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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Starting Preliminary Work on the Front Pasture

The other day, we started pulling willows out of the front pasture...it will be a long hard job to get it done.
But, we've been putting it off in favour of the other million things that all need to be done around here.
There's only certain times of the year we can get down there easily and pull willows easily....as it was, we were about a week late. The danger up here, is if it is too dry, we could set the whole dang Valley on fire....and somehow, we don't think that would win us any friends!
Here's the front pasture in summer....see all the willows?
We're working on the right hand side for now....eventually we want to get it back to pasture in that one area.
See the difference? Well, maybe you can't....but we can!
Oh, please disregard that white stuff....I have no idea what that is...I am in total Denial!
Lit a fire, and started tossing willows on there. The Gman used his chain saw on them. He was using his big machine, but it tends to leave a bunch of deep holes, so we thought we'd try this.....likely, we'll have to get down there again next year and trim the willows we cut this year...damn things, sending up new shoots all the time!
Later on, once we had coals, we pulled out the chairs and roasted hot dogs!

Today, it's chemo day, if the blood work came back lookin' good.....round 3!
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12 comments:

Karen said...

Annie, I just discovered your blog so you may have already discussed what I'm about to suggest: to put up a temporary fence around your pasture to be and let goats or sheep graze the willow. They will do a good job of killing it off as they keep eating new growth plus they'll be fertilizing the area too.

Foxglove said...

I'd love to know what criteria you used when you were looking for property. We are hoping to move out of the Vancouver area and I've been looking at acreage & houses for almost two years now. I see lots of places with five acres but I keep thinking that might not be enough, I'd be happier with a minimum of 10 or 15 but a 1/4 section seems very overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

Talk about needing to be careful, but I think you are going to have to either use chemicals on your willows (I'm not a fan, especially since willow often means a water table not too far away) or work closely with your local natural resources people and figure out how (a detailed plan including firebreaks etc) and when to touch off a fire. I'm not super familiar with willow, but I am not sure cutting and lighting one at a time is going to do much in the long run.

One other potential option: get a crew together, cut ALL the willow (or a decent sized area per-effort) and wait for them to grow again and turn loose some goats. Goats will eat most anything and that might help you control your willow regrowth long enough for you to convert the pasture. Where to get goats? See if someone locally needs a place to graze their goats...maybe?

Then again, if your goal is to cut the willow and then put the old disc to soil...er...none of the above matters;-)

Good luck with the therapy!

Aunt Krissy said...

I was going to say, Get some goats! They will take care of that in no time.

Anonymous said...

Foxglove, that's a great topic for a future post...I will write one up soon. If you are looking up in the Cariboo, my suggestion would be for at least 10 acres....especially if you want larger animals.

Karen, Anon and Krissy, yes I know goats would be the best. However, the Gman doesn't want goats - well, neither do I truth be told.

Our friend has goats down the road from us...we get cheese and milk from her (not for me right now, because of the chemo, but the Gman is still a regular drinker)

Anyway, there are other difficulties with putting goats down there. It is a bottom irrigated field. The creek overflows each spring, bringing the water level way up into the pasture. Good part is we never have to water the fields down there...bad news is that you can't put any animals down there until probably at least mid-June, maybe even a bit later.

We really need to do ditching down there as yes, the water table is high there. But we lack the proper equipment at this point, we need to get a 4 wheel drive tractor.

So, we thought we would do this part, just to get a start. We aren't burning the willows one by one, rather cutting, throwing in a big pile and lighting er up.

This is a multi year project for sure!

Annie (signing in as Anon, as something ain't working right here this morning!)

Anonymous said...

Annie-

The problem with willow (I am a forester by education and spent several years working for government agencies) is that it sprouts and regrows quickly, so cutting them and then burning the cuttings probably won't do much for you in the long run. Well, frankly, it won't do anything for you in the long run and may actually make the situation worse!

I did a little research and found that using chemical herbicides (nasty old Roundup)alone won't help and, because of the proximity of the water table, I'd not ever recommend using chemicals on your field (they say they are biodegradable...but adding chemicals to fragile ecosystems is always a HUGE gamble, regardless of what dubious corps like Monsanto claim).

In natural systems--where resource managers are trying to encourage or develop willow growth--one of the biggest obstacles is moose grazing. Ah-ha! Now, we are onto something, no? But, wait! The best mechanical method for controlling willow regrowth was an aggressive, continuous mowing regime. Holmes, I sense a pattern, no?

