Clean up: dead trees, and I’m being watched!

Yesterday evening, I was able to head out and finally work on the dead tree that’s stuck. While I was getting tools out of the sun room, I discovered I was being watched!

They were not only watching me, but they did NOT run away, and one of them looks almost relaxed!

I’ll take that as progress. 😀

Then it was time to get to work.

For the tree that’s stuck, the first thing that needed to be done was to brace it before I started cutting. Then I measured a little more than four feet from the bottom and cut it most of the way through. Then, just to be safe, I used a rope to pull out the brace from a distance, then used the rope again, to pull out the cut piece.

Now that this has been cut shorter, the tree can be pulled out with the van, once we have something we can use to safely haul it out. We do actually have chain handing around but 1) I won’t want to use chain, because if it breaks, the damage could be catastrophic and 2) the chain I’ve found is so big and long, I would have to use a wheelbarrow to bring it over! 😀 At this stage, though, the tree can wait until we get some strong enough rope. It’s also now low enough that I could remove the rope that was wrapped around the trunk, from when I tried to get it to roll off the branches it’s stuck on.

The four foot length was moved to join the others by the main garden beds. Then I took down the third dead tree in this group.

This tree was a fair bit thinner than the other two, and was faster to cut down. When it fell, it landed on the stuck tree, which basically guided it away from the trees it’s stuck on, and down to the cherry trees.

All of those cherry trees will be cleared away, as they are not right for our climate zone, so the first order of business was to start clearing enough of those away that we could access the trunk. Dead branches were also cleared off the trunk. Then, while I continued to clear more of the cherry trees away, using loppers for the thinner ones, and the baby chainsaw for the few larger ones, my daughter started to measure off the trunk to cut the first four foot length.

We got two four foot lengths and a nine foot length before it got too dark to work, so I got these photos this morning.

As with the other two trees, the wood is nice and solid, with no sign of rot. That means, not only will the wood be used to build our high raised beds, but the stump will be used to support a seat or a table.

With so many dead trees to clear away, we’re going to have a lot of those by the time we’re done!

While cutting lengths from the trunk off, we were able to pull the rest of the tree out a bit, but at this point, it’s too hung up on the cherry trees that haven’t been cut away, yet. I had thought to be doing more of that today, but it might have to wait. Pain levels are high, which is no surprise, but as I write this, it is also 30C/86F right now!

One more nine foot length, and I’ll have enough wood to make a raised bed that’s 3 logs high. With how thick the trunks are, that might be high enough! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Why thank you, wind.

While I was working outside with the loppers and lawn mower, in the area we intend to seed with wildflowers, the winds were pretty high. By the time I was done, I was dealing with double ear aches from it. :-/

It has since only picked up. I’ve just come back from a walkabout, picking up fallen branches and closing up the pump shack door that I found blown open.

There was a benefit to the high winds, when it came to the stuck trees I cut down.

One of them broke free and fell all the way down, right were I was intending it to fall! Which means I can start breaking it down to the lengths I want and clearing it out, and can access another dead tree in this group to cut down.

Unfortunately, the bigger tree is on the wrong side of the tree it’s hung up on. The winds are blowing it into the tree instead of away from it.

Getting this one out is going to be an issue. The only direction it can be pulled from is where I’m standing to take the photo. That leaves the stump in the way. A stump I want to keep, to use as the support for a seat or table.

The trunks will be cut into 10 and 4 foot lengths. What I figure I will do is first find something to support the trunk, then cut it at about 4 1/2 feet from the end. That leaves room to trim the end level. The rest of the tree would then be clear of the stump and can be pulled out, once I have something strong enough to pull it with.

Unless the winds shift, and it manages to fall. Unlikely, but one can hope!

The Re-Farmer

I was hoping to avoid that

After giving my hips a chance to recover, it was time for more manual labour today!

Today, I decided to do a bit more cleanup around the junk pile, so I could access some dead trees that need to be taken down.

Here is how it looked before I started.

We have our ongoing battle with the spirea that’s choking everything out, so I wanted to pull them up by the roots as much as possible.

