Tag Archives: Oregon Country Farm

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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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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A seed and a prayer

More like hundreds of seeds and 5 specific prayers.

WELCOME TO THE OREGON COUNTRY FARM BLOG! I’ll be one of your hosts, Farmer Serah, and you can look forward to nearly a post a day from us. You’ll also be hearing from Farmer Gabriel and hopefully the many voices of the artists/farmers/movers/shakers here on the farm and in our community of Brownsville. Expect to read about what we’re planting, what we’re harvesting, what we’re painting and what we’re eating. Expect to be awed by the work of visiting artists, the sounds of visiting musicians (coming in April!), and expect to be inspired to grow your own food!

On that note, some photos of the day:

I learned to make these little seed start pods from my friend Emily's mom. I use a toilet paper roll cut in half, and a 5 inch strip of newspaper (Eugene's Register Guard). I line the TP roll with the newspaper strip, fold in the bottom overhanging edge and fill it with soil, seed, and more soil. watering them makes the newspaper adhere to itself and stay sturdy. Once our starts have been hardened off, we can put the whole little pod right in the soil. Awesome.

Custom prayer flags from Chad Niehaus in Moab, Utah. In order, they are images representing these sentiments: Use Your Body, Drop Seed, Grow Your Own, Know the Source, and Hug a Tree. We at Oregon Country Farm embrace and practice all of the above. We hope you do too. http://subvertwithus.com/

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