Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Preparing to Mow

I’ve moved on up to mow the next section of field away from the rose thicket area.  Mowing the fields is not about making things short.  I’m not trying to make the fields look manicured.  Mowing is a means of searching every square foot of field area and eliminating those elements that are detrimental to the continuation of a healthy native ecosystem.  The cut area identifies the portion of the field that has been searched.  A patch of tall Indian Grass would be impossible to search for invasive plants by any means other than mowing.

Invasives in short grass areas are easier to see.  I normally don’t mow the short grass areas, but this is such a small area within the Indian Grass stand that it’s easier to include it than mow around.  It’s also possible that my OCD is strongly enough developed that I can’t mow just part of a unit.

There are several three foot tall Eastern Red Cedars growing along with the Indian Grass.  A cedar of this size is just beginning to create a shade induced dead zone around its base. Cedars were last cleared from this field in March 2003, so this guy has had at least 9 years to reach this stage.

Growth rings in the stump show at least eight years.  This was probably a seedling at the time I was cutting its larger relatives.

If the cedars have reached the size where they are capable of shading out surrounding vegetation, I’ll gather them up and place them on the brush pile.  In situations where I’m preparing to mow, I’ll even pile the small cedars to keep them from being a distraction while I’m searching for invasives.

For clipping little cedars, I’ll use my Little Loppers.  I bought this long handled pruner in 1986 with just this purpose in mind.  They are strong, light weight and will easily cut anything up to a one inch diameter cedar. 

They’ve worn a bit over the years.  The cutting edge has developed a notch from cutting many thousands of cedars.  The notch seems to help grip the larger cedars and make them easier to cut.  Based on the rate of wear, I’d say Little Loppers has at least another 40 years of useful life left.

Cut cedars sometimes remain upright after being severed.  To avoid the possibility of mistaking them for a still growing tree, I’ll flip them on their side as they are cut.  Many young cedars will die naturally during their first few years of life.  At an age of three or four years, the cedar will develop a bushy, multi-branched top.  From that point on it will put on a lot of annual growth.  I cut everything that looks to have reached this stage.  My decision to cut younger cedars is usually based on how many tiny cedars I find and how much time I have available to devote to the project.

I found this spider egg sack suspended from one of the low branches of a little cedar.  The entire sack has been encased by a covering of dried mud.  The hole in the top of the sack is supposed to be the exit hole made by ichneumon wasps that parasitized the eggs.

Inside the structure, I found a silken mass with a few empty casings that could be from wasp pupae.  My fingers aren’t the most delicate of instruments when it comes to dissecting tiny insect structures.

I didn’t have a handy flag with which to mark this small oak, so I used my handkerchief.  It kind of looks like I’ve put a blanket on a faithful pet.  I was fortunate to have a spare hanky for this purpose.  I’ve been know to tear strips from my shirt to use as markers.  Tearing pieces from my shirt doesn’t bother my wife, but she does get annoyed when I continue to wear the shirt.


  1. I suggest your wife tear some strips of brightly colored material and put them in your pocket every morning. It will probably save many shirts. ;)

  2. Wishing you 40 more years of useful life with your loppers!

  3. Hi Lois. I actually have spools of colored survey ribbon that is intended to be used for these marking jobs. Sometimes I just don't have it with me. In some cases, my wife says the best thing that could happen to my shirts is to have them torn up.

    Thanks James. I don't doubt the potential longevity of the loppers, but the operator may wear out more quickly than tempered steel.