Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘vines

Big Swing

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The temperature took a big swing of over 30°(F) in one day and we went from a high heat advisory on Monday to cool and wet yesterday.

I decided to take advantage of the rainy weather and started pulling weeds. I soon found myself pulling thistle that was mixed with poison ivy. That was enough to get me to change my focus to a different area where vines are taking over. Both projects turned out to be more overwhelming than handwork can solve.

I’m going to need to bring out the brush cutter on the back of the diesel tractor to interrupt the unwelcome trends growing in these two areas. We seem to have arrived at the peak vine growing time of the year as they are showing up everywhere we turn and in greater density than either Cyndie or I recall noticing in the previous ten years.

It’s hard to know if we are making any headway in controlling the vines because previous years’ efforts seem meaningless under the current onslaught of multiple climbing species showing up far and wide.

Speaking of big swings, I snapped a photo of Cyndie trying to interrupt a budding dreadlock in Mix’s tail while the mare was gobbling her morning feed.

 

It speaks volumes that Mix was agreeable to the annoying activity going on behind her while she ate. The horses really are allowing themselves to receive more attention from us every day. It’s wonderfully rewarding.

It’s a big swing from how they were behaving when they first arrived, a little over a year ago now.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

Survey Results

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We walked around in search of trillium yesterday and found mixed results. I think in my next transplant effort I will keep them closer to each other upon replant. Here is a view of three I planted:

No flowers, but the two at the top each have new sets of three leaves appearing beneath them. Is this the expansion underway that I seek? Better than finding none at all. In other locations, we struggled to find all three points of a triangle where I would have planted them. Sometimes two, sometimes only one.

At the same time, we did find several isolated trilliums with flowers located in places where neither of us remembers having transplanted any.

New growth on the ground in the forest is rather sparse this spring, maybe in a reflection of the uncharacteristic dry conditions we are experiencing.

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The photo on the left above is an example of new shoots appearing beneath the one with the flower, which excites us with hope that more could result in the future. The image on the right is an example of a lone trillium with little else of any variety seeming to flourish much.

It just might be a slim year of growth. Yesterday’s passing clouds never spit enough sprinkles out to simply wet the ground surface. We are forced to try to do some watering outselves.

I turned on the water to the labyrinth and we transplanted one more vine from where it was trying to strangle a tree to one of the legs of the gazebo. This will be the first year of an attempt to grow a canopy of leaves as the cover of the gazebo instead of the old canvas that was getting threadbare.

Nothing like trying to inspire new growth during a time of drought.

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2021 at 8:51 am

Adding Lattice

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On a gift of a day in late November when warmth and sunshine belied the proximity to winter and scores of others were hanging Christmas lights on their homes, Cyndie and I were weaving branches into the frame of our gazebo.

The inspiration struck a few weeks ago when I was pulling down the aging canvas canopy in preparation for the onset of winter. The old cover had long ago faded from the original brown color to a silvery-blue and the fabric fibers, weakened by the relentless bombardment of solar rays, were breaking around the edges.

I was pretty sure it didn’t have another summer of life left, so I considered alternatives. A natural canopy of live vines would provide shade in summer and leaves would fall off for the winter so I wouldn’t need to do any additional work.

All I needed to do was convince Cyndie the idea had merit. Since we share a similar perspective about these kinds of things, she was all in.

While I was taking a few weeks to think through how I might execute my vision, Cyndie was thinning our woods of saplings in preparation.

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First, we wove one long stick along the front face, then, two. Continuing around the four sides, we worked our way up. The closer we got to the top, the harder it was to weave the branches through, so we switched to cuttings from wild grapevines.

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Next spring, we will transplant some wild vines from our woods to the four legs of the gazebo in hopes of establishing a natural canopy that thrives on the massive exposure of direct sunlight.

My only trepidation is about how much snow might collect throughout winter to stress the modest strength of the metal framework. I expect it will depend on how wet or dry the snowfalls are and how frequently separate snow events will occur.

It’s a gamble we are willing to wage. I figure, worst case, I could use more cut trees from our woods to prop up the frame in places where the metal shows signs of buckling. The whole thing is already flexed out of level due to the lack of solid footings. We merely set the four legs on spots I prepared when we moved the gazebo to this spot beside the labyrinth. The ground in those spots has not shifted in unison from the subsequent seasons of freeze/thaw cycles.

The structure has a quaint “askew” look that I expect will fit nicely with the vision I have for a natural canopy of living green growth by the middle of summer.

For now, we just watch and wait.

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Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2020 at 11:05 am

Focus Shift

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I started the day yesterday with our Stihl power trimmer working primarily along the hay-field fence line out by the road. With the field freshly cut, the strip of tall grass along the fence stood out in obvious need of attention. It looks so nice when that is cleaned up.

After the first tank of gas was used up, I walked back to the shop to stretch my legs out and refill the tank. While there, I took a little break to answer nature’s call at the base of a pine tree and noticed a vine growing up from deep inside the tangle of branches. Thinking I should tend to the situation in the moment instead of waiting until it was out of sight/out of mind, I fetched a saw from the shop and braved the thick web of poking limbs, slithering into the shadow world beneath the tree.

