Back towards the beginning of this month when we had a warm stretch of weather, you may or may not have noticed my absence from the world of blogging. I just didn't have the time or if I was able to read and comment on the blogs of others, it was usually long after their posts were posted. The reason was that I spent the week with my brother down at the farm doing some long needed field maintenance. Above is the backside of a terrace built to drain water from the fields without losing any precious soil. We drove by all these looking for black locust sprouts and fixing tile risers that got knocked over.
Deer like to eat black locust seeds and then wander through the farm excreting them out in a pile of natural fertilizer. As a result, the sprouts can grow quite prolifically if left unchecked. But these sprouts come with two to three inch long thorns that puncture tires causing thousands of dollars in repairs every year. Thus we like to nip that in the bud by proactively removing them before the deer can eat their seeds and disperse them further.
In the old days, we would drive through the fields on a tractor but carrying all the required chainsaws, gas, water, tools, tile repair stuff was a chore. These days we use the "batmobile" seen above. It is actually a Polaris Ranger on which is affixed a Batman emblem that I made for my dad years ago as a present when he kept referring to the Ranger as his Batmobile. It works quite well for this type of job allowing us to carry all the necessary stuff in the back and quickly and easily cover hundreds of acres. It is also much more fuel efficient than a big old diesel tractor.
Another reason black locust sprouts are so prolific is that they are extremely hard to kill. Unless you dig up the entire rootball and I mean EVERY SINGLE ROOT, they will sprout back ten times over. So we have to treat the roots with chemicals to kill the tree and prevent them from coming back. Fortunately this can be done with a little squeeze bottle and applied directly to the stump so that any vegetation nearby is not harmed.
We have a significant number of acres of land that we leave fallow for wildlife purposes. These places are often in nooks and corners of the farm or land that is very poor or very hard to farm for other reasons. In order to prevent weeds, we will disk a fire break around their perimeter in the fall and then burn them in late winter. The burning kills invasive plants (unfortunately not black locust sprouts) and makes native grassed grow back more densely. Above is a larger thorny black locust tree that we dropped on the fire line that my father will come back later with a tractor and grapple and move out of the way.
As I said above, we also took the opportunity to repair any tile risers that needed repairing. The tile risers are just perforated tubes that are placed in low points (created often by terracing) that drain excess water away and leaving precious top soil behind. Above is one that got hit by a farm implement taking off the top half. It would probably still function though without a top, animals like to use them as nesting boxes so we added a splice and new pipe above it. It also makes it more visible so it is less likely to get run over again.
A few minutes later, the tile riser looked as good as new again and it was off to the next one.
One thing not looking good was the middle finger of my right hand, right where I rest an eating or writing utensil when in use. During one of the days on the farm, a thorn had gone right through a hole in my thick leather gloves that I use to protect my hand from the very such thing. But my stinginess of replacing a perfectly good pair of leather gloves just for one tiny hole ended up causing me much pain. Locust thorns are very toxic and just scratching the skin will cause it to feel like you have a bad sunburn for days afterward. The thorn pierced my gloves thanks to the hole and stuck into my middle finger. I pulled it out and thought all was good with the world. But a day later, my finger was swollen up and starting to fill with puss. All I could see was a black dot where it punctured the skin and I had assumed it was just the hole with dried blood in it. As it turned out, it was the ass end of the locust thorn and thanks to my wife and a long needle, she eventually got it dug out of my finger. Some antibiotic cream and a day later and my finger was nearly back to normal again.
It was tough work but coincided with perhaps the most beautiful November weather I have ever experienced. Every day was sunny with temperatures in the mid 70's and perfect in ever way to be spending time outside cruising the land with my younger brother for company.