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The harvest is a time for celebration, a time for work, and a time for reckoning.  When it is done, we know how many berries we have, how many pictures we have, how many friends we have, and we wonder where we are going next.  The day after the harvest, everyone is relaxed.  The trucks are idle and parked neatly, the fields turn a bright crimson, and it is not so obvious what to do in the morning.

Of course, even as the last berry is counted, it is time to think of next year's berries.  I met Henry on the bogs yesterday.  He was leaning back in the leather seat of his SUV instead of perched on his berry beater.   For once the gold chain around his neck looked like a decoration instead of a weight.  He was smiling, he was thinking about his wife coming in from Puerto Rico, he was remembering kind bus drivers and explaining to me about whether to leave his car at Sagamore or Tedeschi's, and we were both agreeing that the bus was the best way to Logan.

He headed home to take a shower and get on the bus....but, on the way to the bus he was going to swing by the bog in Patuisset, check the boards of a dam against the high tide, and spread some fertilizer.

Til next wishes for fruitful growth.

the end

A Walk on the Bog

Over Patuisset Marsh



This experience has been about the work of the harvest, so I want to say a little about the workers.  Perhaps one could accuse me of leaving them for last, but this is not so; they have been first and always in the pictures.  All of these images have been about them;  here I want to give their names and acknowledge what they do.

I could call them the "team", I could call them the "crew", the "harvesters" maybe, but what I saw them doing was work.  Hard work.  Constantly and with dignity.  From 8am to 6pm -- every day.  Through bright sunny mornings, glowing afternoons, and howling winds of our worst October weather, they were in the bogs gathering in the cranberries.

There are extraordinary smooth flows to their motions and I hope I have conveyed a little of that.  In the water, the bulk of waders, the resistance of the water, and the ripples every time someone takes a step, create forms that we do not see every day.  But in the dry harvest too, the careful pace at which the Furford pickers comb the berries out of the ground-hugging plants, the gentle burlap sacks in which the precious berries are first collected, and the need to tread carefully so as not to crush the plants mean that everyone is moving in the bogs in a careful, dignified way.

These pictures of the workers are not closeups, mostly.  I do not know these men well, and I have no wish to intrude on their privacy with my lens and convey an impression that I have captured their souls.  I am not trying to do that.  All I want to talk about is their work.  I think that their work and how they do it actually tells us much about who they are, but even more, it tells us about what is our connection to them.


Edwin, Jayson

Pedro, Angel, Pete







Seeker of light

Brian scoffed at me when I put this title on a picture of a worker pulling up sprinkler heads, but this is what Brian is, a seeker of light.  A burly, straight-spoken, relentless seeker of light.

No light, no berries.

I do not know Brian well, but I have followed the harvest for two years now and I have gotten to see Brian at work, I have talked to him in the fields, and I have accepted his hospitality at the harvest.  I have seen him start pumps on tractors, fix berry beaters in the bog, haul sacks off the fields in Pocasset, take umbrage at a worker who took a rest, help DNR inspectors find missing herring, admire berries glowing just under the water, drive his truck a hundred thousand miles in the bogs, lobby for pictures in the magazine, chat with neighbors walking their dogs, and trim saplings blocking the light from the bogs.

Brian always looks the same, is always arriving in his truck, moves with a broken step from some accident, always has at least one of his dogs in the truck with him.

As far as I can see, Brian has one goal in life -- to grow berries.  If you work for Brian and you don't pay attention to the berries, you are gone.  If you talk to Brian and you distract him from the berries, you are ignored.  If you have some other agenda, at harvest time Brian does not know what you are talking about.  This relentless single-mindedness can give Brian an abrasive edge or at least its appearance, but I think the world is a better place for this single-mindedness.

As I look at people around me, I wonder how many are as driven to do their work as Brian is to do his.  I think we would all benefit from a little more of his relentless purposefulness.

...and from his stewardship of the land.

