Monday, January 12, 2015

What do we do all winter? Continued...

It is the new year already!  We are enjoying the winter with the slower pace.
Today we attended an all day meeting educating us about all the plant production product label updates.  The speakers share about research trials that have been done that show what products work best for weeds, disease, etc for the crops grown in the Willamette Valley.  We also learned about updates from the Oregon Department of Agriculture about what is coming down the line in the legislature and other government regulations about rules that will affect farmers.  Sometimes it gets pretty overwhelming all the regulations that farmers have to comply with.   I wish farmers and neighbors, and community in general could just work things out between themselves instead of having to have all these rules that come with so much paperwork.   I know I am just dreaming though because this is not a perfect world.

pruning more Lazaro pruning


We have 6 employees out pruning our blueberries.  It takes them about 3 months to prune all the blueberries which is nice for them so they can have year-round work.  Next they go prune the apples.   Every year we have to decide how aggressive to prune the blueberries.  If we prune really hard we will get fewer but bigger berries but if we prune too light, then we will have lots of really small berries which is not the best.   So we usually shoot for the middle ground.
When we start pruning a blueberry bush, the first thing we do is look at the base of the plant and see if there are any new growth whips that are too small to keep.  We cut them off at the ground.  Next we look to the middle of the bush.  It is important for blueberries to have light and air flow in the middle of the bush (plus makes it easier to pick later) so we take out any branches that cross through the middle horizontally or thin out any areas in the middle that are really compact with branches.   It is most efficient to identify if there are any whole stems/branches you can cut out first because you might as well not thin the top of the plant, then decide later, that you want to take out that whole stem and branch anyway.  Next we look to the top of the bush and thin that out.
before pruning Liberty
Before pruning (Liberty variety)
liberty before pruning 2014-2015
After pruning (Liberty plant)



bb pruning


The picture to above is of a branch that has not been pruned yet.  The very end of the branch needs pruned off because it is a brown dead branch anyway.  Then next we would have to decide how many shoots off the main branch we would take off.  Since these are Liberty blueberries and our goal this year is to grow our plants bigger, we would prune some of those side branches off.  Hopefully the plant will not have to share so much energy with producing all the small berries,  that some of the energy can go into plant growth. Also, the smaller the thickness of the side branch, the less size of fruit it will produce, so we take those off first.   Hopefully all this makes sense.  Hard to explain when I can't point exactly at things.


liberty blueberries



It also depends on how hard you prune by what variety of blueberry you have.  We have 3 different varieties and each is different.  In our Dukes, that are finicky to grow, if we get any new growth from the bottom we are lucky, so we DO NOT cut it off because it is precious.  But in a Liberty blueberry field, we have tons of new shoots (growth) coming from the bottom so we will be more aggressive and take quite a bit off.
We also had our blueberry fields limed recently.  If you were to see the fields, you would have thought it snowed!  I don't know if you have ever driven by some open dirt fields and they are covered in white and you wonder what it is.  They have been limed too.  Lime is a naturally occurring product that farmers apply to keep their fields at a pH that is best for their specific crops.  Blueberries are very picky about what pH the soil needs to be at in order to grow well.
We usually apply lime if we change the  crop we grow on our land.  For instance, when we are growing grass seed, those fields usually stay in at least 3 years so for 3 years we don't have a chance to apply lime.  So the year that grass field is taken out, we would apply lime that year because we have the chance to incorporate it into the soil.


blueberry lime

Between educational meetings, checking on the blueberry pruning, and making decisions for the coming season, we also like to do some organizing around the farm in the winter.  This year we are focusing on our storage areas.  With farming, there are so many diverse things we do and we have extra parts or leftover supplies from everything.  We are always trying to figure out ways to organize it well, or what things can we get rid of or will need in the future.  And what things we should get rid of or keep is always debatable between the generations :)

Speaking of organizing, I better get back at it!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Another year in the books

Thank you for all your business this year! 

