It’s mid-December, winter has arrived, and the holiday season is well underway.
I have more lists going than usual and it occurs to me that in our enthusiasm to enjoy the season to the fullest, we sometimes cram too many activities into too short a time. There’s always something to do or somewhere to go. It doesn’t take long for us to get bogged down.
So what does “bogged down” mean?
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a bog as “an area of wet, spongy ground characterized by decaying mosses that form peat; a small marsh or swamp.” It follows then that “bogged down” refers to being stuck in this spongy ground, unable to make any progress.
Not all bogs bring to mind an image of dark, mucky places. Take a cranberry bog for instance. Until very recently, I never gave much thought to cranberries. I’ve seen the commercials on television with the guys in waders surrounded by floating cranberries, and figured they grew underwater. Not so.
Cranberries are native to America and are grown commercially in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon and Maine, as well as some Canadian provinces, and Chile. Cranberry bogs are soft, marshy grounds, frequently near wetlands, consisting of alternating layers of sand and organic matter.
The low-growing cranberry plant puts out long, woody runners. Short upright branches grow from these runners, and the fruit grows on the uprights. There is a 16-month cycle from bud set to harvest time.
Water is even more essential in the production of cranberries than in other crops because it is not just for irrigation. Sprinkler systems are used to protect the berries from spring and fall frosts that can damage the buds or berries, as well keeping the berries cool when summer temperatures soar.
Flooding bogs is so important in the production of cranberries that, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, bogs that cannot be adequately flooded are not considered profitable. Flooding a bog in winter protects the vines from low temperatures and drying winds, which lead to “winterkill.” A bog may be flooded as early as the beginning of December and remain flooded until March. Flooding may also be used to control pests.
The most widely known use of flooding is in wet-harvesting of the cranberries. The bog is flooded the night before, and using water reels, which growers refer to as “eggbeaters,” the berries are loosened by the churning water the next day. Under the skin of each cranberry is a tiny pocket of air which makes it buoyant. As they float to the surface of the water, the berries are rounded up and loaded into trucks. Wet-harvested berries are used for juices and other cranberry products.
Fresh cranberries, the ones found in the produce section of the market, are dry harvested. A mechanical picker is used in the dry bog to comb the berries off the vines and into burlap sacks.
Until the 1800s cranberries weren’t farmed on a wide scale. Now there are almost 50,000 acres of cranberries in the United States and Canada. For each planted acre, there averages three to four supporting acres of wetlands, which provide wildlife habitat and open space.
In closing, I want to wish you and yours a peaceful holiday season. Try not to get bogged down in preparations and activities. Plan some quiet evenings at home with your family and loved ones. Why not string some popcorn and cranberries?
Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.