Tag Archives: hazelnut orchard

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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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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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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