Fall brings us a lot to be thankful for. We are fortunate to be doing the work of stewarding the land. Below I’ll share some of my experiences over the past few months as summer transitioned into fall. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the places that support our basic needs for food, fiber and clean water, also give us such joy to behold.
In August, Ranch Manager Frank Savage watches lambs move to fresh forage in the early morning at Brentwood Creek Farm
Craig Wichner and Lori Mussi discuss tomatoes in the heat of August at Burns Ranch. A few hundred acres of tomatoes were grown on Burns Ranch this year with very good yields. Tomatoes go to local canneries.
Alfalfa harvest in full swing at Burns Ranch. Most alfalfa goes to local California dairies.
Pasture sown the previous fall is now well developed during the summer with mature clovers in bloom at Brentwood Creek Farm. The pink flower is strawberry clover and the other is white clover.
In early September I took a flight above our Oregon farms. The field above shows our new center pivot covering 156 acres. It was planted in Sudan grass and red clover in mid June. We began grazing lambs on it within a month (lambs are visible as white specs in one of the paddocks), took hay twice, and left about 50 acres for Sudan grass seed harvest. The red clover will be harvested for seed in 2014 and 2015.
Edward “Payse” Smith, our summer intern/irrigation specialist, is a senior at Oregon State University this year and will get a degree in Ecological Engineering. He’s shown here finalizing the installation of soil moisture sensors at Wattenpaugh Farm. We can now see data on soil conditions from a web browser and plan irrigation according to needs. Based on Payse’s work this summer we expect to reduce water use by about a third on our pasture.
The new pasture above is a diverse mix of grasses, clovers and forbs, but is initially dominated by large forage brassica plants. The leafy green is a highly nutritious kale-cabbage plant (tastes great!) bred for livestock feed that grows very fast while fields are being established but usually doesn’t persist for more than a year. Well-known pasture/livestock expert Woody Lane and others from The Willamette Valley Forage and Nutrition Group and the Oregon Forage and Grasslands Council are admiring the field as part of a day-long tour of our operations in early October at A2R Farm near Corvallis, Oregon.
A couple of weeks after the tour, sheep are let into the new pasture where the brassicas are up to their ears.
Record rainfall in late September had us fear the Sudan grass seed crop was a loss. Then October was very dry and warm and by late in the month we had a harvest done. This picture shows a combine about to unload seeds into a truck for transport of around 50,000 lbs to the seed mill. Four combines completed this harvest within a few hours and before sundown caused moisture levels to rise too much again.
Cool fall mornings often mean fog in the Willamette Valley. On the best days it starts to burn off as the sun rises.
Eggs are collected once a day in the afternoon to early evening. Neal Wells is loading the collection bins into the back of the Porter utility vehicle before driving out to the pasture houses.
On November 1st we enjoyed the arrival of 2500 chicks into the new Brooder House at A2R Farm. In five months they will begin laying eggs.
Sometimes it is fun to see what the neighbors are up to on the other side of the fence. On a frosty November morning these curious, Organic dairy calves almost licked my camera. We applied manure from this dairy onto the new pasture field shown previously, which helps account for the huge brassica leaves.
Large fields of vegetables around Corvallis are often going to the processing facility at Stahlbush Island Farm. I watched this field of winter squash grow all season next to Wattenpaugh Farm and was excited to see the harvest finally happening.
By late November we had some clear nights with near record low temperatures. Ice crystals on seedlings of a cover crop mix, which includes oats, vetch and clovers, are beginning to melt in the morning light.