Orchard

I love orchards. We have about thirty fruit trees planted at the moment with plans for more. IMG_4461 (1).JPG

Each tree needs a protective bit of fence around it to keep the alpacas and deer from eating them. Eventually when they are big enough we can remove the tree wells. This is usually around the three to four year age of the bare root trees we buy. I spaced these trees fairly close together which means I can’t use the tractor to mow, I picked up a crappy push mower on Craig’s List so I plan to mow it a few times a year by hand…in the mean time I planted several hundred daffodils.

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Planting anything with the help of dogs is so much easier than without the help of dogs. Said no one ever. Dogs get very excited about digging holes. When they get tired they like to curl up in them.

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I can’t wait for Spring to see the bulbs bloom. I hope to add more bulbs every fall. Also toying with the idea of underplanting with lavender. So many great ideas!

Incorporating stumps into the landscape. (If you can’t beat em…join em?)

So many stumps. Sometimes I go out and count them. Creating an orchard in an area with old growth stumps has been a labor of love. It’s coming along. I realized late in the game that I wouldn’t be able to remove all of the stumps no matter how hard I tried. So I incorporated some of them.

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Some of them make good bird feeders. This particular stump had a perfect hole rotted down the center.

 

Hugelkulture or how I learned to love stumps…sort of.

Hugelkulture. It’s a german word. I think it was invented by a guy with a lot of stumps or downed timber. Basically it’s a system of gardening where you bury wood, limbs, stumps, branches etc. and mound dirt over them. The idea behind this is that the wood rots and as it breaks down it provides moisture for the growing bed. This is great for areas with low water or areas that are hard to water. I was excited by this technique because it involved getting rid of: stumps, branches, logs, TREES, of which I have plenty.

I observed hugelkulture on my property when I was clearing land for our orchard. Logging is not always an efficient operation and much of the slash piles or non marketable  timber is often left on the ground to rot. If you have plenty of time, say like eighty years, this will rot down into some fabulous soil. I didn’t have eight years but I did notice when I started clearing areas, the slash piles that rotted had a very nice layer of topsoil that I was able to save. Digging around the old growth stumps also produced nice soil that was distributed through out the orchard.

As previously discussed, okay I rambled about it for days to anyone who would listen, I have about twenty five old growth stumps that are simply too big to remove in a cost effective way. They range in size but the average stump is about three feet in diameter. For almost all of these I was able to have them cut almost flush to the ground. Some of them I buried with dirt and planted grass on top of them. Those were the stumps that were able to be cut at grade. Most of them were not. I piled stones on top of them so I can see them in the spring when I mow.

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I bought a crapy push mower off of Craig’s List just for this purpose. I’ll be able to mow tight to each stump which I wouldn’t be able to do with a brush hog. A few times of mowing should keep the weeds low enough that the alpacas can graze everything.

Back to huglekulture! An enormous stump cluster, which appears have been three trees growing close together proved impossible to deal with, excavator, bull dozer and tractor all gave it the thumbs down or the middle finger up, however you want to look at it. I covered this area (about eight feet long by four feet wide) with sticks and leaves and dirt and a couple of road kills. I topped the entire thing off with a tarp and let it sit for about seven months. I was hoping to rot the thing down somewhat. I recently took the tarp off in a stretch of good weather and was surprised to find it still moist. This stump cluster is in an area I want to have a vegetable garden. I thought about huglekulturing it right on up except it would have been about seven feet tall, not ideal!

In order to make the mound smaller I made a fire on it. Everyone knows to make big hot fire you must first make little hot fire. My husband reminds me of this constantly. I built a fire and used a leaf blower and some diesel gas to get it going. I am not recommending starting a fire with gas. It is however, very effective!

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This fire would have needed to burn for about six weeks and reach a temperature of four billion degrees to completely take out the stumps, I certainly didn’t have time for that. My goal was to burn the thing down enough to make it manageable for a huglekulture bed.

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This took some time. About seven hours. Even my helper pooped out on me.

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The fire eventually died down, in the above photo you can see the center burnt the best, the two stumps on the end were too wet to really burn. After several days, the fire was still warm in the center, I spread the ashes out and examined what I had. The end stumps still remained but the center was nicely burnt down, practically flush with the ground. I had my husband cut the two end stumps with a chainsaw so that there were much lower to the ground and then we had a snowstorm so…photo unavailable.

I plan to make my huglekulture bed when the snow melts. I will dig down a bit and add some wood and organic matter (thanks to alpacas and their use of dung holes I have no shortage of manure) and cover the entire thing with dirt.  I will most likely make this my composting spot as well and top the entire thing off with wood chips which we have no shortage of thanks to the wood chipper PTO. It’s going to look like I buried a cow but I’m hoping over the course of a few seasons it will continue to rot down and maybe before I die it will even be flush with the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Trash Logging

Usually when my husband says “Get a bid” what he means is, “ask a professional what they would charge so I can decide to do it myself because I don’t want to pay to have work done.” Some things are worth paying for. Things that require specialty equipment or things that might wreck a marriage such as plumbing. I am also a fan of paying for things that are dangerous, such as removing big trees. My husband for some reason doesn’t find that dangerous.

After getting a quote from a logger we decided to take things into our own hands. We had a paddock that I wanted to clear. Eventually my horse will live in this paddock but in the mean time it would be a handy place to trap the alpacas so they can get sheared. (Running around twenty acres with a pair of clippers does not sound fun.) This paddock, of course, was covered with trees, some of them quite large.

Getting the trees down was not the issue. That’s why the chainsaw was created. Stumps. Stumps are a huge issue. In this particular case, for this paddock, which is approximately one hundred by one hundred feet, I planned to use it as a winter turn out for my horse so it would have gravel and sand for mud free footing. We decided that we would cut the stumps flush with the ground since they would eventually be covered with gravel and sand. Except my husband had an idea. A stump removal idea.

After we discussed the idea, and I said, “Wait. Will that acually work?” we decided to find out. Climbing the tree and hooking a chain around it and attaching the other end of chain to the back of a truck we would simply pull the tree out of the ground. Luckily we have a crazy neighbor who thought this was a great idea. He drove the truck and also climbed the trees. Because why not.

It turns out that not all of the trees wanted to give up their roots and move. About one third of the trees popped right out of the ground. The rest either broke, snapped near the chain or got the chainsaw because they weren’t budging. img_3999

This is a tree that ended up needing to be chainsawed. Since the chain was still wrapped around it we drug it with the truck to the cutting deck. Because why not. It took a couple of weekends to remove all of the trees (about thirty total) in the paddock, create a cutting deck and cut them for firewood. It took another day to cut any stumps flush with the ground, not an easy task because if a chainsaw touches dirt, well…you get cursing.

Once the trees were gone, I used my front loader on my tractor to ‘bury’ and stumps that we could see, I used my gradder/scrapper attachment to then smooth the entire paddock. My husband then used the gradder/scrapper to smooth the entire paddock incase I didn’t do it right. img_4227

All of the branches and tops of the trees were moved with the tractor to a burn pile nearby. When the weather cooperated we burned the pile. We waited a couple of months and the pile dried out a bit, a leaf blower and some diesel gas helped get the fire started, the tractor kept it going. I am not recommending you drive a tractor into a fire. I think it is dangerous. My husband drove it into the fire because why not. It’s a guy thing. img_4422

The burn pile eventually smoldered down to nothing. But it had to get really HOT first. When it cooled completely I spread the charcoal on a nearby field. I planted grass on the paddock to keep it from growing weeds, the free ranging alpacas keep the grass mowed. Eventually I will fence the area and make it mud free.

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