Some of them had roots so long, they started going under things. I pushed them aside after a certain point, so I could focus on clearing around three specific dead trees.

The thistles were much more of a problem. The thorns go right through my work gloves!

I did leave on thing behind, besides some wildflowers.

There was a little Saskatoon bush, at the base of one of the trees, and it’s actually trying to produce berries! Weather willing, the berries you see will turn a deep, dark purple, and look a bit like blueberries.

Once the area was cleared of tripping hazards, I started taking down the first tree, using a bucksaw. Because of where these trees are, I tried to do it in such a way that it would fall in a space between some other spruces. I didn’t want it falling towards the open yard, because then it might land on the beet bed or compost pile, or some Saskatoon bushes and an elm tree we want to keep.

It almost worked.

It fell too far to the south, and got hung up on another dead tree, that’s right nest to a still live one.

I was able to wrap some rope around the trunk and get it off the stump, but it would not come loose from the dead tree it was entangled in.

So I moved on to the next tree. This time, it actually fell into the gap I wanted it to fall into.

It still got hung up! I had hoped these trees would be heavy enough that the dead branches would break and let them fall to the ground, but apparently, they are still quite strong.

On the plus side, I was very pleased with what I saw after cutting them down.

The wood is nice and solid, with no sign of rot or ant damage. This is very encouraging, because I want to use the logs. These nice, solid stumps will later be used to make seats and tables.

Here is how it looked when I stopped for the day. I did try to use the rope and our van to try and get that first tree loose from the dead tree it’s hooked up on, but the rope kept breaking. We don’t have any stronger rope. If we’re going to need to use the van anyhow, I will pick up some sturdy rope and hook it up to near the base of the trunks, and pull the entire trees out into the yard, where we will break them down.

Since the wood is in such good shape, these will be used to make the high raised beds we will be building in the main garden area, where we currently have the low raised beds we’d planted spinach, onions and carrots in. I’m thinking of cutting the logs into 10 ft and 4 ft lengths, and I figure it will take about 4 logs to get the accessible height we are after, though of course, that will depend on how big the individual trees are. We don’t have a lot of time left, if we want to get these ready for next year. I’m hoping to get at least a couple built for next year. By using whole logs like this, we won’t have any concerns about the sides bowing out under the weight of the layers of wood, compostable materials and soil they will be filled with.

Once these dead trees closer to the edge of the spruce grove are down, we’ll be able to feel the other ones towards the yard, and there will be no other trees for them to get hung up on!

Once all the dead trees in this corner are down, and the area is cleaned up, we will be able to convert the trunks into seating and surfaces. Then we can start planting food trees that need a protected microclimate. I will be testing the soil, and if the acidity from all those decades of spruce needles is high enough, I hope to be able to plant blueberries. We do still want to grow a mulberry tree, since the one we got this spring got killed off by that one cold night in May, and it was in here that we originally intended to plant it. I think, this time, we will try and get a Canadian variety we found out about, that is increasingly endangered. We will still need the microclimate for it, but if we can help keep a variety at risk going, that’s what we prefer to do, if we can.

There are a lot more dead trees further to the east and around to the south, inside the spruce grove. Some will also have their trunks converted to seating, but as we go further into the grove, I want to start transplanting more spruces into the spruce grove! 🙂

While we are getting rid of the spirea, we will be leaving the wild roses and red bark dogwood as underbrush. I will probably take out most of the chokecherries I’m finding in here, as there are so many, to make room for the Saskatoons to spread. We will also be transplanting new spruces in here, though more strategically. Lots to do, but I am really looking forward to when we have a lovely little sanctuary in here, where we can sit and enjoy the outdoors, somewhat protected from the elements by the trees. 🙂

For now, however, I’m going to get some tweezers, and get that thistle thorn that got through my gloves!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: dead spruce, so far

It was too dark to take progress photos last night, so this is how the dead spruce tree I took down looked when I was done for the day.

