By Jim Merzenich
Sherman and Leslie Weld were selected as Linn County’s tree farmers of the year for 2018. The Weld family tree farm consists of 140 acres overlooking the Calapooia river valley near Holley. The property was purchased 50 years ago by Lester and Faye Weld, Sherman’s parents. About 8 acres of the site was a landfill for the family’s Sweet Home Sanitation business. Today that acreage is a 25-year-old Douglas fir plantation. The acreage also includes former grazing and orchard land. In the past twenty-five years much of this land has been cleared, sprayed, ripped to a 36 inch depth and planted in Douglas-fir. These stands are now being commercially thinned.
The tour of the Weld Family tree farm was held on Saturday Sep 22nd beginning at 10 am. Over seventy guests in addition to many members of the Weld family participated. A tractor drawn wagon was provided to transport guests to the five tour stops but many people chose to walk and enjoy the views. As introductions were being made a brief, but intense, rain shower failed to dampen their spirits. The skies soon cleared and the rest of the day was pleasant and warm.
At the first stop we viewed a five acre stand that was planted on ripped pasture ground just 4.5 years ago. This stand occurs on a well-watered north-facing slope. Virtually all of the seedlings survived and are now growing well with long annual leaders. This stand was planted at relatively dense 8’ X 8’ spacing and options for pruning to reduce defect (e.g. removing double tops) and pre-commercial thinning were discussed.
We next moved up the hill to view an active “cut-to-length” thinning operation in a 20 year old stand. The trees in this stand were planted at a 10’ x 10’ spacing (435 trees/acre) and had been previously pruned but not thinned. We watched the harvester fall, limb, and buck the trees and convert them into small saw, chip-and-saw, and pulp logs. These logs are then laid in piles perpendicular to the thinning corridor. A Forwarder then picks up the logs and moves them out of the thinning unit where they are piled. The whole process takes less than a minute per tree and more than half of the trees were being removed from the stand. We thank Melcher Logging for doing the demonstration and Chris Melcher for explaining how the thinning system and computerized cutting head operates.
After viewing another stand ready to be thinned, and a third stand that had just been thinned, we viewed the log deck. Milt Moran, of Cascade Timber Consulting explained how the saw, chip-and-saw, and pulp logs were marketed and sold to different mills. The landowner, Sherm Weld, thanked Cascade Timber Consulting and Melcher logging for their assistance in managing this tree farm.
We ended the tour with a picnic lunch hosted by the Weld family. The Weld Family Tree Farm will represent Linn County in a bid to be named 2018 statewide tree farmer of the year. Winners of that competition will be announced Oct. 27 at the Oregon Tree Farm System annual meeting at the Oregon Garden in Silverton.