Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reverse gardening

My pasture improvement project began a few weeks ago, when I decided to kick down every dormant cholla cactus that crossed my path.  I can kick 'til the cows come home and never be done. So to break up the monotony, I've expanded the scope of my project to include the ruthless removal of every juniper tree small enough to remove by hand, where "by hand" means without a chainsaw.


Juniper trees, also known as Mountain Cedar, have steadily encroached on the rangeland of the southwest over the past few hundred years and are in danger of taking over. The more of these trees you have, the less grass, since the trees suck up all the precious little rainfall we get.

Farmers and ranchers hate these trees with a passion. There's even an organized group of people against cedars. Pioneer Woman's husband wrote a post recently explaining why and, more importantly, how he gets rid of the cedars on his land, and that was the inspiration I needed to get the tree population here under control.


Not that the herd isn't doing its share to help...



...but I'd need a couple hundred donkeys to make a dent in this forest, 
and as much fun as that would be, no way could I scoop that much poop.



According to PW's husband, "As long as you cut them below the very bottom branch, the tree should not grow back. This is really easy to do with just a good pair of tree trimmers/pruners when the trees are small. However, as they get larger I like to use a good hand saw. It doesn’t take long to cut through a tree and it’s actually pretty good exercise." 

He made it sound so easy.




Anyway, I took his advice and armed myself with a set of super-duper ratchet-drive titanium tree pruners and a hand saw and have begun to remove the little trees. Maybe by the time I'm done with those, I will have won the lottery and can afford to hire a lumberjack or twelve to come in and thin out the big ones.




Now that I've got the hang of the ratchet-drive pruners, it's not too difficult. Actually, it's kind of fun. On Sunday, I cut down all the little trees on four acres. I lost count at 30, but I'm guessing there are probably 15 little trees per acre, which means only 1,140 more to go! Whoo-hoo! Almost done!


24 comments:

  1. I never realized those trees were such a problem until PW mentioned it. Way to go Carson, you're making progress, but then, as we know, no project gets you down!

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  2. I used to do that on the farm where we used to live--90 acres of which a third was pasture. In that pasture was a collection of multi-flora rose and black locust-the kind with thorns two inches long. I cut those damn things til I had blisters and never really made a dent. Let us praise the idiots who wanted the former for hedges and the latter for fenceposts. They did themselves proud.

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  3. You go, girl!

    Have you thought of inviting your friends (and their clippers) to a juniper clearing BBQ? Kind of like an old fashioned barn raising, but instead of raising it's "taking out". :)

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  4. Oh, my! You've got a ways to go!!!

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  5. LOL, "he made it sound so easy."

    Um, you HAVE seen a photo of his biceps, right?

    ~spotz58

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  6. Dave Gibbons3/29/12, 6:26 AM

    Rabbits and maybe Mr. P. would love to have them all piled in one big brush pile. Or with that many, I guess several smaller brush piles would be more logical. A brush pile larger than your house wouldn't look right.

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  7. Funny how we like cedars here. They keep the landslides at bay, grow along the ditches where there is always water and they try to dry up the numerous swamp lands. They act as sup pumps because there is water water everywhere. Then again I live on Georgian Bay.Bugs don't like cedar so we use the chips in our gardens or even in our chest of drawers. Cedar chests are a thing of the past. You have a gold mine and you don't know it. Ha! Maybe you could have a cedar chopping party. What d'ya think?

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  8. So much work for one gal to do. Good luck!

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  9. This is a post close to my memories as a kid. My grandfather had 40K acres in northern NM, raised cattle. In the summer, us cousins, city mostly born, would be assigned the job of wacking down the little trees, only we had axes (and how is it we got grown??). While I loved to do my summer visit to the ranch, I never much cared for the wacking....lots of sweat and other surprises (an I had no handy dandy snake stick back then) just a scream and axe.
    Lots of work, but well worth it. Oma Linda

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  10. Fiskar's are the best tools. I have a garage full of pruners and clippers, too. We feel your pain here in S. Florida. Fortunately, Hurricane Wilma helped us out a lot by destroying many of the cypress trees planted by our "helpful" forefathers - because they are now sucking the life out of the Everglades. You go, girl!

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  11. Save the trees in a pile for a bonfire next winter. If you can keep the donkeys out of the pile.....

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  12. We have a tough shrub here called desert broom. We wrapped a chain around the base, hooked it up to the Scout and yanked them out. Would this work with these junipers? Put those equines to work!

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  13. OH, ok, not what I call a cedar tree at all, lol.... And I can see why one would want to get rid of those...
    When we were in Turkey, they had juniper trees that grew like pine trees, I HATED the scent of these particular ones deeply,nasty nasty smell...
    Tara

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  14. To piggyback on Vicki's comment... they make some lovely, light, ladylike chainsaws nowadays!

    It's funny, Tara commented that she hates the smell.... it's an odor I associate with visits to my grandparent's ranch in the summer, so it reminds me of good times.

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  15. Small chainsaws are great, but make sure you have the proper safety equipment and are schooled how AND how NOT to use them. No kidding, it's easier than you think to get them to rebound back at you if you're not cutting correctly.

    Another great tool that would pay for itself over and over for other chores as well is a CORDLESS saws-all (reciprocating saw). We got a DeWalt a year or so ago and I use it all over the garden. DeWalt is a good brand and the blades are easy to change. Batteries are better than they used to be so I think they perform well compared to plugin. I *strongly* recommend the model with the Li-Ion battery, they perform significantly better than NiCad, especially in altitude or cold (NiCads don't keep a charge at our mountain place). For a whole pasture, you might get a spare battery. Trust me, you'll love it and start thinking of projects that you can use it for.
    Kerin

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  16. I have a question. Is it true Juniper smells like cat piss, attracts marking male dogs, and is killed by dog urine? I am about to landscape my back yard, and the landscape guy I was thinking of hiring to do the grunt work suggested junipers (my back yard is swampland), but several friends have said "NO! They smell!".
    So just what smell do they have? And will my yard end up smelling like an oldfashioned outhouse?

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  17. Carol in Colorado3/29/12, 10:08 AM

    You need a "Big Bertha". My dd has a construction grade bucket/front end loader (I call it Big Bertha) that would take all of those cedars out in no time for you. At least you aren't dealing with yucca plants too.

    So what are you going to do with all the trees when you get them cut down?

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  18. Now, That's an impressive weed! You've got a great start on an ambitious project. Good thing you have a few helpers...

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  19. You know what I like about you, Carson? You don't think small.

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  20. That's the way to do it... one tree at a time. How about enrolling a bunch of students?

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  21. Bad news this time MM is wrong. I was going to tell you from my own experience that the suckers will come back unless you hit the stumps with a major herbicide, but that link you provided for People Against Cedar said it too.--"Tree shears can also be used, but stumps must be sprayed with herbicides to kill the root system, since both types of brush will resprout."

    I hope you are able to clear your land of them. They are awful here in central Texas.

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  22. wow, you've always got a lot of work!

    Becoming Heather

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  23. Carson, I posted this on my own blog, but. I don't have but a few people who read, so I am including this in the hopes that maybe others will see it, those that might be able to help....

    you will have to copy and paste the link,

    http://news.yahoo.com/video/science-15749654/hundreds-of-donkeys-abandoned-in-drought-28765276.html

    Tara

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