Life Beyond the Farm & Having it All

12 Dec

I have found it a very common theme that farmers or those involved in agriculture have a reach that goes much beyond their own acres of land.  Maybe it’s because we are traditionally from smaller communities that have been built with volunteers, or maybe it’s because we have needed help at some point too and have always had a network to reach out to just over the fence row.  Or maybe it’s because we are bored…oh wait…nope…scratch that…it’s definitely not the reason. I have yet to meet a bored farmer!

I don’t often talk about my life outside of farming and family on here.  And probably a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never think of it as interesting or worth blogging about, because it’s just what I have always done and what has always been the norm for my life.  I grew up in a family that volunteered and gave their time where it was needed, and it’s something that runs as deep in my blood as the soil that I farm.  I, like many other farmers, volunteer as a firefighter and EMT in our community.  I also sit on many boards, mostly agriculturally involved.  I give a lot of time to these efforts of making things better for my fellow farmers, making things safer for my neighbors and overall helping where needed in the community.

This is a photo from the Woodburn High School Fire back in 2012, when I was still “Kirsch”

So all that being said, as many of you know I am expecting our third little baby this coming spring.  I actually headed up to the fire department just last night to have department photos taken and looked like this in my uniform shirt.  Which was hilarious but also made me a little sad.

A few months back I had to make a number of phone calls that I truly didn’t want to make, conversations about me stepping down, stepping back, and in some cases leaving all together.  Off boards with friends who have become family, folks who I have sat next to over years, in some cases over 10 years, at the local fire station, farm bureau board room or even coffee shop.  These meetings were more than just meetings, it’s where I learned some of the most valuable lessons of not only about how to be a good fireman, EMT or farmer; but a friend, a good colleague, and a solid person.

At a Marion County Farm Bureau Meeting, showing that “I Farm I Vote”

So last night when I tried (and really I did try) to button up that uniform shirt for what might be the last time in a long time, it was very bittersweet.  It was a blatant sign that I had made a choice, it was a sign that having it all doesn’t always mean you have it “all” and that decisions no matter how tough, have to be made.  I know I have made the right choice in moving back from my involvement, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say “see you later” to the folks who have made life here in this small town, and within the farming industry, so amazing.  I have no doubt that I’ll be back, remember it’s in my blood…and for now farming and having three kids under 4 (which yes I realize is still a lot) will take my time and focus.

I often have people ask me how I do it “all” and I often don’t really know what to say.  But I think now I’ll say that having it “all” doesn’t mean that you get to have everything you want right now.  It means to me that I have to be realistic and make choices that make what I can handle in the “now” all the more worth it.  Moving forward with life is not a choice, time will keep passing, but it does mean we get to make choices in the direction we head.  So for now, I’m heading back to the boys who are calling “mommy” (all the time!) and back to the fields to look for slugs.  For now that’s where my “all” is, and for now that’s all I need.

More Hazelnut Trees in the Ground

28 Nov

If you live in Oregon you have been seeing a major change in the landscape of the fields throughout the I-5 corridor.  Thousand and thousands of little hazelnut trees have been planted the past 10 or so years.  And here at Kirsch Family Farms, the landscape is also changing.

This is a photo of our first planting of Jefferson trees in 2010.

We have older hazelnut orchards of Barcelonas, planted in 1990.  We also have some newer varieties, mainly Jeffersons.  And this year we put in a third variety called Wepsters.  The reasons for our plantings and even the delay in plantings until more recent years has a lot to do with disease management and pressure, and a lot of great work done by Oregon State University to help us with those issues.  But it also has to do with timing of harvest, early or late fall can mean the difference between a dusty (preferred) harvest and a muddy mess of harvest.  And also how much land we want to take out of production for a number of years, to then leave in a permanent or basically permanent cropping system.

What you are seeing here are the newly planted trees.  Too small to really see the tree itself.  It is surrounded by a protective tube to keep it safe from the sun, and has a bamboo post next to it to give it more strength.

