Shiver River, LLC is a true family affair.
The timber company on the flanks of Marys Peak just outside of Philomath has been run by three generations of family members since the 171 acres was purchased in 1921 for $5,000 by Marion Colfax Brent and Wladzia Moneta Brent.
Matriarch Emma Virginia Picht led the second generation. She was a pilot and also known for her ability to take out ground squirrels with a pistol. Five children have cycled in and out of the homestead: Kay Daniels, Judi Myers, KC Thompson, Diana Blakney and Sid Picht.
Some relatives still live in town. Some have moved out of state to places such as Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago and Colorado Springs. And some have moved back.
“All of us spent a ton of time growing up here,” Blakney said.
Blakney and Sid Picht currently live on the farm, with Thompson also involved in its management. And you can tell that they intend to stay because Sid is building a huge outbuilding for farm equipment and also is adding rooms onto the main house.
And you can tell that they intend to continue to take care of the land by the way they treat it. The land was farmed in row crops in its early days, with tree farming taking over in the 1950s. Last month Shiver River was named Benton County Tree Farmers of the Year by the local chapter of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association. The farm will be up for state honors Oct. 26 at the association’s annual meeting and recognition luncheon at the Oregon Garden in Silverton.
Picht and Blakney took the Gazette-Times on a tour in their Polaris Ranger ATV. No doors or windows, but it seats three somewhat comfortably in the front and has a rear deck that can be used for firewood piles, tools … or the photographer.
It felt like a Disneyland ride, but the trees, dog (an Italian sheepdog named Bianca who romped ahead of the ATV), creeks and bumps in the road all were real. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees once we slid under the tree canopy and the air took on an earthy, mossy fragrance.
Shiver River practices uneven age management, which means trees of wildly different sizes and ages in the same stand.
“You don’t clear-cut it and replant,” said Blakney, who added that “mom always complained about clear-cuts. She said it meant no more crawdads in the creek and the water wasn’t as clear.”
“Maintaining and sustaining the natural beauty is the way to go,” Picht said.
Blakney and Picht credited Scott Ferguson of Trout Mountain Forestry with playing a key role in guiding the management and sustainability practices of Shiver River. Ferguson has worked with the family for 35 years.
And as we pounded through the property in the Ranger it hardly looked like a “tree farm” at all. Blakney and Picht pointed out the locations of recent cuts, which usually occur three to five years apart. They don’t burn the slash, Blakney said, “because it’s good for carbon sequestration, rebuilding the soil and wildlife habit."
They leave everything alone in the 30 acres of riparian areas. A total of 110 acres are actively farmed out of the 140 acres that is forested.
“We’re mainly seeing 60- to 80-year-old trees,” Blakney said. “This was never an old-growth area. It used to be meadows.”
The property abuts both Starker Forests property and the city of Corvallis’ Rock Creek watershed, which supplies about a third of the city's water. Private property owners, the city and nonprofits have been working together on habitat restoration, particularly on Rock Creek and Griffith Creek, both of which Picht plows through in the Ranger without even slowing down.
At Griffith Creek, where it seems for a moment that Picht is planning to take on a 15-inch diameter log, we come across Kathleen Westly, education and restoration project manager with the Marys River Watershed Council.
While Bianca cools off in the creek, the discussion ranges across stream temperatures, the log placements in the creek that are intended to improve fish habitat and a long-term goal of reintroducing the beaver to the area.
Westly says she has seen “chewed stands of trees but no dams. We would love to restore them. They are a keystone species in the watershed.”
We also take a short walking path to some red cedar saplings that have been planted in the past five or six years. There are no plans to harvest the cedars. They are there to add to the diversity of the riparian areas. And they like the wet weather.
Then it’s off on a white-knuckle ride in the Ranger back to the homestead, including a final uphill climb up a 30-percent graded meadow that seems impossible given that there are four “average-sized” adults in the ATV.
“We’re proud of what our mother has done here,” Blakney said. “All we’re doing is carrying on what she has done.”
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