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!

Baby Grass Seed Scouting

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in the Willamette Valley! And when you get beautiful days in November it’s usually the best time to go and look to see how the fields are doing.

We have planted a number of perennial ryegrass seed acres this fall, referred to often as “baby fields”. And as my husband Matt likes to say, “Baby perennial ryegrass is always looking for a way to die!” What he means is that when perennial ryegrass is just starting out it makes for a delicious meal for both slugs and geese, and when they attack they can decimate acres and acres in just a few days. So we often go out to make sure as it’s coming up that it’s being protected as best we can.

To tell you the truth as we headed out across the field it didn’t look very good. It just looked like a lot of open soil with no sprout. Which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to get a field to grow.

But we didn’t let it worry us too much. This field wasn’t planted too long ago and we knew that it should just be starting to sprout. So with a closer inspection, this field is actually doing quite well as it just starts to come out of the ground.

That’s what we call the start of being able to “row up” a grass seed planting. And the good news is that while we found a few slugs, the bait that we put out a week ago is still protecting the grass as it sprouts. And as far as geese it didn’t look like they had found it yet, so we will continue to scout for them as they fly over and more than likely also start to spot the rows of tasty grass.

We also saw a lot of worm castings which is a sign of good soil health. You can see in this photo all the small dry bits of soil, that is all from worm activity.

These fields will need to be protected through the winter from the slugs, geese, and kept clean from weeds that will inevitably sprout through the dormant and growing season. Before harvest next July we will be out scouting our acres every few weeks, if not everyday depending on the conditions in the fields. Today was a beautiful day to get this done, I’m sure my rain coat and muck boot wearing days aren’t far away though…this is Oregon after all!