Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Middle Field South

This is a long, wedge shaped area of about 2.5 acres that I think of as the middle field. It’s one of four fields that were historically used extensively for cultivated crops. The middle field is bounded to the west (left) by an old fence row and to the east by a small waterway that has grown up to trees. The fields to east and west are maintained primarily as open grass land, but I keep the middle field in a brushier condition.

Being surrounded by trees, the middle field is protected from strong winds and offers a secluded place of protection that attracts a lot of birds and other wildlife. There are several large cedars and small deciduous trees in this field, but the predominant cover is grass. On the hillsides, the shorter grasses such as Little Bluestem and Sideoats Gramma tend to dominate.

Through the trees in the waterway you can view the east field. The line of trees becomes more open as I remove invasive shrubs such as Autumn Olive and Multiflora Rose. The lack of these non-native species doesn’t seem to affect the desirability of the area for wildlife use.

I plan to mow the middle field this winter even though there’s not much problem with invading trees and shrubs. Tall Fescue is a grass that has the potential to degrade the quality of the prairie. I’m trying to get an idea of how extensive Tall Fescue is in this field and the best way to do that is to mow the field so I can see the fescue when it makes its first growth early in the spring. I’ve not yet noticed Tall Fescue to be a major problem, but I need to monitor its progress to see if it might be a problem in the future.

Prior to mowing, I’ll mark the small oak trees with orange ribbon so I can avoid cutting them. Oaks generally keep their leaves through late winter and are pretty easy to see, but it doesn’t take long to mark them and the ribbons will help to eliminate accidents. At the same time I mark the oaks, I’ll cut the little cedars off at the ground. The mower doesn’t cut low enough to remove all of the green growth from the cedars and they will grow back even thicker than before. If no green branches are left on the stump, the cedar will not grow back. I’ll also be flagging the ant hills prior to mowing, so I don’t spoil the effectiveness of the mounds for protection of the wintering colonies.

This is the remains of an ant hill that is no longer in use. Most of the mound is composed of tunnels and chambers, so it quickly deflates when the ants discontinue their maintenance. It’s interesting to watch plants move in and colonize this newly available bare ground. Sometimes the ants return after a year or two and the mound suddenly springs back to life.

The field narrows near the north end and Indian Grass dominates in the more level ground. The elevation is lower at this end of the field and the area becomes even more protected from the wind and the elements. There have been many blustery winter days when I stopped here to enjoy the still air and the warming rays of the sun. I can understand why all of the wildlife hangs out here.

I found an apple tree growing out a patch of Indian Grass. Those sharply pointed branches could easily penetrate JR’s rubber tires, so I’ll cut and remove this tree before mowing. Surprisingly, or not, those branches can penetrate a person’s skin even easier than they can a tire. So as not to add to my collection of scars and scratches, I’ll be careful when cutting this guy and will make sure the remains are safely buried in the brush pile where they won’t be likely to penetrate the boot sole of someone jumping on the pile to mash it down.

At this point the south end of the middle field becomes the north end. Tall grass has given way to goldenrod and other forbs. Trees and shrubs are becoming much more numerous. Tomorrow I’ll show you the mess I’ll be dealing with in the north end of the middle field.


  1. Another interesting walk with you this morning. :)

  2. HI Steve...now who would that someone be jumpimg on the brush pile who would have to worry about the those sharply pointed branches????? Fairies??
    Wonderful that you have the Cedars, that is something that I miss in this part of the state; no where close to what I was used to in the Noethern part of the state!!

  3. Thanks, Lois.

    Grammie g, I just don't know who would be silly enough to get on top of a giant pile of brush and start jumping up and down; no matter how much it needed to be pushed down or how springy it was. I also don't know how anyone could let their leg go down through the pile and get their boot stuck down in there between the branches or how you could possibly lie down on on top of a big pile covered with cedar boughs and take a nap on a cool and sunny January afternoon.

  4. How will you handle the tall fescue if it is a problem? Will it green up before the native warm season grasses enough to allow an early spring application of glyphosate?

  5. Ted - Timing of glyphosate application depends on the species of other plants that may be impacted by the spray. I've found that the ideal time to spray tall fescue is in December. Assuming normal weather conditions, the fescue is still green and growing, but most non-target plants are dormant. I use the same timing for treating Japanese Honeysuckle.