Berries need light to grow and Brian provides us with plenty of light.  Stand out in the middle of the Cataumet bogs, enter free courtesy of Brian, and look up at the sun.  Watch the hawks screech overhead, take a deep breath as a flight of geese coasts on their wing from the sky to the water on the flooded bog, and startle a duck or two paddling around the bogs.  All of this wide open space with berries growing is under Brian's care. Although there are inevitable conflicts with other users of the land, I am hard pressed to point a single person who is more responsible for providing me with open space and fresh air and blue sky and sun streaming down than Brian.

Brian's grandfather grew berries, Brian's father grew berries, now Brian grows berries - there have been five generations on this land.  I wonder who will do this next.  Of course it is none of my business, but I wonder about the pattern.  Will it break in this generation or will it not?  I do not know.  But I do know that if there is a next generation, we should hope it will be like Brian.

Brian in the Light

Morning Overview



A Problem



Ebullience.  There is no word for Henry but ebullience, unless it is friendly, hospitable, hearty, tireless, or responsible.  Henry does not stop.  He is always going.  Problems are opportunities.  If the gear teeth strip on a drive wheel of his berry beater in the middle of the bog, Henry has it under the welder within a half hour and back in the bog in an hour.  If the pull cord starter of his Furford picker pruner pulls out, Henry dismantles the apparatus in the field, and rewinds it in the sun, his face glowing with his exertions.  If a visitor stops at the bog, Henry hails them with a smile and a welcome, and goes back to work.

Henry knows every ditch and drain in the 180 acres of the Handy bogs.  Henry knows what to do next.  Henry knows what everyone is doing.

Henry is the foreman, and the harvest would not happen without Henry.

Henry in the light

Henry's hands

Popping Berries


Thomas Landers Road

I was suffering.  The October weather was relentlessly good.  This morning was forecast cloud and rain, which made me feel easier that my friend Ida was coming to print in the studio.  Maybe I would be able to sit still in front of the computer while the berries bounced in the beaters.

But it was impossible.  The sun was shining, not a raindrop in sight, so as Ida arrived I urged on her a chance to see the harvest, we went to get her camera and tripod and off we went to Thomas Landers Road.

There we found a basin of berries in the light.  Always light, wherever you turned, light.  Overhead, clouds billowing light floated over this clearing in the woods for the berry plants to look up to the light give us these sparkling spaces to wander in, with little pink flags marking the boundaries, with men dragging booms, pushing berries to the suction, men upright on their berry beaters floating through the pools it seems, but rooted to the earth, upending the marker stakes, thrusting them back to mark the next sweep, cars parking and spilling people to touch this marvel from their past, water spilling out of the truck and flowing back into the pool,  gleaming light, reflecting light, spilling light, glowing berries red in the light light light.


The Harvest

This is what I saw and felt at Thomas Landers Road.


As the team moved into the second big space in Falmouth, slowly slowly my mind sought a new solution in my pictures.  There was much repetition, what was new ??  Of course the actions do repeat; the cycle of the cranberries and the recycle is the story and is the scene.  The places repeat....same bogs as last year, usually.

But to stay engaged I must improve my approach, maybe change my perspective a little, and, as I contemplated the bogs in East Falmouth, slowly I saw that here was a place to try panoramas, especially vertical panoramas.

A friend taught me how to do this.  I had never given much thought to panoramas before, and I had always thought of them as an easy way to make a very very stretched out thin picture......not so appealing.  But, when I was shown that the key is to turn the axis of the camera to right angles with the axis of the camera's sweep....... this was a revelation.  I saw some stunning panoramas from my friend and I was intrigued; I tried a few, and was tempted, but never did it quite seem worth the effort.

That changed in East Falmouth.

Here it was truly worthwhile to include in one picture the sweep from the berries at one's feet, through the depth of the bogs, to the tips of the clouds billowing overhead.  Here the distortions of perspective lent an air of mystery and grandeur to the scene, and put an emphasis on those rich red berry pools that they truly deserved.

I started doing the panoramas here, and I have not stopped....maybe when the harvest stops.

