Here are a few bullet points that popped up with questions and observations during the Sept. 24 Oak Basin tree farm tour:
- Early on Jim Merzenich said that climate change is having a bigger impact on stand success and planting patterns. “Drought has replaced deer browsing as our greatest threat to plantation success,” he wrote in the tour handout. Pines and incense cedar have been planted in response to drier conditions, he noted.
- To control invasive blackberries, especially in new plantings, backpack spraying is part of Oak Basin forestry. The tour handout detailed formulas and brands in use. On tour, Jim Merzenich stressed the importance of reading labels ahead of mixture, requiring use of respirators and eye protection during mixing and use. Oak Basin spraying includes a dye to track spray areas and a surfactant for stickiness.
- There are at least 35 birdhouses throughout Oak Basin, each at least 300 meters apart. Bluebirds, swallows and wrens are target species.
- Fire safety is an issue. A spring-fed pond provides a water source for Oak Basin. A 50-year-old Chevy truck on site has a 600-gallon tank paired with a pull-start pump for quick strikes.
- A question popped up on wood markets, given the extensive pine and incense cedar plantings. Jim Merzenich noted “there is a world-wide market for pine.” “Who knows what it’s going to be when these trees are 80 years old,” he said of the timber market. “We’re betting on the future in both the pine and the cedar.” At the same time, Oak Basin is currently harvesting fir, big-leaf maple, firewood and even six-foot long broom sticks for Broom Magic, a Eugene-based small business.
- Right on cue, when it was time to talk about Oak Basin agro-forestry, the Scottish Highlander herd of about 15 shaggy critters showed up at the electric fence. “They do very well in the cold and wet,” said Adrienne Lulay of Ostara Livestock Services. Both sexes have horns for protection from predators and at Oak Basin they graze on about 80 acres. Artificial insemination is used so the herd avoids contact with other animals. Another point made on tour is they graze down non-native Tall fescue grass. “These cows are a tool,” Lulay said. The Merzenich family sells calves and harvests beef as well.