By Miles Merwin, Ridgeback Tree Farm
The winter holiday season is busy not only for those Co-op members working hard to meet the demand for bundled firewood, but also for those of us who sell evergreen boughs. During November and December, we harvest boughs from our own forests and sell them wholesale to florists in the northern Willamette Valley. Our customers in Portland and Salem use our boughs to create table decorations, centerpieces and special arrangements for holiday decorations.
Planning for the upcoming season starts in Sept. and Oct. as we gather orders, which are then divided among the Co-op members supplying boughs. This year we have seven Co-op families involved in our bough program, which began 10 years ago.
To insure that we supply our customers with fresh, high quality evergreens, OWC follows a detailed protocol for harvesting and packing. We currently supply eight different species of native Oregon conifers, including Noble fir, Western red cedar, and Ponderosa pine. We don’t harvest boughs more than a week ahead of delivery and keep them cool to maintain freshness. Our members bring all their boughs to our barn as a central collection point. Then we assemble the species that each customer has ordered, load it all in the trailer, and hit the road to deliver. This process is repeated every week during our short but intense bough sales season.
Through our sister company, Oregon Heartwood, we can also supply retail customers with fresh evergreen boughs for home decorations, wreath making, etc. We can ship boughs anywhere in the continental US. Learn more about retail bough sales.
By Marc Ahrendt
There are aspects that are understood by all within my family about our property. Some came to us early. For example, it takes a great deal of work to even just keep things maintained, let alone addressing any desired enhancements. Another would be the trade-offs between modern conveniences, like Internet access speeds, and the rural life, like the amazing quiet. Yet one aspect that took some time to fully understand/appreciate was that we do not live on our property alone.
We found bats living in the attic of our home, mice in all the outbuildings, elk amongst all the seedlings, back bear in trail camera photos, and coyotes breaking the evening silence. Early on we saw this as “man vs. nature”, but it has become “man with nature”. Wanting to be good stewards of the property has forced us to respect the overall health of the land …not just our future timber.
Instead of picking photos for this brief article from a good stash of trail camera photos, I simply walked out of the house and over to one of our older tree stands and quickly/easily took the above photos. Amazing to be able to so easily observe so much life in/on/above the ground.
Our compromise with nature so far has been to do what it takes to keep nature outside of our structures and from hampering our future timber from acquiring high market value, while letting them figure out the rest amongst the areas we do not disturb. One such area is along the creek the runs through our property, and another area is an old stand of trees from which we will never remove any wood. Another bonus for them is that we do not litter, burn, or use chemicals.
The family member that takes over our forest management plan in the future will hopefully continue or better implement a “man with nature” perspective.
Eve Lonnquist can often be found working in the woods, just like her grandmother, who bought Cedar Row Farm in 1919 for $2000 and planted its namesake row of cedars. Nestled in the Nehalem River foothills, the 160-acre forest is stewarded by Eve, her two brothers and her partner Lynn Baker.
The family enjoys taking care of the land and balances multiple goals, including recreation and income from timber harvest as well as providing wildlife habitat. They are FSC-certified through Northwest Natural Resource Group’s group certificate and are members of the Oregon Woodland Cooperative, selling bundled firewood to grocery stores around the Portland area.
Eve and Lynn have honed techniques to protect young seedlings from the voracious deer and elk that often rest in their pasture. They’ve become practiced in DIY seedling survival while returning their stretch of the Nehalem floodplain back to shade-providing conifers as part of a Natural Resources Conservation Service project.
Eve and her brothers thin young trees in their red alder stands to help the remaining trees have the space to grow and improve wood quality. “Because our grandparents were here and we are tied to the property, we have an inter-generational connection with the property that we want to maintain,” says Eve. “And we want to do right by the property.”
Last year, Cedar Row Farm was Columbia County's Tree Farm of the Year. This 4-minute video by the American Tree Farm System and U.S. Forest Service celebrates the forest’s history and management. To Eve, being a certified tree farm “means that I’m managing the property for the health of the property and for income.”
Originally appeared in Northwest Natural Resource Group Newsletter, June 8, 2018
By Marc Ahrendt
We recently completed our first forest management plan. Initially, our focus was just to get a better understanding of the trees. Getting assistance from a professional allowed us to time to also get a better understanding of other property aspects, and how those aspects relate to each other and the trees. I will highlight two of the “other property aspects” that we did not anticipate would get much attention in our plan.
The first was doing research on the dam pictured above. It was surprising to be able to download (from www.oregon.gov/owrd) the original permit application for the dam and associated water rights! The 1928 permit included the estimated construction costs ($1250), project timelines (built within 2 years and water use within 3 years), and some physical dimensions (diameter of outlet/supply pipe at 1.5 inches). Learning about the dam has led to learning/thinking about other water related aspects, like water quality and testing.
The second was identifying our primary objects for the property …why did we buy? We had to turn our feelings/dreams/ambitions into several sentences. One interesting component of that was setting property restrictions (no hunting, no littering, no burning, and no chemicals). The twist of thinking not just about what we wanted, but what we did not want, helped us greatly with our overall forest management plan.
And yes, I spend much time pulling Scotch Broom and cutting back Himalayan blackberry …yet that makes me take a closer look at the ground (found old logging cables but no luck finding antler sheds).
