Ice Storm 2021 Update

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!

Removing Older Hazelnut Trees

I wrote last week about how we planted some new trees to replace some of our oldest orchards. Feel free to catch up by reading….“Replacing Older Hazelnut Trees”.

This week I thought I would show you how we are actually doing that work of tree removal. As farmers we often have a lot of equipment, but we don’t always have the “right equipment” for every job. So what we have in the barn often times changes how we go about a project.

For our farm we have our excavator, bulldozer, and a very hot fire. With these tools we completed this job pretty much done in a few days. I say “pretty much” because the weather turned on us mid-project and we had to take a break to let things dry out a bit.

Here are the very complicated, very long steps of tree removal…
Step 1: Knock the trees over with the bulldozer.
Step 2: Start a very hot fire.
Step 3: Drag the trees to the burn pile.
Step 4: Put the tree on the very hot fire with the excavator.
….and voila!

As you can see the process actually really is very simple. Our goal here is to try to touch the tree as little as possible, because every time we do it costs us money in efficiency loss.

Now if you want to start an actual controversial orchard conversation we can chat about variety to plant, how or when to thin double density plantings, how to prune, or what spacing to plant. But you better have a comfy seat, and a lot of coffee or a lot of beer, because those discussions will take awhile!

Replacing Older Hazelnut Trees

We decided to knock down a block of our orchards where some of our oldest hazelnut (aka filbert) trees were. We removed these Barcelona hazelnut trees last year and then planted the new variety last week.

We probably could have chosen a drier day, there was a lot of mud, but in Oregon we know how to work in the mud.

We planted a newer variety from Oregon State University called Polly Os. First the trees were planted and then we added a bamboo stake next to it. The bamboo, once tied to the trunk, gives the tree more strength against the wind and gives birds a place to land (if they land on the new tree it can break off the top).

All we have left to do now is add some mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture and add tree protector to provide protection from sunburn and chemical burn.

While it wasn’t an easy decision to take out trees that have been there since 1990, it also was equally not as fun to keep heavily spraying and pruning for the Eastern filbert blight that we continually battled. At some point we had to make a decision, and I’m glad we made it before our costs outweighed our yields.