Tare Out

The invasive species. Mulberries. China can have em back. Along with their elms. I hate to sound sexist but every female mulberry tree on the farm is cut as of this evening. It was a long haul. Probably a longer haul than this new blog has been. I may have started cutting tares during the time I was writing on the old blog. The birds were spreading them faster than I could keep up. But I think I’ve caught up. I saved a couple males. They don’t spread. Anything but pollen. I’m glad I got to them before they got too big. Like these guys …….



Tractor Pulling


Pulling trees with a chain and the 856. Actually it’s four chains hooked to the bale stabber on the three point hitch on the back of the 856. Once the engine warms up the oil quits gushing out of the leaking o ring on a bypass pipe. The parts swell up with heat and a trickle slows down to a drip. It may take a half pint to get it warmed up enough. I tried to replace the silicone I had fixed it with last time but I think I may have made it worse.

I’m using four chains because the trees are small enough to pull four at a time. Only once have I had the front wheels off the ground while pulling. But I had seven trees hooked up that time. I’ve learned how to loop it around one and get the excess chain to loop around a second and even a third if the trees are close enough together. All in all it’s going better than I thought. A vast majority of the trees are too small to pull with my fat chains. On them I’ll use a lopper.

What amazes me is how fast these trees grew. They are all Chinese elm that were self seeded by air from the nearby building site’s original Chinese elm windbreak. Growing alongside my headlands and turn areas a couple years ago they became too large to drive through with the equipment. Had it been mowed for brome hay every year the trees wouldn’t have stood a chance. I had been grazing it over winter with the stalks though and the cows don’t eat barren trees, only trees with leaves. As it is they are already making a nice windbreak.

They are prolific growers but they are a dirty tree in that they die as fast as they grow. A lot of times on the same trunk. There will be four or five dead branches for every four or five live ones. Always breaking off and coming down from the wind. It is good for the wood peckers but not very attractive to look at. The tree is best when planted thick and harvested early. They could quite plausibly be a good alternative crop for fuel or fiber here in southwest Iowa on some of our poorer soils. Cc


G Rain

I took the leftover soybean frankenseed back to Monsatan yesterday. Or should I say their agents. They can have back what didn’t get safely buried. I wouldn’t want the liability of having the feared seed around. Plus with every other acre losing money this year on soybeans (which is better than every acre like corn) I can’t afford the money I have to spend let alone any extra. We made it by with little to no real repair expense for the planting season. If I play my cards right I should be able to repeat that performance again for the harvest. For the second harvest in a row.

I drug out the ladders and went after some of the branches growing up against the house this morning. I plan to spend the most part of the next month cutting trees and finishing tearing out fences. I still have a mile of re-bar posted smooth galvanized hot wire fences that gotta go. Maybe another mile of barbed wire fence also needing to be gone. I have young wild trees to cut about everywhere. They would take over entirely as a forest if left to themselves to dictate. I think sans man Iowa would be in one of it’s forested periods about now. Rain makes more than just grain. It makes wood grain too.

It’s not that lack of rain can’t make grain. It just doesn’t make as much as rain falling can. What lack of rain can make is it easier to find a grain of sand. Ask California. I’d say ask Texas but it seems they’ve gone to the other extreme now. Their grains of sand will be building berms and bars along the now flooded waterways. A grain not made by rain but a grain highly manipulated by rain. Or the lack there of. For us here in southwestern Iowa it’s been far from lack of rain. More like prescription rains. We couldn’t do better if we had irrigation. At least so far. Maybe we can have a grain of good fortune for a change.



Busy Nest

April showers bring tree trimming, brush clearing, and fire. I still have some fence to deconstruct, another good showers’ day work. Eurasia’s taking the day off for Easter according to market reports. I couldn’t sit still yesterday, I had to go out and trim a few trees. But I regretted revving up the fire at sunset thinking the wind was winding down and dieing out. As soon as it was dark up came the strong breeze. By then the tire I’d thrown on the two day old coals had ignited and there’s no putting a burning tire out. Luckily the wind was blowing away from the barns and towards the windbreak I’d been trimming. After letting cows run under the cedars last summer there’s nothing but bare ground on the half to one acre site that used to be cattle yards. Bare ground under thirty five year old trees. What embers did escape the ashes were quickly burned out.

