Three rows of raspberry bushes stretch for about 40 feet in the Spokane Valley backyard of Carolee Nyborg, creating a challenge for her aging body as she collects gallons of berries every growing season.
But the picking is easier now thanks to a repurposed piece of equipment.
The morning of Aug. 2 found her settled into a homemade three-wheeled scooter that allows her to roll effortlessly down the rows as she collects the berries. The constant bending as she picked was bothersome.
“I said to my husband, you have to have the raspberries grow taller because I can’t bend down anymore,” said Nyborg, 80. “When you get up in years, it takes something out of you to bend over like that.”
Her son-in-law, Rich Mize, built the scooter out of an old baby jogger. “It was broken, but the wheels were fine,” Nyborg said.
“It’s working out great for her,” said Mize as he watched her pick, only the top of her head showing among the thick bushes. “It took me at least two days (to build), but most of it was the think process.”
Nyborg grew up picking raspberries, as did her husband, Jim. The couple added the berry bushes to their large garden about 15 years ago. She makes jam and pancake syrup that is greatly in demand among friends and family. She even takes an annual trip to deliver jam to former co-workers – she retired in 2003 from her job at the Spokane District Court.
There are usually plenty of berries to go around. “I usually have between nine and 12 gallons in the freezer,” she said. “We give them to the neighbors and eat them liberally.”
Having the new scooter helps Nyborg finish picking faster. She was spending a couple of hours a day in the berry patch four times a week with her daughter, Ruth Mize. “I was having to rest in between (rows),” she said. Now she simply waits while her husband carries her scooter to the top of the next row.
Jim Nyborg’s other job is to prune the bushes. The couple also tend a large garden of cabbage, carrots, squash, peppers, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes. They can some of their vegetables and the rest are donated to the local food bank. “I enjoy giving things away,” said Jim Nyborg. “You’ve got to do something in retirement.”
Last week Carolee Nyborg noted that the berry season was coming to an end. As she picks she deposits the berries in a small metal bucket that she attaches to her waist by looping a belt through the handle. “I usually get four or five of these,” she said, looking at the bucket. “Today I only got one.”
Nyborg said she plans to pick berries and tend her backyard garden as long as she’s able. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it, she said. “It’s satisfying when you get it done.”