Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘pruning

Feeling Summer

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I like the simple designation of meteorological seasons by month, over the astrological solstice and equinox markers. My brain senses the longest day should mark the middle of summer and the shortest day, the middle of winter. By meteorological reference, summer happens in June, July, and August.

It sure felt like summer on the second day of June this year. Last night, as we tried to cool the house by opening windows to the evening air, the enticing sounds of heavy, distant rumbling thunder rolled slowly closer and closer. Eventually, we enjoyed an almost gentle thunderstorm that this morning has left barely a trace of its visit.

Except for the amazing response of growing things. Our landscape is under siege.

Just beyond our deck, the previous prominent low spruce is getting swallowed by ferns from behind and volunteer cedar trees from the front. The clematis on our trellis is being crowded out by a volunteer maple that decided to make itself at home there.

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I don’t understand why the scotch pine to the left of the trellis is so anemic. Everything around it is growing fast and furious. It is possibly being hindered by the same affliction taking down so many of our long needle pines.

The ornamental reeds in our little garden pond are spreading themselves well beyond the edges, giving the impression they will soon fill the space if left unhampered.

Meanwhile, the climbing vines are voraciously trying to blanket all of our trees, the unwanted grasses taking over our pastures, and poison ivy is thriving like you wouldn’t believe.

What’s a gardener to do? I tend to prefer a hands-off approach to the nature-scape, but we are finding the land inundated with invasives and trouble-makers that require decisive action. Desirables like maple trees are sprouting in places where they don’t belong, and though prized, will become problems if neglected.

I must overcome my reluctance and sharpen my skills of seek and destroy, or at least aggressively prune, prune, prune.

In the same way we wish broccoli tasted like chocolate, Cyndie and I are wishing the desired plants would simply crowd out weeds to the point all we needed to do would be a little cutting of the grass and lounging in the garden.

All you folks wanting to suggest we get some goats… it is increasingly weighing on my mind. Maybe I will try renting some for a trial run.

There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to manage the explosion of growth summer brings.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

Domesticating Wild

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A number of our close advisors have provided insights on what we could do to tame the many wild raspberry patches that thrive on our land. Last weekend we finally made a first pass through the bramble that exists across the driveway from the house.

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In the four previous years since we moved here, we have simply harvested berries from wherever they appear. Some years the bounty was greater than we could keep up with and other years it has seemed a bit off. The hot spots tended to travel from one zone to another in any given season.

Navigating the tangle of thorns to reach fruit in the center of the patches was often difficult and hazardous. Since we never planted any of these wild raspberry bushes to start with, it doesn’t feel like we are risking too much to take a crack at cutting them back in hopes of encouraging some more orderly growth.

There’s no reason to think new patches wouldn’t just sprout up again if we accidentally destroy a current one. That’s the way they got here in the first place, thanks to the birds and nature’s way of doing things.

It seems realistic to me to expect that the trimming we have done may interfere a bit with the potential volume of this summer’s berry crop. Long term though, we think we will be cultivating better conditions for the plants. The ultimate result we are hoping for is improved berry production and a more enjoyable process of picking them.

Raspberry jam, anyone?

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Cuttin’ Wood

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The weather on Friday started out just right for getting outside and doing some work in the woods. The air temperature was comfortable, and the ground was frozen, so traversing our terrain was clean and dry. I decided to cut some wood.

DSCN4503eThere are a lot of standing dead trees awaiting my saw, and plenty of dead branches that could use pruning. I started with our apple tree. There were a couple small branches that were easy to reach with my pole saw, but one fair-sized limb up high enough that I needed to throw a line and use a rope saw.

The apple tree was a treat to cut because it smelled marvelous! It also offered a beautiful visual of enticing rings. Such an artistic depiction of the history of the tree. How can I not spend some time creating something worth keeping out of this? With any luck, hopefully something I would actually finish.

I cranked up the chainsaw and successfully dropped a standing dead butternut tree. It was a great victory for me because I needed to first get a line over a small tree in the way so I could pull it aside to make room for the felling. The butternut fell right where I wanted it.

DSCN4500eI had barely sliced the trunk into logs when the perfect day turned into a spring-like snow squall. It forced me to gather my gear and hustle indoors. When I got back out there yesterday, the temperature was hovering just above freezing and the wet new snow began to turn the trails into hazardous, muddy slip-slides.

It is time to minimize travel on our trails for a while in the afternoons.

