Tag Archives: Oregon Country Farm

Fear is, without a doubt, the root of all evil. Some say it’s money, but money merely fights the fear of having nothing. The needy and the greedy succumb to fear. It is universal. No amount of gold or things or bling can stop fear. It will paralyze you. Fear dashes dreams. Fear kills crushes. Fear fakes the funk.

If we can minimize fear, we can approach freedom. You may have met freedom, but fear was just around the corner, telling you know you didn’t belong. The first time you spoke in public fear was jumping around and cheering and doing a whole fucking routine. Fear has a pretty decent set-up in your stomach, considering it’s been there for years.

Thankfully, I realized fear is our main foe years ago. I’ve let go and stopped caring about a bunch of shit. Life has been better ever since. Yet, there has been one nagging fear I’ve yet to face. In the grand scheme of things, it may seem minor, but my fear of snakes has had a major impact.

Every time I’m around Gabriel, one of Oregon Country Farm’s fine stewards, I think about Ecuador. That small coastal country in South America is my paternal homeland. And Gabriel sits atop a list of friends and acquaintances who’ve been to Ecuador. Each time I meet someone new that gets added to the list, I curse myself.

My Grandparents emigrated from Ecuador in the mid-1950s. Ever since I could remember adults making promises, I remember being promised a trip to Ecuador. It was mainly from my Grandma. My Grandpa could’ve cared less about the Old Country, he was too busy chasing the American Dream.

The promise was never fulfilled. (My Ecuador trip or my Grandpa’s Dream.) The next thing I knew I was graduating from university, evicted from the warm bosom of adolescence into the harsh world like a loitering drunk. It was early 2008 and I didn’t want anything to do with Bush’s America. I had to get the fuck out of the country, but where to?

Ecuador was the obvious choice, but there were no work visas. Did I really want to spend money on a six-week volunteer project and have to return so soon? My frugal father would never support that kind of reckless philanthropy.

Pull up your own bootstraps before you help my distant cousins with theirs, he’d say.

Alternatively, there was a six-month work visa for the United Kingdom. I chose the European adventure, not only because of the earning potential, but also because Ecuador sits in the Southern Hemisphere, where most snakes slither and dwell.

During my short time on Oregon Country Farm I toiled among the creepy crawlers. Sure, the Southern Willamette Valley is no Amazonian rainforest, but there are a host of earthworms beneath the soil. And as I weeded the gardens I observed and adored those friendly little hermaphrodites, which remind me of snakes, who I believed to be my mortal enemy. I reflected on that fear during my first stroll through the hazelnut orchard.

Later, out in the greenhouse, I got to thinking; why do I fear snakes so much? Surely, the media was to blame. Indiana-fucking-Jones. That suave archeologist! Thanks a lot Hollywood. Okay, there was that one time my friend Hunter brought me to his mom’s classroom and fed a mouse to her pet snake. That was gruesome. Either way, the fear is deep rooted. And like those pesky weeds, I need to pull the whole thing out.

It would be premature to say that I’m free of my fear of snakes. But I’m ready to face the fear. Because while I was on Oregon Country Farm I also contemplated the interconnectedness of life. All forms. The trees and the bees and the weeds and me.

A few years ago, during the existential crisis that sparked my curiosity and nurtured my nomadic nature, I spent many hours meditating on that idea. But this time was different. I touched the leaves, breathed the air, turned the soil, planted the seeds, peered into the holes, and inspected the insects. It hit me hard, like an apple falling from a giant Gravenstein.

We are all connected. Every one of us. Each bit of bark and starter seed. The homeless and the homemaker. The beast and the bug. The cobra and my conscious. We’re in this together. Coexistence. It’s not a dirty word. Let it be. The Beatles said that.

I’m going to Ecuador. I said that.

But I will never get to share my experience with my Grandma. She passed away the month before I came to Oregon Country Farm. For the last thirty years of her life she kept a vegetable and rose garden in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It wasn’t her father’s farm in Ecuador, but it was her own piece of land. Now her ashes will return to the same soil that once supported her award-winning flowers, like she supported me, and I support small-farmers and so on and so forth and forever.

Forevah, forevah-evah, forevah-evah? Three Stacks said that.

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all systems grow

Once again, more than a month has gone by since we’ve put something up on this here blog. To no one’s surprise things have grown bigger, stronger, longer, fatter and juicier. Our apples are starting ripen and my new favorite pastime is walking through the orchard and taking bites off of anything that looks ripe. A symphony of flavors. The green beans are hanging long from the vines, ready for pickling. Almost every meal contains tomatoes, squash, and maybe black berries.

Last weekend brought another kind of abundance to the farm. We held our first annual Farm Stomp here on the farm. Three bands played under the canopy of the filbert orchard while local community members provided and roasted (on site!) goat meat, veggies dishes, berry pies, hand-made ice cream sandwiches and even freshly made soda (blueberry mint and peach – ridiculously good). The most common word used to describe the event since it has passed is ‘magic.’ And it truly was. It was inspiring to see these incredible musicians playing their hearts out beneath the branches that we carefully pruned and tailored over the winter. To see our friends donating their time and resources to provide food and drink reminded us of what an amazing community we live in. THANK YOU to everyone who came, enjoyed and helped. Please see our EVENTS page for photos

Some photos:

Gabriel sets a gopher trap while my favorite vehicle in the whole world stops by our mailbox.

Squash blossom.

Quinoa!

Quinoa and Calendula

Our first attempt at three sisters planting. Unfortunately we never got to the third sister so currently we’ve just got corn and squash in our nine mounds in front of our house. The third sister would have been some kind of been planted in the round between the squash and corn. There’s always next year!

Kale seed.

Waiting to be threshed.

Garlic flower. A volunteer.

custom trellis for green beans.

Beautiful pepper plants.

Cabbage.

Proud corn.

Grapes in the greenhouse.

This is what you get when you do something nice for us. Our friend dick has been buying our filberts and walnuts and selling them to friends in Corvallis, kind of like a promotions agent or marketer. We never asked him to do this yet he does. And so we thanked him in one of the only ways we know how.

Me and Gabriel’s mom Monica harvested all of our red potatoes. It was like digging for treasure while grunting and dripping with sweat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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greens

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.

Cabbage!

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.

before…

after.

breakfast

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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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start!

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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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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