Category Archives: growing

Kubota, Jefferson, Fielder, Mead

On Monday, I learned how to drive a tractor. Rod and I were planting a (hopefully) disease resistant variety of Filbert tree in the blank spots of the ten-acre orchard (more on that later) and 5 minutes into planting, Mr. Fielder looks at me and says, “okay, well you better drive the Kubota now.”

“Okay… I don’t know how to drive it.”

“Oh. Well it’s a perfect time to learn,” he said, “hop on up.” Rod has a really special way of teaching. He began pointing at the various levers, knobs and pedals and announcing what they did. “That there’s the clutch and you pull this thingy here, or that one there, to make it go forward. Down there are your gears, first, second, third, fourth. This one moves the bucket, this one moves the tiller in the back.” And then he was gone. Walking away from me with a shovel and a planting stick (more on that later).

As I watched him shrink into the orchard I tried to transform instruction into action (via osmosis due to the rain) and make that Kubota go. AND I DID. How exhilarated I felt as I blasted along at a 4 mile an hour clip. 15 feet later, I threw it into neutral and started digging.

Before you begin replanting in an orchard it's important that you go through and place markers of where the new trees will go. It makes planting go faster and also keeps your lines straight and spacing consistent.
First you place your planting stick (nothing special, just a stick with a notch at each end, a notch somewhere in the middle, and two stakes connected by string) parallel with your existing rows so that one notched end is flush with your "marker stake." Drive a stake into the ground flush with the other end of the planting stick and pull the last positioning stake out perpendicular so that the string is taut. Now you've got a tool that when repositioned, you can use to plant a tree in the exact same spot at the "marker."

This photo is taken looking Southwest, with the planting stick facing due West.

Our planting stick has a red line at the end of it. By the second tree, that line was covered in mud.

Once your planting stick has been set up you can move the main board aside (since it's still connected to the stakes by string), remove the stake and begin digging. In general the holes are about a shovel-head deep and longer than they are wide. We decided to orient them North-South so the roots will be encouraged to grow in those directions making them stronger against heavy winds.

Mr. Fielder places a tree. You can see its fine root system. While the trees wait to be planted, they rest in the bucket of the Kubota on a big pile of compost. This variety of Hazelnut tree is called The Jefferson Hazelnut Tree. It is a new variety developed and evaluated at Oregon State University in Corvallis. It is said to be extremely insect resistant and totally immune to eastern filbert blight disease (which is what wiped out some of our older trees).

In this photo you can see the placed tree, all board and stakes in position. From here you put one or two shovelful of dirt to help stabilize the little guy, then a shovelful of composted chicken manure for fertilizer, and then fill the hole back in, holding the tree in place while you compress the dirt with your boots.

Hooray, now you've got a thin but sturdy little tree setting its roots in the big wide orchard.

 

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little business

So as we may have mentioned before, Gabriel and I both have normal day jobs along with what we do on the farm. For the past three weeks I’ve been working Monday thru Friday in a neighboring town while Gabriel has worked 3 to 4 days a week in a different neighboring town. AND we’ve both been working at the Brownsville Saloon on the weekends. It’s been a lot a lot a lot of  work work work.

It seems like throughout history there has been a prevailing concept of what it means to be a farmer – Old MacDonald and his farm e-i-e-i-o, etc. Growing up, I never heard about how Mr. MacDonald got out of bed, milked his goats, fed the piglets, set his drip-line timers and then drove 30 minutes to nearest town where he taught 7th and 8th grade English. And though times have clearly changed and the singularity of farm life is long since been replaced by a more multi-faceted existence, it didn’t really hit home until there I was, pruning an orchard in my overalls in the mornings, feeding hundreds of kids at a Boys and Girls Club in the afternoons, then back separating walnut meats from their shells in the evenings.

Well, today was Day Two of Three Days Off In A Row that, miraculously, Gabriel and I have at the same time. If you’re wondering which hotspring we went to, or what we think of the Oregon Coast, I’d tell you ‘none,’ and ‘I don’t know.’ I’m picking dirt out from around my cuticles as I write this, proof that ‘vacation,’ is becoming not about literally vacating, but about finding meditation in the ability to focus my attention and care into one act, knowing that I’m not expected anywhere for anything for the rest of the day. Finding and hoarding that singularity wherever I can find it. I can spend 7 hours with these sweet little succulents if I want, and guess what, I do.

The best part of the day was around noon. Rod was outside the greenhouse preparing melon starts, his specialty, in 5 inch newspaper pods like how I taught him. Bracken, ever faithful to Rod, found a spot in the doorway where he could have a view of his master and be perfectly underfoot. Gabriel was behind me in the greenhouse planting peppers and celeriac from seed. Suddenly Sara burst in with her big smile and comfy sweater and said ‘I have something for you!’ She held her hand over mine and dropped a scraggly clump of little unidentified succulents that she had uprooted for me to re-pot. I mean, these were the tiniest, squishiest, sweetest little things. It made me so happy. Ahhh, vacation.

If you come visit us, I promise you'll leave with one.

