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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Got Wood???

Clearing land often involves taking out trees. We have a lot of trees. About 20 acres worth. Loggers have looked at them and scratched their heads. Generally they look at me and ask,

“Lady, are you serious?”

This is in response to my telling them I want the trees cleared away and the stumps and limbs all gone because I want to turn the area into pasture. The problem is that the trees have very little value from a logging standpoint. If I want them gone I’m going to have to pay the loggers. A lot.

Since I like to think outside the box (in fact, I like to tear the box up and use it as kindling) I decided to get practical and cut the trees up for firewood and sell it. We invested in a log splitter. If you are going to cut and split more than a few cords of firewood a log splitter is in order. I love my log splitter. The first day I crushed my finger and a watched a purple bruise rise under my fingernail. I put my glove back on, said a few curse words and carried on but I must admit it really hurt. Getting your finger crushed is about the only danger with the log splitter (I’m certain there are other ways to get hurt-I’m just pointing out you’d have to work pretty hard at it).

The best part about the log splitter that it is available through Amazon.com. It is also Prime eligible! Free shipping? Yes! There is the small issue that the log splitter comes in a crate and you need to assemble it but it is no worse than something from IKEA.

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Once you assemble it and check the fluids, just add some gas and you’re good to go. You can split tons of wood in a short period of time.

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The Marmorated Sink Bug, Move over Box Elders.

We have a new visitor to our house this year. In previous years our winter home was full of mild mannered box elder bugs. They were on the ceiling, next to the bed, in our coffee cups and generally on any surface you wanted to set something down. I respected those box elder bugs, they had the good sense to stay still while you crushed them with a seed catalog.

Our new resident is the brown marmorated stink bug. I didn’t  know what the word marmorated meant but I thought it might translate from the latin for ‘smells bad when smashed with junk mail.’ My husband informed me that marmorated is actually a medical term,  it denotes a condition in which the appearance of the skin is streaked like marble. My husband also informed me that I should really know that because I used to work in an insect lab. I reminded him that was a long time ago and I had to make room in my brain for other things #reallife.  Plus I was pretty sure insects had a chitinous exoskeleton and not skin, so I disagreed with the bug name on principle. The marmorated stink bug, does however, have a brown marble-like look to it which makes it blend in with tree trunks and rustic furniture from Pottery Barn.

The marmorated stink bug has a feature that makes it rather ill suited for life inside the house. Basically it smells really bad when you kill it. This little bug has holes in its abdomen which can emit an odor when injured. This really decreased the amount of people in my household that were willing to smash the bugs. The other problem with the bugs is that they sometimes emit the oder for no reason, like you just walked by or you accidentally nudged them off the rim of your coffee cup. It’s like being in a house full of nervous little dogs that express their anal glands every time someone sneezes.

The bugs have another annoying feature. They become very animated in a warm room and they fly around haphazard like, bouncing off lights and walls, like a drunk uncle at a christmas party. They will also fly around and run into people which unfortunately signals them to emit their unpleasant odor especially if the person is trying to bat the crazy bug away from their face.

I decided to collect my bugs and mail them to a researcher at OSU, after seeing a post on social media requesting them. I can only assume she was collecting the bugs for scientific reasons, but I didn’t ask because I really wanted to send five hundred bugs priority mail- mainly so I could tell the people in the post office my package didn’t contain lithium batteries or perfume-just the natural perfume of the marmorated stink bug.

Collecting the bugs was no easy task. I thought I had five hundred of them in my living room but it only turned out to be fifteen. I shoved them in the priority mailer anyway, trying to ignore the stench and dutifully drove them to the post office. I have no idea if they were received, the researcher took her post down the next day, probably over whelmed by the amount of people wanting to send her bugs.

We’ve learned to live with the stink bugs, giving them a wide berth. Eventually they moved out or maybe just blended in with the furniture, hard to say, but there are definitely less of them. All in all, I’ll take a box elder any day. They have the good sense to sit still when relocated. Or smashed. And they’re odor neutral.

Pink Alpacas

Felted soaps are gaining popularity, a washcloth and loofah all in one, they are a time saver and efficient way to help keep your soap fresh and last longer. The wool has natural anti-fungal properties and provides mild exfoliation.

At Rain Barrel Acres we felt our soaps with our Alpaca fleece and merino wool. The alpaca fleece is super soft and the merino is just enough to hold all the felting together. Each felting is unique and makes a beautiful pattern.

I had a fabulous weekend selling soap at an artisan show.  A lady asked me about my felted soaps. I explained that I used my alpaca’s fleece to felt the soap. She then asked me if my alpaca was pink. I explained that we DYED the alpaca fleece pink.  She nodded in an understanding fashion and then asked if the alpacas mind being dyed. I explained that we dyed the fleece AFTER we sheared it off the alpaca. She told me she thought that was probably a better route and bought several soaps. She said they would make great gifts for her friends that didn’t know about pink alpacas. I agreed whole heartedly, a pink alpaca is a rare thing.

