Friday, October 12, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Glacial Lakes Cranberries tour
I had reserved the Wisconsin Rapids "Berry-licious" package through Wisconsin Tourism. This included a two-night motel room, a package of chocolate covered cranberries, two packages of cranberry trail mix, two tickets to Glacial Lakes Cranberries (family-owned cranberry bog farm) tour, and two tickets to the Cranberry Discovery Museum; both located within easy driving distance.

Monday morning we drove to Glacial Lakes Cranberries with tickets "in hand." :-) I grew up on a corn/soybeans/alfalfa/oats/hog/cattle/sheep and chickens farm in north central Iowa. So I was very excited and looked forward to comparing how "someone else lives and operates." I'd also seen a documentary and read articles in magazines several years ago.

We boarded a small bus with several other tourists and were driven around the farm. Of the approximate 6,000 total acres that make up Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc., approximately 3,000 acres of water reservoir support 330 acres (96 beds) of producing cranberry vines.

We drove on the roads surrounding the beds, learning about the irrigation system they employ, and the means by which they propagate, protect and harvest the cranberries, etc.

This part of central Wisconsin is very, very sandy, due to glacial activity so many years ago. Their water reservoir (looks like a big pond) is located at the edge of the cranberry beds. Irrigation pipes run through the cranberry beds with sprinklers sticking out of the ground about a foot or so high. If the sprinklers need to be run, due to drought or impending frost, the water is readily available. (These three photos were taken at the Museum.)The cranberry beds consist of a layer of organic material, a layer of sand (I think around 6 -8"), and another layer of organic material that accumulates naturally. The beds must be absolutely level to ensure proper drainage. The plants are perennial, meaning the same plant grows and matures every year.

There is a ditch around the perimeter of each cranberry bed. These ditches are the vehicle through which the cranberry beds are flooded when it is time for harvest. the specific beds that are to be harvested. Cranberry vines will not survive if flooded very long, so they only flood the beThe water is pumped from the reservoir into ditches aroundds that will be harvested within a short period of time. (A 2 - 3 day period?)

It looked as though one bed was being flooded and another drained as the one in the "center" was being harvested. Due to the fact that most of the bed is sand, the water drains very easily, returning to the ditches where it is pumped either to another bed or returned to the reservoir.

It was discovered in the early 1900's that the farmers could harvest twice as many berries if they flooded their fields to the tops of the cranberry vines and hand raked the floating berries. Now they use
small tractors
and tools that
gently loosen
the berries
the vines.
Did you know
that they dislodge the berries driving one direction only? (In this case, from west to east). I guess it's kind of like the nap on corduroy. Then they raise the machinery to return to the other end.

Cranberry beds are gradually flooded in the wintertime (in 3" layers, to a depth of 9," if I remember correctly) to protect the plants from freezing and thawing that would happen otherwise due to temperature fluctuations.
About every three years, trucks
spread a layer of sand over the ice. As the ice melts, the sand settles over the plants. This extra sand layer is said to aid in pest control as well as provide the
drainage necessary during the flooding/harvesting periods.

Here are some photos of how they "corral" the cranberries and "herd" them into the elevator which separates
the berries from the
water and "gunk"and
settles the berries into
a truck. These berries are being harvested for juice and products
other than packages of fresh berries. (You'd better have a pair of hip waders!)

We were taken to a building that housed the old separating equipment. This is where the berries that are bagged for retail as fresh cranberries are cleaned, sorted and held. This job is still done by hand.
As we returned to the original meeting place,
we drove past the water reservoir. Here we were able to
witness trumpeter swans. Guess they were intimidated by our bus.
After a brief time perusing their little shop of Wisconsin gifts, we drove a few miles "down the road" to Warrens. This is where we enjoyed touring the Exhibition Hall at the Cranberry Discovery Museum. This interesting exhibit explained the early history of the cranberry bogs and harvesting the berries, to the farming and harvesting methods presently used.

Just how did cranberries receive their "moniker?"
(click on these photos to see the detail)

This is a little explanation of how the cranberry
got its name! (Do you see the resemblance?)

I took a lot of pictures while we were at the museum. Mostly to show my dad! I also browsed the gift ware and many cranberry products: jam, jelly, apple/cranberry butter, etc., etc. Last but not least, were the nice, tall, cranberry ice cream cones we enjoyed! Yea! :-)

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I enjoy being outdoors! I also love that I've two children (now grown up with families of their own)and six young grandchildren! :-) Sure would like to see them more often!!