Status report on Beavercreek Farm

We have fielded plenty of questions about the Beavercreek Demonstration Farm over the past several months.  July marked the first anniversary of our stewardship of Roaring Creek Ranch, aka the Beavercreek Demonstration Farm. Since we own only one farm, to us it is simply the Farm.

Questions we’ve received…

(1) Why aren’t you haying the fields?

We addressed this question in mid-July in a post titled Why are we not haying the fields this year?

(2) Why are you irrigating in the middle of the day?

Farm-Center_field-Irrigating-19Jul2014-smallThe concern was expressed in the context of: you’re a soil and water conservation district, so how can you justify watering in the hot, windy part of the day?

There are three reasons for why we’ve been running the sprinkler this summer: soil health, pasture recovery, and pond level control. As we’ve noted elsewhere on the farm website (for example, see Soils in our hay fields need some help) the fertility of our soils is relatively low. We’ve since applied lime and fertilizer. We’re irrigating one field to see if it responds differently than the other two main fields, and we’ll test that this fall or next spring with another round of soil tests.

We’re also watering to try to keep the pasture grasses growing while we have animals on one field. The other two fields are resting this year.

Farm-Upper_pond-5Sep2014-smallBut the biggest reason is less obvious: the drain for the upper pond (the one near the intersection of Beavercreek and Ferguson roads) has been plugged since mid-winter. I’ve been siphoning and pumping the pond since then to keep it from overflowing. Since we’re pumping this summer to bring the pond level down so that we can repair the plugged drain, we may as well exercise our water right and use that water for a beneficial purpose…in this case, helping to grow pasture grasses.

By the way, we’ll be working on the pond drain this fall, so don’t be surprised to see a backhoe out by the pond!

(3) Why is the driveway gate locked?

The person who shared this concern noted that since the farm is now owned by a public entity (Clackamas County SWCD), the public should be able to enter the property at any time and wander around.

It’s a farm property. Farming is one of the most hazardous professions in the United States. There are quite a few hazards at the farm, and we simply can’t let people wander around unsupervised. It’s just not safe to allow unsupervised access.

Nevertheless, we have opened up the farm for a few events, and some neighbors have taken advantage of those events to get to know the farm better. We hope to have some community events in future years, once we can make some conditions at the farm safer for visitors.

(4) Can I have my wedding at the farm?

We’ve received a couple of requests to hold a wedding at the farm. We aren’t ready to answer this question. The District’s board of directors is thinking about all the ramifications of hosting this type of event at the farm. They’ll be discussing it again at their September 23rd board meeting.

(5) Why did you prune the driveway trees?

This is a tough one, because we all love the look of the Norway maple trees that line the driveway. (Of course, Norway maples are not native and they are rather invasive, spreading easily by seed.) What we discovered is that large delivery trucks couldn’t come into the farm without damaging the trees, and sometimes scratching the trucks. This also means a large fire engine or rescue vehicle might have trouble coming down the driveway.

The farmhouse and historic barn are important to us. They are visual icons in this part of the Hamlet of Beavercreek. We want to protect these assets as much as we can, and preventing delays in reponding to a fire-related emergency could mean the difference between saving the barn and losing it. The trees were pruned to make sure emergency vehicles can get into the farm quickly.

Pruning and clearing of some brush also visually opens up the farm, making the house more visible to law enforcement. Since we don’t always have someone on site every day, it’s important that law enforcement personnel are able to see “into” the farm from Beavercreek Road.

(6) Why did you cut down the tall cherry tree in the back yard?

The short answer is: because it was rotted and in a blow from the southwest (our prevailing winter storm direction!) it would have fallen on the farmhouse. As noted above, the farmhouse is part of the visual appeal of the farm, and maintaining that appeal is important to us.

Coming up at the farm…

(1) Fence replacement

Farm-Broken_fence-Ferguson_field-5Sep2014-smallRecently, we cut weeds along Ferguson Road. The purposes of this work were to control some invasive species that were taking hold, and to clear the area so a fence crew could work on the fence.  Many posts in the old fenceline were rotting away, and the fence didn’t really present much of a barrier to people or animals.

Our contractor completed the replacement of the Ferguson Road fence on September 6th.  The new fence is much more robust, and it’s set up to contain most grazing animals that could be used to help manage forage and nutrients on the farm.

(2) Pond repair

As noted above, we need to repair the plugged drain. This will probably also include removing two willow trees that are planted right next to the drain. Removing the trees should prevent the drain from being damaged again by tree roots.

(3) House repair

You may see a person on the roof, repairing or replacing a leaking skylight. We also have some moss issues on a few different rooftops to deal with, hopefully this year.

(4) Barn roof repair

One of of the metal roof panels has come loose and flaps in the wind. We’ve already fixed a structural issue (see New life for the old barn), but it’s not the only thing about the 100-year-old barn that needs attention. We hope to get a manlift at the farm this fall so we can secure the loose panel and inspect the roof structure.

(5) Fish survey

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would like to survey the stream on the farm for fish, and we’ve given them approval to do so.  You might see an ODFW truck out at the farm this fall.

(6) Fertilizing

We’ll do another round of liming and fertilizing the three main fields this fall.

(7) Testing equipment

Farm-Tye_Drill-Pasture_Pleaser-4Sep2014-smallRecently, we made repairs to our 7-foot no-till drill, replacing badly worn coulters, fixing a few bad bearings, and replacing some springs. You may see us testing that drill in one of our fields in September or October.

If you have questions, email me at manager@conservationdistrict.org or call me directly at (503) 210-6001. We value your questions and ideas concerning Roaring Creek Ranch, aka the Beavercreek Demonstration Farm.

Tom Salzer, General Manager
Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District

About Tom Salzer 45 Articles
Tom has worked with conservation districts since 1992, managing district operations and providing statewide help on governance, technology, and accountability issues. He has been a board director of a state association of conservation districts and the president of a statewide employee's association. Tom is the General Manager for the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District.