Tag Archives: willamette valley

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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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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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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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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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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