Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

October 14, 2007

Harvestin' Cranberries

A few years ago, when I was still in California, I happened to mention to my coworkers that I grew up across the street from a cranberry bog, where I'd play in the summer and skate in the winter. They looked at me, perplexed, and asked, "What's a cranberry bog?" I said, "You know, where they grow cranberries?" They said, "Really? We thought cranberries grew on trees or bushes, like blueberries!" Then it occurred to me that unless you were from a cranberry-growing state (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin & Washington), you may indeed think cranberries grew on bushes.

But no, they grow on vines that run along the ground. The bogs have "islands" where the berries grow, and in between the islands are irrigation channels. All through the summer they use sprinklers on the plants, drawing water from the channels. When the cranberries are ready for harvest, the growers flood the bogs and the cranberries float on the surface for gathering. Then in the winter, they leave the bogs flooded so that they freeze and protect the plants below. If you don't live near an ice skating rink, you can skate on the bogs, although the surface isn't very smooth and a lot of leaves and bits of long grass do poke through the ice. Still, if you have a hankering to go skating on a nice afternoon, a bog does work in a pinch.

I shot these pictures 20 years ago, in October, 1987, of the harvest at a bog along Rte. 6A, in East Sandwich. This is one of the bogs I also used to skate on because it was pretty large and the quality of the ice was better than the one across the street from my house.

It's a truly stunning picture, to see all these bobbing, ripe, shining bright red berries.
The harvesters can wear hip-waders, as they are standing on the bogs, which are only flooded about 8"-9" deep, although the irrigation channels would obviously be deeper. They stand in a line and drag a boom across the water to gather the cranberries close to shore.

Then the berries are sucked out of the water and shot into the back of this truck. On the far upper right corner, you can see the chute angled. When you drive by on Rte. 6A, it's a really cool sight to see all these berries flying out of the chute into the truck.

Here's a pretty fall scene.

I believe this is "Smiling Pool", in East Sandwich. It's located behind the Green Briar Nature Center. Children's author Thornton W. Burgess set his "Peter Rabbit" stories in Sandwich and the creatures lived around Smiling Pool. Other Burgess characters included Jemima Puddle Duck and Jimmy Skunk. The Green Briar Nature Center also sells a lot of delicious home made jams and jellies. There is also a Thornton W. Burgess Museum in downtown Sandwich, on Shawme Pond.


  1. Anonymous4:30 PM

    I thought Peter Rabbit and Jemimah Puddle Duck were Beatrix Potter characters--?

    Regardless, cranberries are interesting critters. I know they grow them too on the Oregon Coast. I never made it over to see a harvest, but I bet it would have been gorgous.

  2. Oh wait, Jemima is Beatrix Potter, you're right. But Thornton Burgess also did a series of Peter Rabbit books in the late 1800's I think. I really should have paid more attention in school when they took us on the field trips!

    Other characters were Bobby White, Buster Bear, Grandfather Frog & Billy Possum.

  3. Oh, keep posting stuff like this, I'm gonna grab the kids and we'll hide in the baggage section of an airplane to get there, I swear.

  4. Axe - I still have photos of NH and Maine that I shot in the fall of 1987 of the foliage yet to post....

  5. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Jo-your pictures are great and very interesting as well. I think you should start a book of all the interesting places, am sure it would sell as your commentary is so good.

    That little shanty on Smiling Pond looked like an outhouse to me LOL. Jean

  6. Anonymous2:10 PM

    If it didn't mean winter was just around the corner, I think Autumn would be my favourite time of year. Beautiful pictures!

  7. those are gorgeous pics! i've only ever seen those snapple (i think it's snapple) commercials with the 2 guys in waiders who are standing in the middle of all those cranberries lol

  8. Beautiful pictures. I Love Fall :)

  9. Well, you learn something new every day!

    BTW, JoJo, Peter Rabbit IS Beatrix Potter. Did you see him in the trailers for Ms Zellweger as Miss POtter?

  10. Val - I know that Beatrix Potter did a Peter Rabbit, but so did Thornton W. Burgess.

  11. Anonymous7:25 PM

    if i lived near cranberry bogs, i'd be picking them all the time. love, love, LOVE cranberries!

    your pix are wonderful, as usual

  12. i totally love unsweetened cranberry juice. (really) it's weird, i know.