It was another great season meeting you all.  Thank you for all the word of mouth advertising you do for us.  You guys are pretty great.   Too quiet around here now without you all :)

We are starting to brainstorm for improvements for next year.  Please feel free to leave a comment or email BeilkeFF@gmail.com if you have any suggestions :)


 

So what will we do all winter??

Dad winter planning
The winter planning begins. Calling around getting information to make decisions.


With apple season over with, things slow down a little here.  Time to catch our breath and be thankful all our crops are in for the year.  Then soon after, next year's planning starts.  We look back over each crop we grew and brainstorm ways to make it go better next year , more efficient and try to learn from any mistakes.  We also do a final tally of how the crops turned our financially to help make decisions.  Then we sit down and figure out our "winter list", which is a list of things on our equipment that need fixed or improved.

Then we think of capital purchases like tractors, more efficient blueberry sprinklers, add drip irrigation, irrigation pump repairs, sprayers, etc that we would need to improve the farm.  To keep it moving forward instead of backwards.  My dad is good about thinking long term and big picture.  He likes to make a dream list if we had all the money in the world, what we would do.  Then we whittle it down to what can we actually afford and what is dire and most important for long term plus short term.

For each crop there are many things to think about:  Why are we growing this crop?  Is it worth it to grow this crop- financially and time and effort?  Do we have a rotation to keep this crop?  Do we trust the people we grow for so we will get paid?  What capital purchases in the future will we have to make to continue growing this crop?  What is the future of the crop for price and demand.  Etc, etc.

Then we have to decide where we will grow each crop on the fields we have.  It isn't the best to grow the same crop, year after year in the same spot.  Corn can be grown 2 years in the same field but only if you have to because your yield goes down.  Our vegetable seeds can't be grown again on the same land for 10-15 years because they can cross pollinate with weeds that maybe can't be controlled and the crop would be ruined.  Some crops don't get harvested until later in the season, like corn, so there is too short of time before the rains start to plant fall planted crops, like grass seed.  Anyway, my point is that you really have to do planning so you don't get yourself in a pickle.

Besides all the planning, we also start in on pruning the blueberries and later in the winter, the apples.  We also have to do mouse baiting in all the fields, so the voles won't eat our precious crop roots and trap for moles and gophers so our fields aren't destroyed.  Sometime we need to apply lime to our apples and blueberries depending on the pH.  We also attend LOTS of agricultural educational meetings.

I have a picture of a mole we caught and I'm so tempted to post it on here but I don't want to gross anyone out :)  So I will resist!

So that is what we are up to!  I will post a few pictures here and there throughout the winter so you guys can see if we are being productive or not :)

Hope you still have some apples left to enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

This Saturday, Nov 15th is the last day to pick apples!

This is your last chance for apples for the year.   It looks like it will be too cold for the apples after this.  Come pick your last stash for the winter on Saturday!  Open 8am to 6pm.

We also plan to pick a bunch of apples today that you guys can buy for $12 a bucket.  If there is any left after the weekend, you are welcome to buy some next week.  I'll post on Facebook on Monday if we have any pre-picked left.

We have Granny Smith and Gold Rush left to pick.  The Granny Smith left are especially gorgeous.
It will be cold but at least it will be sunny!!

Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Apple picking is still happening! Couple weeks more.

 Updated Nov 10:  All blueberry plants have sold.  Thank you!

We have some nice blueberry plants to sell!  We had to remove some from our fields for various reasons so we wanted to give you the opportunity to enjoy them!

We have about 25 of them left.  There are 4 year old Legacy and Aurora varieties which are a later season ripening blueberry.  Legacy is ready to harvest throughout August, and Aurora is Mid August to Early September. $20 per plant

We also have some smaller Duke blueberry plants that we had left from replanting some spots in our fields this fall if you are interested in those.  Dukes are ready to harvest the end of June through part of July.  $10 per plant for Dukes.

blueberry 1
Legacy Blueberry plant
blueberries
Aurora blueberry plant


Now back to apples!  Yes we STILL have apples :)

Still available:

Pink Lady

Gold Rush

Granny Smith

Braeburn


This time of the season we will usually have pre-picked buckets available for you at the entrance of the orchard if you are just not feeling up to picking that day!  $12/per bucket.
You are also welcome to call ahead for us to pick you some apples if you want more than a couple buckets at a time!  We are happy to do that.  Just call and leave a message at 503-393-1077 or email us at BeilkeFF@gmail.com.