I think this is called 'echeveria.' If I ever have a little girl, I might name her that.

Teeny tiny little sweet things. These pots are about 2 inches in diameter. They'll probably have to be transplanted again real soon.

That guy in the front is an aloe. I think I heard Sara say something about putting the original plant in her pocket while in Mexico years ago.

Sprouts! We're looking at some Black Prince tomatoes and red onions here.

Endive. ˈen-ˌdīv or ˌän-ˈdēv. You decide.

And then one day Sara goes 'oh, and here's the ginger.' WE HAVE GINGER GROWING IN THE GREENHOUSE! There are few things I love more than ginger.

"weeds"

Here's Gabriel operating the other tractor. It's called a Kubota and when he and Rod use it, it looks like a little toy tractor, like the kind in sand boxes at public parks. It's a little powerhouse and completely indispensable.

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potatoes, gravy, chocolate covered hazelnuts and a flashlight

Today the Oregon Country Farm crew made the 1/2 hour trek to Eugene for a lunch put on by Northwest Hazelnut Co., the buyer of our filberts. We were among the crowd of Southern Willamette Valley hazelnut growers. Northwest Hazelnut Co. are the fine folks who buy, wash, dry, sort and distribute 37,000 tons of Oregon filberts around the world. We’re talkin’ China, Dubai, Cairo, Israel, you name it. Well, almost. It was great to be able to talk to the actual people who buy our product and to understand all of the hard work they do to make it most profitable for us farmers.

At our table there was a man and his teenage sons who own a 40 acre filbert farm about 20 miles west of us in a town called Halsey. We compared notes on best practices, disease resistant varieties, the Columbus Day Storm of ’62 and the Great Freeze of the 70’s. Besides those boys and us, it was a decidedly seasoned crowd. Open conversation topics ranged from the late auxiliary payment from the 2011 crop and mold in the Ennis nut variety, to Chinese hazelnut enthusiasm and the apparent aversion young people have to shelling nuts.

PLUS we got free flashlights, chocolate treats and spiffy Northwest Hazelnut Co. ball caps.

What a gang.

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like people, food doesn’t feel so fresh after a 1500 mile road trip

Tonight we attended a panel at the Lebanon Public Library about local food production, specifically in Linn County, which is where we live and is most well-known for its grass seed production. This panel was put on by Linn County League of Women Voters and the Ten Rivers Food Web, a vital resource for local ag. Our good friend Kyle Piispanen already put us on to Ten Rivers and warned us of their awesomeness before we even moved to Oregon. He also let us know about the Wandering Goat Cafe in Eugene, making him 2 for 2. Thanks KyKy.

 We had a realization today amidst our past couple weeks of both of us working full-time, outside the farm and all of the work needing to be done, that meetings like this are important to keep us energized and motivated for this cause. With the rising cost of fossil fuels, we want to be contributors in a community which gets 30 to 50 percent of its food from local sources. Currently only 1.8% of food consumed in this area is produced locally. WHAT? Looking at certain realities, these sorts of meetings and discussions are positive and necessary to remind us farmers that there is much to be done. We’ve had the experience of talking to young people born and raised in the area who aren’t aware of the Co-Op in Corvallis, which has a very strong presence, while we notice that the Wal-Mart parking lot is always jam packed when we drive by. While it feels at times like it’s out of reach or simply out of scope, supporting local food is worthwhile. It is a good cause that we feel everyone can benefit from.
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We also want to mention our new friend Harry MacCormack, a speaker on the panel. He co-founded Oregon Tilth and runs a local organic farm outside of Corvallis called Sunbow Farm. Anyway, he’s a leader in the valley when it comes to farming and it’s awesome to receive his big hugs and to hear him mention us and the work we’re doing to a crowd of people.
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A seed and a prayer

More like hundreds of seeds and 5 specific prayers.

WELCOME TO THE OREGON COUNTRY FARM BLOG! I’ll be one of your hosts, Farmer Serah, and you can look forward to nearly a post a day from us. You’ll also be hearing from Farmer Gabriel and hopefully the many voices of the artists/farmers/movers/shakers here on the farm and in our community of Brownsville. Expect to read about what we’re planting, what we’re harvesting, what we’re painting and what we’re eating. Expect to be awed by the work of visiting artists, the sounds of visiting musicians (coming in April!), and expect to be inspired to grow your own food!

On that note, some photos of the day:

I learned to make these little seed start pods from my friend Emily's mom. I use a toilet paper roll cut in half, and a 5 inch strip of newspaper (Eugene's Register Guard). I line the TP roll with the newspaper strip, fold in the bottom overhanging edge and fill it with soil, seed, and more soil. watering them makes the newspaper adhere to itself and stay sturdy. Once our starts have been hardened off, we can put the whole little pod right in the soil. Awesome.

Custom prayer flags from Chad Niehaus in Moab, Utah. In order, they are images representing these sentiments: Use Your Body, Drop Seed, Grow Your Own, Know the Source, and Hug a Tree. We at Oregon Country Farm embrace and practice all of the above. We hope you do too. http://subvertwithus.com/

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