This is an especially nice summer in the Willamette Valley. The past three springs were wetter and cooler than average, making the summers feel very short. By contrast, the weather has been fairly dry and warm without excessive heat since early June.Below are pictures from our farmland in Oregon, where I live and personally manage our farmland. I will be at our California farmland soon, and will share those photos when I return. Along with each image is a caption that helps tell the story of our season.
This was taken on the evening of June 20, one day before official summer. A group of Holstein steers gathers near a stock water tank at the edge of the field. We are working with the Institute for Applied Ecology and US Fish and Wildlife to control invasive plant species and provide opportunities to restore native species to wet prairie habitat using managed grazing and other methods.
Spring oats as seen on June 21. This stand was planted on May 1st. The date was a good one in that annual rye grass (which is a common weed as well as crop we harvest and sell), was apparently past its date of re-sprout. By contrast, our wheat fields sown a few weeks earlier in April have rye grass in them. Rye grass is easy to clean out after harvest, but its presence in the field means it will be back next year too.
A swather cuts orchard grass on June 26th. After a week or so the farmer will come back with a combine to pick up and thrash to collect the grass seeds for sale. This variety is called “Comet” and the crop is certified Organic. Orchard grass is a fine forage species used for permanent pastures.
A combine picks up windrows of annual rye grass on July 9th to harvest the seeds. The variety is “Gulf” and is often used as a cover crop following corn and soy beans. It is also mixed in with new pastures for rapid establishment and high feed quality in the winter.
A very rare plant, the Willamette Daisy, in flower on July 10th. The cattle have been grazing this area since May in hopes that invasive reed canary grass can be controlled, and thus provide more space for native species to flourish. Cattle are leaving at the end of July to be replaced by ewes.
Ewes, lambs and light weight stocker cattle mingle in a paddock at Wattenpaugh Farm on July 11th. We had good success combining cattle and sheep grazing this year. Cattle tend to like taller and more mature forage that the sheep will ignore. Sheep eat more of the low, immature forage, including young weed shoots.
Thanks to the work of Synchro Solar, we have a freshly installed 10 KW photovoltaic system at Wattenpaugh Farm on July 12th. It took another week to put fencing around it and have the utility company complete the tie in. We were fortunate to be selected for a new net metering program being piloted in Oregon. These panels should offset about a third of our power use for irrigation pumping, but the program incentives should zero-out our utility costs.
Spring wheat is nearly ripe on July 17th. This field was planted with two varieties of soft white wheat, which tends to yield best in the Willamette Valley.
Payse Smith, an OSU student working with us this summer (this is his second summer with us), checks soil moisture on our Sudan grass crop on July 24th. We are irrigating with a center pivot system for the first time this summer (it was not irrigated prior to us acquiring the property) and Payse is tracking how application rates convert to field moisture.
Payse Smith went up in a small plane with a friend and captured this view of A2R Farm on July 26th, which looks to the northwest. The green circular pivot field is the Sudan grass, with a wedge where sheep grazed over night. The golden colors are wheat and oat fields. The pastured laying hen houses are in the orchard grass field in the lower left, with a green, fertile strip showing the path the houses took. The pivot to the north is bare soil and will soon be sown with a pasture mix. Also visible are houses, barns, processing facilities and a compost operation. Muddy Creek snakes through the western portion of the farm with oak forest visible along its course, and the cattle are grazing the green field west of the creek.