All Hands

our blueberry journey: part 3
How did you transplant your blueberries? Lots of hard work and persistence.

We can honestly say we’ve never done something so mentally and physically demanding. And not just for a few hours, for full days.

The backhoe arrived as scheduled and Rich got to work learning the controls. In about 15 minutes, he gave me the wave to start heading back to the blueberry field. He operated the machine and I drove the truck and trailer, roped and unroped the plants, as well as guided the plants onto the trailer and later into their new homes on our property.

When we first arrived to the patch, we tried everything you can imagine to get the plants out of the ground but what seemed to work best was to “pop” the plants loose, using the bucket, then looping the strap around their base and lifting them onto the trailer. Much trial and error led to this method but I’ll spare you those details.

 

We called and sent messages to friends and family letting them know of our blueberry plans and that anybody willing to help was more than welcome. The two to show up: my dad and grandpa, with an additional truck and trailer. We tried to warn everyone of the mud, but now we have two people who survived the day and lived to tell about it. Right before they arrived, we hit a stride and celebrated the small victory of our newly loaded plants. The next plant Rich went into the mud to pull, and didn’t come back out – the backhoe was stuck. We specifically used this piece of equipment because we knew if this happened, ideally we could use the bucket to pull ourselves out. However, doing so is the scariest thing to watch with mud and frustration flying and the wheels occasionally coming off the ground. We managed to get it out, but were concerned for how we’d proceed, especially with the arrival of help.

We managed to continue by only pulling the plants we could reach from the fields perimeter, and it was nice to have someone help guide Rich and the additional person to loop the strap around each plant.  The four of us moved 14 plants in one day.

 

Day Two

Rich and I were on our own the second day. My dad left his 16ft trailer so we could haul more plants at once. We woke when the sun rose and got straight back to work.

My hands hurt from the excessive use, but were also bruised from the strap pinches, shovel hits and scratched from the unruly branches. I could feel the decline in my pace, but we set out with the goal to move as many plants as possible, now knowing 200 plants was unattainable within the span of our equipment rental.

My favorite part – we worked together. He trusted me to be his eyes on the ground through hand signals and hollars, never second guessing my instruction. And I trusted him not to kill me when I was face to face with the bucket, or next to a swinging plant about to be dropped on the trailer. It reinforced that together this idea of the Henstooth Homestead might actually work.

With the rental lasting 24 hours, we had a few hours the following day and even went back out to pull every last plant we could.

In the end, we moved 50 plants and could not have done a single plant more, given the resources that we had. We’re thankful for the help my dad and grandpa provided, for each other, and for the incredible weather we had those few days. Now that the snow has fallen, we know that was literally our last chance to attempt a transplant. And while we don’t have a blueberry field of 200, we feel successful in what we were able to accomplish.

The following weekend, we attempted to align the plants the best we could, filled each hole and began the trimming process.

So where do we go from here?

Trimming the crazy overgrowth will continue while the plants are dormant. In the spring, we’ll cross our fingers that the plants take and will thrive in their new conditions. There’s really no guarantee, just a lot of hope that our 50/50 gamble is in our favor. Depending on the weather and resources available to us, we’re considering another transplant in the spring. We’ll be sure to post a fourth and final part to the series but until then, we don’t want to hear the word “blueberry” until spring.

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