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Looking for Weeds in an 8ft Tall Crop

25 Jun

One of the crops on our farm is Swiss chard for seed.  This year we are growing a green variety, and it has decided to grow well over 8 feet tall!!  We are also growing a field of radish seed right next door, which in most cases wouldn’t really be a problem.  However, this year we noticed that there were a few stray radish plants in our Swiss chard field.

This becomes an issue of variety purity.  Radish is pollinated by bees, so we have to get the wild (or off type) radish plants out of the Swiss chard before the bees went and hung out on those flowers and then possibly went to our production radish field and pollinated with the wrong variety of pollen.  It’s one of those fun “we love being seed farmers” type of things!

So how does one go and find radish in a field that is…well…quite a few feet taller than I am?!  Farmers are problem solvers, and Matt had an idea that maybe if we got high enough we could have a better vantage point to see down into the stalks of Swiss chard.  This field was planted with alleyways to help us better manage the crop as it grows to full height, so we decided to drive each of those two times to get a good view of the whole field.  So we hooked up the man basket to the loader tractor and headed out to the field.  Once there Matt climbed up into the man basket, I took the wheel of the John Deere, hoisted him up, and we were off.

And it basically went like this… I would drive each alleyway once per side, always too slow or too fast.  While shifting I would (maybe) make Matt’s heart beat a little faster as he “hung on for dear life” (his words not mine).  Then every once and awhile he would holler and point to some area in the field.  I would jump off the tractor into the jungle, instantly engulfed in stalks of chard, while he “navigated” me through the crop to the off type radish so I could pull it out.

Navigating Skills were as follows (at full volume to be heard over the tractor engine mind you):
“LEFT, NO YOUR OTHER LEFT.”
“MAYBE WE SHOULD USE NORTH AND SOUTH AS DIRECTIONS?”
“BRENDA…NORTH IS THE OTHER WAY!” 
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING??” 
“YOU PASSED IT….”
“TURN AROUND.  OK. TURN AROUND AGAIN.”

“DO YOU EVEN SEE IT?” 
“IT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!”
“HOW DO YOU NOT SEE IT?”

I won’t tell you what my equally witty responses were, if you know me, I’m sure you can make your own assumptions (haha!)

We didn’t find too many, but it was important that we found the few and and got rid of them to keep the purity of the radish variety.  Growing crops for seed can be tricky sometimes, there is a lot of high risk and high reward moments; and also moments that make you stop and think, “So how the heck are we going to do that??”  Like when you’re staring at an 8 foot tall jungle of Swiss chard, knowing that you need to get in there and look for tiny white flowers.

This crop will be ready to harvest later this summer.  The seed is used to grow Swiss chard for mixed green salad mixes.

Blooming Crimson Clover

5 May

One of my favorite crops that we grow on our farm is crimson clover.  We grow this crop for seed and as a rotational crop between grass species.  One of the main reasons it’s my favorite is because of how beautiful it is.  As a side note, this crop is not usually grown because it makes us any money (hahaha)!  Maybe that’s not funny to people who aren’t farmers, but the point here is that we grow some crops because of the benefits they give us in the soil and in rotational weed control, not because of how cushioned they make our pocketbooks.

We will harvest this crop late June to early July. Until that point we get to watch it get more and more red as the bees do their work pollinating.  We bring about one hive of bees per acre to pollinate.  These bees along with native bees do all the work to get us a good seed crop.  Once the blooms are done, the bees are removed to other crops to feed them.  Then we wait while the crop matures, dries down and gets ready to be harvested.

The seed that we harvest will be cleaned to be free of any weeds or other seeds. And then sold and used for cover cropping, wildlife mixes and soil regeneration projects.  Until then while you drive around this time of year, look around and enjoy the beauty these fields bring to the Oregon landscape.

Crimson Clover in Bloom 2017

22 May

I may be biased since I grow the stuff, but Crimson Clover has got to be one of the most beautiful crops ever grown!  It is currently in full bloom here in Oregon.  We grow the crimson for seed, which is used in many cover cropping systems, and also in wildlife mixes.  We grow it as a rotation crop on our ground that doesn’t have irrigation. It helps us keep our fields more weed free and it’s one of those amazing crops that actually puts nitrogen back into the soil! 

I was out spraying borders a few days ago, and got myself into a “situation” where I had some time to kill.  The “situation” was my little tractor getting stuck along one of the borders of one of these beautiful fields.  So while I was frustrated with the being stuck for a bit, and hungry because I got stuck at 11:45am (if you know me I rarely miss lunch!), I was also happy to be stranded with such a beautiful view.Here are a few shots of the fields. If you look closely you’ll notice there are a few bees flying around as well.  More accurately, a ton of bees! The whole field was literally buzzing with activity.  We bring in the bees to pollinate our crop, 1 hive per acre.  Without those bees, we wouldn’t have a seed crop to harvest!

So I guess in the end, even a frustrating “situation” isn’t so bad when you get to take in a view like this!

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