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

I talked to my friend Philipp in Portland the other night. We were checking in on family, comparing notes on how each are doing under the Stay Home order.  The big beneficiary at their house is the dog, Coffee, who has his four people at home and who seem unusually willing to take him for a walk.  Phil was also laughing that his yard had never been so free of weeds. 

Weeds had never been one of Philipp’s priorities.  Until now.

I have noticed that many rural landowners look at Fire Preparedness much like Phil looks at weeds.  In fact, many rural landowners are much more aggressive about clearing their home place of weeds, than they are about clearing their home place of fire hazards. 

Left: Three Zones of Defensible Space.  Image from: https://bewildfireready.org/fuels-reduction-cost-share-program/

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

Family woodland owners (like farmers, ranchers, beekeepers and others) typically have busy spring schedules with lots to do in the woods.  Many of those activities come with acres of physical distancing  from others outside their families, so life remains busy.

Although our offices are closed, OSU Extension remains an available and useful source of information for doing many spring woodland activities such as weed control, fire preparedness and prevention, developing wildlife habitat.  We remain available by phone or email to answer questions and direct you to the information you need.  

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties. Photos Jody Einerson, Benton County Extension.

Backpack sprayers are often used to apply herbicides to control weeds in forestry and conservation work.   It is often helpful to apply two or more chemicals at a time in a “tank mix”.  For example, it is common to apply a foliar herbicide to kill actively growing weeds, along with a soil active herbicide to prevent new weeds from emerging over the following growing season.  Or it may be useful to apply two different herbicides with similar action, but that target different types of weeds (grasses v broadleaf plants).  Be sure to review the post on calibrating a backpack sprayer.

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Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties. Photos by Jody Einerson, Benton County Extension.

In many of our herbicide application situations, the objective is to treat an area, such as a plantation of young trees, at a specific application rate.  By rate, we mean applying a specific amount of a material over a given area (e.g. ounces of product per treated acre).  This is essential when applying soil active herbicides, and also for area treatments (as opposed to targeted spot treatments) with foliar herbicides, particularly if the spray mix will be contacting the seedlings, such as in “over the top” applications. Applying too little material will not give you effective weed control, wasting time and money.  Too much material risks killing seedlings and other desirable plants, or causing other environmental damage.  Figuring out how much spray you are applying so that you can calculate how much herbicide to mix into the spray tank is called calibration.

Once you have calibrated your backpack sprayer, you can apply spray in any number of patterns, and still be putting out an accurate amount of material on a per acre basis.  That means you can accurately treat the entire plantation (broadcast), or discreet parts of that plantation such as row strips or patches around trees with confidence. 

Calibration requires a few simple activities and calculations, in two steps.  Here is a simplified refresher:

Step 1: Find the Application Rate (Gallons/Acre, gpa) you apply

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

Spring is the key time to tackle many non-woody weeds.  These non-woody (also called “herbaceous”) plants  include grasses and many common flowering plants including clovers, thistles, oxeye daisy, tansy ragwort and groundsel.  There are many native and also non-native herbaceous plants in the fields and forests of Oregon.

Taking care of unwanted plants/weeds in often an important part of taking care of your land.  Herbaceous weed control if often part of these common objectives:

  • Successfully planting tree and shrub seedlings
  • Reducing fine fuels defending against wildfire
  • Enhancing forest diversity/improving wildlife habitat
  • Easy access and enjoyment of your property
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UPDATE (May 6)

Due to COVID , Amy’s family has Postponed the Celebration of her life event that was scheduled for June 2020.  We will continue to update information about this and other activities at the bottom of this blog post.

As many readers in the north Valley are aware, our friend and colleague Amy Grotta passed away in late December in Portland.  Amy had been living with cancer for a number of years and her fighting spirit had been an inspiration for all of us.  She was an incredible human being, deeply respected and loved by all who knew her.  We will carry her memory with us always.

