This is one of my most favorite photos that I took this summer. Harvest was tough on us this year. The weather, while hot, was consistent and good for seed harvesting conditions. But mentally it was very draining and long. Every field was a different challenge, a different scenario, sort of like choose your own disaster (instead of adventure) for how you wanted to handle what was happening. Some of that had to do with pests like voles, other things were more challenging like seed shatter due to the high heat wave we had during cutting, add that to an overall dry spring, topped off with the usual equipment breakdowns and harvest juggling.
But this photo, and the ones below, show my favorite part; sharing harvest with our kids. They love being out in the field with us during harvest. Either playing in the dirt, riding on the combine or helping Matt take a truck in to the cleaner to dump seed. Their love for the field is something that will never get old for me as a farm mom and hopefully never get old for them either!
It’s been awhile since we have been able to host a tour group at the farm. It’s one of my favorite things, showing folks around our farm and letting them experience a little of our farm life. So when Hoot asked if we could have a farm tour for his school birthday party, the answer was “ABSOLUTELY!!”
And while it’s one of my favorite things, I quickly learned that it’s also Hoot’s. He basically gave the whole tour for all his friends and they had a great time climbing on tractors, learning about crops like crimson clover, and even getting to dig into bins of grass seed, swiss chard seed, and clover seed.
Some other highlights were showing off some farm displays that the kids built for their friends to see, and also going on combine rides.
As folks get more removed from the land and from the farming roots, that inevitably most people have somewhere in their lineage, it’s always nice to give a chance for people to see a working farm. Which is why I have always said that we have an “open farm door” policy here at Kirsch Family Farms. We love to have people take us up on the opportunity to show them around. It always sparks great conversations, allows for people to see what we are up to, and get the chance to ask, “Why do you do it that way?”.
I have to say though, during this tour, it was an absolute joy to watch our kids showing their friends around. I think the “open farm door” policy won’t stop at my generation. Which is just fine by me.
Last time I checked in we were in the middle of probably one of the worst storms Oregon has seen since the Columbus Day Story in 1962. I wasn’t around to experience that one, but after chatting with some folks who were, the thoughts are similar; 2021 has been worse. And when talking to lineman storm crews they say the same, “This has been some of the worst damage we have ever seen.”
That being said, we are all grateful to so many who turned on our power, who offered to help when we needed it, and also grateful to see the storm become a part of the past to talk about. But now the real work begins; time to clean up.
We finally got out and assessed the damage around our farm. We have a lot of clean up on the borders of our fields where trees and branches lay on top of our crops. That will take some time. Our first priority however was to get into our orchards and see how they fared. We didn’t get hit as hard as other farmers. Some have talked about tree losses upwards of 20% even as high as 50%. This is devastating to hear. We are not that bad in our orchards thank goodness.
In assessing the damage we have found that just about each tree has to be treated differently. Some we have cut down to the trunk and will loose some years of production, but will keep the tree in the ground.
Others we just had to trim up some branches. A few we cut the branch that split the tree and if it didn’t cut into the main truck too badly we kept for a year’s worth of production before we decide if we are going to take it out later.
And some just didn’t make it and got cut right then and there. Many of those we will replant this spring to get them up and going.
Driving around to each broken and ice pruned tree was a pretty depressing job. These are trees that we have taken care of for years. Some just started to produce a crop for us, and now we had to cut them down and set them back another 4 years. The cost of this event will be felt for a long time in the form of a huge labor bill to do clean up, lost production, and now caring for newly planted trees among our established orchards.
Many of these orchards had been gone through already this winter and been pruned, so the double amount of work to go back in prune, stack and push brush for the second time will take a lot of time and money. We try to be very efficient on our farm, and Mother Nature basically made sure that this year would not look like that on our orchard budgets.
Right now I’m just happy that we have power, the sun has been out for a few days, and we are moving along with clean up. The orchards are looking less tattered by the day, and it will be a good day when the “Ice Storm of 2021” is in our hindsight completely. Hope everyone is staying safe out there, and hopefully not far from getting their power turned back on soon!