 

Other Farm Happenings:

The blueberry fields are starting to turn their fall colors.  Soon the leaves will fall to the ground and it will be pruning time.
blueberry fall blueberry sorter

We also need to spread sawdust in one of our fields that we didn't get to last year.  We spread it at the base of the blueberry plants.  Blueberry plants grow the healthiest when they have lots of the little fine shallow roots present, so it is worth the effort.  Plus it helps reduce evaporation in the summer when it is hot out and reduces the weed presence!

We will also be making our "winter list" that gives us direction once winter comes.  Helps us prioritize what needs fixed first, and reminds us of all the small repairs and improvements that need done here and there to make harvest time run smoothly.

Well we need to keep working away.  Thanks for checking in!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Raindrops falling on your head.

It definitely feels like fall around here!  But I am kinda loving it so far. :)

We do still have apples left!


Little girl
Yes that is sunshine in this picture.  We already forgot what it is like!



You won't have any problem finding Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gold Rush and Braeburn.  A large amount of all these left. (Again, walk to the orange cones in each row and there you will find loaded trees of apples.  Granny Smith doesn't need a cone yet because there are so many!)

(For Braeburn, we have a long single row of these, and also a cluster of trees planted in a triangle shape in the Southeast corner.  They are right along Pueblo St actually.)

Jonagold and Melrose: There are a small amount left.  Walk to the far end of both these rows and you will find some down there.

Fuji, Ruby Jon, Rome, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious are done for the season.  You will find some strays out there if you are just dying for a last bucket, but if you want some easy picking apples, focus on the ones above!)


 More pictures of our great customers!!

customers in gator customer in truck

It really is a pleasure helping you all find your apples.  It is such a fun time on the farm.  We just really enjoy meeting new people and getting to see again and again customers from other years and even weeks!  Anyway, thank you for the fun attitude you bring with you when you come out!


























Friday, October 24, 2014

Just a quick update!

Happy Friday!

Not too much change to tell you about but wanted to give you an update for if you are coming out today or this weekend.

Obviously this picture was from a couple weeks ago because of the lack of warm clothes :) But I thought it was a great picture and wanted to post it! So fun to see people just enjoying themselves and not having to be in a rush! Thank you!


Most plentiful rows:  Gold Rush, Pink Lady, Granny Smith.

Apple rows that still have many apples but you need to walk to the far end to find them:  Melrose, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Braeburn.

Some Ruby Jon left, also walk to the farthest end.  I tried one today.  While the flesh is starting to turn softer, the flavor is amazing.  Wow.  I think they would make some even more amazing applesauce than 2 weeks ago.

Fujis are close to being all picked.  There are some smaller ones left on the 3 main Fuji rows.  Also bend down and look under the leaves into the tree.  These apples are kind disguised since they are a pale color.  We have 4 other trees in the older section, so ask and we will take you to them!  One of the trees hasn't even been touched yet.

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Scavenger Hunt Drawing winner announced!

And the winner of the Scavenger Hunt drawing is..................


scavenger hunt winner

The Smith Family!   
Come enjoy your free bucket of apples!



Thank you all who came out for the 2nd Annual Festival.   It was so fun to see everyone enjoying themselves, kids and families running around intently doing the scavenger hunt and lots of people discovering that the apple you choose does make a definite difference in the taste of your applesauce.  I think the hit of the festival was the Gator rides.  The kids really loved it.



Here are some other pictures for the festival for those who missed it:
App Fest 7




Ap Fes 1 Ap Fest 2 App Fes 4 App Fest 3 App Fest 5 App Fest 6