This year we planted the Wepsters right behind our house on a small field that was soon to be, I guess you could say “tree locked.”  Meaning with all the orchards being planted around it, there wasn’t going to be much room for getting larger equipment needed for grass seed or grain production.  Case in point, our combine header was rubbing tree branches as it made its way back harvest the wheat.

These are the first rows marked out for our new planting of hazelnuts.

So we decided it was time to plant a few more trees.  We had a neighbor come and mark out the rows using GPS.  Then at the cross-hairs we planted a tree.  Most of the trees were Wepsters (the main variety), with a mix of pollenizer trees as well.  (Hazelnuts can’t pollenize themselves so you plant pollenizer trees throughout the orchard).

These newly planted trees should start to produce nuts in about 4 years, and we hope they will produce nuts for another 4 generations!  Farming is an industry that is always changing and evolving, and the type of crops that you plant in the ground is no different.  It will be exciting to see these trees as they grow literally right in our backyard and seeing a little bit of that large scale “changing of the farming landscape” up close.

The Why, What and How of Spraying Clover Today

27 Oct

It is a beautiful day here in Oregon. So before the rain returns I took the opportunity to go out and spray two of our clover fields.

Why I’m Spraying:
Today I’m spraying out the wheat that is growing from the crop that we harvested this past summer.  We can’t grow the wheat as a volunteer crop, even though it looks like it would be healthy and happy, because there is a huge risk of disease.  Also this wheat was contracted seed wheat, so we can’t reproduce or replant any seeds that may have hung around another year.

All that bright green color is volunteer wheat from the 2017 crop.

I need to kill the wheat so that the crimson clover that we planted has a chance to grow.  There is so much wheat out here that it would quickly steal not only nutrients but also water, possibly even shading out the clover.  The competition is too high so the wheat has to go.

The crimson clover, our crop for 2018, are the small broadleaf plants that you see.  As you can tell, this wheat will quickly become a problem for their survival.

What I’m Spraying:
Today I’m spraying a chemical mix that is aimed at targeting only grass species so it will not hurt the small growing crimson clover.  The mix is made up of three chemicals; clethodim, crop oil, and drift reducer, and also a whole lot of water.
Why so many chemicals in this mixture that is only aimed at one species?  Well they all play their role…

  • Clethodim is the actual grass killer. It kills on contact so must be sprayed on a dry day because the rain would just wash it off the plants before they soak it in. Making the Spray useless.
  • Crop oil helps to keep the spray on the plant material and helps the plant absorb the chemical.
  • Drift reducer is used to make the mixture “heavier” so that the spray goes right where my target is.
  • The water is the carrier so I can get the correct rate of chemical equally across all the acres.

How much am I spraying?
Now this may suprise you! Per acre I’m putting on 19.64 gallons of water, 1.7 pints of crop oil, 8 ounces of clethodim, and only 3.2 ounces of drift reducer!  So literally picture a football field (which is about an acre), imagine spreading out four five gallon buckets of water, less than two pints of oil, one cup of weed killer, and a 1/3 cup of drift reducer over the entire field!!!  It’s truly incredible what you can do with spray technology, which I might add is not a new technology at all!

This “fog” that you see under my spray booms, it’s made up of 19.64 gallons of water and only 0.36 gallons of chemical!!

You can see from the picture above that the fog coming out of the spray boom really looks like I’m dowsing the crop.  But the reality is that with my sprayer, which has 80 foot booms, at the rate and pressure I’m spraying, I have to drive 22 feet before even 1 gallon total of spray mixture is applied.  Like I said, what we do is precise in many ways. 

So there you have it, the Why, What, and How of spraying volunteer wheat out of clover came to be my job for this sunny day.  If you have any questions about this application or any other sprays you hear of, just let me know.  I’m always here to answer questions about why we do what we do out here on the farm.


 

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