When I get back to it later today, I’ll be using the mini chainsaw (cordless pruner) to finish de-branching it. Depending on how things go today, I might even be able to break the trunk down more with the electric chainsaw. I’ll have to watch myself, though. My body is already warning me not to overdo it. Power tools will help with that, at least, but it was quite painful getting up this morning. 😦

This is the larger of the vine pieces that were still wrapped around the trunk.

After fighting off the Virginia Creeper since we moved out here, it actually stuns me when I go into garden centres and see it for sale. People actually pay money for this invasive plant! I get that they’re pretty, but my goodness, do they ever kill off anything they wrap themselves around! I’m still pulling it from areas I cleared two summers ago. Any little root left in the soil will keep trying to sprout.

Speaking of invasive, you can see in the background of the above photo, how the chokecherry tree is trying to spread! Gotta get that under control, too!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: dead spruce (gotta start somewhere!)

One of the frustrating things about the heat we’ve been having is that it’s preventing us from doing a lot of outside work. The sort of work that involves a level of manual labour that becomes dangerous to do, simply because of the heat.

The work still needs to be done, however.

So tonight, when it was a bit cooler and there was still some light out, I decided it was time to take down one of the dead spruce trees.

No, not one of the big ones in the spruce grove. This little one.

Because it was nearing 10pm, I didn’t want to use the electric chain saw. It’s just big enough to do a tree of this size. Instead, I used a buck saw. In this photo, you can see I’d already cut out a wedge on one side.

Once it started to fall, it got hung up on some maple branches! In the end, I had to use a narrow fence pole from the pile you can see in the first picture, to push the dead tree free of the branches.

It was remarkable, how much brighter this spot become, once the tree was down!

After felling the tree, I used a hand saw to cut off branches until it became to dark to continue.

There had been a second dead tree near this one. Our first summer here, as I was cleaning up in the area, I pulled off a giant triffid of a vine from the two of them (you can read about and see photos, here). There were still pieces of it in this tree! It is likely the vine that killed both trees.

I was just about to head in for the supper the girls were making when I saw the motion sensor light on the squash tunnel get triggered. I headed over with my phone as a flashlight, but never found what triggered it.

Anyhow.

I will continue breaking down this tree tomorrow morning, before things heat up again. Unless, miracle of miracles, we get the showers that are being predicted. The trunk has a crack in it, but otherwise, it’s solid. No sign of rot. Which means we can use the wood. If we can take down more of the dead trees and they are solid like this, they will be used to make our permanent raised beds.

While I was working on the tree, it had supposedly cooled down to 17C/63F. Which would have been a gorgeous temperature to do this kind of work in, but I suspect the actual temperature here was quite a few degrees warmer! We’re supposed to be at 30C/86F, or close to it, over the next few days. For the next week, the humidex is supposed to be about 33C/81F. Which means we’ll only have small windows of time in the morning and evening when we can work on this sort of thing. But it has to be done. It’s already been delayed for far too long!

Now that this dead tree is down, I have two tall stumps that are relatively near each other. Once things are cleared away, I’ll be cutting them to matching heights, and they will become the supports for a much needed bench. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: spruce grove, clearing to the dead trees

Today turned out to be such a hot and sunny day, I took advantage of it to do a bit of work in the spruce grove. Specifically around the dead trees near where we intend to plant the mulberry tree that will be shipped later in the spring.

I normally post the before pictures at the start, and the after pictures near the end, but this time I’m going to set them side by side. It’s the only way I can see the difference 2-3 hours of work resulted in. :-/

Here is the first area, and where the mulberry tree will be planted.

They’re a bit hard to see in the before picture, but there are two steel wheels leaning against the reddish dead tree. Those have joined the “found object” art display for now. 😉 Then there was the remains of what appears to have been a bench made with two logs as support, and another log that I think was just there to sit on.

It must have been a very pleasant place to sit, when they were first set up.

Someone (probably my mother) had gone to some effort to make sure the seats were stable. I found these, under them.

These were under where the bench was, with a group of bricks under where each log would have been. It was a good idea to put the bricks under the logs, but nothing had been done to keep them from sinking into what is essentially composted leaves and spruce needles, so the logs started to rot from below.