From that vantage point, I discovered there were many more than just the one obvious vine growing into the heights. As I worked my way around the circumference of that tree, I came to another right beside it with even more unwelcome intruders climbing up its branches.

After the second tree, I moved on to a third, and a fourth, soon recognizing that this side project could consume the rest of my day if I let it.

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The remaining trees can wait. I went back to trimming the tall grass along the edges of the hay-field.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pulling Vines

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We are in the time of year when the vines are making surprising daily progress toward swallowing everything they can climb. Heck, some of the vines aren’t even climbing, they are simply smothering the grass.

While I was away this weekend, Cyndie pulled some weed growth near the edge of mowed yard and discovered it was a compound web that had already eliminated much of the grass beneath it.

My drive to and from the lake this weekend offered a wide variety of examples showing the aggressive reach of Wild Cucumber. Both trees and farm equipment were getting swallowed in multiple locations.

I have my eye on two spots where this vine has shown up near our north and south borders. My goal would be to keep them confined to the neighbors’ side of the property line.

I always pull wild cucumber vines out of our pine trees the instant I notice them. In the case of one of our neighbors who has done nothing yet to protect a prominent pine in the front of his lot, the front of the tree is covered all the way to the top, and beyond.

I check it every day that I drive past.

Because the wild cucumber is so pervasive, I did some research to identify it. I wanted to learn what I might be risking if I leave it grow on the north border, where I am slowly developing a natural hedge wall.

I have been piling pruned dead branches along this section, and welcome any safe growth through the tangle —it’s been mostly tall grass up to now— that will help hold soil in place during heavy downpours.

Cyndie and Delilah joined me in a walk to that spot to confirm my research findings. Passing many other varieties of vines along the way that didn’t have the same leaves, I was happy to see my suspicion was spot on.

I’m going to leave it, for now, partly because wild cucumber is native to Wisconsin. If it were an invasive, I’d be less inclined. There are no valuable trees growing along that natural hedge I’m forging, so I’m game to let the wild selection play out with a survival to the fittest mentality.

On our return trek toward the house, Cyndie took a couple of stabs at pulling other vines out of trees.

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We could spend a couple of days wandering the property with a sole focus on vine removal this time of year.

With plenty of other things commanding our attention all the time, saving our preferred plants from vines tends to happen in small, spur of the moment bursts whenever we spot them. It’s generally subject to whether we have available hands while en route toward other tasks.

Vine pulling work is never done.

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Written by johnwhays

August 7, 2018 at 6:00 am

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

Downed Trees

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DSCN5021eOn Monday after work, I ripped into the task of cutting up the dead trees a storm had pushed over, and which I had recently shoved the rest of the way to the ground with the tractor.

I quickly figured out what was holding up all the wind-blown trees. Regular readers may recall that I mentioned a while back that vines seemed to be thriving this year. Well, there are vines everywhere in the area of these dead trees.

It’s unclear to me whether the vines are responsible for the demise of the trees, or not. I think most of this bunch are butternut trees, which are commonly killed by a fungal butternut canker disease, Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum. Go ahead, read that out loud.

The vines might look like they took over the trees, but they may simply have climbed up trees that were already giving up the ghost.

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My uneducated guess is that the vine is Virginia Creeper, based on image comparisons found online. One interesting data point supporting my suspicion is this tidbit:

People should be careful when they see Virginia Creeper, because there may be Poison Ivy around also. The two plants almost always grow together.

I’ve well documented there is no shortage of poison ivy growing on our acres.

The tendrils of the stalks grab and hold the bark of the trees with incredible tenacity. It is comical how the dead trees will gladly slough off the bark, but the vines maintain a grip that results in long dangling empty tree skins hanging down from the canopy.

While cutting up the assortment of trees that made it to the ground, I came upon two vine-covered dead snags still standing just behind the spot vacated by the others. They were about half the diameter of those in the ground, so I made quick work of felling them and expanding the evening’s cutting task.

So much was accomplished, yet so much remains. The 3 trees still hung up, visible in the background of the picture above, are going to be a lot more difficult to get on the ground. I’m thinking ropes and a come-along may be involved in my next attempt. These trees are not in reach of the tractor.

Better yet, maybe the next storm that hits will be blowing in the other direction, and will push them down for me.

A guy can dream.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2016 at 6:00 am

Wilted Leaves

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IMG_iP1369eI heard on the radio yesterday that the local vintners suffered significant losses to their grape-vine crops because of the two nights of below freezing temperatures last weekend. Of all the plants on our property, the wild grape vines look the worst. Luckily, we don’t need to harvest any fruit from these vines. Ours are all volunteer plants spread most likely by the activity of birds.

Growing right beside the vine in that picture is a large poplar tree. It doesn’t look too good, either.

The first thing that stands out is simply the lack of healthy green color in the leaves. They all look too pale and are a little droopy, but a small portion are curling along the edges.

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I took a picture of a maple tree across the driveway from it for comparison. Does the difference in coloring show? Maybe not as obviously as the difference in number of leaves on each. The maple is way ahead of the poplar, and maybe that contributed to it surviving the freeze so much better than the other. New growth seems particularly fragile in the presence of freezing temperatures.

It’s sad to see how harsh this can be on growing plants, and frustrating to be so powerless to protect them all.

It has me feeling a little wilted, right along with the leaves.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2016 at 6:00 am