Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pass the Cranberries, Please

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

This coming Thursday, we celebrate Thanksgiving – a day of gratitude and thanks for the many blessings in our lives. And at most Thanksgiving tables, there will be cranberry sauce or a cranberry salad to enjoy.

In early October of this year, Ruth and I decided to head to Wisconsin cranberry country near Warrens to photograph the cranberry bogs. We figured the cranberry harvest would be in full swing and we’d be able to capture the bright red cranberries floating in the deep blue water.

But it was a very cold morning and we were disappointed to discover that the irrigation sprinklers were running in all the bogs we passed and the bogs were totally iced over. We didn’t understand this process, but took a few photos and then decided to go into Warrens to visit the Cranberry Discovery Center.

On the way into town, a splash of red color caught my eye and I turned the car around to investigate. Hallelujah! There they were, millions of bright red cranberries corralled in the corner of the bog. I set up my tripod and began to photograph the colorful scene. As I snapped the shutter, I saw a bright red truck (cranberry-colored, of course) way off in the distance and heading towards me.

A couple minutes later, the truck pulled up beside me. As soon as the man stepped out of the truck, I said, “I need a cranberry lesson.” He kindly replied, “Okay, what would you like to know?” He answered several of my questions, including the reason the bogs were iced over. He said that the water gives off heat as it freezes and as long as the water continues to run, the cranberry plants will be protected from the cold temperatures.

“So why didn’t YOUR cranberries freeze last night?” I asked. “Because I had flooded my bogs earlier,” he said. I then explained to him why I was photographing his bogs, and I told him that we have always found cranberry folks to be some of the nicest people. I gave him my card and he introduced himself as Jack Potter, fifth-generation cranberry grower. “My granddad bought this marsh in 1912. I own about 50 acres of bogs here and another 30 over in that direction (and that’s just the vines, not the dikes in between).”

He told me that Wisconsin is the largest cranberry producer in the country, supplying about 60% of the nation's cranberries.

I told him we were going to the Cranberry Discovery Center next. He said, “My wife used to be the director of the center. Before that she was an editor for The Country Today." This is a newspaper that Ruth and I read regularly. As I was leaving, he gave me permission to drive down his bog dike road where there was water on both sides of the road and beautiful fall color in the trees. See what I mean about cranberry folks?

When I returned to the car and started filling Ruth in on the conversation I had with Mr. Potter, she said, excitedly, “Did you ask him if he just got married?” “Why would I ask him that?” I said, looking puzzled. “Remember, I told you about a woman who used to work at The Country Today and then at the Discovery Center and then she married a cranberry grower?” she said, wondering how I could have forgotten that so soon.

The drive down the dike road was breathtaking and we even saw two swans floating on the water and enjoying the beautiful fall day. We drove for what seemed like a mile or so and then turned around and headed to the Cranberry Discovery Center. When we returned home, Ruth dug up the article she had read and, sure enough, it was Jack Potter and Lorry Erickson-Potter. Their wedding took place on August 28, and featured a cranberry theme.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jack Potter for his knowledge-sharing and hospitality. I’d also like to thank all of you who faithfully read our blog and visit our photo galleries. Wishing you many blessing this Thanksgiving season.

And, as always, Happy Shunpiking!


  1. I wouldn't miss your blog. I love the pictures along with the stories!

  2. Joann and Ruth, Did you know that Lorry Erickson-Potter is your second cousin? We visited this same area a couple of years ago, so especially enjoyed your pictures.
    Aunt Bernice

  3. I've been enjoying the stories and pictures, cousins! Did you know that Lorry Erickson is our second cousin on the Lehner side? When you mentioned the Country Today, I thought of her, then read further and there was her name. Cool!