Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘invasive species

Buckthorn Season

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In addition to looking for antlered bucks in the woods this time of year, I am also hunting for buckthorn. Common buckthorn is an invasive tree that I strive to control on our property. In the fall, buckthorn holds its deep green leaves longer than most other growth in our forests, making it easier to spot.

It’s not foolproof though, because I always seem to find a large enough tree that reveals I must have missed it the year before. I think the main reason for this is buckthorn is not the only growth that still has leaves after the majority of the forest turns brown and barren. There is at least one other bush that confuses my hunt.

The main difference I have found is the relative color of green, as can be seen in the picture I took yesterday while Delilah and I were forging our way off-trail to dispatch every invasive we could find. The batch of leaves on the left are a buckthorn I just cut down that must have been missed the year before. The noticeably lighter green leaves on the right are the primary bush that complicates my identifying the unwelcome buckthorn.

When I look into the trees on my neighbor’s unmanaged land, there is an obvious spread of green growth, but ours holds just a fraction of that, only a few of which are the deep green buckthorn.

With this year’s quick jump to Arctic cold and several doses of early snow, the buckthorn hunting season has been shortened. Luckily, I had already done a first-pass through to address the sprouts of growth that are small enough to easily pull by hand before the ground started to freeze.

At that time, I didn’t have my hand saw with me, so I took a mental note of the larger trees I wanted to come back to cut down. When I set out to do that yesterday, I almost failed to find that tree shown in this picture. I needed to get to a place where just the right angle of view made it stand out.

Delilah loves that we need to roam into the middle of the areas we rarely visit, as she is able to find all sorts of disgusting things left behind by the wild forest animals that romp around on our land.

I’m satisfied with the progress this year and ready to consider the hunt complete. There was less growth than previous years, so our efforts are definitely paying off. The view into the adjacent property confirms it.

Our woods look distinctly more managed and that makes trekking through them for year-round forest bathing that much more rewarding.

Huzzah!

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New Information

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Sixty years ago today, before I was even born, the best thing that could ever happen for me took place. With eternal gratitude to Fred and Marie Friswold, today, June 4th, I boast to the world that it is Cyndie’s birthday!

Happy Birthday, my love!

After a jam-packed weekend of social events and more, we begin this week with new information and new energy.

First, after a scheduled appointment for our vet to visit and give the horses their spring shots, we came up with a plan for how we will proceed into the summer grazing season. Both Cayenne and Hunter are showing signs of good health with their sensitive laminitic front hooves. The diet of reduced portions has their weight under control, and more importantly, it has been achieved with minimal evidence of angst from the horses.

Going forward, we are going to work on getting them used to wearing muzzles to slow down their pasture grazing. We will then feed them dry hay in the morning to fill them up and give them muzzled access to a previously mowed (shorter grass = smaller bites of cake) pasture in the afternoons. They will be confined to the dry paddocks overnight, with no added hay available until the next morning.

Most important for us will be the attitude the horses have about their situation. If they are okay with it, that will be the definition of acceptability. If they balk over any of it, we will work to adjust accordingly. Our goal is to keep their weight down, yet give them some time to enjoy the freedom to move about in the open pasture and “graze” as close to normal as possible.

The next big thing that we learned came as a result of a visit from our local DNR Forester yesterday. My key takeaway from that consultation was the value of cutting trees beneath the canopy of mature trees we favor. Growth that reaches up to encroach on the lower branches of the favored tree should be removed.

He asserted that the primary focus is on providing the most sunlight to encourage growth, but protecting lower branches from competition will also help keep the mature trees healthy.

My first inclination is never to cut down any tree, but our Forester convinced me that cutting some will enhance others. I need to get more comfortable pruning entire trees, in the way I am comfortable pruning a few branches to shape a single tree.

He suggested clear cutting some areas, like stands of aspen, to open up sunlight and entice energized bursts of new growth to expand the grove. It seems so counter-intuitive. I want more trees, not less. Apparently, a little loss now, produces bigger gains later. In his mind, it doesn’t take that long.

Time is a relative thing. I’m not feeling that patient.

I was surprised to learn that he felt our highest priority should be to work on removing invasive garlic mustard. I did a quick Google search and the response was rich with states battling the troublesome intruder. Our Forester said we should pull the plants, bag them in plastic garbage bags and throw them in the trash.

Among the many other battles we are already waging, like vines, common buckthorn, and poison ivy, we now will move garlic mustard to the top priority.

Oh, joy.

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Eradication Season

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It’s that time of year again. The invasive Common Buckthorn becomes much more exposed in early November, when the leaves of the desirable trees have just dropped to the ground. The deep green buckthorn leaves hang around long enough to make them easy to find.

I have taken a crack at this every fall since we arrived here, and I still get surprised to discover some really tall trees in our woods that have obviously been missed.