Amy was the OSU Forestry & Natural Resources (FNR) Extension agent in Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties.  I had the pleasure and good fortune of working with Amy for ten years since she joined FNR Extension.  Since we worked in adjacent Counties with many similarities in climate, forest types, and audiences, I guess it was natural for us to collaborate on projects.  We shared writing for the Tree Topics Blog and our individual newsletters, designed and taught many classes and events together. She was very talented and such a pleasure to work with.  Amy was an inspiration to me.

Amy had a strong passion for her work that came from a deep love of the natural world, and a commitment to helping people better understand and care for it. Amy was compassionate, unflappable, inclusive, and organized.  She liked to involve people, build community and get things done.  

Amy leaves a void in the lives of her family, colleagues and communities of which she was such a part.  There will be a celebration of life this summer, and other events in her memory will be organized in the future, such as work parties at the Matteson Demonstration Forest.  A memorial fund has been established to help continue her work there. I have included more information about that and about Amy’s life below. 

Brad W-R

Amy Grotta Obituary

Amy Grotta, 49, died December 24, 2019, in Portland, Oregon, after a four-year battle with chondrosarcoma. 

Amy was the wife of David Dreher, mother of Anna (17) and Eben (13), daughter of Emily Grotta and James Grotta, step-daughter of John Boudreaux and Kathy Dreyfus, and sister of Jacob, Andrew and Ben Grotta.

Amy was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, and moved around quite a bit as a child, living in Israel, New York, Mississippi, Colorado and Massachusetts. Eventually her family settled in Houston,Texas, where she graduated from Bellaire High School in 1988. Amy was an honor student, a talented gymnast, editor of her high school yearbook, and active in many high school clubs and youth organizations. 

Amy attended the University of California, Berkeley and graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in Conservation and Resource Studies. After graduation, she moved to Vermont where she worked as a wilderness trail crew leader, farm hand, gymnastics coach and high school teacher. In 1996, Amy left Vermont for the Peace Corps and spent two years working in rural Paraguay as an agroforestry technician and travelling with friends and family to Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. 

After completing her Peace Corps service, Amy returned to Vermont and married David Dreher. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Corvallis, Oregon and Amy began graduate school at Oregon State University. After receiving her master’s degree in Forest Science in 2002, Amy was hired by Washington State University Extension as the forestry agent for King County. In 2008, Amy and her family returned to Oregon when she joined the Oregon State University Forestry & Natural Resources Extension as an assistant professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. She became a tenured associate professor in 2015. 

Amy was a passionate educator who engaged effectively with the family forest landowner community as the Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Columbia, Washington, and Yamhill Counties. She actively supported a group of Master Woodland Managers, members of the Women Owning Woodlands Network, three local chapters of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, and the Oregon Woodlands Cooperative. Amy succeeded as an educator largely because she was not only knowledgeable but also very approachable. She embraced the challenges of working in a very diverse area and was equally at ease working with rural forest landowners, discussing rural/urban interface issues, or helping Portland neighborhoods maintain a healthy urban forest. These skills made her an effective, well-respected, and welcome leader among her colleagues.

In her work Amy sought to include and empower the people she worked on behalf of through her involvement in a number of citizen science initiatives. She was the driving force for the Oregon Forest Pest Detector program, a collaboration with several state agencies that trains volunteers to monitor for the arrival of invasive insect species. She was given the Vice Provost Award for Excellence, OSU Outreach & Engagement for her work on the program in May 2019. Her efforts with the Oregon Season Tracker program, which involves community members in climate science research through observations of precipitation and phenology, were recognized in September 2019 with the OSU Extension Association Search for Excellence award. Most recently she had been very involved with the Oregon Bee Atlas in their efforts to involve family forest owners in studying and understanding the role of wild pollinators in Oregon. Every project Amy was involved in benefited greatly from her participation. 

