Wednesday, May 15, 2013

JG Ranch Blueberries U-Pick, Brooksville, Fla.

Blueberry picking can be fun unless you are battling with hungry birds. Earlier this month I went to war with several flocks of Cedar Waxwing birds at JG Ranch U-Pick farm in Brooksville, Florida. Adding to the battle feel were two air cannons firing, over our heads, every two to three minutes.

Blueberries of JG Ranch u-pick farm, Brooksville, Fla.
“Do you think the birds are ignoring the cannons?” asked a woman standing beside me at the u-pick welcome table.

“Yes,” said the attendant, "We will keep firing until the predatory birds return. The rain has kept them away."
It had been raining for two days, the ground was muddy, and the Waxwings were hungry. This farm was one of many they stopped at during their migratory flight.
I ventured into the field with two picking pails and met the farmer. “The biggest berries are this side of the air cannon, near the sheds," he said, pointing to an area in the middle of the farm.
I sloshed through the mud but found the bushes bare. However a patch of berries right next to the air cannon was more stocked. And fortunately the cannon swiveled every two to three minutes pointing in different directions.
I rushed in and out of the patch, picking as quickly as I could, all the while watching both the cannon and the sky for flying competition.
Slowly the patch ran out of berries and the ringing in my ears increased. As I started moving to a new area I a huge cloud of bird rise from a row of berries about 100 feet from me. Mmm, I thought, I bet there are good berries there.

The area was still in direct line with the cannon but far enough away that area seemed quieter or maybe I was used to the sound by then. The berries were big and plentiful and full of bird beak and claw marks.
With my buckets overflowing, I returned to get my berries weighed. I picked 12 pounds in two hours. When it came time to pay the attendant said, "Ah, you hear that? That's the call of a predator bird which means we can turn off the air cannons."
If you want to go blueberry picking in Florida in May just be prepared to bring ear plugs in case you get in the middle of a between Cedar Waxwings and air cannons.
 JG Ranch also grows strawberries. They are open approximately from December to end of May but call for details (352) 799-0556.

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