Our Jersey Shore bungalow is near the cranberry bogs in Double Trouble State Park in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Luckily this year, we–me, Linda, and Sophie, my three-year-old granddaughter– managed to get there from NYC in time to watch the wet, or water harvest; an event I’ve been curious about, especially after writing my forthcoming book Thanksgiving: The True Story. The first two pictures (left to right) show a cranberry bog with ripe berries (cranberries grow on a dwarf evergreen vine in a peat or sandy bog), and two specialized harvesters that knock the berries off the vine. In that picture, the first driver has lifted up the bar that has 9 metal circle because he’s about to turn around (see next picture). The other driver still has the bar down and the circles are rotating and knocking the cranberries off the vine (note the water in the bog splashing up). The man wearing the waders directs the drivers and walks in front of them to make sure they don’t hit a rock or other obstacle. “Hey,” I shouted to get his attention. “What do you call those machines?” “Knockers,” he shouted back. “Also pickers, I call them pickers.” “What do most people call them?” “Ask him,” he said gesturing to a man standing a bit behind me. Jose has been doing this for fifty years.” Turning to look as Jose, I asked, “What do you call them?” “Knockers.” The next two pictures are of the bog after it has been flooded with 6″ to 8″ of water. Since cranberries float, the workers corral them by encircle them with a very long piece of black, flexible material about 8″ wide that floats. We could see two workers standing in the corral using a type of push-broom to move the cranberries around but couldn’t figure out why. Walking to the side of the truck, we found a man on a ladder who was watching the cranberries fill up the truck. “Hi,” I called out, “We have a question.” I didn’t expect him to climb down, but he did and cheerfully explained that there is a tub just below the surface of the water with a suction hose that sucks the cranberries up to a platform on the back of a truck. The men in the water are moving the cranberries toward the tub. Periodically one of the men walks over and tightens the black strip encircling the cranberries, thus making the corral smaller; a task, we all agreed, looks like hard work! The last picture shows the workers standing on the platform. They remove pieces of vine and use a type of push broom to move the cranberries onto a conveyer belt that dumps them into the back of the truck that will go to the receiving station in Chatsworth, NJ. That is where the cranberries get processed into juice and cranberry sauce. (Cranberries that are sold whole are gathered by a “dry harvesting” method by which mechanized machines “pick” the cranberries). As we were leaving, a woman wearing a “Piney Power” T-shirt hailed us to warn us about chiggers (happily no problems for us). Ever the journalist, I asked her about her t-shirt, etc. and discovered she has a cool website (www.pineypower.com) with lots of material about the Pine Barrens, including information about cranberries.
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