By Marc Ahrendt
As a new small woodland property owner, we need to acquire equipment to meet our forest management plan objectives. A recent bulldozer acquisition was an unexpected opportunity. It will greatly help us with road maintenance and be available for miscellaneous tasks (like some small logging operations in steep areas of our property). Three appealing features of this bulldozer are the following: 6-way blade; winch with steel cable (made later upgrade to synthetic rope); and a beefy cage/ROPS (RollOver Protection System).
The bulldozer is a “nice to have”, but our log splitter has unexpectedly become a “must have”! It used to be so tough to get help splitting firewood. Now all I have to do is start the SuperSplit and the help just appears. No surprise that OWC wanted to be a distributor for SuperSplit …as well as for Logrite. Neither company has disappointed me with their quality products.
By Jim Merzenich, Oak Basin Tree Farm, Brownsville, OR
Several years ago OWC helped to develop a market for essential oils derived from conifer needles. In 2012 the cooperative had a Woodland Fair at our tree farm where the process for extracting these oils using steam distillation was demonstrated. Together with my late friend Dave Bateman, I thus purchased a still. The process is to collect and grind the needles then run them through the still. The needle oil evaporates with the steam and is condensed back to a liquid. The oil can then be easily separated because it floats on the water. A one hundred and fifty pound batch of ground needles generally produces from 3 to 8 ounces of oil.
We currently produce and sell oil from ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, incense cedar, western red cedar, noble fir, and grand fir. This oil is sold under both the Oregon Forest Canopy label and our private Oak Basin tree farm label. When I thin and prune my conifer stands I am now collecting needles to run in my still. Oils are available for purchase online through Oregon Heartwood and at New Seasons Markets in the Portland area.
A small firm in Eugene called Broom Magic makes and sells traditional brooms using real broom corn and nineteenth century broom-making equipment. The handles for these brooms are harvested from our tree farm and several other farms in Linn County. The handles are manufactured from 6’ long sticks that vary from about ½ to 2 inches in diameter. These sticks are cut in the winter when the plants are dormant and are then kiln dried with the bark on. Favorite species for handles are hazel, cascara, and cherry. While most sticks are relatively straight defects such as unusual crooks or animal gnaw marks can add character and value to a finished broom. We are paid for these sticks when we deliver them to the kiln.
Other products such as bundled firewood, holiday boughs, and wood craft with the Heartwood label are now produced and sold by OWC members. I am in the process of training my 18 month-old pup to help me find and market truffles from our young Douglas-fir stands. Many other opportunities exist to derive added income from your farm. The Oregon Woodland Cooperative may help you find that niche market. Happy tree-farming and good-luck chasing your dream.
By Jim Merzenich, Oak Basin Tree Farm, Brownsville, OR
Prior to European settlement frequent fires burned across Oregon’s western valleys and surrounding foothills. These fires maintained open stands of hardwoods, pine, and fir along with wet and dry prairies. After a wind or other disturbance event, fire cleared out the debris and undergrowth and provided a seed bed that enabled conifers to regenerate and thrive.
Areas that are logged and not properly reforested, or areas of untended farmland, now suffer a different fate. Non-native grasses quickly invade the site. These grasses utilize soil moisture in our dry summers and prevent conifer tree seedlings from becoming established. Exotic invaders such as English hawthorn, Himalayan blackberries, and Scotch broom then move in making these sites unproductive both to society and wildlife for decades. Our valley ecosystems are clearly out of sync and are no longer capable of restoring themselves.
Despite forest protection laws many areas previously logged remain brushed over and unproductive; other parcels are logged with no plans for management; and farmland parcels are still being neglected. To the rescue comes the tree farmer. We typically buy land that has a history of abuse because we cannot afford to buy well-managed land with merchantable saw-timber. First the area must be cleared of brush in a process called site-preparation. After planting the appropriate tree species we control grasses and weeds around seedlings until the trees are “free to grow”, hopefully within five years.
Even with our best efforts we are not always successful but learn from our mistakes. With deer browsing the leaders and meadow voles girdling the stems it’s soon time to do a pre-commercial thin. All of these activities incur costs which are not recoverable until our stands become merchantable. After 20 to 30 years we may finally have a commercial thin which provides our first “timber” related income.
Tree farmers do not purchase land with the intent to lose money. Management costs may be overwhelming, however, before you send your first load of logs to a mill. I joined the Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC) in search of ways to earn income while waiting for my trees to mature. This investment in OWC has paid off handsomely.
William Ingram was seven years old when he arrived in Oregon with his family in 1854. They had taken a ship from Maine to New York, then to Panama, crossed the isthmus by mule to the Pacific, boarded a ship from there to San Francisco, then another ship to Oregon City, and an ox team south to the Willamette Valley. Their Donation Land Claim, in the hills between Sodaville and Brownsville, Oregon, had only a few large conifers and a grove of oaks – the surrounding grassland was selected for their farm. The native people had burned it each year, creating an oak savanna.
A century and a half later, the giant fir where the family met Blackhawk, when he would escape from the Grand Ronde reservation, is now just a rotting stump. The other giant Douglas-fir and incense cedar trees from those days are still there, sentinels of another time. When the family quit farming this hill property, sheep from the valley were grazed here for summer pasture. Sometime in the 1930’s, as grazing decreased, young fir and cedar began to cover the hills, seeded by those giant trees. The firewood we produce for OWC was thinned from this stand, grown where William, our great grandfather, grew up. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.