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Cider Day

In a good year a small orchard can produce fourteen million apples. We have about 25 fruit trees (I say about because a couple are questionable after being mutilated by deer) and this year was a good year for fruit.

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One of the greatest things about an orchard is making fresh cider. We make cider in the fall with a cider press. The cider press is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My handy engineer husband built the press several years ago after spending some quality time researching designs. For many weeks we received strange packages in the mail. I called my husband at work to ask him if he ordered a drive belt for a volvo. He assured me he had and that he needed it for the cider press. Eventually after much banging and welding he wheeled a cider press out of the garage.

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We pick the apples, smash the apples and press the apples to make a beautiful nectar called fresh cider. The best cider (IMHO) is made from a blend of apples and pears. We have several old pear trees (not sure of the variety) and four different types of asian pears that we mix with the apples. Some of our apples are ‘variety unknown’ but we do have gala, fuji, red and golden delicious. They all blend to make fabulous cider. This year we pressed all fourteen million apples.

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Aaaaaannnndddddd…More Stumps

Stump day. That’s what we call it when we work on stumps. Today was a big day because we got rid of 3 stumps.

My burning stump method worked great on my rotten stump. I started a fire inside of it with match light briquettes and general twigs and branches that I scavenged. This stump was pretty rotten down the middle and it was very dry because I covered it to keep the rain out.

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My fire got going pretty quickly and I got lucky when a hole burned through near the bottom of the stump (from the inside to the outside) providing good air flow to my fire. If I had been thinking I would have brought my leaf blower which would provide A LOT of oxygen. Next time.  While this sucker burned, the husband got to work on a really, really big stump.

We have a professional arborist chainsaw. It is an Echo and it works great. The only issue is that it has a 16 inch bar. This means that it is not going to cut a 3 ft diameter stump all at once. Luckily the husband likes to tackle the big jobs.

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Making a series of what seemed like a million cuts, the stump was chunked up a little at a time. Tedious? Yes.

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Eventually the stump was taken down pretty much flush to the ground. I will put a really big scoop of soil on top and feather it out. Probably in the spring I will forget it is there and break my leg trying to plant a tree.

We got rid of another smaller stump and I was able to clear around several more.

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Stump town is looking good, even with my finger in the way!

 

Stump Town part 3

We are still clearing stumps from the future orchard. I will be really glad when I can plant the first fruit tree so I can stop calling it the future orchard. I will also be glad when we don’t have any more stumps.

The hard part about dealing with these stumps is that they need to be cleared of all the debris that is clinging to them and have all the soil pulled away from the base. Some of the stumps were really quite covered with dirt, blackberries and scotch broom so this became extra difficult. I decided to try to compost a stump cluster which contained quite a bit of dirt. The stumps were close together and I figured I could try to compost the whole mess in place.

I love to compost things. I consider myself an advanced composter. Since I don’t pay for trash pick up on the farm and farms often have lots of trash I have to be very creative in my waste disposal. I compost all organic materials, every thing from the kitchen, garden, farm manure, shredded paper. I have a husband that loves to duck hunt. I compost a LOT of carcasses, I once even composted a horse placenta. You name it, I compost it.

The trick to good compost is to get the pile REALLY hot. Once the pile is hot things really get cooking. You can break down an entire compost pile in just a few weeks if it is super hot. Layering green waste with manure is one way to get things hot fast. I am fortunate to have a large garden and I always have trimmings to add to the compost, I bed my rabbit with hay and that is a great source of green waste as well.

My stump cluster had compost written all over it. I could envision tilling it in the spring, a dark crumbly thing of beauty spread in my future orchard.

The first thing I did was pile up some green material, branches, leaves, clumps of grass, followed by a few scoops of dirt and wood chips. In order to get things hot I obtained a couple of carcasses. I scored a nutria on my way to the farm one morning, he didn’t fare so well crossing the road (nutria get hit by cars frequently). He was a good source of organic material and quite heavy. I tossed him on the compost pile. He was joined by a raccoon. I buried them with a good scoop of soil and made sure the stumps were covered with several inches of organic material. I covered the entire mess with a tarp and weighted it down with rocks and large pieces of wood. Keeping it covered is important to keep the rain from washing everything away and also helps keep in the heat.

 

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These guys got nicely buried. Don’t worry I said a few kind words and hey…I am recycling!

I suspect that I will need to add some manure to this pile to get it really cooking if I want to have compost by the spring. I’m not sure how long it will take to break down a stump, so some of this is still an experiment.

One of the stumps that I uncovered while clearing had been partially buried in a slash pile. When I cleared all of the slash and dirt away the stump looked like this:

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You can see that it has really rotted down, the center hole reaches to the level of the surrounding dirt. I cleared out as much of the center as I could and cleared around the stump. This stump seems like a great candidate for starting a fire inside, the outer walls of the stump will probably burn easily once the inside heats up. I covered this stump with a large plastic bin to keep it dry (we are having torrential rain) and will try the fire method this week.

