Category Archives: learning

why we spray

This is not our sprayer, but it looks similar.

This is what EFB can look like on your tree. Once it gets to a certain stage, it kills the whole branch. Depending on the size of that branch it could mean losing anywhere between 1/16 to 1/5 of that trees nut production. Multiply that by the number of trees infected and you could have a big problem.

Eastern Filbert Blight, or EFB, is a fungal disease which causes severe damage to certain types o Hazelnut trees – specifically Barcelona and Avellana. Those are the two varieties we are growing, not counting the new Jeffersons we are starting to plant.

Today I planned to go out into the orchard and continue planting those little tree whips, but I ran into Rod on my way out. He had fired up the Massey-Ferguson and had attached the mechanism he uses to spray chemicals on the trees. I know that sounds harsh, and it kind of is, however it’s the only way we know to battle EFB on our existing trees, besides digging them all 3000 of them up and replanting them with a hopefully disease resistant variety. Maybe that is soon to come, but not on this day.

I watched as Rod filled the big tank up with hose water, then tested the sprayer. The spraying mechanism consist of two steel round attachments with 10 nozzles on each of them. They are adjustable so you can spray high and low. Each nozzle is connected to a hose which leads to the big tank which by now has been filled with water and is ready for the chemical additive. Rod used Bravo, a common chemical in the hazelnut biz.

After we cleaned some of the nozzles, Rod stepped into his bright yellow haz-mat suit and came back inside to fortify the house. We won’t be going into the orchard for several days now.

Spraying is something that Gabriel and I are generally opposed to in every way. The way we are looking at this is that it’s our first year living and working on a nut orchard/farm and we’re trying to understand the way the operation normally works while we investigate other options. We know of a couple organic filbert farms nearby and have learned that the major difference is the amount of labor needed to care for the trees. We are two people, sometimes four, and we’re learning.

I didn’t bring my camera with me this morning, so a few pictures and a link from the internet will have to do:

Eastern Filbert Blight


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katy brandenburg, reporting live from Oregon Country Farm

As the Oregon Country Farm’s first non-parental visitor, I wanted to offer others a peek (through outside eyes) at the green and soggy wonder that is this place. For a desert dweller visiting Oregon in April, it’s like turning back the clock a bit on spring; “almost here,” whereas Moab seems to be already on the verge of summer.

I knew Serah and Gabriel in their former life as young, social Moabites actively involved in a bustling community. I was curious to see how they would settle into a more spartan life as modern-day “homesteaders.”

Although only 40 minutes from Eugene, (a college town with a “hippy” reputation,) their farm first appeared to me as an island — a beautiful oasis anchored by a giant white house… in the middle of nowhere. Add to that persistent rain, elderly neighbors and a regular evening ritual of shelling walnuts, and you may wonder as I incredulously did, “Don’t you guys get BORED?”

The historic farm home resembles a Quaker meeting house

Serah’s reaction was equally surprised, as though boredom had never crossed her mind. It was already full of dreams, ideas… and a to-do list a mile long.

“We’re so busy,” she said. “There are so many things we want to start, it feels like we’re already behind.”

Tree planting, brush raking, logo designing and chicken acquiring are just a few items on that list. Oh yeah, and starting the ArtFarm.

A sculpture made by Rod, the owner. I see a futuristic sea lion.

In short, the two fearless campesinos want to open their home to artists of all kinds: visual, performance, musical, culinary, etc. Creative people who would do residencies at the farm and make projects that benefit both themselves as artists and the farm as a whole. (I personally hope to alight here next winter and mosaic everything in sight!)

And when these artists pause from their creative endeavors, they will don muck boots and help dig holes. Which is where I found myself Thursday morning, in a pair of fabulous padded overalls, sloshing through the flooded hazelnut orchard to help Gabriel plant trees.

The moss here alone is worth a thousand words.

We went to lunch at the Historic Brownsville Saloon (complete with ghosts), where they have Rogue chocolate stout on draught and a sandwich called “the heart attack” – the Hog Heaven burger, plus a fried egg. Don’t ask.

I wish I could say more about Living Rock Studios, a quirky local attraction constructed entirely of one man’s lifelong rock collection. But that would consume many more words, and requires photos to do it justice. An oddball side stop not to be missed.

succulents in the greenhouse

While two days is not nearly long enough to be swept into the rhythm of farm life, I found myself being lulled by its charms – and excusing its shortcomings. (The constant damp chill and mud everywhere.) This too shall pass, they promise.