The Corn has all been hauled and is sitting in the grain elevator waiting to be sold at planting time. Sell in May and go away is an old adage that came from Wall Street I believe. I also believe it can be a good thumb rule for the corn markets. Unless you’re a speculator, then good luck is what you’ll need. Some of the hottest weather markets happen during the summer. That’s when it can make sense to sell a third of what you’re growing ahead of harvest. I should say a third of an average crop. Which is how much I have no storage for. The thinking is that you almost always grow a third of a crop even if you’re the one getting burned by the drouth. With the moisture savings of no till a half a crop is usually assured. I have read that a terminated cover crop can act as a moisture sink storing water inside the now dead cover until the growing cash crop absorbs it.

There’s not much more to report from the corn patch here in Southwestern Iowa. Gas is going on along with other fertilizers and bulldozers are busy pushing up terraces. Or as I call them, the Inca’s revenge. Drainage tiles are being laid to get rid of the excessive water accumulated in the terraces and added to the water tables. It’s like watching a dog chase it’s tail with all this business. When I’m not too busy to watch. First I have a tail that I need to catch. Or is that a tree? Until I do …….

See ya then see ya there.


Pining On

Third base died from being girdled by all those clothes lines. We sawed it off right above the wires. That was when I was in high school. Sometime when I was gone the stump rotted off and was replaced with a post. One summer night in 1989 or 1990 during a thunderstorm the old walnut was hit by a bolt of lightning. I remember the storm because it hit in the middle of the night. While the lightning struck I swear I was elevated a foot above the bed I was laying in from the shear fear it instilled in me. The longest, loudest lightning strike I had ever experienced I thought it wasn’t going to end. I remember commenting on it to the stay at gone mom who only grumbled and went back to sleep. I only wished I’d looked out the window directly above my head and had seen the scene. It must have been one hell of a show.

In the morning the trees told the tale. According to the missing bark, lightning had traveled down the side of the old walnut in three streaks. When it had arrived at the number nine wire only one steak finished on into the ground. The other two streaks followed the wire around the triangle to the second base pine and the third base post then on down into the ground. The passing current had exploded the post, splitting it lengthwise into three or four sticks with the wire the only thing holding the upper end together. The longest wire to the east pine was no longer attached for lack of use when the lightning made it’s rounds, saving the eastern pine and possibly saving me from levitating completely away that night. I have often wondered if that is what ultimately led to second base’s demise. Or was it my nails?

I know pine trees were not indigenous to the area so their demise may have been predetermined upon planting them here. That aside they certainly flourished here for what had to be a long time given the girth and height of the trunks they’ve left behind. I’ve personally known them for over fifty years. Not counting the third base pine that we’d determined was killed by being wire girdled years earlier the second base pine was the first to show the symptoms of whatever killed the pine trees on this farm. The needles on the lower branches started to turn brown during the course of the year. At first I thought the culprit was a swing rope girdling the one branch so I sawed it off beyond where the swing was attached. Then the next one up showed the same symptoms.

Within a couple years the whole tree had succumbed to the browning needles. About that time the pine east of the house was starting to show brown needles on it’s lower branches. As was Dad’s tree up north on the hill by the headlands. Within a couple more years they were all dead. Today not a needle is left on any of the pine trees’ branches. Most of the trunks are missing bark. Owls and red tailed hawks still love to perch on the¬†trees’ upper bows¬† even without the needles and maybe because the needles are missing. Occasionally I’ll see a turkey vulture or two on the one up north on the hill in the field, aka Dad’s tree. Last winter a couple of bald eagles were spotted more than once using that often utilized perch. One snow white on it’s head the other not so white.