Down on the farm

September 15, 2013

Dudley Wooten

Outdoors Columnist

Yesterday, as I went out the driveway to work, there was a young bull out. I opened a gate and put him back in, knowing the next day I should walk the fence line next to the woods and see where he got out, and that’s what I did. As I found two places where wind had blown a small tree across the fence, I sawed them and fixed the fence. Naturally, I counted the cattle before I did that, to make sure that I had everyone fenced in and not out. Then, I proceeded to saw trees and brush near the fence to avoid a problem the next time the wind blows.

These 30 acres of pasture is the steepest hill we have and a difficult hike to get there. While I was up there, I discovered an Ailanthus tree (or Tree of Heaven). It is also appropriately called “stinkweed,” because it grows like a weed, and the male flower and the leaves stink when crushed. It is an introduced tree from China, because in the past, it was thought to be pretty by some. It is a fast grower and has been used for wind or erosion control. It will grow in polluted, dusty, city conditions, even in the cracks in concrete. This is the “Tree That Grew in Brooklyn.” There is baggage with this foreign tree just like with the multiflora rose and the starling. It seeds profusely and grows the same. It will outgrow and shade out most of our local trees. The O.D.N.R. has a spraying program to eradicate them from state forest property.

Once I cut the first one I saw a dozen more across the fence, and I went to them and cut them. I found about 20 in all in about 6 inch diameter and 30 feet tall. That’s how quickly they grow, and if you discover that you have ailanthus trees, paulolunia trees, autumn olive shrub, or wild rose shrub growing on your property, you owe it to yourself, your neighbors, and your heirs to eliminate those 4 species or they will take over your good forest or pasture.

While I was cutting these tall, straight trees, it was pretty easy felling them into any opening available, but I did get into a situation with the multiflora rose. I noticed the rose all around that I cut and waded through to get to several trees but I didn’t appreciate the rose canopy that was above me. As I cut a few of these tops down that had hung on the good trees, I let a ceiling of thorns down on myself that took me to the ground. There I was, down on all fours with wild rose under me, on me, and both sides, as well. I literally couldn’t move up, down, or sideways without pulling more thorns into me. (I’m in a sleeveless T-shirt and wasn’t really anticipating things to come to this.)

Up ‘til now, I had been in charge and now things seemed a little different. I thought about this to figure out, “What would Brer Rabbit do about this briar patch situation?” I never lost my grip on my saw in all the cave-in so I figured that if I didn’t move enough to saw my way out of this, I’d “be ritchere when the mornin’ come.” This was like giving yourself a shave and haircut with a chainsaw and hoping the rose thorn’s pain is as bad as it gets. It was close, bloody and painful in there but I got out and sawed several more trees.

All this is taking place on the tallest, steepest, loneliest property we have. I have my safety glasses and ear muffs on and my saw going as loud as I please, and I’m truly not expecting any company. Then I see someone standing 30 feet from me at the pasture fence waving frantically to get my attention. This was the biggest surprise of the day, to see someone up on that hill. I immediately shut off the saw and went to him. He was so out of breath that he couldn’t talk for about 30 seconds and this gave me time to think about him having a heart attack and how bloody I was already. I’m thinking what could be so disastrous that he would climb that hill, because I don’t recognize this guy from anywhere. He finally catches his breath and tells me the cattle are out on the road. I saw his truck down at the foot of the steep hill and thanked him. I then realize that all this fence mending on the top of the hill was in vain (this time) and that the young bulls had another escape route down below. I gathered up all my chain saw and fence tools and head down the back side of the hill on the tractor along the road I made there. About now, I’m betting on two things: I’ll find where the cattle get out below, and that guy will never go up that hill again.

After due process of elimination searching all the lower fence, I came to the cattle crossing in the driveway. This is where I should have started and where I find their tracks stepping between the 6 inch pipe and walking out. This is possible only because it’s washed and filled in 18 inches over 5 years.

Now I get to finish my day digging out the fill and silt in the pit of the crossing. This is a pain to shovel out a ton of dirt between the spaces in the pipe you drive on. This gave me time to really ponder the worth of being in the cattle business. They’ve had me going a few times today, but I win. I wouldn’t want to trade places with them down on the farm, and as I count my blessings, I include a round nose 10 inch shovel, 14 inch chain saw, and 10 inch “waar plaars.” I’m just sayin’ that’s the way we roll down on the farm.

Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com