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Eagle Decoys

17 Dec

Pests on a farm come from all directions.  The brush rows, neighboring fields, under ground, in the form of diseases, some even are carried by the wind; and all of these can be a threat to our crops.final-31 This morning Matt and I were out in the fields doing a little work to help with pests that fly in from the sky, I’m talking Canadian geese.

It seems like we we involuntary feed these geese with our crops just about all year round anymore.  So when the crop is newly planted and small, it is at its most vulnerable.final-29
You can see the bitten off leaves where the geese have been grazing.

So how do we protect from such a moving target?  Well there are basically three ways that we do this on our farm.

  • Hunting.  Effective but time consuming, and we don’t have the time to be out hunting all of our fields every hour of everyday (a point which can be argued extensively by my hunting husband).
  • Hazing.  Works well when you happen to be out looking at fields when the geese also happen to be out eating.  We use special special shotgun shells to help us with this.  But again, it takes a lot of time….and it just impossible to haze all of our acres all the time.
  • Eagle Decoys.  These guys do have the “time” to just sit in a field and deter geese should they show up.

Here’s a quick video of how we make them out in the field.

Just like that, with a wooden stake, a garbage bag, and some white tape, we have 24 hour security.  They aren’t perfect or even pretty, but they are cheap and effective. final-32

Using these three methods all together on our farm helps us control what is going on out in the field from one pest.  Now if only we could get slugs to be scared of eagles too!

How Farmers Take Care of Bees

23 May

There is a lot of talk about bees these days here on the farm.  Not only is it the time of year when bees come out to start pollinating the flowers of many of the plants here in the Willamette Valley, but it’s also the time of the year when a lot of pests come out.  This makes it especially challenging for many farmers who are as diversified as we are.  On the one hand as a farmer I need to take care of the crops that do not require bees and have many bugs that are attacking them, but I also need to make sure to protect the bees which are very important not only to our crops and neighbors crops, but to food supply in general (as seen below).

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So how do we do it?  How do I spray a crop with insecticides while at the same time protecting bees?  It’s a good and fair question to ask of farmers.  For us there are a lot of factors in play.  We have choices and I would like to line out a few that we consider.

1. Timing. Bees like many insects are not always out and about.  While they are “busy” by nature, the times when they rest or stay in their hives can be timed and worked around.  This gives us windows of opportunity to make sensitive applications.  For instance spraying at night or during the cool morning hours when those little workers are in their hives.

2. Where the bees are located. This is important because even if you spray an insecticide at night, you should always avoid spraying chemicals that could be harmful to bees on crops that have blooms.  This is when reading labels on your insecticides is so important.  Knowing if the chemical is harmful to bees and how long that time period will last is essential in knowing that you’re not causing harm to bees.  Many times this can also mean moving the bees out of the field for a time period in order to safely protect your crop and the pollinators.


3. Insecticide Choice. There has been a lot of research done in the area of bees.  Bayer CropScience has been a leader in the recent past showing that they believe there are advances in technology that help us find safer products for bees.  They also have been on the forefront of new technologies that have lead the way in helping to make bees healthier, make crops safer sites for them to thrive, and make farmers rest assured that they are not hurting these important insects.

4. Not spraying at all. Of course this is an option and I will say one that we take seriously.  Many times we will select a timing of spray that minimizes risk, say early in the morning, and then will take it a step further and leave a buffer (an unsprayed area) between any blooms and the insecticide.  While this isn’t the best for the crop we are trying to protect, we also understand that sometimes there is just no silver bullet and you have to triage how you manage all your crops across the board.

See…the bees love this farmer!

As farmers I can’t tell you enough how aware we are of the importance of bees for our crops.  These are just four important factors that we take into account when the time comes that we need to make a decision about spraying insecticide.  This list of four, it’s only the beginning in a long line of decisions that we have to make.  I have to admit it would be a lot easier to farm without an entire ecosystem in mind, but as a farmer that is a luxury that I simply cannot afford.

To learn more about bees and how the relationship between them and farmers is being taken care of here in Oregon and across the nation, I urge you to check out these great blogs:
Oregon Green – How a bee is born
It’s MomSense – Hold on Honey, What’s the Buzz about Bees?
Bees Please: Cooperation Needed to Protect a Vital Food Supply Link

Also Bayer CropScience has an excellent website dedicated to bees. Another great place to learn more!
Facebook Page – Bayer Bee Care Center
Website – https://beecare.bayer.com/home

1 Reason I Spray Round-up on Our Farm

21 Mar

We had a few nice days here in Oregon last week, and when it comes to spring time that means all hands on deck! This year in particular has been challenging because the rain just hasn’t stopped enough for fields to get dry in order to do much spring work. So in a matter of three days we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off, fertilizing, spraying, planting, painting, you name it we were at it!

I had two sick kids at home so my role was mostly logistics manager via cell phone from the house. Nevermind a crying infant and wild toddler…I think I pulled it off pretty well.  But I did get to switch with Matt to enjoy a glorious 75 acre roundup spray application.

Round up in the past few years has gotten a bad wrap. Whether it be studies that it’s found in breast milk or the link to those oh so awful GMO crops, most are all very unscientific and unfounded. But that’s a whole series of blog posts, today I wanted to share why round up has made us more sustainable on our farm.

We have been growing no till spring wheat for about 5 years now on our farm. No till means that we don’t work the ground after the last crop is harvested. This saves not only time, fuel, and money, it also saves all the worms and bugs that have been making homes in the soil.  It gives the soil another year of resting which reduces soil compaction too.

 In order to do this however we have to be able to give the wheat a chance to grow in an uncompetitive atmosphere. If you were to take the field below, notice all the grass and weeds that are growing (basically everything that’s green)?

 That is all volunteer crop and weeds that if we planted into and never killed would be too much competition for our wheat crop and the wheat would grow a little bit, but would never be enough to even be worth harvesting.

So in the fall we spray round up on the fields to kill what grows after the final harvest of grass seed. Then we come back right before or right after planting to get one last application. Also round up only kills what is on the top of the soil, not disrupting any future plantings.

 I proudly wore my Monsanto hat, even though I was applying a generic brand of round up. I can’t help but appreciate having round up as a tool in our tool box that allows us to be better farmers and treat the land well.

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