It wasn’t until I found these that I realized the other log was intended as a seat, too.

I had to cut away what I thought were two small trees, just to access the area. It wasn’t until I tried to cut them down to ground level that I realized, it wasn’t two trees.

I had to dig out and cut away the roots to get them out, and they were both growing out of the same root, which ran under the bricks.

This was, hands down, the most difficult part of the clean up today. Partly because there were other roots running under the roots I was trying to cut! Some belonged to the dead spruce they were next to, but I later ended up pulling out about 8 feet of root, and never finding out what tree it came from!

While trimming the undergrowth, I realized I need to get thicker gloves than the gardening gloves I’ve been using.

Another reason to encourage the wild roses – they make great security barriers! Those spines go right through ordinary garden gloves!

I don’t mind cutting away the roses for now, though. They will grow back, and with clearing out the other stuff, they should have more sun and space to spread out, too.

It was really hot work, though, so I stopped for a rest in the shade. I look forward to when we set up new seating areas around the yard. It would be much more pleasant than sitting on concrete steps!

With how hot it was feeling, I just had to check the temperature. I was thinking we were certainly about 15C/59F Maybe even approaching 20C/68F

Nope.

It was 10C/50F

RealFeel, 8C/46F

Yeah. I know. You folks from the south are laughing at me right now! 😀

Meanwhile, the thermometer in the sun room was approaching 30C/86F. I opened the solid doors to allow air circulation through the screen doors, and increased the speed of the ceiling fan, so the onion seedlings would not be too hot!

One of these days, we should set up our own weather station, so we can have more accurate readings!

But I digress…

I did have a visitor while I was taking a break on the stairs.

I love how the woodpecker likes to get to the seeds on the ground by way of the bird feeder’s support. 🙂

Then it was back to clearing away the undergrowth, and working my way towards the stone cross. Here is that section, taken from the same spot I took the first before and after pictures from.

I’m having a hard time seeing the difference between these two pictures. In fact, the “after” picture looks worse, because I didn’t line the angle up the same. :-/ Trust me. I did take out quite a bit of undergrowth in the distance!

In the second picture, you can see the tarp covering the junk pile. The tree beside it is dead, as is the tree my supplies are under. That whole area is full of spirea. It’s better to pull those up by the roots, but I just didn’t have the energy for that, today. Too hot! 😀

I worked more into this area.

In the before picture, I’d already started cleaning up the undergrowth a bit. The row of trees you can see on the right are part of north edge of the spruce grove. My older brother planted those, before I was born. It’s hard to believe they were planted at the same time as the huge spruces on the north edge of the grove, but there were three rows planted, close together. The further into the grove the rows were planted (at a time when the rest of the grove’s trees were in their prime), the less light they got, and the less growth there was. I’d cleaned up along the north side of the grove, taking out a lot of little dead spruces in the process. Hopefully, the more things are cleaned up, the better it will be for the surviving trees.

Most of the large spruces in the pictures are dead, so once those are cleaned up, that will allow a lot more light into here. If their trunks are still solid enough, I want to turn them into supports for benches and maybe a table or two. Over time, more spruces will be transplanted into the spruce grove, as well as more food trees – the mulberry tree being our first – that need the extra protection these spruces will give them. The mulberry tree should grow quite large, and will provide quite a bit of shade, so we need to keep things open around where we plant it. Long term, I want this area to be a pleasant, park-like setting. I will have to keep in mind that the benches and possible tables that I hope to make on the tree trunks nearby will end up covered with berries when the mulberry tree gets bigger! I’ve read warnings that mulberry trees can be quite messy. 😀

I’m sure the birds will clean it up for us, though. 😉

I probably won’t get a chance to work here again for a while, as we are supposed to start snowing tomorrow evening, and it will be a few days before the temperatures warm up again. I want to get the spirea out, in particular – they’re lovely, but very invasive, so we’re keeping them in one area of the yard, and taking them out everywhere else. I know some of what I’ve already taken out today were chokecherry trees. We have lots of those, and it turns out they can be invasive, too! What we really want to clear up around are the Saskatoon bushes. These ones are still healthy, and keeping the area around them clear and open will help keep them that way. They are crowded by spirea and chokecherry right now, so when I work my way to where they are, I will back off until they are in full leaf, or even starting to bloom, so I don’t accidentally cut any down, mistaking them for chokecherry.

