Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fence Row Work

I had the idea years ago to save management projects near the house for those occasions when I didn’t have time to drag my tools out to some distant project.  That scheme didn’t work as well as I had intended.  It seems that I would still favor the distant projects over the close, because I knew that I could always pop out in those odd few minutes and work close to the house.  This old fence row is one of those close projects that I chipped away at for many years.  One end is almost to the corner of the barn, so all I had to do was carry the tools out of the barn and start to work.  The fence row was a solid screen when I began, but I made so little progress that the openings would grow closed faster than they were created.  A couple of years ago, I decided I would just have to declare this to be a legitimate project and give it the time it deserved.

The most persistent shrub in the fence row is the Fragrant Sumac.  Its flowers provide a valuable early season nectar source, so I’m not trying to entirely eliminate the shrub.  I just try to keep it short and contained to one area.

Fragrant Sumac reacts very favorably to mowing.  The cut shrub will respond by producing a mass of rapidly growing shoots.  The flowers develop on year old growth, so blooms are lost for the coming year.  To mitigate this loss, I only mow a portion of the shrubs in any one year.  This patch will have two or three good flowering years before it again needs to be mowed.  Fragrant Sumac spreads by sprawling branches that fall to the ground and develop roots.  To keep it from spreading, I cut the sumacs before the long branches develop.

No matter how thoroughly you search for trash, there’s always more to be found.  Ceramic insulators are a pretty common find in the old fence rows.

Old rolls of wire fence are also common.  This is going to be a chore to remove.  Grape vines have penetrated the center of the wire roll and will need to be cut away.  The bottom part of the roll has been anchored to the ground by tree roots. 

The odd thing about this roll of fence is that it was never used in this fence row.  The close spacing of the bottom wires identifies this as poultry fence.  This was originally used to fence a poultry yard associated with a chicken coop located in the center of the field.  When the coop was removed to allow farming of the field, the rolled wire was carried over and placed here.

The fence row is now open enough to allow prairie vegetation to enter the gap.  Indian Grass has already begun to grow in close to the trees.  I think I’ll reduce the shade further by removing some of the horizontal branches reaching out into the field.  It’s nice to look out the window and see a successfully completed project.

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