At work in the Sun

Berry Pool and Sky

Berry Pool Panorama



After the storm the team was halfway through the Falmouth bogs off Carriage Shop Road.  This is such a long stretch of bog that the secrets of the trade are laid bare for the slowest of comprehension to see.  What becomes clear in these bogs is that there is simply not enough water to flood them all, so the work proceeds in steps, from top to bottom from high ground to low ground.  The sequence is -- flood the top two bogs, beat the berries in the first, and move on to the second.  As the berries are gathered in the first, release the water slowly and flow into the third.  When the beaters are done the second, they move to the third, the gatherers move to the second, and so it goes.

There are fifteen segments to the large Falmouth bog and the crew was there for seven days.  Two segments a day.  Flood, remove sprinklers, beat, gather with the boom, pump, haul, drain.  This is the cycle.  This was done twice a day for a week.  For the first three days it was done in constant rain.  For the last four days the sun was shining in glory.

Seeker of Light

Berry Hop

Water Work


The Storm

The storm came almost on schedule.  As soon as the wet harvest started the storm started.  On a Friday it dropped lowering clouds in the sky and then blew hard through the night.  On Saturday it lifted for blue skies all day, but on Sunday it was back, and it rained for another four days.  At times hard driving wind, at times gentle drifting drops.  There was so much water pouring down from the sky that it seemed it was meant to flood the bogs.

The work went on.  The main Cataumet bogs were cleared over the weekend and the teams moved to Falmouth.  By the time that the clouds cleared and this fair weather and somewhat ill photographer caught up with them again on Wednesday, they were halfway through the immense bogs off Carriage Shop Road.

Big clouds boomed through the sky, the light glared on the water, and the birds scattered when the water pickers went into their pools.  The harvest went on, life went on, and the storm cleared.

Before the Storm

Come the Storm

The Boom


The First Berry Pool

After all the preparations, pumps, pools, water flowing, bog threshers positioned, the wet harvest started on Wednesday morning.  Then it stopped almost as quickly.  As I wandered in the direction of the bogs on the other side of County Road, I saw Brian rushing past in his truck, a look of urgent determination on his face that told me not to crack a joke about an unpainted board on his truck.  A conversation with Pete at the pumping truck and he was off.  I sauntered on, crossed County Road, came down into the bogs and climbed the hill.

Brian rushed by again.  Big problem !  Definitely not happy.

I descended into the lower bog and now I could see what was the problem.  An engine hose had blown out on one of the berry beaters.  Fortunately the machine had been at the side of the bog and it was easy to contain the problem and to work on the machine. 

Of course the work had not stopped completely.  Just one machine had been disabled and a few people, Brian included, seriously distracted,

So the work went on, and the wet harvest started.

What I remember most about that little disaster though came not even at the bog.  It was the propane that lingered in my throat and nose and clothes for days.  An acrid smell and taste, like metal.  Nothing nice about it.  And I wondered, I was just passing through.  What about everyone who does the work?

The First Berry Pool



The dry harvest is winding down.  It is picturesque, a line of reaping machines wending its way across a vast open space, boxes strewn in the fields, helicopter lifts, but it is inefficient.  Work cannot be started until the dew dries in the morning.  No work at all on rainy days.  Many berries get left on the plants.  It only pays off if the harvested fruit can command a "fresh fruit" premium at the buyers'.  If there is too much damage from bugs or rot, the premium is lost.  Relying on outside support, like a helicopter service, introduces another uncertain variable.  Uncertain variables tend to increase costs.

It is time to go in the water.

Water is good.  You can start earlier, you can work right through a rainy day, and more berries are freed from the vines. 

But you need water.

For days the pumps have been running.  They are everywhere.  They are in the picturesque pump houses, there are caterpillar tractors, there are diesel engines on flat beds standing naked by the fields.  Fat hoses fill to their full thickness.  Water spews out of conduits.  Water spills over dam tops.  Water is whipped by the winds off the bogs and down the trails.  The ducks and geese and swans have broad new homes.  The frogs are hopping and swimming, no longer confined to the ditches.

There is water everywhere, there is light everywhere, the berry pools are coming.

First Flood

Eager Beaver

Water Forms