Saskatoons—My (BIP’s) Story

BIP Brain Injured Person

After my MVA in 1998 and my subsequent Moderate traumatic Brain Injury I struggled with my identity.

I had identified myself with what I did to earn money and be successful.  All of that was gone.  At the time I desperately needed something to give me back an “identity”.

This was quite a process… not only was I in the process of learning how to do everything again, but there I was analysing everything so I could figure out something I could do to earn money.  I laugh at this now, but at the time it was a VERY VERY big deal.

One day I was looking at a catalogue from the Saskatoon farm in Alberta and I thought “I could do a Saskatoon U-pick orchard!” One of the wonderful things about my TBI is that I have no ability to strategize or plan ahead… so with no reservations I jumped in with both feet.

First I had to clear 3 acres of land.  Okay, no sweat, hire a skidder, remove trees, brush, and level with a log float.

-use an old engine hood as a stone boat.

-hire a tractor with a tiller to till me 22 rows each 220 ft long.

-hire a tractor with post pounder to pound in posts

This all sounds so easy, right.  Well none of it was.  The exhaustion I felt each and every day was unimaginable.  In my entire life I have NEVER QUIT and this was no exception.  Measuring out the rows, figuring out where to get the stuff as I became aware of another need, installing the electric perimeter fence.

My whole life was focused on this project, I had no time to even fart let alone think about me, and the price I was paying to “accomplish” this quest for an identity.

I would ride my 21-speed mountain bike 23km in the morning to get to the U-pick project, work all day, and ride back to where I was staying.

2200 plants arrived. I was so overwhelmed.  It was hot and I needed to get them planted.  All I can say is thank goodness for the help that kept me sane and got the job done.

Now it is supposed to rain, right? Or so I thought.

Soon it became apparent I was going to have to water the seedlings or they were going to die.

Okay,…. so there I am buying 150 feet of ¾” heavy duty garden hoses, 15 of them.  Hooked them all together.  One end was attached 2000’ feet away to the well with a ¼ horse power jet pump, the other held the wand.  I am shaking my head as I recall this… thank God it was downhill.

Ok so now I am timing 30 seconds per plant.  Do the math, I was standing out there for over 18 hours to get each plant a drink.  I would no sooner get to the end of the last row and I would need to start at the beginning again.

Of course, now the weeds are growing… so weeding and watering.

Even in my brain injured state it became clear I had some serious problems.  Of course, none of these things were thought out in the first place.

I think back then it went something like this: well, it couldn’t be that hard to plant a few Saskatoons, and then in 4 years I will have a market and be making 12,000.00 a year.  Looking after plants couldn’t be that hard, right? Right?

Now to deal with the need for water and weeds.  Okay, so let’s lay down landscape fabric and mulch.  I lost count how many gazillion trips it took with my wheelbarrow to move the cedar mulch from the humongous pile to each row.

I was so exhausted, so very exhausted.  I wanted to quit… but I just kept saying it has to get easier, look what you’ve done, the rest is nothing.  Needless to say my adrenals were getting quite a workout.

Year 2

The following spring, all the plants had survived.  Happy dance didn’t last for long… it rapidly became apparent not only did I have aphids but I needed to mow between the rows.

So much for getting easier.  Dealing with a huge aphid infestation, weeding, watering and mowing.

I bought a huge batch of ladybugs to let go…and then I talked to an agrologist.  Aphids only attack plants that are stressed.  Now water testing, soil testing… simple right? Anyone, even me with MTBI can do this.  I sit here just shaking my head… what was I thinking!

Off to the store to buy a syphon so I could feed the Saskatoons without watering (45 seconds per plant) it was now taking 27 hours to water.

By mid-summer it was up to 60 seconds per plant and I was forced to acknowledge I could not do this… so I hired the neighbour to water, so I could keep up with all the other demands.

Early fall I was trying to see if I would find an easier way to water.  Drip irrigation—so off to Williams Lake to the irrigation place.  They sell 200’ of ½” hose and 200’ of ¼” line and emits (1 gallon per hour). We were told to make the hole with a nail, put the end of the emitter that you can blow air through into the pipe, or into ¼” tubing.  Sounds simple.

So there we are, blowing on the emitters, discovering they do not slide into the ¼” hose very well, so it wasn’t long and we had blisters and hands so sore you pretty much couldn’t feed yourself.  I kept thinking we only have one row done, 21 more rows.  I couldn’t imagine working in irrigation industry like this, there has to be tools for this… Off to Delta in Kamloops.  Great people, THERE ARE TOOLS!  Less work to do the remaining 21 rows than the first one.  Having the right emits, hose, tools, compression fitting made all the difference.  Now I was able to water one row at a time.

I wore out two push-mowers and made the move to get a ride-on mower.

That winter I began collecting Saskatoon recipes.  The big plan was to make a recipe book to sell to the U-pickers.

Year 3

Finally a few berries.  Very few as the birds got most of them.

So there I am looking at the berry netting, scare devices and god knows what else.  Finally settled on a scare device that was solar powered and emits sounds of predator birds, distress calls.  I could purchase different chirps based on the birds I had eating my Saskatoons.

Year 4

Too may berries for me to pick, so I hired 2 neighbour kids to help.  Lots of advertising, but no u-pickers.

Bought a 22-3/4 hp jet pump and ran 11/2 lines down to the field, so now I could water 5 rows at a time.  Wore out the ride-on-mower, needed to buy a new one.  The amount of mowing to keep in between the rows neat and tidy was horrendous.

Had to rip and all the landscape fabric as the Saskatoon runners were all popping up at the edge of the fabric.  I never knew how much Saskatoons runner until now.  Ever try to get rid of landscape fabric that is covered with 6 inches of mulch and the ends are dug into the dirt and the bushes are now almost 4 feet tall?  I used every swear word ever invented at least once every 20 minutes or so, I was a blue streak and it wasn’t because I was moving fast.

Year 5

A handful of U-pickers, a group from Clinton came to berry pick, and I had phone-in orders.

Year 6

Bumper crop, unable to find berry pickers, wine companies phoned in big orders.  Dawn to dusk picking.  Rat on treadmill. EXHAUSTION!!!

6 years with no riding, 6 years beating the snot out of my adrenals, and 6 more years under my belt post MTBI (11 all together).  I had to admit this venture was not a good fit for me and my MTBI.  Hard pill to swallow.  So  instead of being defeated I decided perhaps this was a wake up call and I really should just like me for who I am and not what I can do.  This was a pivotal point in my recovery because I truly began to let everything go and just got to know this “new” person, like her and try to figure out how to have a life based on happiness instead of doing.

What a long, exhausting ordeal, but I am so grateful for the experiences and knowledge, especially in the insight I gained.


I hope you enjoy the recipes.