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Saturday, December 19, 2009

This would be the year for that

We need to renovate the south "pasture" (we're talking about less than 1/4 acre here) a bit, but it is going to take some doing.

Sixteen years ago, there were a few blackberries, several cottonwood saplings, and some Japanese knotweed (we didn't know what that was) along the creek bank, and there was a cow fence along the property line. We installed a duck fence along the cow fence, turned the corner at the far end, and followed the creek back to the shed, which we were converting into a small barn and potting shed.

The pasture has served well, but it had its weaknesses. There was no keeping up with the blackberries and Japanese knotweed, which eventually engulfed the fence on that side. And deer and assorted predators were hopping the fence on the property line, to roam about and do the things they do. The cottonwoods grew into, for us, monster trees over sixty feet tall, which, if we ever wanted to firewood them, should come down before we re-fenced. And they were well guarded by the blackberries, with the steel 2X4" mesh of the fencing hidden among them.

We deer-fenced the property line last winter, and that has been a moderate success, but the new fencing stopped, half-unrolled, in the corner, waiting and waiting for us to do something about the creek line. This would be the year for that.

We've determined to proceed in this order: 1) Bush-hook the blackberries and the Japanese knotweed all the way from the barn to the corner where the creek comes in. 2) cut the three cottonwoods. 3) Cut up and stack the cottonwoods to season for use a couple of years away. 4) mulch various places around the property with the trimmings. 5) pull the old fencing out of the blackberries with cable and block-and-tackle. 6) Cut up the fencing to recycle as chicken barriers around fruit trees. 7) gather old five-foot steel fence posts for use in the gardens, etc. 8) Set eight-foot fence posts. 9) finish the deer fence.

One roll of six-foot orchard fence and two strands of wire to a height of seven feet, with flagging, seems to stand up to the deer pressure around here reasonably well, and holds predator traffic to a trickle. Right now, though, as we are only up to 3), things are wide open along the creek and some kinds of traffic are to be expected. Marley the cat met something big last night, and instead of plucking the screen door to be let in, she climbed halfway up and screamed. So, we're going to hurry this along.

The cottonwoods had put on so much weight in a decade and a half that the fourteen-inch electric chainsaw was put to some trouble to get them down. If your saw does not reach through the tree, you must make six cuts, in matching pairs, instead of the usual three. This increases the likelihood that the tree will not go exactly where you want it, and we had a crabapple, a rushing creek, and a fenced property line to miss -- not to mention not letting them go over backwards, which would hit a hot fence in a pasture full of horses.

Insurance was provided by a wire rope, stretched from a clump of willow coppice and tightened by a come-along, to encourage each tree to follow the cable down the middle of the pasture. They pretty much behaved themselves.

The cottonwoods had become the perch of choice for hawks to read the chicken menu, being the right height and distance for a perfect glide path, coming out of the sun for surprise, with enough gravity-assisted momentum to do the job.

After the last tree came down, I gazed bemused at the featureless sky where all the bare branches had just been. The big redtail came along, momentarily moderating steady wingbeats as it approached the spot -- then picked up speed again and flapped off for greener pastures.

"Yeah," I sent after it, "you do that."
.

7 comments:

  1. Way to tell that hawk!

    I take it the 'big chill' from a few weeks ago has moderated. Is the weather of the last week or so more the 'normal' for your area at this time of year?

    (Most interested, as we still have plans to move around there when retirement, phase 1, comes)

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  2. We'd be happy to show you around. Prices are still beyond any kind of good sense, though. We bought in '93 for 75,000 (while we still could) and our current tax appraisal is almost a quarter of a million dollars (!!). That on a place that, to put it kindly, a dog would not sniff.

    No, WAY past normal. It's 61F and climbing at 12:30 and I just came in to get a glass of water and put on my straw hat and sunglasses. You can actually hear grass growing. Sigh ... meanwhile, the East, where the influential deniers live, is having this big, big snowstorm ...

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  3. Anonymous2:36 AM

    Since you just about have the fence why not get goats or sheep to get rid of the knotwed & blackberries? Hacking will never do a complete job. They think its love and come back twice as vigorously.

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  4. yeah, we've got more snow out here than i've seen in virginia in my seven years living here.

    nice work on those cottonwoods. seems more intimidating than the first tree i ever cut - http://joanjr.blogspot.com/2008/02/photographic-evidence.html
    i didn't have all sorts of valuable things to avoid! though it Did get hung up in other trees nearby... its neighbors weren't ready for it to go yet.

    oh and by the way - there's a chance i might end up out in arcata for a few years... seems like it's about a day away from you. i gotta study up on the climate in case my garden's out there for the next while.

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  5. Hi, Lisa, that thought crossed our minds, but we like our fruit trees and keeping the goats away from them, based on past experience, is more of an engineering feat than "pruning" the blackberries and knotweed ourselves; both having proved useful. And this is the Ancona ducks' pasture; we could possibly run a sheep with them as we once did with the (much braver) Khaki Campbells, but not, again based on our limited experience, the goat(s) -- another pasture would be required and we have maxed out. :D So it's blackberry pie and beanpoles forever, I guess.

    H, Arcata is very, very nice and there are good books that specialize in gardening in the Maritime Northwest. & We'd love to meet up w/ya!

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  6. what do you do with the stumps? Do you have them ground (?), or will you keep them in the ground?

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  7. This species regenerates from the stump; also we will need these stumps' roots to help hold the creek bank, especially during floods.

    We'll let eight rods sprout from each stump, and prune the rest; this will ensure maximum firewood from them in future -- plus they will shade the creek better, which is better for stream temperatures.

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