Today has been a very deceiving day! It got so hot, and when I was shoveling around those roots, I didn’t hit any ice or frozen ground at all. Quite a few of our garden seeds say to direct sow “as soon as the ground can be worked.” Well, that would be now, but it’s still another month an a half before our last frost date. Not only are we expected to have snow starting tomorrow evening, but we could easily get more snow later in the month, or even in May, so anything we tried to sow would likely not survive.

Which is fine for now. We can’t do anything until the garden soil is delivered! I keep forgetting to call about it. I’m sure the soil is thawed out enough to load into their trucks by now, and I still need someone to come by so we can look at where would be the best places to drop the loads.

I get excited, just thinking about it! 😀 The girls and I are so looking forward to gardening this year!

The Re-Farmer

Situational blindness?

My older daughter just finished a whole bunch of quick commissions, and after sitting at the computer for so many hours, she really needed to get out and walk!

So we headed out together, and wandered around beyond the outer yard, cutting through the old hay yard.

I just had to share this photo of a floating tree.

This tree is a bit of a mystery. It is one of several trees that had not fallen on their own, but were cut down and just left in the hay yard. Perhaps the intent was to clean them up, but it just never happened. Who knows?

This tree, however, has a piece missing.

Unlike the others that were lying near their stumps, there is what I estimate to be about 8 feet of trunk missing. The nearby stump is much wider than the cut end of this tree’s floating remains. There is no sign of the missing piece, anywhere! I find myself curious as to why someone would remove a section completely like that, and what it was used for!

While we were walking around, my daughter asked her if I’d seen the old outhouse.

Which old outhouse? I had to ask, since several came to mind.

Apparently, there was an old outhouse my daughters found in the bushes.

So of course, I had to see it!

You know how you can walk past something time after time, yet not “see” it, until something calls your attention to it? And then you wonder, when did that get there? Or, is this new?

I had to have had this sort of situational blindness, because I’ve gone through this area several times, and yet I can’t remember seeing this. It’s in the bushes, between the car graveyard and old gravel pit, and most definitely has been there a long time!

Truly an odd place for an outhouse. It’s not like this was a place people spent so much time, they’d need an outhouse!

The use of wood shingles for siding like that is another curious thing. Very unusual.

It’s possible I missed seeing it because I’d gone through here at a time of year when the bushes were in full leaf.

At this angle, you can see the hinged door at the bottom, for access to emptying the… contents.

There does not seem to be a pit under it.

I wonder if it was brought in from somewhere else, and just dumped here, like so many other things were, over the years?

The roof is gone and it’s collapsing into itself to the point the door cannot be opened, though it is somewhat ajar.

I was able to stick my phone into a gap and get a photo of the inside.

I’m guessing that little blue shelf was hanging on the nails under the coat hook.

What a curious thing to have somehow not seen while going through here! Or perhaps I did see it, but just dismissed it. There have been so many odd finds since we’ve moved here, they aren’t really odd anymore! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Tree Star

I made a mistake, when writing about these trees, yesterday.

In this photo, the red lines mark the dead spruces. Counting the one by the garage, that makes a dozen trees on this side of the spruce grove, to take down.

I missed one. It can’t actually be seen in this photo, because it’s behind other trees. I didn’t notice becase I had the right number of trees that I’d counted before, not realizing that when I had been in the spruce grove, counting the dead trees, I missed the one that is in the far right of the photo, because I could see if from where I was standing at the time. It has a live tree growing next to it, and has some live branches wrapped around it.

This is one of the clusters of three trees that I’d mentioned (the broken tree in the foreground is the one that’s closest to the house). When my daughters and I were walking around in this area, I clued in that one of these dead trees is the one with the extension cord wrapped around it.

