Not ready to farm … yet

My 3-foot by 6-foot raspberry bed.

When Bri and I began talking about taking on his grandparents’ farm house, we started dreaming about the things we could do with the place. Would it just be a weekend retreat? A full-time home? A hobby farm? Could we grow grapes for wine? Raise bees for honey? The ideas were endless from the possible to the ridiculous.

I’ve enjoyed gardening in our yard in town for several years. We have an odd nook in our yard that’s fenced and hidden from the areas where we grill, swim and lounge, so it’s been a great spot for my eight raised garden beds.

A few years ago, I planted a few raspberry canes in one of the beds. Who doesn’t like berries? My parents had a large shelterbelt around the yard of the small acreage that I grew up on and my dad added hundreds of trees over the years, including many fruit trees and berry bushes that we enjoyed during the years they lived there.

I thought that if I planted the raspberries in raised beds, they might not spread quite so badly… that was a bust, so we’re constantly pulling up or mowing suckers.

We finally had a few raspberries 3 summers ago. They were great, but as soon as they got really ripe, they were infested with beetles. I learned that if we picked them when they were red, but not purple, we could save them.

Last year, though, the fruit flies showed up. We noticed a lot of them on the raspberries, which didn’t seem like a big deal, until my youngest noticed the worms inside the berries. Ugh. So disgusting.

I did some research and found out they’re called Spotted Wing Drosphila. The state extension service information was not promising. The flies lay their eggs in the berries before they’re ripe, so just around the time that they’re perfect to eat, the insides are filled with squirming worms. They’re not dangerous to eat, but who wants to eat fly larvae? Yuck.

There are pesticides to try, but from what I could figure out, you need to put them on the fruit, but you can’t eat the fruit for several days after spraying… longer than it takes for the fruit to ripen and rot on the canes. So that seems useless. And I’m not crazy about the idea of eating berries covered in chemicals.

I also read that having good air flow and sunlight help fend off the flies, so we tried to thin the canes well this spring, but they grow so quickly that the patch was soon crowded and thick with new canes again.

This summer I had high hopes that we’d have lots of healthy berries. The bushes were covered and the first few raspberries were tasty and worm free. I was looking forward to canning some jam.

But it was not to be. I soon started seeing the flies… and then the worms. *sigh* I read

The flies might not seem like a big deal, but their worms inside are pretty disgusting.

again, looking for other ideas to deal with the flies, but I didn’t find anything new.

I picked raspberries, inspecting each one carefully to check for worms, but on Monday night, I threw out more than I kept, wondered how many of the ones that I thought were fine were actually infested, and decided I’d had enough. I started pulling out the canes.

I decided that it was less depressing to have no raspberries, than to have hundreds that we’d never want to eat.

So, I went to get Brian and we pulled out the entire patch.

I thought of our family members who are farmers and the frustrations of weeds, pests and weather that they have to deal with every year. We won’t have a few jars of jam as a result of the flies, but they could lose an entire year’s revenue with an ill-timed storm.

So for now, I’ll stick with the tomatoes in my garden and my 40+ hours-per-week desk job, rather than considering making my living from honey, berries or wine. But I’m going to keep dreaming about bees and grape vines on the farm.

The end of the raspberries… For this year, at least.

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