Yesterday, Cyndie offered to do most of the strenuous work if I took Delilah and walked the woods with her, pointing out which green leaves to eradicate. It’s not a perfect science, because there is one other bush that holds leaves this late, and its leaves are just barely less green than the buckthorn.

The challenge is compounded by Cyndie’s insatiable urge to wield the pruner with reckless abandon.

As persistent as the buckthorn invader can be at taking over the understory of our oak and maple forests, I take satisfaction in the comparison between our property and the neighbor’s. I have seen no effort to clear their property, and the results just become more obvious every year.

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Those views above are from one spot on our trail. On the left, looking into the neighbor’s land, and on the right, ours.

I would say, our efforts are proving worthy.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Prickly Problem

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Historically, I have been much less inclined than Cyndie to worry about identifying and controlling all the multitudes of potentially problematic invasive plants that loom as threats to our fields and forest. My main beef was with the Common Buckthorn tree. Cyndie had discussions with an agent from the county extension office who pointed out many other troublesome plants, first hand, on a visit to our property.

I quickly got on board against one other invader when Queen Anne’s Lace grew to dominate our hay-field. A review of the Wisconsin DNR invasive species photo gallery provides a whopping 118 examples of potential problems. I find it too much to bear.

Cyndie is able to focus on battling dandelions in our lawn, where I see the effort futile. This translates to most other plant invasions as well, so when she would verbalize concern about the dozens of other threats appearing around every turn, I would tend to glaze over and save my focus for challenges already known.

In the fall, when all the leaves have dropped, except for the Common Buckthorn, I kick into a high gear of eradication. In the spring, when the leaves haven’t sprouted yet, except for the prickly bushes that drive Cyndie nuts, she wants to do the same.

I wasn’t so inspired, until she spent time to identify the thorny pest. When she came upon the Prickly Currant, one detail got my attention. It plays the role of host for a blister rust that kills pine trees.

Well, why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?

Now I care as much as her about not wanting these painfully prickly nuisances growing everywhere.

Once I started looking for them, it became clear the bush is thriving on our land. It is very easy to spot this time of year, as the leaves are some of the first to appear. Luckily, I discovered they are relatively easy to pull out of the ground.

It grows a lot like the raspberry bushes, with the long sprouts drooping over to the ground and taking root in a new spot. Since the stems are so thorny –worse than the raspberries– it makes for a very annoying hazard when walking off the trail, like one might do when hunting to pick berries.

We spent much of yesterday pulling and digging to extricate a surprising number of these stabbing hazards along the edges of our back yard, where there used to be about ten more lovely pine trees, back when we bought this place.

Now there are only two on the back hill, and they aren’t looking very good.

I never imagined how much knowledge and effort would be involved in being a good steward to manage what grows on the land. I figured nature would take its course and come to a healthy balance. Unfortunately, one plant’s ‘healthy’ can often lead to another’s demise.

To protect the plants you desire, a little lethal effort is sometimes going to be required.

I am enjoying renewed respect for Cyndie’s capacity to comprehend and react to all these details which too often overload my mental resources..

Now it’s time for me to go fret over getting all our grass mowed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2017 at 9:40 am

Worm Lesson

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Yesterday I learned something that surprised me, especially for the extent of time —basically, my lifetime— about which I have been clueless. I assumed earthworms were native to my region and entirely beneficial. They provide food for our birds and other critters, and they aerate and enrich the soil.

Invasive EarthwormsAu contraire! I spotted an article in the sports section of a local newspaper aiming to educate people who fish about not dumping their leftover angle worms on the ground. Worms should be disposed of in the trash.

Why? First of all, the terrestrial earthworms are a non-native invasive species from Europe and Asia! I had no idea. Second, they are harming our hardwood forests. They actually disrupt the natural decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor and turn good soil into grainy, dry worm castings (poop), which then can’t support the understory plants of our forests.

Apparently, they are welcome to help in my compost pile, but they are not friendly to our woods. Up at our lake place in Hayward, WI, our favorite flowering woodland plant on the forest floor is the trillium. Around Memorial day at the end of May, when we head up for “work-weekend” to open up the property for the summer, we often find a carpet of white blossoms covering the ground.

IMG_2269eCynI have dreamed of seeing the same thing occur in our woods at Wintervale, but we can’t find hardly any here. Cyndie spotted one all by itself recently with 3 blossoms, capturing this shot with her cell phone.

According to the literature I have reviewed, trillium is one of the plants that is lost to the earthworms.

All of my life I have assumed that earthworms were a good thing. I’m afraid I will no longer think of them the same way at all. I would much rather have a thick, healthy layer on our forest floor that could support a robust undergrowth, than a dry, leafless surface of worm poo.

Anglers, contain those crawlers!

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Written by johnwhays

May 7, 2015 at 6:00 am