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??

When Voles Attack

Summer harvest is just about done this year on the farm. And while the stress of that time of the year is winding up, the beginning of the next crop year is starting all over again.

When we sat down last fall to make decisions surrounding our acres, we had no idea how much dirt we were going to have to work this year. But we have come up against a pest that is forcing our hand and is changing our plans. Many of our tall fescue fields are slated to stay in the ground 7-10 years. This year however we are taking out a lot of acres before that end date due to one small, tiny, seemingly innocent little pest; the vole.

Auggie was out “mice stomping” while we were cutting the grass. I was all for it, that is until he asked how we could preserve one so he could keep it. (Puke)

We have voles every year. More often they are referred to as field mice. They are a nuisance, something that we try every year to control with bait. But this year, two to three weeks before harvest, their population exploded in our fields, and they began to quickly eat our crop.

You can see holes like this all over our fields.

We estimate that our worst hit fields lost about 30% in yield. Other farmers said they figured around 50-60% of their seed crop was destroyed by mouse damage. I’ve even heard that some fields weren’t even worth the diesel in the harvester to harvest the field. Which is heartbreaking.

So we have made the decision to take out some of our worst hit fields and use our last resort for control; habitat destruction. In other words we will be working up these fields, destroying the colonies where the mice live, and setting back their population. Also hoping that the population peaked and will go down to normal levels, saving the fields that we left in for harvest 2021.

As a farmers we often face new challenges from year to year. A few years ago we had army worms marching across our fields eating aces and acres of grass in a matter of days. Other years we have seen slugs decimate fields during a wet fall. All these challenges come unpredictably, so they can be difficult to prepare for. Mix that along with weather patterns that can make control options limited, it can be a challenge to protect your crops.

I haven’t heard of any earth shattering ways to kill vole populations that live and thrive underground. Beyond hiring a clowder (yeah I googled it….that’s a group of cats) of cats or a kettle (also googled) of hawks we don’t have a lot of options. We have the bait that we have always used and will be using that as much as we can on fields left in for next year’s harvest. But many times our hands are tied because our tools aren’t effective enough or work quickly enough when pressure is that high. Another good reason why farmers need “tools in their toolbox” when it comes to pest management.

I’m sure next year we will find ourselves with yet another challenge. Maybe it will be something like grass seed eating zombies. You know, something that has more proven science about how to kill them. Unless zombies eat voles….hmmmmm.

The Start to Harvest & Dinner in the Field

Harvest like most of 2020 hasn’t proven to be “the best” quite yet. The weather has been questionable for the start to summer; which has made it a slow start for harvesting our seed crops.

I looked up at my dinner menu today and had to laugh. It looks like this….

And to be seeing that just a few days into harvest makes me want to scream and (mostly) laugh all at once. It will all get done, I know that. But the stress level of farming can drastically change from day to day and even hour to hour this time of year. Which means I am either cooking for 10 to go or cooking for 5 for at home. Which as I’m writing this doesn’t seem like a lot, but the beer you have to pack for “to go”…it’s a lot (haha!).

So for now I will just keep waiting for that sun to shine, just like pretty much every farmer here in the Willamette Valley and if you’re hungry, and can follow that menu, send me your orders 😉