Holy Basil Pesto, Batmans – it’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything. Since there is so much to talk about, I’ll give you both the short version and the long version.

Short version: Life is great and we’re happy and the farm is stupendous.

Long version: We’ve been having a great cherry year all of a sudden. Pie cherries galore. Gabriel has been making these wonderful jams and preserves, infusing them with a home-made lavender steep. Our tomato plants in the greenhouse have been slowly but surely pumping out delicious little cherry tomatoes and the random Silvery Fir or Early Girl. The Suyo cucumbers in the green house are comically large and bumpy but make a delicious salad and can feed 5 people.

Our basil crop is, I think, the biggest and most pleasant surprise. We planted maybe 30 plants outside and another 20 in pots without really thinking what abundance that would bring. So far we’ve had two really wonderful harvests with ever more expected. I’ve been experimenting with pesto – mostly basil walnut – and have had huge success. In two weeks we hope to have several 1/2 pint jars to sell at Saturday market in Brownsville.

Speaking of Saturday market, what a great thing. We’ve gotten such wonderful support from the community and the Calapooia Food Alliance. While it can be slow some days, Gabriel and I find the market to be just the right size for our operation. The more we bring, the more we sell, the happier everyone is. So far people are loving our salad mix, kale and beets with radishes, berries and rhubarb as close seconds.

The orchards are looking good. Aside from a gopher problem in the Filberts and a little fruit crowding in the apples, everything is about ready to pop come the fall. We’re eager to prepare the filbert orchard for harvest and all of the machinery for cider making.

Gabriel and I are still tweaking our schedules to find the perfect balance between outside work and farm work. We’ve been able to add a healthy dose of play into our lives (swimming hole rope swinging, Oregon Country Fairing, Oregon Coasting, etc,) but we still tend to find ourselves in a tiny bit of a scramble during the week. Since I’m still new to this I’m still trying to understand if this is the life of a farmer or if this is the life of a novice-unorganized-over-eager farmer. Come Autumn, we’ll know for sure.

Enough with the letters, here are some pictures.

This was a gift from Gabriel. It’s called Mother of Millions. Those little alien things on the edge of the leaf are the new babies. It just takes a strong wind or a firm jiggle and they will detach, fall to the ground, and root.


About 150 of our 200 tomato plants. Once these plants start bearing fruit faster than we can eat, our road-side stand will open. In the mean time, tomato recipes welcome.





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a lot happens in a month

We’ve been busy! Between dressing up like 1800’s saloon workers, planting over 200 cabbage plants and 150 or so tomato plants, mowing mile high grass and tons of other thing, we’ve been skipping out on the ole blog.

Well here are some photos to catch you up a little bit. More to come soon!


Everybody wants to be a (Brassica) Rapa

On Sunday evening, Andrew from nearby Open Oak Farm paid us a visit and brought an F-150 full of full grown Sutherland Kale, a unique flat-leaved green kale from Sutherland, in northern Scotland.  It is a true heirloom Scotch kale that is nearly extinct, sourced from a very Scottish sounding fellow named Angus Simmonds who researched kales at the University of Edinburgh in the 50’s.

Andrew and Gabriel talkin' 'bout kale.

Anyway, we have a partnership going by which we are fostering these biennial beauties on our land until they go to seed in June.  A worthy cause in the fight to save heirloom varieties and combat the ever-growing and powerful influence of GMOs in the valley.  It was a great activity for both Serah and Gabriel to work with Andrew (a wealth of knowledge, holy crap) and our new roommate Fumi after what was an exhausting weekend of work, with a great Poetry Slam in Eugene sandwiched in there.

Serah diggin' up some dirt. Our soil in front of the house is decidedly "clayy," pronounced: clay-ie. Clayy but real good. Later we plan on putting different varieties of quinoa in that plot.

Andrew and fumi diggin' and plantnin.'

We also busted out some beds against the south side of our house and sowed radish (confetti mix), beets (dark red, candy striped, golden, and albino), and spinach (viroflay GIANT).  It sure feels good to see things coming together outside of the greenhouse.

Our beautiful 100 year old pear tree in the early evening.

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If they take up this much space in the greenhouse, will we even have room to walk around the farm once they’re planted outside?

I can see a season of preserving, drying, lotsa lotsa cooking ahead of us.

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more words about succulents and food

Yesterday, Gabriel and I transplanted a whole bunch of little starts – tomatoes, pepper, cabbages (coming out of our ears), broccoli & endive. It’s always nice working in the green house and I tend to get a little distracted in the warmth, especially when I walk by those little succulents. I started wandering over near the little plants and peering behind weed infested pots to find more and more types of succulents that I had never noticed before. I began pulling clover and ivy volunteers out of the hidden pots and become so distracted that Gabriel had to remind me of our mission: transplanting food plants/thinking about farmers’ markets/business. So I made a secret deal with myself that I’d be back the next day.

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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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On Weather.

The Oregon weatherman's routine

Hey all you fools

Some things were expected as we made the move to Oregon’s Central Willamette Valley.  The month of March was a reminder that this is a wet place, a far cry from the arid landscape of Utah that was home before.  January and February saw one nice snowfall, when Mike and Harriet came to visit, but otherwise proved to be mild and even bright, with a handful of those t-shirt worthy days.  The explosion of daffodils in this early Spring, as they do so well, had us chirping about the upcoming summer, but also marked the start of rains cautioning to the road ahead.  It is surprising to learn that this region actually becomes somewhat desert -like in the midsummer, a warm and hardly-humid June, July, and August leave farmers no other choice but to uncoil the drip irrigation.

It was an historic month, with total rainfall at 10.4 inches, third behind the record in 1904 of 11.7 inches.  We’ve got some big projects to tackle in the next two weeks, and its all about strapping on the puddle-jumping gear and blending in.  It sounded worse than it is.

Happy April

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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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