Coming into October, I am reminded of my half day working in a cranberry bog near Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was in late October that I went to help harvest cranberries. I had read about this opportunity the year before but found all the available slots had been taken. So that year, I sent my request in August and was able to reserve a place. (Yes, we each paid $50 to help get the work done. Tom Sawyer lives on.)
I arrived at the property and parked my car near the other cars parked in a field and followed a well worn trail. I neared the water and saw there were five other volunteers. I joined them in listening to the lecture on the cranberry industry, the number one agricultural industry in Massachusetts. This particular cranberry farm only sold B+ and above cranberries. The owner said that otherwise, they would be driven from the market by the huge farms in Wisconsin.
Cranberries grow on low plants like low blueberry bushes but it would take much time to pick them one by one. So the commercial growers plant them in an area either dug out low or surrounded by dirt walls. To harvest cranberries, water is pumped in and the ripe berries detach from the plant and float to the top of the water.
We donned our waders. I had never worn them before. Now that I was in my waders, I was given a rake and welcomed to step into the bog. (The waders actually did let me stay dry while up to my upper thighs in the water.) Cords floated atop the water and delineated the area in which we were to rake. First, we would push all the floating cranberries toward the center of this area and then we pushed them toward the truck parked by the bog. The truck was connected to a large suction hose that was placed in the water. Ultimately, we drove the cranberries toward the hose to get sucked in.
Raking cranberries in the midst of vibrant foliage on that sunny day struck one of life’s fine chords. We raked three different areas of the same bog. My favorite part was grabbing the big green frogs to keep them from being caught up in the vortex created by the hose. By the time I had removed my gators, the midsize truck had amassed so many cranberries that the top of the red heap could be seen over its high sides. That was a lot of cranberries!
Exhausted but satisfied that I had come and conquered, I drove to nearby Plymouth for lunch at the Bagel Shop. Then I visited the very educational Pilgrim Hall Museum. Before leaving, I walked to Plymouth Rock to make sure it was still there. I think a cranberry bog may be more quintessential New England than a maple shack. Here is a link to a picture of berries afloat.
Buy it. Read it. (Or listen to it.) Let me know what you think. –TMLL