Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Planning Some Fence Row Clearing

I’ve been examining an overgrown section of old fence row that is going to be cleared out this winter.  Working in a location like this can be something of a puzzle.  Things can be so tangled that you don’t know what to go after first.  Should you first remove the fallen tree or is it better to cut away the vines or are the thorny rose bushes your first priority?  No matter where you begin, it’s going to be difficult.
There are some positive aspects of the clearing chore.  Your work area is generally a fairly narrow corridor that rarely exceeds 20 feet in width.  That means there’s lots of edge to work from.  If you can’t penetrate from one side, you may have better luck on the other.  With vines like Japanese Honeysuckle tying everything together, there’s still plenty of challenge.

Hazards abound in old fence rows.  Number one on the list is generally the old fence wire.  Rusty wire can be difficult to see when camouflaged by small shrubs and vines.

Fence is especially dangerous when it’s down against the ground.  Broken pieces of wire can easily penetrate the soles of shoes and less durable boots or slash deep cuts across unprotected ankles and legs.  The spacing between wires is perfect for catching a foot and causing a fall.  I’m very careful to find the location of all wire before tackling a fence row project.

Old fence rows have also been known to conceal various junk items.  Rusty pieces of metal are the main hazard, but broken glass is also common.  If you’re going to be working in this kind of area, it’s wise to make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

There are also some neat things to be found in the fence rows.  This tree stump has been hollowed out by decay, but it has remained water tight.  It contains a shallow, leaf filled pool.  I couldn’t find anything currently living here.  This would be an interesting pool to check during mosquito season.

Once you get into it, the work goes pretty fast.  This area was cleared last year and shows what things look like when the invasive shrubs and vines have been removed.  After taking out the invasive plants, I like to let things grow for a year so I can evaluate the health and variety of the remaining native plants.  The clearing will continue here, but I will leave the healthy, rare or otherwise interesting individuals.

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