Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fighting Trees

Friday, the cool and cloudy weather made it a perfect day for outside work, especially for making war on invasive trees, namely the eastern red cedar tree. Prairie fires once kept this tree in check over the vast miles of grasslands. Now farming, roads, and human settlement provide ample habitat for it to grow. All the unburned land has allowed this species to become an invasion. Where there is still sufficient prairie to sustain a burn, the trees are kept in check.

The red cedar alters the PH of the soil around it, discouraging growth of any competing plant. It also produces substances poisonous to prairie grasses. In a short time, entire fields or pastures can become nothing but cedar trees. It is a huge problem.

The state of Oklahoma loses 700 acres a day to juniperus virginiana. Oklahoma authorities claim ten million acres are covered with the red cedar now. The tree is useful in many ways: furniture, lumber, veneer, fence posts, aromatic oil, mulch, shavings, even caskets. But, with only an infinitesimal amount of true prairie left, the red cedar is as grave a danger as the plow, mining, and urbanization to native habitat.

The good news is that it is not a difficult tree to kill. Aside from its lack of defense against fire, simply cutting it down kills it. Small trees can be dispatched with a good pair of limb loppers. So, I was lopping down cedars yesterday, along my driveway and in my yard. I was using a bow saw to take down the larger ones. I also cleared many lower branches on the other trees so that I can more easily mow. I should not have to lop off any cedars along the driveway again. But I paid dearly for all of that physical exertion.

It was hard work. It grieves me when I remember the time when I was in good physical shape. Fifteen years ago, I could have done three times the amount of work in half the time. As I was plodding along in the battle against the tree invasion, I was thinking all that work would be a lot more fun, much easier, and I would look so much better doing it if I had not gained so much weight. Brutal.

So.... I bought a chain saw. I could not wait to start mowing down invasive species at will. I got the saw started for the first time yesterday after I read the manual and mixed and poured gas and oil into all the correct ports. I was ready to enter the battle with superior technology in my frail human hands.... except.... I could never get that bleeping saw started again. After at least a half hour and over 100 pulls on the starter rope... and a fit of cussing and rage the likes of which I have not indulged in since I was in my twenties... and after I successfully resisted the very real temptation to throw the damn thing onto the rocks of the culvert and set it on fire... I GAVE UP!

When you are in the mind set of becoming a mighty terminator for a couple of hours, slaying menacing trees, and you are thwarted, all that battle energy has to go somewhere! Oh yeah. If that damn thing does not start today, I am going to torch it.


Li'l Ned said...

I am seriously impressed that you would go so far as to purchase a chain saw. If it makes you feel any better, my sweetheart once chain sawed professionally (USForest Service) and even the big boys and girls have their issues with the suckers. Though I'm pretty sure that most of them would tell you that the average joe chainsaw that can be purchased at the local hardware or home improvement center is basically a piece of crap! But you already knew that.

I am with you on the urge to cut to the chase on cutting down the invasive trees. I am with you on the so-American urge to use a techno fix (and a macho one at that) to solve a problem. And sadly, with you on the 'in lieu of going at a reasonable, slow, human (ie attuned to our advancing years and creaking bodies) pace. (smile)

Take my ^%%#%^& bambi's, for instance. My sweetheart has just written a nice, appreciative blog post about the little deers that roam our neighborhood. As he well knows, if I had my way, those suckahs would have long been blown to smithereens by the biggest, loudest, baddest weapon I could get away with (mortar? AK7 assault rifle? atomic bomb?). Heck, if there were anything I could physically DO to/at/with them, my frustration would be less.

Instead, I am limited to spraying with ill-tasting & ill-smelling liquids, and occasionally going after them with banging pots and pans when I catch them munching on my garden plants.

Perhaps you should torch the chain saw (for the pure, evil satisfaction of it), do a little more hand sawing, and like me, attempt to remember that the middle years of life are designed, seemingly, to teach us moderation. Hmph.

ps take video!

Jackie said...

The chainsaw went back to the store for a refund, even though the clerk said it was against store policy. I think the look on my face made that a moot point. My hands are still swollen from the pounding they took trying to pull start that damn thing.

My son came to help me, and we lopped and sawed and chopped down a huge pile of cedars and four or five honey locust trees. The cedars won't grow back, but the honey locust will. So I painted herbicide on the stumps, which supposedly will kill them at the roots.

It is my compromise to just taking the easy way and spraying my pasture with herbicide that kills everything but grass. I can't allow my little patch to breed cedars and honey locust and continually reseed my neighbors' land with pests. Ugh.

I am considering spraying though. I have a great stand of grass, but in several large patches where the soil was poor, cockle burrs, thistle, and other unwelcome plants are growing quite happily. I will have to consult with the dudes on this, though. It would be a last resort.