The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to make a Berry Apron

Berry apronLong-time readers will be aware that our movie-star neighbor loves to harvest Autumn Olive berries, which he freezes for the winter and also turns into delicious fruit leather.  His farm is overrun with the invasive bush, so he only has to walk a few feet from his door to pick, but that picking can be time-consuming.  So this year, our neighbor developed the Berry Apron, a DIY picking tool to make his harvests even easier.  You can follow along at home.

The first step is to take a length of PVC pipe like you'd use for quick hoops and thread a rope through it.  It's even better if the pipe has already been used for quick hoops and has developed a bend.  Using this bend (or what you envision the bend would be) as a guide, sew a channel into an old sheet (the same way you'd make the top of a curtain fit over a curtain rod), then push the pipe (with its embedded rope) through.  Tie the ends of the rope Picking
autumn olive berriestogether to pull the pipe into a solid curve, then make a hole at the peak of the pipe's curve to attach another rope, which will go around your neck.  Finally, use a bungee cord to secure the Berry Apron around your back, and you're ready to pick.

The great thing about the Berry Apron, my neighbor reports, is that it lets you pick with both hands at once without worrying about channeling the berries into a bucket.  He and Nellie (pictured above) plucked about two gallons of Autumn Olive berries into their Berry Aprons in about half an hour, and he could envision using the same aprons with highbush blueberries or any other non-thorny bush berry.

Harvesting autumn
olive berries

I'll be curious to hear if anyone else tries the Berry Apron and streamlines the process.  Our neighbor was already thinking that version 2.0 might be made with a screen instead of cloth, so bugs and dirt fall through.  Any other suggestions to make this good idea even better?

Our chicken waterer is Mark's invention to bring clean water to the backyard.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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That is seriously too neat!
Comment by Brandy Mon Sep 16 08:14:23 2013
My wife mentioned that straps that crisscross along your back would relieve strain on the neck. I may make one of these for blueberries in large pots.
Comment by Lenny Mon Sep 16 10:48:51 2013
What a very clever idea! I'm a slow berry-picker, so anything that would speed the process is good. This would probably be better for 'dry' berries than soft fruit such as raspberries. I like the idea of straps across the back, although getting it on and off might be tricky.
Comment by Rhonda from Baddeck Mon Sep 16 14:28:36 2013
I wonder if a berry rake might make the work go even faster? (You can google for examples, but they look like small dustpans with teeth) A friend of mine uses such a device to harvest wild cranberries/blueberries/etc in interior Alaska.
Comment by Rena Mon Sep 16 17:43:11 2013

When sewing up the apron, adding a bit of material so the apron naturally forms a shallow cone will direct berries into the middle so the weight settles evenly and you don't lose any stragglers off the edge of the apron before it fill up.

Then, in the center, you could add a drawstring closure (like you see in a drawstring shoulder bag. When the apron is full you position yourself over the bucket, open the drawstring and now you have a berry funnel. Very quick and no spillage.

Added bonus comes with bushes or fruits you can shake out of the tree, into the funnel, and directly into ready buckets.

Comment by Mike Tue Sep 17 07:35:51 2013
The Berry Apron is cute and looks functional but I have a question about the berries. Are Autumn Olive berries and Pin/Fire cherries the same thing? I have been researching and Autumn Olive berries look exactly like the Pin/Fire cherries that I pick. This is my first year to harvest them so that is why I'm curious. Thanks!
Comment by Kay Wed Sep 18 15:01:11 2013
Kay --- Autumn Olive and cherries are very different things. When wildcrafting, I recommend finding the scientific name of the species you're interested in, which will help you tell apart plants that might have the same common name.
Comment by anna Thu Sep 19 18:18:48 2013

Another quick way to harvest autumn olive berries is to put a tarp under the heaviest laden branches, rake your hands through the fruit, catching it in the tarp. Then pour it into a 5 gal. "sheetrock" bucket. Tarps & buckets areso useful around the homestead, a blessing of our plastic era.

Comment by Paul Sat Oct 12 16:14:18 2013
I usually just nestle a big bowl in the lap of my apron, using clothespins to hold it in place:
Comment by Sadge Fri Nov 15 22:58:43 2013
i use a bucket or large pitcher with a handle. with a belt loop it thru the handle, wal ah, hands free
Comment by Anonymous Thu Jun 11 21:15:06 2015
I have tried for years to come up with some way to pick our blueberries and you have done it,Thank you!!!!!
Comment by Pam Jenkins Fri Jun 12 20:10:16 2015
My mind went right to a Hula hoop. It would already be the right shape and is hollow inside. I think they sell different thicknesses so you could find one strong enough...
Comment by Aimee Fri Aug 7 17:16:50 2015
I think it's a brilliant idea for me it would have to have the crossed shoulder straps as one of the other reads suggested. It's going to a miserable weekend weather wise here so I might have to have a bit of a play around see what I can come up with.
Comment by Helen Fri Oct 7 09:27:25 2016

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