Monday, 17 March 2014

Moving in the mud

As I mentioned previously, one of our projects was to move all of the Patriots from the rows adjacent to our ditch system into the Patriot field to fill in the gaps. Over time some bushes get damaged and there are a lot of gaps. Moving them will be beneficial in a few ways:

  • Being more susceptable to "mummy berry" the patriots along the ditch are the biggest targets. The lack of space on the one side means we cannot spray as completely for the fungus.
  • We want to create a visible separation between the varieties for ease of pruning and organization.
  • Getting them away from mixed rows with Blue Jays will allow them to thrive without being overwhelmed by the faster growing Blue Jays.

It's messy work!
We had marked the row on either side of the ditch for the move. There was around sixty bushes to move as these were partial rows. We moved half of one of these last time. Now we aimed to get the other half. The second row will need to wait until the fall.

Marc had a novel idea for moving the bushes this time. Previously we lifted them and moved them with the tractor while pulling a tarp up underneath to prevent the roots from dragging. This time we put them on a piece of plywood with rope handles on either end. 

Our Blueberry Ambulatory Device (B.A.D)
Marc transports one of the bushes using the B.A.D.

We would lift onto this, then drag it out backwards, turn the tractor around and drag it to the destination. This proved to be far more efficient as it only required one person to drive the tractor to get the bushes to the destination.

We did need to be cautious though. The ground was still extremely wet and muddy from the heavy rains we had been getting. Every time we took the tractor through an area it would leave marks. For the most part this would grow back, but the wetter areas would result in deep ruts which would not reform naturally. So we made it a habit of taking the driest path and limiting the amount of times the tractor travelled each path.

The tracks left by the tractor from one drive through.
The work went rather quickly. We sectioned off to improve efficiency. I stayed at the source row and used the pick axe to dig a small trench around each bush. I would then dig in with two shovels to prop it up and release any clinging roots. While I was there I also gathered up the coffee sacks and tidied up for the end of our work. As we got further into the row the ground was muddier and messier. It became a challenge on a few bushes to get them up and get the tractor out. We had to push it out a few times and drag a few bushes out by hand.
A few bushes in it already looks messy.
The row with three bushes remaining.

Meanwhile, Josh was at the destination row, which changed occasionally. Some of the holes were dug from last time, but many weren't. He spent his time digging and when he was done digging, he helped Marc drag the bush into the hole. The first few holes were filled with water which actually made the transition a lot easier.

Marc and Josh create a few more holes. An old hole sits in the foreground, filled with water.
Marc was the tractor man. He ferried the bushes back and forth and then assisted in either pulling them up and out, or putting them in. He did his best to vary his path through the field and keep to the outside as much as possible. 
This is after two times driving over it.
In the end, we took about 5 hours to move 15+ bushes. We were successful and have further refined the process, which is good because we originally planned to move 100 and we have only moved 30 so far.

The field looks ugly and muddy, but by the time spring is in full swing it will be green again and the bushes will be thriving.

Three of the "finished" bushes.
And now, we look forward to next weekend, when we round up lots of people to tackle two big items: raking and shavings. Wish us luck!

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