The Watery World of Cranberries

Oct 12, 2011 | 3 comments

The Colors of Harvest

      It’s harvest time!  I don’t even need to go near a bog to know that.  It’s rainy.  It’s cold.  It’s October.  And the cranberries have looked red and ready for several weeks – at least to me.
     Yesterday on our way to Astoria, we stopped by the CranMac bogs just to watch.  It took me back to my teaching days when our traditional fall field trip was all about cranberries.  Once I was standing with twenty or twenty-five first/second/third graders, right about where we were yesterday, and one kid’s hat blew off, right into the flooded bog.  Instantly, the wind caught it just right and it went sailing off out of reach.
     Before that hat even hit the water, the kid was drenched – it was that stormy!  But, in the delightful way of kids, he was much more interested in what a good sailboat his hat made than he was concerned about the rain pelting his head.  I remember, too, that he was amazed when  the hat was returned to him at Ocean Park School.  He thought it was gone forever.
     By contrast, Nyel and I watched the yesterday’s activity from the comfort of our warm, dry car.  Two huge machines were slowly making their way across the bog ‘beating the bushes,’ so to speak.  As the loosened cranberries floated to the surface, they created bright patterns that shifted with each nudge of the equipment and with each gust of wind.  It was mesmerizing.
     In my imagination, the operators of those machines were bog owners Ardell and Malcolm McPhail, but we couldn’t really tell.  The harvest uniform – slickers and sou’westers and hip boots – tend to disguise the workers.  Whoever they were, they worked in perfect tandem without need to communicate over the noise of their machinery.  They made it look easy – even enjoyable.
     Now that’s a trick – making hard work look like fun.  And, there’s no doubt in my mind that it makes the cranberry juice taste even better!


  1. Ann

    Thank you for sharing this. I have never seen a cranberry harvest and have been curious about the process.

  2. Steve Wright

    You reminded me of being at my Aunts house and playiny in the field bordering Cranguyma, and picking up Peacock feathers. Good times! Thank you, Sydney.

  3. Ardell

    Yes, it was us on the beaters! We use the beater reels to knock the cranberries from the vines, which then float and wait to be gathered and loaded in a truck. The cranberry vines are “trained” after the first year’s growth by running a beater lightly in a clockwise manner. From then on they are like the nap of fabric. The machine must always go “with” the vines when harvesting. It will ruff them up if it goes against the nap.
    The weather was strange that day. One minute it was sun shining, the next a big black cloud would open up on us.
    Nice picture!


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