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!

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??