Category Archives: laboring

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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Our hard-workin’ M-F

We have two farm vehicles that put in the hard work for us here at Oregon Country Farm.  Lately I’ve been jumpin on the ol’ Massey-Ferguson diesel tractor, our big rig next to the almost toy-like Kubota.  I’ve already had a hand in fixing up the rake attachment, which allows us to gather orchard trimmings into big piles down each row.  The piles of brush are numerous, massive, and dense, which should make for a memorable burn day.  Rod always refers the the ‘ass-end’ of the tractor, and about keeping the orchard floor ‘tabletop clean’, phrases that always get us smiling.

Massey-Ferguson is a make I’d heard of from reading a book by Richard Rhodes titled Farm: A Year in the Life of an American Farmer.  A continuing theme in the narrative involves the farmer’s dominion over his fields through the use of machinery, operating it with surgical precision, understanding its mechanics, and taking great pride in its diligent upkeep.  The featured corn and soybean farmer, Tom Bauer, operates a Massey-Ferguson combine, a big metal beast in trademark red.  Ours is a far cry from Farmer Bauer’s shiny waxed and oiled rig that stays fresh in a shed for winter, but she’s got her own sort of weathered-Oregon charm.

While using stinky gassy and clumsy machines does definitely have its downsides, I manage to have fun controlling all the levers and scooting around the land, getting big jobs done quick. There’s nothing quite like raking a row clean and staring back down its length, trees primmed and floor swept.

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“young people don’t want to waste their time cracking a nut.”

Not so!

Nightly nut-cracking ritual at Oregon Country Farm. We sort through as many nuts as it takes to get through an album of new music. More on this soon...

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a look at the orchard

This was in early January. We spent the whole month pruning the younger 5 acre orchard, taking about 20% off each tree, eliminating crossing branches, lightening the load on over-weighted limbs and generally cleaning up the ‘crown.’ In three years we’ll come back through this orchard and do the same. We have a total of 15 acres of hazelnuts and each year we’ll do a major prune to one 5 acre spread creating a rotating cycle of 1/3 of the orchard getting major attention ever three years. The cuttings were collected in piles between the rows and Gabriel went through with an enormous fork attached to the Ole Massey Ferguson and scooped up the piles. When my parents visited from California, we pruned in the sunlit morning and were having a snowball fight by noon.

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