Forestry, General Pasture, Silvopasture and Agroforestry

A new to me tree complete with a feral beehive

Part of my year long to do list was to remove the entire population of invasive Ailanthus (tree of heaven) that have creeped into the pasture. Tree of heaven is incredibly hard to get rid of once the roots are established as they will continuously send up new stems.

Three of these specimens are right up against a power line so I called an ISA certified arborist to come give me an estimate on their removal. Unsurprisingly when two tree lovers meet for the first time…well we spent about 3 hours chatting about trees, sharing news, discussing my master tree planting plan and about 10 minutes actually discussing the project that brought him to the farm. In the end, he added me to their list of free mulch dumping sites, a stern warning that there is little chance my sourwood plans will work in the alkaline soil of the Shenandoah Valley, news that Emerald Ash Borer has been confirmed in nearby Harrisonburg and taught me a new tree I had been mis-identifying for years.

There is a large oak species that makes up much of the older forest on the property that looks like a chestnut oak, but with white oak bark. I was content in thinking it was a chestnut oak but the arborist informed me it was a chinquapin oak. Even better, as we approached one so he could teach me the identifiable characteristics, we noticed bees flying in and out of a hole about 25 feet up the trunk. Feral Honeybees!

So next spring, I am going to set up a swarm trap in case that feral colony splits as honeybees typically do each spring. A swarm trap is basically just a box coated with scents that lure the bees scouting for a new hive location. Once the swarm arrives, the bees can be transferred to a new hive.

Back to the subject at hand: the arborist recommended I paint the exposed vascular tissue of the freshly cut Ailanthus stump with roundup to kill the entire root system. While I typically avoid –icides, that sounds like an acceptable use of synthetic chemicals as I apply it directly to the target plant, have no chance of overspray, won’t contaminate any animal/pollinator food supplies and will prevent these badly invasive species from seeding or cloning thousands of new trees.

Advertisements
Standard
General Pasture

A bad psychedelic trip from 1705

Along with the strategy of leaving broadleaf weeds comes need to satiate my intense curiosity of everything around.

A beautiful but sad looking flower caught my my eye. Striking white and purple flowers have a mesmerizing shape but they never open fully giving them a wilted, mournful appearance.

I keyed it out to Datura stramonium aka Jamestown Weed.

Turning to google, I came across this excerpt from The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705 retrieved from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the plant so call’d) is supposed to be one of the greatest coolers in the world. This being an early plant, was gather’d very young for a boil’d salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon (1676); and some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.

In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves — though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after eleven days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.

Fortunately, it sounds like those soldiers had a good guardian keeping an eye on them!

Standard
Bees, General Pasture

Turning an unfortunate situation around

We planted a wildlife plot in the back of the pasture last week. It involved disking the existing weeds under. All went well until the hydraulic hose shot out the rear of the tractor preventing us from raising the disk out of the ground.

So we had no choice but to lightly disk the main road through the pasture to return the equipment to the barn.

However the mechanical issues created an opportunity to spread some clover seed in the minorly disturbed ground. The soil gains nitrogen and the wild (eventually domesticated too) browsers gain protein and bees will gain nourishment. I’ll take any chance I get to make the farm more pollinator friendly!

Standard
Cattle, General Pasture

How to train Cattle to eat weeds in 5 days

I know, I had a hard time believing it too when I came across this article. Folks in the Montana Farmers Union received grant money for the project and achieved success doing exactly what the title states. The test cattle even were trained to consume thistle which controlling my invasive bull thistle was the internet search that brought me to this article in the first place.

Basically, it works in the same manner as the strategy I will use to control the established tree of heaven stands: cull any growth before it reaches seed at maturity until the roots run out of energy. The training program teaches cows to chew different textures and to chew more thoroughly allowing them to widen their palettes.

Tools required:

Feed trough

Cattle

Feeds:

  • Pelleted Alfalfa
  • Rolled Corn, Rolled Barley, Rolled Oats mixed together (aka COB)
  • Molasses
  • Rolled Barley (alone)
  • Pelleted Sugarbeets
  • Flaked Soybean
  • Wheat Bran
  • Hay cubes
  • Chopped weeds which the training targets

Procedure:

Simply follow the feeding schedule provided by the linked article:

Feeding schedule

Day 1: morning – alfalfa pellets; afternoon – half alfalfa pellets, half cob.

Day 2: morning – cob mixed with molasses; afternoon – rolled barley.

Day 3: morning – sugarbeet pellets; afternoon – soybean flake.

Day 4: morning – wheat bran; afternoon – hay cubes.

Day 5: morning – hay mixed with target weeds and sprayed with molasses water; afternoon – target weeds.

 

After the 5 day training program, the cattle can harvest the high protein thistle (nutritionally equivalent to alfalfa) as well as help control the invasive nature of the plant. Untrained cattle have been observed to have learned from their trained herd-mates. The article I linked stated that the Montana Farmers Union would update its website on the progress of the program, but all I found was an announcement of the pilot program from 2011.

Standard
Forestry, General Pasture

My plan for dealing with the Tree of Heaven Infestation (Ailanthus altissima)

I’ve covered why these plants truly deserve the invasive status. The plan is simple but labor intensive. It is the same as the plan I use to control johnson and crab grasses in the garden and bull thistle in the pasture:

Cut down any growth before it reaches maturity and seeds.

For any plants that spread via rhizomes, green growth like leaves are power plants to fuel root growth. Every time these generators are removed, the roots use emergency stores of energy to reinitiate growth expecting those emergency stores to be replenished by new leaves. If the green growth is continuously culled before it can fuel the roots, energy will eventually run out resulting in the death of these hard to kill plants.

It will take time and labor, but the biological approach to pest control is vital to the success of the farm.

Also I apologize for getting sidetracked over the holiday weekend. I went home to visit with friends and family and explored some of the national park nearby so my attention was elsewhere!

Standard
General Pasture

My greatest fear confirmed regarding ecology on the farm: Ailanthus altissima

I have to admit, I suspected this to be the occurrence. Denial is the only thing I have to blame for not investigating further. Whole (unpublished) posts have been written on the great ecological benefits of having sumac trees on the farm.

Alas, as the flowers have given way to seed there is no more doubt that my large grove of sumac trees are actually Tree of Heaven, or Ailanthus altissima.

In fact, you can see one miss-identification in this post regarding this picture:

IMG_20150618_183756

In one month of total age (2 weeks from previous image), look at how much these seedlings have grown:

wpid-wp-1435941363729.jpg

 

While I’m collecting my thoughts on our overuse of the term invasive, there is no way to include these trees in that argument. Ailanthus trees exude chemicals like ailanthone to inhibit the growth of other plants helping them establish dominant stands. It is much like juglone excreted by trees of the Juglans genus (eg: black walnut) but at a much more destructive level.

wpid-wp-1435941390354.jpg

Without action, these trees will continue to take over and dominate the pasture. The strategy to address this issue will be covered tomorrow.

For now, I must lay to rest my dreams of making the lemonade flavored tea from the sumac fruit.

Standard