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Koivula Blueberry Operation

written by Frans Seastrand

At one time, based on an article in a Massachusetts newspaper, the Koivula farm was the largest blueberry-producing
farm in all of New England. A large part of the credit for this distinction had to go to the twelve Koivula children, who
picked blueberries all summer long for the family. Every morning, as long as weather permitted, they would walk up the
mountain barefooted with their blueberry pails and pick blueberries all day long. They did not wear shoes in the summer
time because they would outgrow their school shoes by the end of the school year, and their parents could not afford
to buy each of them more than one pair of new shoes a year. If the children had new shoes for the summer, they would
simply outgrow them again before the end of the next school year. The children would bring their lunch and usually be
on top of the mountain by 6:30 a.m. to start a full day of picking blueberries. Uncle Iver said that their father, Konsta,
paid them 3 cents a quart for picking the berries. My mother said that she remembered being paid one cent a quart.
Maybe the girls were paid less than the boys, or maybe Uncle Iver, being the second youngest Koivula child, benefited
the most from rising wage rates with the passage of time. In any event, both agreed that they received a whole dollar if
they could pick one full crate of berries in a day. In those days, a full crate of blueberries amounted to 36 quarts. That
was some accomplishment since the children would have to carry their pails of blueberries down the mountain, which
took considerable time for young kids to walk the approximately two miles for each round trip. They would have to
make several trips up and down the mountain in a day to bring all of their berries down to the farm house before the
berries could be prepared for the trip to market. The earliest berries of the season just before July 4 fetched the best
market price, so all of the children had to pick as much as they could when the berries started to ripen.

The Koivula children had to put their hard-earned income to good use. Every year they would go through the Sears
catalog and order their clothes with the money that they received from picking blueberries. Obviously, nothing was
wasted in this family. Needless to say, after picking berries all summer long seven days a week, the children often
prayed for a day of rain so that they would get a well deserved break from picking berries.

Koivula Blueberry Picking Competition

written by Frans Seastrand

The Koivula children were very good at picking blueberries from all those years of experience picking on top of the
mountain on the family farm. Well, I guess it came to pass that one year some of them felt that they could pick more
berries than the others. One day uncle Andrew and Aunt Ida decided to find out just who could pick the most berries
in one hour's time. So they trekked up to the top of the mountain to find out who was the fastest berry picker in the
family. Well, they started picking berries, and at the end of the hour it was clear who was the reigning blueberry-picking
champion among the Koivulas -- at least between those two. Ida picked four quarts to her credit, but Andrew prevailed
as the winner since he had gathered in six quarts of berries. No one knows if any bet was riding on the outcome of the
contest. In any event, the blueberries must have been prolific that season to have been able to have picked so much in
one hour. At the rate that uncle Andrew picked berries, picking six quarts of berries per hour amounts to picking one
quart every 10 minutes. Over a 10 hour day, that would amount to 60 quarts of berries or almost two crates of
blueberries. Wow! No wonder why he was the champion berry picker in the family.

Early Memories of the Koivula Family Farm

written by Frans Seastrand

One of the earliest memories of my life was visiting the Koivula farm. In the summer of 1947, I was just 2 3/4 and the
Seastrands went to visit my mother's family in New Hampshire. I do not have too many memories of that visit with being
so young, but the highlight of the whole visit was riding up to the top of the mountain in uncle Andrew's World War II
type jeep. The other big memory was using the out house, which was still in working order at that time. Of course,
seeing the large kitchen with the original wood stove at one end of the kitchen, and the large handled water pump at the
kitchen sink also stood out in my mind. I only have vague recollections of visiting my cousins and playing with them
at this early time in my life.

In the summer of 1958, we revisited the farm again for a week. We picked blueberries on the mountain of course. Aunt
Aina stressed how important it was to pick the berries cleanly. The out house was gone by then because the "boys" had
built a bathroom in the farm house. They still milked cows and sold sand and gravel, but it appeared that they had only
removed sand and gravel from the first sand hill on the farm by that time. Most of Appleton Road was a still dirt road in
those days, and we used it to walk to town just like the Koivula children did when they went to school in the "old days."
Saturday was the day for the regular weekly sauna bath. The traditional Finnish sauna across Appleton Road from the
farm house was heated by a wood stove and used for bathing by the Koivulas. I remember that our uncles Iver,
Andrew and Leo (a.k.a. the "boys") would work on the farm or in town during the day and go out at night. One day,
the whole Paajanen family came over to the farm and uncle Walter took a family picture of all of us along the side of the
farm house in front of the kitchen door, which has become the standard spot for taking Koivula family pictures over the
years. The picture includes uncles Iver, Leo and Andrew, all of the Paajanens and all of the Seastrands. Aunt Aina did
not want her picture taken, but you can see her in the picture on the web site anyway if you look carefully. She was
standing in the kitchen doorway behind the screen door.

My mother seemed to enjoy being on the farm the most. She became so animated and excited as we approached New
Ipswich and reached the farm to begin our visit. She could hardly contain herself in going around the farm and showing
us where everything was located. She especially liked climbing the mountain and picking blueberries. My mother always
dreamed of returning to the farm and building a little house on her favorite plot of land there someday. It was where she
always wanted to live again. When she visited her sisters, they started laughing and joking about all of the good times
that they had as children. They were like little school kids again. In spite of all of the tough times and hard work when
the Koivula children grew up on the farm, I must say that my mother seemed happiest in returning to her birthplace
and being on the farm with her family.