Like the tightly furled buds on the apple and pear trees, and the tiny veggie starts in the greenhouse, ideas for the ArtFarm will blossom as the enthusiasm spreads. I find myself leaving more optimistic than I came, with visions of succulents and mosaic gardens dancing in my head. Thank you, farmers Gabe and Serah, for bringing that community spark with you along the Oregon Trail. Happy homesteading.

cherry tree

back of house








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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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Simple, unrefined, raw

Our weekly meeting at the Fielder dojo began with Rod and Sara making us salivate about the idea of one day visiting the Provence region of France.  We hope that the dirt rows dotted with farm cottages, family tapenade competitions and vibrant markets, roman bridges, and old French men playing bocce in the parks are still there by the time we get around to it.  Oh, and we also spent a good deal dreaming about the Oregon Country Farm logo, which we have spent recent days brainstorming and marinating on and will come at you with visuals soon.

We got a visit from Bob Bronson (or was it Ron Swanson?), the Fielder’s farmer insurance guy, prompting lots of talk about Oregon history, logging, farming in the region, and a bit of talk about insurance.  Rod and Bob could have gone through ’til supper talking about stuff that sounded really cool but left Serah and I sufficiently glazed over.  Bob did do us the favor of reminding us how important the books are in running any business, and I think Serah got a little giddy at the thought of keeping a hand written ledger as we made this realization.

After lunch, we headed out to the Dirky farm in Halsey, OR.  Halsey lies about 15 miles west of us, on the other side of the I-5, still very much in Linn County grass seed farm territory.  We saw some crazy bald eagle golden eagle amazing raptor beast flying low through a flock of sheep grazing a grass field, presumably swooping down to get some tasty sheep afterbirth.  We’ll have to share more soon about the amazing raptor activity that we witness around here.  Anyway, Farmer Birky greeted us in the driveway of his very impressive 40 acre filbert operation, and we got our first glimpse of the harvesting equipment used in the filbert biz.  In general the farm was really clean primmed organized and nice, and quite a bit different from our own.  Let’s just say that our farm has a distinct mossy old charming random feel to it.  Amidst the logo discussion from earlier in the day, we discussed word associations that may help us brand our operation, and the words simple, unrefined, and raw came up.  My conclusion from this visit was that not all farms exude those qualities, and that I’m proud that ours does.  Thanks a million to Mr. Birky for showing us around, very openly sharing his knowledge, and selling us 85 Jefferson Filbert babies to be planted in the holes out in the orchard!!!


Rod checking out a 'Sweeper,' which pushes nuts into neat rows that are sucked up by the massive harvester. And the two really funny dopey farm dogs.

A 40 acre orchard of the 'Jefferson' and 'Ennis' varieties. Right when we all started to discuss fertilizers used in the orchard, this dog decided to start fertilizing.


After gathering more brush, tooling around on the Kubota, and while finishing seed starts (we’re right at the 4-6 weeks before the last frost-stage), we received a call about an exciting new addition to the Oregon Country Farm lineup…let’s just say that an OSU Doctoral Soil Science Student from Japan will be living with us here for the next great while.

YES (fist pump).


The sun shinin' through at Oregon Country Farm

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The Great Blizzard of Twenty-twelve

March 21st marks the snowiest day we’ve seen in Oregon so far. With a stick, Sara Fielder measured the depth of snow piled up near the tea house and claimed a measurement on the heftier side of 5 inches, and it wasn’t even finished snowing at that point. Bamboo that normally stands 20 feet up in the air was bending over so low, it looked to be bowing on the ground. I had a rude shock trying to walk through the filbert orchard when I saw so many of our trees had broken limbs, really big broken limbs. If it wasn’t for the branches hanging so low, and the ground being so slushy I’d have spent the rest of the morning shaking snow off each of the 1300 trees.

We lost power for 12 hours, which means no water, no heat and no hot food. Sara and I had quesadillas made on a skillet resting on her and Rod’s  wood-burning stove. Then, she taught me how to crochet. Throughout the day, I kept trying to make a fire in our little fireplace, but most of the wood I used was either too damp or burned too quickly to generate substantial heat. I know some tricks now, though.

By yesterday afternoon, the snow had almost fully melted in our county. Today the sun shone for hours while I tended bar and served food at the saloon. Thanks a lot, sun.

Trusty Massey-Ferguson, passing the time a little differently on this day.

East side of the tin shed.

Despite the insane weather outside, things were still lush and warm in the greenhouse. This leaky faucet has provided for much plant life, intentionally or un.

Rod and Sara's old bikes against the West side of the greenhouse. Gabriel and I have been scheming since day 1 on the best way to them up and running again.

Apple trees.

Here I am standing in the orchard looking due East or West, I can't remember. Just last week Gabriel was going along these rows at a good clip on that Massey-Ferguson.

A broken limb from the weight of the snow. There are many like this in the orchard, a bit painful to see. With each broken limb the nut production of that tree is reduced and the exposed area becomes susceptible to rot and disease.

First fire.


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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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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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“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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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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