Triage of Fall Farming

Most of the time when folks think of when farmers here in Oregon are most busy, many would agree that harvest time would be the obvious answer. And in many ways that’s true. Through summer we are working seven days a week, often 14 hours or more a day. But if you look beyond just the “time” aspect, for me, the fall always feels much busier.

During summer harvest you usually find yourself and your crew in a groove. People know what to do pretty much everyday, because it’s the same thing they did yesterday and will often do tomorrow. But in the fall when the end of harvest is winding up for the year and we are gearing up for the next year’s crop, everything seems to come at you all at once.

So lately we have been harvesting filberts when we can get into the orchards. Our seasonal rain here on one hand helps the nuts fall naturally from the tree, which is good because we harvest the nuts off the ground. But it also creates windows of time where you have to wait for the ground to dry enough to be able to harvest off the ground.

So in the “in between” we are also getting ground worked to plant. In the fall we plant our perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, crimson clover, swiss chard, and filberts. We are also applying weed control and fertilizer to many of our established fields. Meanwhile getting projects done such as ditch cleaning, excavation projects, etc.

So in perfect fall fashion the last few weeks have been a triage of “what to do today”. We have been able to get a few fields planted, worked and ready for winter, the tall fescue is all in and we have about quarter of the crimson drilled (planted), and killed off some sprout.

This week we will get back to harvesting the second (and hopefully last) time in our filberts.

And then after more planting in the good weather windows, more excavation repair and maintenance projects….at some point….we will all be very happy that it is finally November!!

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.

Ice Storm hits Oregon

A few days ago an ice storm hit Oregon with a blast of cold and precipitation that resulted in a pretty major ice event. Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power (including my family and the farm).

I’ve been getting a lot of questions. Are you warm? Do you have power? When will it come back on? Do you have water? How are the crops? And most importantly, “Do you have enough wine?” Since this is the top priority, the answer is yes, I absolutely have enough wine. (Phew)

Are you warm? Do you have power? When will it come back on?

Yes we are warm, no we don’t have power, and I have no idea! To be honest the first day was a little exhausting. We (aka my husband) were running around getting generators hooked up, checking on employees, getting gas, and preparing as much as possible. By day two he had the heater wired into the generator and currently we have heat, a few lights, and the TV (if you’re judging right now then you just won yourself a week with my kids and no TV to see how long you last haha!) The fridges and freezers are hooked up once the house gets warm and the cycle continues. So far so good.

As far when it will come back on….it’s not looking too promising to be a quick fix. Lines are down literally everywhere around here. Roads are closed, trees and branches are all over the ground. So far this is what we know from the power company….

However I know that there are folks working around the clock to get people back up and running as soon as possible. We are being patient and thankful for what we have here.

Do you have water?

Not in the traditional sense. Our well can’t run with the generator that we have. So we had put some in the tub and in jugs before the power went out.

Then Hoot spent the first day collecting ice to replenish the tub water so we can flush the toilet. Yesterday we headed out to my brother and sister in laws to get some good drinking and cooking water. Thankful for family!!!

How are the crops?

Ugh this is a tough one. Probably the question that I’ve been avoiding the most. Most of our crops should be fine. The hazelnuts however I honestly don’t know.

The ice on the branches made them turn almost into mushroom looking shrubs, which is not ideal. I don’t know how many branches we have down but I assume it’s going to be a lot. Some trees have broken and split down the middle, those will be a full loss. Others will probably take years to recover.

At this point it’s hard to know the full extent of what has occurred in our orchards. But I’ll keep you updated as we move through this event and this year.

Mother Nature can be relentless. As farmers we have known that forever. I often talk about how the weather is a challenge that is unmatched and at times like this I’m reminded just how hard this profession can be. It’s also when I’m reminded of why we do what we do and continue to take on each challenge that is sent our way. It’s a testament to how much we love the life we have built as farmers. We will clean up, assess the damage, get a plan and move ahead. We will do this just as we have always done and will continue to do.

Thanks to everyone for checking in and all those who have helped so much already! And again to all the power company folks who I know are working 24/7 for everyone right now. Hope everyone is staying warm and safe out there!!

If you’re in the middle of all of this too, how are you doing??