Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

In my travels around the mid-Willamette Valley, I am seeing a lot of young conifer stands (generally Douglas-fir up to 20 something years old) with just too many trees. Why do I say there are too many trees?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I know many people in this part of western Oregon who are patiently waiting for their trees to grow, hoping to do a commercial thinning (meaning sell the harvested trees to make at least a small profit) when their stand is about 25 years old.

 

All too often it is not working out that way. Instead, as the stand approaches the target age they find that trees have already become too crowded, with too many small, slow growing trees in the stand. The trees are still too small to support a profitable thinning operation yet. To thin at that point is to do so at a cost, although it may be best for the woodland in the long-run. To delay the thinning and wait for the trees to grow enough to make the thinning operation profitable is appealing. It may avoid the short term expense but is likely to weaken the stand at a long-term cost of growth, stand stability and future options. It is a classic “pay now or pay later” situation.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

“What’s with all the logging going on?” is a comment I’ve heard more than once recently. Rural residents of northwest Oregon seem to be noticing an uptick in timber harvest from their industrial neighbors over the past year or so. I wondered whether these observations were simply anecdotal, or if they signaled a rebound from the recession, or if they were evidence of a more historic rise in harvest rates. So I decided to dig into some local data on recent forest ownership and harvest trends. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

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Image from http://www.readyforwildfire.org/

At our home, my wife has resolved to work on emergency preparedness this year. Sure, we have a pantry full of food, jugs of water, flashlights and batteries. Heck, anyone living in a rural area keeps those things on hand for comfort in semi-regular storm events.

But how about the really big events or when something very different, like a wildland fire happens? Are you and your family ready? Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Recent posts on this blog have examined the problem of forest seedling supplies for small woodland owners, and the compromises that sometimes come with limited seedling choices. While the situation has gotten worse in the last couple of years, it is not a new dilemma. Cooperative seedling buying programs, where a group of landowners collectively contract with a nursery for their seedling needs, are one way that small woodland owners have worked to ensure a reliable seedling supply for themselves and their neighbors.

Loading seedlings into WCSWA trucks and trailers. Photo: Bob Shumaker
Loading seedlings into WCSWA trucks and trailers. Photo: Bob Shumaker

Both the Columbia and Washington County chapters of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (CCSWA and WCSWA, respectively) have organized annual seedling programs for their members for the last 15+ years. The two programs have much in common, with a few differences. They each sell about 50,000-70,000 seedlings/year, distributed among dozens of members. Paul Nys (CCSWA) and Bob Shumaker (WCSWA) have been organizing forces behind these programs since their outset. I talked with Paul and Bob to shed some light on the benefits and challenges of keeping these programs going for the benefit of groups in other areas that may want to consider this approach. Continue reading

By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties

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Here is something you should know: Seedlings are in short supply for this winter’s planting season, and the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon.

So what is up? The seedling situation represents something of a perfect storm, with demand rising just as production is down. This is bad news for the folks who’ve noticed timber prices are up a bit and are thinking of a harvest sometime soon.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

For those so inclined, pruning season is now open.

There are many reasons people pick up a saw or loppers to prune up their trees in young stands.   The most common motivations I hear are accessibility, aesthetics and fire resistance/prevention.  Even pruning up just a single- eight foot “lift” can serve any or all of those objectives.  DSCN2267

People want to be able to walk freely around the place without fighting through dense brush the whole way. So many prune to open trails or corridors. This allows them to get to favorite spots more easily, or just get around and see how things are doing. It lets them enjoy the property more (daily walks or bird watching) and also to more easily take care of tasks like spot spraying invasive weeds. Pruning a whole block of trees improves not just access but opens up the line of sight. It quickly changes the look and feel of a young stand and gives the stand an open aesthetic that many people like.

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Like just about any small woodland, the Matteson Demonstration Forest has its share of invasive weeds. Besides familiar and ubiquitous foes such as Scotch broom and thistles, one of particular concern is knapweed.

Meadow knapweed, photo by Eric Coombs, OR Dept of Ag, bugwood.org
Meadow knapweed, photo by Eric Coombs, OR Dept of Ag, bugwood.org

With purple flowers emerging from roundish bases at the top of a tall stalk, knapweeds superficially resemble a sort of spineless thistle, and in fact they are relatives of thistles, botanically speaking. They are biennial (2-year life cycle) to perennial plants and reproduce by seed. Fairly inconspicuous in the winter and spring; at this time of year, their purple flowers betray their location on and along roadbeds and other disturbed areas. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

I don’t need to tell you it’s hot out there today. (Oops! I just did. Sorry.) temp 7.31.15

Between the extreme heat and the very real fire danger, it’s not a good afternoon to be working in the woods.  Rarely do I say I’d rather be in the office than in the field, but today is one of those days that I’m appreciating the air conditioning.

Since everyone is talking about the weather anyhow, it seems appropriate to share some reading material that relates to it, which you can enjoy in the comfort of whatever cool spot you’ve found today.  Oregon Forests and Climate Change is the subject of a little writing project which a number of my Extension colleagues have taken on as a group. Continue reading

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

DSCN2628I recently did a backpacking trip with my daughter, about a 12 year long summer tradition. This year we did a section of the Pacific Crest Trail starting at the California border, travelling “north” to Howard Prairie Reservoir. We actually travelled much farther east than north, ending up only about 10 miles north of California after 55 miles on the trail.
This was really the first time I spent much time in the Siskiyous. I have always heard great things about that landscape from friends and colleagues who have worked or played down there.
The landscape, geology and soils of that region are quite diverse and often quite different from other parts of the state. We spent time hiking through very interesting and diverse mixed conifer forests and meadows with many familiar as well as unfamiliar shrubs and flowers. We really enjoyed the chance to experience the Siskiyous for ourselves. On this dry year, we saw no snow and had pretty long stretches between water. But mosquitos were scarce.
DSCN2645Another rather unusual characteristic of this section of the PCT is the relatively large amount of private lands traversed. Much of the Oregon PCT travels through National Forest lands. In Southern Oregon we were in part of the checkerboard of BLM and private lands. It turns out that I know a few of those private family landowners who have long been encouraging us hike that section. Continue reading

By Brandy Saffell, Education Program Assistant, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Part I: Gucci and the Joriad

OSU Master Woodland Manager Marilyn Richen and her family own forest land in Columbia County. Her story about Gucci, her yellow lab, and the Joriad Truffle Hunting Competition is a modern day retelling of The Ugly Duckling.

Gucci was born into a training program for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Sadly, she could not stay in the program because of scavenging behaviors (i.e. seeking out and nabbing food). The upside of this otherwise disappointing situation was that Marilyn and her partner, Tammy Jackson, could officially adopt Gucci. They decided, though, that they desperately needed to find some sort of activity or training to help focus Gucci’s excessive energy.

Marilyn Richen's dog, Gucci, on a forest truffle hunt (Photo: Jeannine May)
Marilyn Richen’s dog, Gucci, on a forest truffle hunt (Photo: Jeannine May)

This is where truffles enter the tale. Truffles are fungi that develop underground in symbiotic association with the roots of trees; they are also a culinary delicacy. Marilyn has had an interest in truffles for many years and has attended several truffle classes including those offered at Tree School and through the Oregon Woodland Cooperative. She was also aware of truffle hunting with dogs but did not have a dog to train until Gucci came along. Could truffle hunting be a way to channel Gucci’s energy into something productive? Continue reading