Maybe that will give me a chance to make good progress on a few art projects in the days ahead. Sounds fun!

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Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2016 at 11:12 am

Oh Brother

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It has been six weeks that I have worked full-time at home in my new role as ranch manager. For me, that is a lot of work days with no one to talk to other than our animals. Yesterday, I got a break from the solitude when my brother, Elliott, showed up with all his tree climbing rigging gear, offering me a day of his services. Not only did I have someone to talk with, but it was family!

Not only was he offering his assistance, he was providing a priceless service of trimming tree branches that were well out of my reach. In particular, one “widow-maker” that had fractured long ago, but still clung to the base of its branch and swung near the location of the wood shed. That one has been bothering me for a long time.

I had originally tried my own crude methods to toss a line into that branch in hopes of snagging it so I could pull it down. I couldn’t get it to let go, so the branch continued to menacingly dangle there.

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It was an incredible treat to watch my brother work. I had no idea it was possible to toss a line as high into a tree as he did, and successfully drop it down on the other side of a limb. Seeing him pull himself up made my arms tired just watching. Actually, after a while my neck muscles were complaining about how much time I spent with my head tipped back, looking straight up.

When he made it high up into the tree, he rigged two more points of security and then pulled out his saw to begin the cutting. From his new vantage point, he was able to spot dead branches to cut that I hadn’t even noticed from the ground. As he worked, we moved ever closer to the roof of the wood shed that is laying on the ground beneath this tree. To protect it, Elliott tied a rope to the branches about to be cut so they could be lowered in a controlled fashion.

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It is quite a process, and I was very intrigued by it, if not feeling a bit addicted. For the rest of the day after he left, I kept wanting to go back out and do more of that work. While helping to put away his gear, I asked Elliott to teach me how to “braid” the long ropes for storage the way he does. It’s slick because they easily come undone when you are ready to use them.

Being able to do these climbing and rigging skills would be a very handy thing for me, with the number of trees we have. It would require that I do a lot of learning to master tying the knots I need. I have difficulty remembering how to tie a knot soon after I learn it.

I don’t know that I would have the arm strength to do this, though. I have a permanently separated shoulder that means I have no skeletal strut supporting my collar-bone, and that leaves me significantly weaker on my left side.

I’ll just have to rely on the graciousness of my brother to make the trip out with all his gear again someday, to bring down more of the dangling dead branches that loom.

Elliott, I hope I didn’t drive you nuts with my excitement about having someone to pal around with yesterday. I can’t thank you enough for the “workout” you put in here. I am exceedingly grateful to have these branches down! Hope your arms aren’t too stiff today…

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Written by johnwhays

August 15, 2014 at 6:00 am

Quick Rescue

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It is the month of May, after all, so it comes as no surprise that when the precipitation pauses, and the sun peeks out, the snow melts very quickly. The first order of business for me was to try to salvage or mend the damaged trees.IMG_2186e

Using a pruning saw on the end of a telescoping pole, I gave my arms a workout, cutting broken branches back to the main trunk of otherwise intact trees.

This image shows how the damage varies, and can be easily overlooked, if you only scout for obviously broken limbs. The branch below is easy to spot, but the one above has an open split that remains connected on each end. It demonstrates the reason I was hearing so many cracking sounds, without seeing very many branches actually falling, when I was out for a walk after most of the snow had accumulated.

Hard as it is on tiring arms, to stand on the ground and hand-saw a branch high up in a tree, there comes the added complication of trying to get the severed branch down out of the tree, without breaking others, or causing any additional damage. It had me cursing for fear of doing more harm than good.

I succeeded in pruning multiple branches out of 4 of our prominent maples, before my arms gave out, and daylight faded.

I took one significant break from exerting myself on that project, during which, I rigged up a way to pull up a pine tree that had tipped over, using a come-along. It is the same tree that I wrote about in my post titled, Doubly Tipped, which we tried to support by tying to t-posts. That time, we just used muscle to push it back up to a partial tilt. The posts weren’t able to keep it upright, because the ground was too wet for them to stay put.

For now, we will let the tree rest against the pull of the cable, rigged to a nearby tree, with chains and straps. When the ground finally dries out, we’ll put the posts back in the ground and tie the tree off to them again.

Look at the dramatic difference of a few days in the life of this pine: (If you click on the last image, it will enlarge so that you can see the way we have it supported.)

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Written by johnwhays

May 5, 2013 at 8:38 am