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.