WILTON — Siblings from the Jay and Canton area arrived at a local blueberry farm Tuesday afternoon ready to pick berries.
"It's a yearly thing," said Maryette Castonguay as she and sisters Lauri Anne Castonguay, Elaine Castonguay, Connie St. Pierre and brother, Bert Castonguay, prepared to enter the Wilton Blueberry Farm field of high bush plants.
They weren't alone.
About 2,000 pounds of blueberries were picked over the weekend. The farm opened on Friday, owners Irving Faunce and Jan Collins said.
It's an early start to picking, about a week earlier than ususal, but it may also end earlier, Faunce said Tuesday. The normal season usually begins about Aug. 1.
"A good mixture of sun and rain," Faunce added, has helped produce a bountiful crop this year.
The couple maintain about 4,000 bushes at the farm with eight different varieties of blueberries. Each variety boasts a different flavor, said Collins as she led the siblings to a spot with good picking.
"We're encouraging people to come now," she said. "It could be a quick season just like the strawberry season."
Other local blueberry growers are also seeing an early start.
At Kohtala's Blueberries in Vienna there's a good crop of wild blueberries, Marie Kohtala said Tuesday. A family venture, they started raking the crop last Friday. They winnow the berries and sell by the pound, she said.
A few rakers will come in for a few days to help but family members see the time as "that's when we all get together," she said.
It's a lot of work. The 10 acres are mowed after the season is over and covered with mulch hay. In the spring, the field on Vienna Mountain is burned to remove the old vines. It would be hard to rake if there were too many bushes, she said.
Kohtala and her husband, Edwin, started selling blueberries in 1957. After Edwin died two years ago, she considered stopping but her children and grandchildren wanted to continue.
Nearby the crop at Hall's Wild Blueberries on Davis Road in Vienna is beautiful and plants are heavy with lots of berries, Kenny Rackliff said Tuesday. Picking at the patch, owned by Robert Hall, started about a week ago.
"The weather is whacky but the crop is spectacular this year," Rackliff said.
About 850 pounds of nice, dry, good-sized berries were picked in the last couple days, he said.
They accept orders for blueberries with pickups available at Sunset Mountain View Camps.
In New Sharon, Firth's Fruit Farm on Intervale Road has berries ready for people to pick their own.
"Usually the first week is slow (picking) but not this year. There are lots of ripe berries," said Grace Firth of her fives acres of high bush non-sprayed plants.
Blueberry seasons haven't been normal for several years. A couple years ago they started picking on July 6 and the season lasted about four weeks, she said. The best picking usually starts about Aug. 1. She hopes the crop will last through August.
The weather and a lack of berries the last few years has King Farm owners, Cher and Lonnie King, taking a break this summer.
The Kings have closed their blueberry fields on Route 156 farm in Weld this year. That weird weather has killed cherry trees and they expect half the amount of blackberries and raspberries this year, she said.
In Phillips, Hope and Lloyd Griscom expect an earlier crop of their organic wild low bush plants on the East Madrid Road in Madrid.
With a "lovely view" near Saddleback Mountain, the crop on their 20 acres at Peace and Plenty Farm is usually ready by the third week in August, she said.
The wild blueberries were picked by locals prior to the couple deciding to farm it in 2001. The crop was organically certified that year also.
Now they open a portion of the field to the community to "pick your own" with proceeds given to local organizations.
The rest of the crop is picked by a couple WOOF interns. The Workers on Organic Farms have come from all over the world to pick for a couple weeks. The berries are frozen and sold, she said.