Monday, July 31, 2017

Pulling Teasel

In an effort to eliminate invasive Teasel from my fields, I have taken time each summer during the past several years to remove the ripe seed heads from the Teasel plant.  Results have been positive.  The Teasel population is notably diminished over what it was just three years ago.  Instead of large Teasel patches, I now just have individual plants scattered around the field.  The problem with this control method is that the timing for Teasel seed head removal is critical.  Ideally, the activity should begin when the most mature seed heads are just a couple of days away from dropping their seed.  Beginning too late allows mature Teasel seeds to be lost during the collection process, giving rise to another crop of mature plants in two years.  Beginning too early allows for the possibility that the plants will produce new flowers that will mature before the end of the season and scatter new seed in the field. 

I was determining the progress of Teasel seed production and found most plants to be about a week away from releasing mature seed.  As I looked at the plants, I began to wonder how easily a Teasel plant would pull from the ground.  If I pulled the plant, I would not have to worry about it producing any new flowers.  Pulling would also allow me to begin work earlier in the year and increase my collection window from a few days to a few weeks.  I figured that pulling was worth a try, so I headed for the barn for a pair of heavy work gloves, an absolute necessity if you are going to grapple with a spiny Teasel stalk.

Despite its impressive root system, Teasel turned out to be fairly easy to pull.  There were a few that held tight, so I cut these off at ground level.  I’m betting that the root system won’t be able to produce a new mature plant before cold weather sets in.

The work of plant pulling went much more rapidly than seed head collection ever did and piles of Teasel plants began to line the field edges.  I spent eight hours at the task and searched an area of about 12 acres.  Only about five of those acres actually yielded any Teasel plants.  I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any infestations that I had not yet discovered.

I learned one trick that came in handy, especially in the tall grass areas.  I left one tall Teasel standing in the area that I worked and piled pulled plants at its base.  I then moved on to the next section and did the same thing.  The standing plant allowed me to easily find my cut pile when I was ready to haul the plants out of the field.

This group of ten plants represented a new infestation.  Just beyond the trees in the background is the township road.  A culvert crosses the road at this point and dumps runoff water into the field.  Along with the trash and debris from the road are often a few weed seeds.

All of the collected plants were consolidated into a single pile.  The pile is located at the field edge next to my vegetable garden and is used as a depository for any noxious plants that may drop viable seed.  I pass this pile several times a week and will destroy any undesirable plants that try to grow here.

Even the most developed seed was not near maturity.  The seed shown here has shriveled considerably since the plant was pulled two days ago and may not be viable.

Several of the plants had played host to some type of stem borer.  The borer doesn’t seem capable of killing the plant before seed matures, so it is not likely to be valuable as a control method.

Tiger Swallowtail butterflies were especially numerous in the field.  I scared dozens from the Teasel as I worked.  Fortunately, there are plenty of native wildflowers that the butterflies like just as well.  Pulling Teasel and removing the entire plant turned out to be much quicker and easier than collecting seed heads.  I’ll definitely continue this practice in the future.  At least until I run out of Teasel.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Flood 2017 - Creek Impacts

The July 6 flood certainly had an impact on the creek.  Some sections lost all lose material right down to the bedrock.

Other sections accumulated material brought down from upstream.

Deposition of stone in the creek channel was due to the formation of debris dams that temporarily slowed the speed of the water.  As the water slowed, it lost the energy necessary to carry heavy objects and the gravel dropped out into the creek bed.

Water diverted out of the creek channel carried its sediment load along with it.  A number of sand bars were formed well away from the creek. 

Where the creek left its bed with more momentum, gravel bars were left behind.

There were even a few large flat rocks left stranded far from the creek.

At one bend in the creek the flood water cleaned the face of this bedrock arch.  This feature has never been so easy to view.

Water was deep enough that the meanders in the creek had little effect on the direction of flow.  The current went straight down hill, passing cleanly over every bend and curve in the creek channel.

It was not hard to tell in what direction the water was flowing.  I don’t think a steam roller could have laid these plants down any more than this.  This particular area typically has a nice floral display in late July.  I don’t think that’s going to happen this year.

In the broad, flat areas, water depth peaked at between two and three feet.  It’s going to take a couple of years before the visual effects of this flood event begin to disappear.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Flood 2017 - The Storm

Last month I was describing the drought conditions currently being experienced at Blue Jay Barrens. I believe it’s safe to say that that particular period of drought has come to an end. On July 6, Blue Jay Barrens was the recipient of 6+ inches of rain in a period of less than 12 hours. The resulting flood conditions far surpassed anything we have ever experienced here in the past.

The rain began around 1:30 AM and continued until 8:30 AM. During that time approximately 3 ½ inches of rain fell. Our dry soils were able to accommodate most of that water and very little runoff occurred. The weather was clear for the next few hours, until a storm formed over the area around 12:20 PM. During the next hour, 2 ½ inches of rain was added atop soils which had nearly reached their saturation point. Runoff began immediately and the majority of that 2 ½ inches of water flowed overland across the landscape. The video above shows the runoff from a watershed only a few acres in size as it crosses the driveway in front of our house. The video begins during the most intense part of the storm and ends about five minutes after the rain stopped.

Even though I was dismayed at the magnitude of the disaster unfolding before me, I got some pleasure at viewing the scene shown in the photo above. The clear water coming in from the left is flowing from my field that has been managed for the past 30 years as tallgrass prairie. The muddy water to the right comes from neighboring properties and the Township road. When I first bought this property, all of that runoff water would’ve been muddy. It’s nice to see that my management efforts are having some positive effects.

The former access road, now grassed over, carries the excess floodwater past the prairie display garden and dumps it over the bank into the pond. Water from a more normal runoff event would all have gone through the shrubbery to the right.

With the pond’s primary spillway overloaded, water overtops the dam. This is something that has not occurred since I moved here.

During a year with more typical rainfall, the pond would currently be down to just a puddle and raccoons would be devouring the last of the tadpoles. Gray Treefrog tadpoles generally have a poor time of it in the pond. They breed later than most of the other frogs and the tadpoles generally don’t have time to fully develop before the water disappears. This flood event has been a boon to the Gray Treefrog population.

Thanks to all this water, I’ll be seeing many more of these newly morphed Gray Treefrogs during the next few weeks.