You can see what the extension cord is there for. There is a wooden star with lights on it, facing the roads. At Christmas, we would run a cord from the house to this tree to plug it in.

My late brother put that there. Best guess, I’d say it’s been up there for as long as 40 years.

My daughters and I joked about plugging it in to see if it worked, but we’d never do it. With how many breaks there are in the cord, just where we can see it, plugging it in could very well cause a fire!

So… that’s 13 dead trees on this side of the spruce grove that need to come down, plus the other 5 I found at the other end, that can wait.

It’s getting so that there aren’t that many spruces left in the spruce grove!!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: deadwood

It’s a hot day today, but it’s going to get even hotter throughout the week, hitting above 30C/86F in a few days. Plus, I’ll be doing a lot of driving throughout the week. I figured if my brother could be out baling hay in this heat today, I can prune some deadwood!

There were two trees in particular I wanted to get at. Here is the first I worked on.

I had already cut the dead parts of the main tree, our first summer here. What was left were the suckers growing out the base. As the main part was grafted, what grew out the base was not the same type of apple as what had already died.

When I first worked on it, the live parts were bending low, so I left tall stumps of the original tree and used them as supports to tie the live ones to. One, growing out the middle, didn’t need the support.

As you can see in the photo, that’s the one that is now dead.

It actually did have leaves and even flowers this spring, but they didn’t last. As I cut it away, I was surprised it managed even that much. It was so dead and dry, I could only cut about half way, and then it was easier to break it off by hand.

One of the live branches was hanging down again, even though part of it was supported, so I got creative.

I found what was probably an old mop handle and zip tied it to one of the old stumps at the bottom, and to another live branch higher up. Then I lifted the bent branch and attached it to the support. Hopefully, this will be enough for it to start growing straight – or at least straighter – on its own. If nothing else, I won’t be getting my hair caught in it when I mow past it, anymore!

The next tree was a bigger job.

I’d actually thought I would be working on an old plum tree, but it was another apple tree that needed help.

There are two large branches on the apple tree that have died. In the background, you can see the dark coloured plum tree meandering its way up. The branches are so tangled, it was hard to see what belonged were, but it seemed that the plum branch still had live branches and little plums at the top.

I would see better, after the apple was cleared.

I took the slightly smaller branch off first (on the left of the trunk, in the above photo) using the reciprocating saw, and it came down fairly well. The branches at the ends were tangled with live branches, so it ended up standing upright on its cut end when it fell. Once I cleared that, it was time to get the big one down.

When cutting larger branches like this, you always have to be careful when it gets past a certain point, depending on the angle and weight of the branch. Once it starts breaking under its own weight, things can go in unexpected directions.

This one was a bit different.

It didn’t fall.

You can see the one live branch growing out the side, so I made sure to cut above it.

I cut right through, and it just sat there!

Hmmm… I wonder why that would be…

The live plum and apple branches were holding it up!

There was a lot to get tangled on!

For this tree, I used pruning spray on the cut branches, to protect the main trunk a bit.

There is still one branch alive on this tree, and it’s got quite a few apples on it.

The plum in the background does have a lot of dead branches, but at the top, it’s still alive. I am leaving it for now.

Usually, for stuff like this, I would have broken down the branches a bit, but otherwise just hauled it over to one of the piles of branches we’ve made while cleaning up over the past couple of years. I did things differently this time.

The small branches, I cut short and loaded into the wagon, to be used as kindling in the fire pit.

The large pieces will wait until I can co-ordinate with one of the girls to work on them.

The wood looks surprisingly solid. I’m going to see if anything can be salvaged for carving. If not, they’ll be cut to fire pit size for use during cook outs.

It isn’t much, but I’m happy to have gotten at least this bit done. There is another tree, an elm, near the fire pit area that is mostly dead. I actually thought it was dead our first year here, but after a rainfall, it perked up. Last year’s drought seems to have done it in, though. It’s quite large, though, so we’ll have to be more careful taking down the dead parts.

That will wait for another day!

The Re-Farmer

Crab apple pruning

The down side of using what clear weather we’ve had to keep on top of the mowing is, lots of other things aren’t getting done.