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You can see the outside of the stump is not quite as rotten. Being buried really helped the break down process but it still has a ways to go. Hopefully a little ‘fire in the hole’ will do the trick and we will be rid of it. Only 20 or so more stumps to go!

The Plague Doctor Will See You Now…

Thieves Oil. It’s been around for centuries.  Purportedly it wards off the plague. Grave robbers in 15th century France are rumored to have escaped contracting the disease by using a blend of essential oils that contained healing properties. Plague doctors wore masks with a pointed “beak” which they filled with herbs and straw. I am deathly afraid of plague masks. I think they are just about the scariest thing I have ever seen. My son was playing a video game and his character was wearing a plague mask. When I looked at his computer screen I actually screamed.

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I recently blended Thieves Oil for soap making. It has a clean smell and the use of five essential oils creates a blend where no one particular oil stands out.  Lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon bark, rosemary and clove essential oils all reputedly have antiseptic qualities.  The addition of goat milk in the soap really helps to keep the bar mild and balanced.

Warding off the plague has never been so easy! Just don’t scream if you see a mask.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/254121468/5-bars-of-thieves-oil-goat-milk-soap?ref=shop_home_active_1

 

Stump Town part 2

We are still clearing the future orchard. Even though we had significant help from the bull dozer there is still a field of stumps. Stumps are expensive to have removed with heavy equipment because each stump needs to be dug out of the ground with a backhoe. Since we already paid for the bull dozing we decided it was in our best financial interest to remove the stumps ourselves.

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Stump town is beautiful but stumps don’t really lend themselves to a lawn mower. There are about 20 or so old growth stumps in this approximately 2 acre field. We would like to plant fruit trees in this field and underplant them with grass. I have already seeded this field with grass seed and some of it is sprouting. In order to mow the grass the stumps have to go.

Since the stumps are old growth many of them are 3 feet in diameter! Obviously we can not dig them up due to their size, so our best bet is to get them cut off at ground level and dump a scoop of dirt on top, plant grass and call it good. Cutting them at ground level would require a really big chainsaw, bigger than our current chainsaw. So we got creative.

My first thought was to burn the stumps to ground level. This is much more difficult than it sounds. My first attempts were met with mixed results. I tried the teepee method where I piled up branches around the stump and lit the whole mess on fire. This basically just produced a charred stump. Not a particularly effective method.

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Here is the husband pouring water on the stump. The fire actually caught a root on fire that was under the ground.

The next sump I tried to burn I decided to drill holes in first and fill them with used motor oil as a fire accelerant.

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I used a drill and a wood boring bit to create the holes. BTW this stump is HUGE! I piled on some match light charcoal briquettes that were on sale to really get things going. My goal for this stump is to burn a hole down the center of it and use my tractor to bash in the sides so it kind of collapses in on itself. If I was able to keep the fire hot enough for long enough I believe this would be a good method. Unfortunately, a steady rain popped up and eventually put the fire out.

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More stump removal to come in Stump Town part 3

Stump Town

This year we decided there were not enough projects going on so we purchased an additional 20 acre farm. We are project oriented people. 20 acres allows for lots of farm fun and follies. Plus more goats. You can never have enough goats.

One of our many farm projects involves planting a new orchard. We currently only have about 25 fruit trees and everyone knows that 100 fruit trees is better than 25 fruit trees. So 100 fruit trees it is!

After careful consideration we found an awesome site for a new orchard. It will be close to our house so we can keep an eye on it, in full sun, on a gentle slope and is covered in scrub, brush and trees that are not fruit bearing. Other than that last detail it was practically perfect!

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Pre clearing, the future orchard looked something like this.

This is an area of our land that was previously logged. Lots of scrub trees pop up after logging. They are generally alder and large leaf maple, both trees that tend to grow fast and blow over in a storm. There were plenty of blackberries, scotch broom, blackberries and…blackberries. We set off to clear this area using a chainsaw, chainsaw on a pole, tractor and big boots. IMG_0508

After 8 tractor hours, many days of waving our hands and chainsaws around we managed to make it look like this:

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Don’t ask what that crazy thing is on the right. All farms cough up weird stuff when you start clearing. There were also a fair amount of rocks. We kept at it, hard work and mind numbing but the weather held so we just kept clearing. Eventually it looked like this:

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As we kept clearing we started to run into stumps. Stumps, Stumps and more Stumps. We also hit old slash piles that had never been burned or removed. These proved too much for our tractor, Big Orange. While waving my arms around in defeat when I found my umpteenth slash pile, my driveway contractor (who had been working close by with a large piece of heavy equipment) was roped into the project.

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What took days and days and more days of tedious work took just a couple of hours with a bull dozer.

Stay tuned for part 2