Thursday, September 15, 2011

Camp Stranded Discoveries

On each work time to Camp Stranded, we make the time to cut brush, weeds or general cleanup. This is outside of my goals for what we want to accomplish there, although part of my overall plan. Because of the lack of a good brush mower (still in the works) we've had to rely on good old fashioned sweat, blood and toil. (After cutting a knuckle, the bleeding looked like I lost a finger last weekend.)

Using a corn knife I starting cutting back the mulberry trees, horse weeds and ragweed from around a 5 foot pine and discovered a few foot tall maples. A little later and after plenty of hacking, I found another foot tall pine and a couple of 3 foot walnut trees. Another pine was found hiding close to a 6 foot tall maple and after clearing several hundred square feet of weeds and tall grass, we had a nice collection of 10 pines, ranging from about a foot to about 6 feet tall. None of these I expected to have.

Sure, it's not like winning the lottery as it maybe is closer to finding change in the couch cushions, but this is a positive for the place. I thought we only had one pine and each discovery motivated me to keep hacking away to find another one. I'm not 100% sure of the species but they ain't ditch cedars.*

If I had pulled a brush mower over this spot, as I intended to do, I would have mowed them over and lost them and I would have tangled up the wire cages in the blades. In order to preserve some of these smaller trees, I'm going to have to swing a sickle. The wire cages will be used for the next plantings of sugar maples that I started from seed.

I won't mind the work if we find hidden treasures like these.

* I call them ditch cedars because these little cedar trees are growing throughout rural southeast Iowa's ditches. I've got quite a few growing among my other trees and I'd like to keep them for songbird habitat, although snakes are known to climb up to get at the nests. My brother encouraged me to get rid of them, but I'm not in a hurry.


Bawb said...

Very, very refreshing to hear all this at a time when corn prices have everyone else ripping out every single blade of grass from fence-line to fence-line (or road ditch to road ditch)to get just a wee little bit more ground tilled.

I have often thought what I would give back to nature if I took over the family farm someday, but I (and the little wifie) just couldn't ever leave Montana now.

Don't forget a few apple trees for the future.

PS: Ditch cedars are also known as fox piss trees. When I was a kid, we would drive around seeking one for a Christmas tree. Our criteria was that we knew we had a good one if a fox had chosen to pee upon it.

Crotalus (Dont Tread on Me) said...

I suspect that your Ditch Cedar is actually the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). It's a pretty enough tree in its own right, but if you're going to grow apples, clear them off. They are the alternate host of Cedar Apple Rust, a fungus that can destroy your apple trees.

strandediniowa said...

Crotalus, thanks for the advice. I've only found a half dozen of these cedars (so far) and I think I figured on mowing any small ones from here out anyway.

I've got a couple of small, 4-5 foot, apple trees along with a assload of mulberry. We found a 5ft peach tree when we cleared out for the shed and I've got another started that I'll transplant down.

Bawb, we want to plow up some of the ground next year for sweetcorn and a few other plants. If we produce enough for farmer's markets, then it's a bonus. One of the farmers north of me planted corn in the ditch to the shoulder of the road.

We've got a few other ideas that we might go with, but none of them are to plow the whole thing up.

But as with any of my plans, they end up tossed aside as life gets in the way.

Thanks for your input, guys.