Today, we tackled one of those jobs (though I could easily have spent a couple of hours mowing).

We worked on pruning the dead wood out of the crab apple trees. This first one was losing the most.

Honestly, I think this one is probably a lost cause. It has a fungal disease, and much of it is already dead, but if we can save it, that would be great.

This next one is already completely dead.

Last year, the stems that were growing out of the base were still alive, so we left it. Not a sign of any life at all, this year.

Unless you count the ant hill that appeared at the base, or the fungus growing on it, we discovered last fall.

This last one is not too bad.

The main trunk of this tree – which my brother tells me was grafted on by my late father – has died, but the suckers that grew out of the base produced very well last year. They were decently larger, for a crab apple, and while it took quite a while for them to ripen compared to the other trees, once they did, they were the tastiest of them all.

Mind you, last year was not a good year for apples.

I had help, while doing this, and not just from my daughters…

What a silly boy! 😀

Here is how the trees look now.

There is not a lot left on that first one. On the stump we cut short, you can see little dots – those are ants! The last one is looking pretty good.

The pile of branches next to the first tree is what we cut away from these three areas.

After that, we decided to cut away the dead wood from the other trees.

I’d actually done a major pruning of dead wood on all the trees, our first summer here, and kept it up a bit last year, so I wasn’t expecting to remove all that much. Which is why I didn’t thing to take a before picture.

I was really amazed by how much dead wood we got out of these, and how much more open the trees looked! They were hard enough to clear on their own, with how much apple branches twist around each other, but with the trees planted so close together, they were also entangled in neighbouring branches! The biggest tree, in the middle of the photo, had a really surprising number of dead branches. This also makes it more dangerous to take them down. They catch on everything on the way down, and time and again, we’d bring down a branch that turned out to be much bigger than we’d expected it to be. They’d get caught on the other branches, and were quite difficult to remove.

Here is the final pile of branches.

All of this needs to be burned, due to the fungal infection. No salvage to be had, here. What a shame. While we did get a few dying branches with leaves still on them, this was almost all dead stuff. We did not actively try to prune any of the live branches.

Since we also have to burn out infected stumps, we’re leaving these branches here. When the conditions are right, I’ll be bringing a metal ring we’ve got to place over each stump and start a small fire. We need to burn out the stumps, but they are also under live branches, so we have to take care to keep the fire small enough not to affect those. While these will need to be done on separate days, weather willing, this pile will be used partly to feed the small fires, but also broken down and we’re just going to burn it in the garden. We’ll be able to have a slightly bigger fire, but not by much. Thanks to the rain we’ve been having, there would be no complete burn ban right now. So no controlled burning of fields, but yes to fire pits and burn barrels.

It was good to get this done! With how much more open the trees are, this should help increase yield quite a bit – though I think all the lovely rain we’ve had so far will play a much bigger part!

As an aside, we got some unexpected entertainment while working. At one point, we heard a tractor go by on the road. It was our vandal. Some time later, he made his return trip. I could just see him through the lilac hedge and something seemed… odd. It took a while to see him clearly, but the entire time he drove past us, he had one arm out, giving us the finger! 😀

So juvenile!

Which reminds me. Before we started on the trees, my daughter and I planted new sunflower seeds in the spaces that either didn’t sprout, or the sprouts got … eaten? Of the seeds we originally planted, we’ve got about a 50% loss, in total, between the two varieties. I found another variety in the grocery store that is supposed to be a large head, eating/bird seed type. It’s so late in the season, it’s hard to know if they’ll reach full growth, but even if they don’t, I’m hoping they’ll fill the gaps to be part of the wind break/privacy screen we also planted them for.

While we were putting things away, I spotted a pleasant surprise.

We put this up to encourage local pollinators last year, and not a single tube got used, so I was very happy to see some of them have been filled. It’s only in this one area, but hopefully, that means we’ll see more of them, over time.

I’m really glad to have gotten this job done. Now we just have to get rid of those branches, before things get overgrown again! 😀

The Re-Farmer