Hot Weather in Oregon

We have been getting some above normal temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest. Last week we saw some record breaking temperatures go up into the 110-115 range (even higher in some areas), which made air conditioning feel incredible and the stress of what was happening to our crops not so amazing.

It’s hard to say how it affected our crops. When I walk around assessing what might be damaged it all seems very inconsistent. Some crops seem unaffected, while others have shown that it was clearly too hot for them.

We have green beans that were trying their best to bloom during this time. We poured the water on and I think escaped with not too much damage to the blooms, but the plant themselves have seemed to have stalled somewhat. Sort of like saying “What on earth was that??!!”

This is in an area that got consistent water through the hottest days.
These beans plants were on the edge of the field and only got about half as much water as the rest.

Our hazelnuts in some areas look like you took a blow torch to them; and in other areas they look just fine.

We had about half of our grass seed cut for harvest, and I’m sure knocked a fair amount of seed onto the ground while cutting in less than ideal conditions.

So when asked “How did the crops do in the heat?” I honestly have nothing more to say beyond “We will know more after harvest.” Because until our crops get trucked across scales it’s always a tough call on what the effects actually were. Until then we will keep taking care of our crops the best we know how, keep trying to protect them from the things that we can control, and pray Mother Nature is done with the “extremes” this year.

Spring Orchard Preparation

We have had some beautiful weather here lately. And while if I was in charge of the weather, we would have had a few more rainy days the past two weeks, I’m not, so here we are.

This variety is just starting to push leaves out.

But as they say, make hay while the sun shines. So we have been out doing all we can while it’s dry. Which for filbert (hazelnut) farmers that means a lot of orchard preparation.

While we don’t harvest these nuts until the fall, this is a great time of year to prepare the soil to be nice and flat, clean of debris, and ready to pick up nuts off the ground once they fall at maturity.

So what does that mean? It means grabbing those last few branches off the ground, flailing up the leaf material and grass, that’s been left for erosion control through the winter rains. Then scraping the ground to level it out from any tracks or erosion that may have occurred.

While harvest is only a small portion of the year, for many of our crops the maintenance of the crop and the soil underneath is a year round project. We want to keep the worms happy so we allow the leaves to remain for food and nutrients for them. We also allow grass to grow to protect the soil. But all of that has to be reset at some point to allow for those nuts to be picked up off the ground for harvest.

Next up for the orchards is getting fertilizer applied, possibly some irrigation and some foliar applications to keep the tree healthy and happy during the growing season. Then eventually harvest this fall.

We don’t always get this large dry window to get the orchards ready this early, but we will take advantage where we can and control what we can control. Because like I said, the weather is one place where I definitely don’t call the shots!

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!