Your best bet, aside from a hot fire, is to whack down the willow and then, see about having your neighbor turn the goats loose in the pasture. Doing so around June or a bit later, after you've cut the willow, probably won't be a problem. Do that for a couple years running and you will probably have your pasture.

For sure, though, if all you are doing is cutting and piling and burning the piles---you are getting in some good exercise, but not really doing much for the long-term benefit of your pasture.

But, really...this stuff is exciting! You have a wonderful opportunity to use nature against itself in order to restore your pasture. I mean, obviously, you can't tame a bunch of moose and have them graze your pasture...but you could mimic the moose effect with cutting and some goats (you'll will have to cut, because, ya know, a moose is much taller than a goat).

Most people would, frankly, get the herbicide and brush hog and do the job that way (never thinking, I guess, that the same thing killing the willow will eventually end up in their water well, not to mention the impact on frogs etc.).

Anyway, I won't flog this dying horse again, but hate to see you do all that cutting for nothing.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I suggest sheep, too. They love willows. If you get a few lambs in the spring no need to overwinter or keep breeding stock, if you don't want to. Then start again next spring. Willows have great resprouting potential - cutting won't help much...

What is you long term plan with the field? Why ditch and get rid of willows?
EJ

Annie said...

Forester Anon...by all means, continue helping us out on this topic!

We're just trying to figure out the least expensive way to go about this - at the moment, we have no tractor.

And yes we do have lots of moose and deer running around down there, chomping on the willows...but we have far more willows than moose!

They used to take tons and tons of hay out of these valley pastures. We want to get the fields eventually to a point where we can cut hay and have a cow or horse down there from the middle of summer onwards to frost.

Regarding the ditching, do you think it would help with the creek overflow? We were thinking of ditching all along "our" side of the pasture (closest to the house side)Our thought was, once the creekwater starts receding, the water on the fields will also be carried away from the ditches?

Maybe I can put up a drawing of the pasture and creek locations and you could help us out, whenever you have some time? Again, I appreciate your help!



EJ, I agree with the sheep or goats, absolutely. I did ask my friend if she would graze her animals down here, but she is a bit leery with our Wolf (undertandably!)

I will ask her again...even if it meant keeping Wolfie inside for part of an afternoon, so her animals could graze for a couple of hours of there every couple of days would be a help, I would think.

Anonymous said...

Annie-

I'm never inclined toward altering natural water flow. Whenever flow is altered, so it seems, the down stream or down watershed impact is almost always either not considered, or misjudged.

It sounds as though the area used to be productive, but, due to lack of use or upkeep, the willow eventually did what nature intended, i.e. fill an ecological void. If the land was once productive it should be again, once the willow is somehow suppressed.

I would suggest continue to cut the willow as low to the ground as possible and then turning loose sheep or goats OR waiting until the land is dry enough to be able to bring light equipment on site and mowing it again in the summer after the willow has resprouted.

That must be a possibility, no? I mean, someone hayed the field in the past, which must mean that the land must dry enough through the summer to be able to tolerate equipment. The idea here, with animals or equipment (brush hog etc.) is to, eventually, overcome the willow's ability to regenerate. If it cannot leaf out and produce the sugar and then store that sugar and other nutrients in its roots, which it won't be able to do without leaves, it eventually has to die.

That's the goal. By cutting it, letting it start to regrow and then cutting it again, before it can replenish its reserves; you will eventually be successful.

Boy, I rambled here, no? Here's the recap: Avoid ditching---it probably won't do the overall health of the downstream environment any good. That's just my opinion. I've seen tire ruts completely alter a significant portion of wetland drainage. Ditches have altered entire wetlands. Wetland water - surface water in general - flows laterally, not up and down.

I'm going to encourage you to cut your willow, let them resprout and then hit them again with whatever means you can i.e. goats, sheep, mower/brush mower, brush saw and GMan's back etc. until the willow can no longer regenerate. It will take two or three years, probably, to be successful, but it should work.

bubba said...

Hello from ontario.

I just wanted to tel you that I have enjoyed your blog in the past couple days ive read the whole thing. Good job. Your place is really taking shape. Cute dog as well :)

Peace
bubba

Annie said...

Anon, thank you so much for your replies. I will get Gman to read them over....and we will rethink the goats. Or I will talk to my friend again about getting hers over here to graze....

Annie said...

Thanks bubba! Hope you continue reading here to see what else we are up to.