Amy’s neighbors and friends knew her as an avid gardener, a strong parent, and a lifelong lover of nature and wilderness who was always looking forward to the next adventure. She will be greatly missed by friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues. 

Celebrating Amy’s Life & Work

Amy’s family will reschedule Amy’s celebration of life the event from June 2020 to some future date, still to be determined.  We will do our best to update her friends and colleagues in the woodland and forestry communities as details emerge.  If you would like additional details for the celebration, please email rememberatg@gmail.com. Details will also be shared on Facebook through the In Memory of Amy Grotta group.

Amy’s passionate work at the Matteson Demonstration Forest will be carried on.  The local woodland owner community and the OSU College of Forestry are making plans for building an educational trail dedicated to Amy’s memory.  Volunteer crews will be organized when COVID restrictions allow.  In the meantime, folks in the Columbia and Washington County OSWA Chapters are busy in their home workshops building benches that will eventually be placed on the trail.

One of several benches being made for Amy’s trail.

Donations in memory of Amy may be made through the OSU Foundation. In alignment with Amy’s values and life’s work, all donations will be used to support the research, outreach and education activities of the OSU College of Forestry. Please send donations to: OSU Foundation, 4238 SW Research Way, Corvallis, OR 97333-1068. Please include this form with your donation and state that it is “in memory of Amy Grotta” and for the College of Forestry. If you are including a check, please write “College of Forestry, in memory of Amy Grotta” on the memo line of your check.  

For online donations, please visit the OSU Foundation’s Giving page. To ensure your donation is tracked correctly, 1) choose the ‘College of Forestry’ on the “Direct my gift to a specific OSU College or Campus” AND 2) put “In memory of Amy Grotta” in the comment box.   

Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties, and Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent, Columbia, Washington and Yamhill Counties.

MWM Class of 2019

We are excited about recently finishing a Master Woodland Manager (MWM) training and welcoming a new group of MWM volunteers in the mid and north Willamette Valley. The 22 local landowners hail from Benton, Polk, Washington and Yamhill Counties, and bring a wide range of interests, experience and skills to the program.  This advanced training included eight full days of classes and field tours, over four months, providing participants with lots of practical information and opportunities to share and learn from classmates.

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

A recent clearcut/new plantation/rebounding forest in Coast Range foothills

Forests disturbed by fire or harvest look different than they did before the disturbance.  Just how different depends on the size and intensity of the disturbance, of course.  It’s no surprise that a site changed by fire or harvest clearly loses its value to certain wildlife species who like dark, closed forests.  But, disturbance creates opportunities for many other species of plants and animals which prosper in the different, more open environment as the forest rebounds. 

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

Mature forest in western Oregon

People enjoy and cherish Oregon’s forests for a number of reasons.  High among them are the beauty and the variety of plants and animals that live there.

While most of us picture older forests when we read that, we would be wrong to think of that as the complete picture.  Nonetheless a large part of our emotional, scientific and social energy is directed towards those older forests.

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

 

We have written about forest diversity, its importance in providing habitat for different species, or a species at different seasons or at different stages of its development.  We have addressed the forest, trees and shrubs in particular, but the importance of habitat diversity applies to other parts of the forest environment too.  Like streams.

Guillermo Giannico discusses aquatic habitats along Griffith Creek, Benton Count.

We learned about the importance of having different stream habitats to support fish, insects and other aquatic life while on a recent Extension tour.    A stream can have many types of habitat.  The anatomy of a stream (the stream’s morphology) can be described in terms that are familiar to anglers: pools, riffles, glides, bars and tail outs.  Each term describes a different combination of water depth and flow that together provide a type of habitat.  You can see and often hear this:  Some parts are quiet (pool and glide), some gurgle their presence to those nearby (a riffle), while falls and a plunge pools announce themselves at a distance.  Aquatic biologists get excited about streams with a good mix of these habitats in a stream reach, just as wildlife biologists get excited by forest structure and snags.  Hmm.  Continue reading