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Harvest Update 2017

24 Jul

As of today we have been harvesting for 19 days. Just to give you a small taste of what that means…

  • In 19 days we have worked just under 1500 man hours on the farm. 
  • We have seen 19 sunrises matched up to 19 sunsets. 
  • We have harvested all the crimson clover, all of the peas, half the green beans, all the tall fescue seed, and half  of the perennial ryegrass. 
  • We have had a few successes and some failures. 
  • We have eaten dinner out in the field 17 times.  And the 2 nights we were at home eating, we still ended up in the field hanging out afterward. 
  • I have made 122 meals for our crew and family. 
  • Our boys have spent over 25 hours in the seat of a combine or tractor. 
  • Hoot has asked about 75 million times to get back in the seat of the combine or tractor. 
  • We have had 7 harvester plugs, 3 minor hiccups and two fairly extensive breakdowns. 
  • We have had 18 friends and family members come to say hi out in the dusty fields. 
  • We have had exactly one day off. Well except for my husband Matt, because plants don’t stop needing things just because it’s Sunday.  
  • We have 7 crops left to harvest.
  • There are 5 amazing people who help take care of our boys during our crazy harvest hours!  It takes a village here on the farm raising these crops and kids!
  • We are thankful for great employees, hard workers, good weather, and patience. 

This is what it looks like to get food onto tables.  Lots of long exhausting days and nights, hard work, sweat, frustration, cussing, laughing and cold beer. We are tired and worn out…but in the end we still wouldn’t trade this life for anything else. This is why we call farming a way of life more than a job, and at the same time one you can hang your hat on.  Happy harvesting!!

Improving Water Management in Hazelnuts

17 Jul

On our farm we are always looking for ways to do more with less, improve efficiencies, work smarter and get more done with our hard working hours and dollars. 

We have slowly been moving away from hand line and wheel line irrigation and have made significant investments in linear irrigation systems. This year we made another move to even higher water use efficiency with drip irrigation in our hazelnut orchards. 

We plan to have at least half of our hazelnuts irrigated by drip this year. Which is exciting for many reasons. 

1. Labor: We used to water with hand lines. This took a minimum of three people to move pipe two to three times a day, around 2 hours each move.  And the cost of labor alone is going up significantly.  With our drip it will take only one person to turn the pump on, monitor valves and lines. 

2. Water when you want it and where you want it. Our drip system can easily be run from the pump that we already have and also can run at night when our pump is free from use on other crops. Simply put we can fill in the gaps to keep our pump running most efficiently. 

3. We can inject fertilizer by small doses to our trees. We consider this a spoon feeding approach and it’s shown to help trees grow and produce nuts at a more consistent level. 

4. We can keep our trees healthier by being able to get into the orchard at anytime to spray foliar feeds, kill pests or protect from disease, and not have to pick up pipe that is always in the way. 

5. Water from drip goes further. Drip irrigation has a 95% efficiency rating as compared to handlines which run at only 65%.  Factors such as evaporation and run off are considered when making this determination. 

Here’s a short video of our drip coming out of the tubing. 

You may wonder why we waited so long with a list of positives this long, well on the flip side of the pro and con list lies the cost of putting a system like this onto our farm. Luckily we already had the irrigation pump, but we had to add significant amount of underground mainline, put in a special filtration system, buy thousands of feet of drip tubing, build specialized equipment for putting the lines out and rolling them up. You can see it’s an investment in water, labor efficiency and equipment. 

So why now? Well first of all we have to budget beforehand in order to make improvements on our farm.  This is one improvement that we finally found room to add to our budget.  

And secondly we had some financial help from agencies that are focused on energy and water efficient projects. One being the Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) and the other Energy Trust of Oregon. Both gave us funds to help us implement this project. We also have Stettlers Supply in Salem Oregon to thank for doing a great job on installation and heading up the project. 

This investment is one of those long term plans that I often reference. This is an improvement that will serve Matt and I as the third generation and hopefully the fourth, the fifth and on and on! 

Cropping Decisions and the Weather

19 Jun

The cropping rotation on our farm, which includes around 11 different crops every year, is planned about 5 years out.  We plan that far out because there are a lot of things to consider.  Examples such as, which crops can follow others, keeping the mix of crops at the right acreage amounts, assessing our risk with each crop, what we can get contracts for, overall economics, level of labor intensity, etc.

But also the weather…oh that darn weather.  When we get a year like this past one, it doesn’t just mean that we wear our muck boots and rain gear more, it means that we have cropping decisions that are made for us by Mother Nature.

This field of green beans is the perfect example.

  • Plan A: Plant to Tall Fescue.
    Didn’t get the ground worked in time due to many circumstances.  On to plan B…
  • Plan B: Plant Perennial Ryegrass.
    It started to rain in early October….it never really stopped until that planting window was well closed.  So plan C it is…
  • Plan C: Plant peas.
    This would have worked, but then we got a contract for another crop that could potentially be better economically.  And finally Plan D…
  • Plan D: Green beans were planted….phew!

This is a bit oversimplified in many respects, but I thought it was a good way to show how much we are the mercy of the weather.  Other factors absolutely come into play, but the weather is one that we just can’t control and is tough to protect yourself against because it can be so unpredictable.  So the weather, economics, cropping decisions…they all play a part in the answer to what seems like the very simple question, “How do you decide what to plant in what field?”

So now this field when I drive by, just sort of exhausts me…it’s been a long road, and one that I will see happy to be harvested.  Of course it’s so we can go ahead and try again next year, Mother Nature willing of course!

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