill from us…..