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Life of a family forester: Burning slash in the rain

The rewards – and the work – of being a family forest landowner continue.

Previously, I described the four wet, cold, back-breaking days we spent planting seedlings last February, after we’d had six acres of our 89-acre woodland logged in December 2011.

This summer and fall, we had more work to do.

During the logging, most of the limbs and treetops were gathered into “slash piles.” So in August, my husband, Rex, and I headed out to the forestland, which is in the Coast Range about an hour northwest of Portland, to prepare the slash for fall burning. I hadn’t been back since winter, and I was curious to see how the saplings were doing. When we arrived, I was excited to find that most of them were healthy and growing.

We spent the day putting 10-by-10-feet plastic sheets on the 32 slash piles. We couldn’t burn until after the fire season was over and rain returned to Oregon. So the plastic would keep part of the pile dry enough to light on fire in the fall.

Later, Rex filed our paperwork, including a smoke-management plan, with the Oregon Department of Forestry so we could get the OK to burn in the fall. Then we waited.

A couple of weeks after the fire season abruptly ended with the fall rain, we were granted permission to burn.

Up before dawn, Rex, my dad and I headed out.

We used propane torches to light each pile. My first pile burned well, but I soon found that wasn’t the case with all of them. Heavy rain during the previous weeks made some piles difficult to light. But persistence paid off, and at the end of the day, all piles were burning. As they burned out, the afternoon rain helped extinguish the flames.

We headed for home – tired, cold, soaking wet and smelling like smoke. And, of course, more work waits. We’ll go back in February to plant several hundred more seedlings in the areas where the slash was piled.

- Kathy Storm


Christmas trees: Get real

The other day I was browsing the Oregon “Agripedia” – it’s 90 pages of agricultural statistics. It’s more interesting than it sounds, really. I learned that Oregon is the No. 1 U.S. producer of peppermint, grass seed, blackberries, hazelnuts, Dungeness crab and potted azaleas.

And also Christmas trees.

Oregon growers sold 6.4 million Christmas trees last year, more than any other state. Total sales were nearly $100 million. More than 85 percent of the trees were exported – which means outside money coming into state.

Christmas trees and peppermint are not that different. Both come from farms. In fact, in Oregon they are under the purview of the state Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Forestry. Many of these farms are small. There are about 1,600 Christmas tree farms in Oregon. Most are small family operations – 1,000 of them are smaller than 15 acres.

Trees just take longer to grow than your typical crop – about seven to 10 years for a 6-foot tree. And although we’ll cut 6 million Christmas trees this fall, Oregon farmers plant about that same number every year.

So you could buy an artificial tree, probably made in China out of plastic, and destined for the landfill. But why? Christmas tree farming is sustainable, it supports Oregon’s rural economy, it stores carbon and breathes out oxygen, and when the holidays are over the tree can be recycled into mulch or compost.

Environmentally, it’s an easy choice. And it’s good for the local economy, too.

So there certainly will be a real tree at my house this Christmas – and maybe a bowl of roasted hazelnuts and some Willamette Valley pinot noir, too.


Paul Barnum
Executive Director

Post it our our calendar

Thanksgiving is this week. Our family, like most families, has plenty of traditions surrounding Thanksgiving. Many of them are food-related – the brining of the turkey, the mashed-potato volcanoes, and the little oddly shaped dish whose only job, it seems, is to hold the green olives.

But we’ve created other traditions over the years. One of our most recent is a post-Thanksgiving trip to the Tillamook Forest Center to create our annual holiday wreath. 

Every year for the past six years, our family has made the trip down the Wilson River to spend the day at the interpretive center. We hike the trails. We wear the firefighter’s hat. We play in the fish bubble. We also build a giant wreath for our home. Oregon Department of Forestry staff members collect branches and forest products from within the Tillamook forest and bring them to the center. Native tree species including Douglas-fir, hemlock and noble fir make a great base for a hardy wreath. Pine cones, holly branches and even a little Oregon grape help add to the cheer.

You can find information about these wreath-making activities on OFRI’s calendar of events. In fact, we invite everyone to regularly visit the OFRI calendar of events to see what’s happening, and encourage you to submit your events to the calendar using the handy online form.

The OFRI calendar of events is intended to be a community-supported calendar. If you have any forest-related events that are open to the public, the OFRI events calendar is a great place to market them. Whether you’ve got an upcoming tour, hike, workshop or yes, even a wreath-making party, submit your event and spread the word.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Jordan Benner
Public Outreach Program Manager

Creatures of the forest, real and imagined

It’s not unusual to see film crews on the street below the OFRI office in downtown Portland. They often use the Historic U.S. Bank Building as a backdrop. But it was a first for us last week when a crew from the TV series “Grimm” came inside our office to shoot a scene taking place across the street.

Inspired by the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the show “Grimm” is set in Portland because the area reminded the creators of Germany's Black Forest, where many of the original tales take place. “Grimm” tells the story of a Portland homicide detective who discovers that fairy-tale creatures are real – and that he has the power to see them when others usually can't.

These creatures include the beaver-like Eisbiber, the wolf-like Blutbaden and the bear-like Jägerbären.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where you might go to catch sight of a Blutbaden. But if you’re more interested in real forest wildlife, I can recommend a book: A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests.

This 120-page book, published by OFRI, lists more than 100 species that have special status – that is, they may be threatened or endangered under state or federal law, or they may be part of the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

The book organizes species by the type of forested habitat in which they tend to live, so users can easily find and identify those found in different-aged stands of trees. Maps show where in Oregon each species is known to occur or could potentially occur.

The book also includes a handy illustrated guide to identifying common trees and plants in Oregon forests.

A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests is recommended for all forest land managers, as well as educators. Along with OFRI’s other wildlife publications, including the Wildlife in Managed Forests series, the guide is useful for anyone working to understand where various species live and what habitat they need to survive.

For more information, check out these OFRI publications. 
A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon Forests
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Northern Spotted Owl
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Stream-Associated Amphibians
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Oregon Forests as Habitat


Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Education Programs

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