Sunday, November 13, 2016

Late October Highlights

Seed collecting and cleaning up the pine brush around the property as kept me fairly busy this past month, but time spent working on such things is usually better than time spent here writing about them. Things are coming along great though and Jen has been a great help throughout the process.

The section of pines furthest to the west that was cleared still needs quite a bit of work, but I already appreciate the backdrop. There are quite a few young oak trees throughout the cleared area and I expect that I will have to thin some areas in a few years since many seem too close together.

Looking south on the east edge of the property
This area formerly was a thick mess of dogwood and other miscellaneous brush, but Jen spent two weekends cutting it back and adding to the piles. The cleared area already has a fair amount of native plants growing about and I plan to add more diversity by planting seed from some of the shade tolerant types of plants I've collected.

Looking SW from the tower
The view from the deer stand really gives you an idea of much pine brush I have been piling for the last month. Some of the cleared areas have really started greening up, but I'm pretty sure some of it is undesirable cool season grasses.
Looking north from the tower
I have avoided disturbing the woods and marsh that makes up the back half of the property this Fall since there was so much disturbance with the pine trees being removed. It has been several years since I did any major cutting in this area and it has once again developed into fairly thick cover.
Of the areas I have cleaned up, this section has so far been given the most attention and has the least amount of brush remaining to be picked up. The deer have been frequenting the area due to the new growth in the disturbed areas. The brush piles have been attracting rodents and rabbits and the trail camera has shown an increased amount of fox activity in the area during the past few weeks.

The small pond that was dug a few years ago hasn't had much attention yet. Most of the trees around it were left standing and I intend to leave them there for at least a year to see how they react to the new growing conditions. A couple weeks ago I moved the trail camera back to the pond after a one month period on the corner of the field.
There has been a lot of rain in the last few months and the pond is higher than it has been in past years. I expect the deer to frequent the pond just as much as when it was surrounded by woodland and if I'm lucky some new types of animals may show up. A while back I retired the ATV trail section that was on the north edge of the pond.
Further up the edge of the field one of the giant oaks is much more exposed with the pines removed. Decades ago there was a barbed wire fence line along the edge of the property and I suspect that is one of the main reasons this tree survived. I placed a 5 gallon bucket next to the tree to show the scale of the wild grape vines that reach to the top of the oak tree.
The remaining logs were removed recently and I have started working on the brush wall that will border the southern edge of the cleared area. For the first couple years it will act as a screen from the road and to discourage trespassing with vehicles (which is not uncommon in my area). 
The roadside prairie I planted a few years ago is looking pretty solid and I don't have any concerns with its development. There have been few invasive weeds and the warm season grasses are finally starting to mature. This year there were a number of Stiff Goldenrod flowers and I don't remember seeing any the year before. Of all the areas I have planted around the property, this area has been the slowest to establish.
Further down the road the area I seeded at the end of 2015 is finishing its first year. This area used to be a driveway about a decade ago, but since we don't need to park vehicles here it functions better as more native habitat. The area was kept trimmed to below 1' the first year to keep weeds from setting seed and to allow light to reach the seedlings. I surveyed the area while doing the final cutting a few weeks ago and it was exciting to see a very few problem weeds.
Another year on, the sand prairie looks as good as ever. The warm season grasses has matured for the most part, but I'm still waiting to see if any Prairie Dropseed patches form. This was the areas fourth growing season after being planted in 2012. In the background you can also see the Tamarack in the backyard in peak Fall color.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

More Pine Brush Clean Up

I have been trying to tackle the clean up of the pine plantation systematically, but it has been a slow process. I have been able to get a lot done each time I work on the project, but there are acres that still haven't been touched yet.

Over the past two weeks I have accomplished quite a bit on the eastern side of the field. With the branches and debris off the soil, grasses and forbs have started to fill in the space.

Looking south over the cleared section
I am not certain what plants will come up here since it has been covered in pine thatch for years, but I expect there will be quite a few unwanted varieties. The far east edge was formerly Imperial Whitetail Clover, but has since reverted back to a mix of other plants.

Looking south on the other side of the long brush pile
The other side of the brush pile has a fair amount of new lush growth due to the added sunlight, but this section still hasn't been cleaned up as much as the other side. Some of the areas where the soil has really been disturbed I have considered planting with winter rye to act as a cover crop and improve my hunting success rate in a month.

Looking south over the next section just to the west
It wasn't possible to form a central brush pile through the section next to the one on the far east side, but the majority of the area is cleared. The edges will need some work over the next couple months, but this might be easier to accomplish once the foliage drops for the year.

Looking south over the next section to the west
I started working on this section for the first time over the weekend and quickly started running out of places to go with the brush. This section by far had the most brush to deal with since I never trimmed the lower branches of the pines in this section historically. This section's best attribute is the White Pine near the center of the field and I look forward to the possibility of the tree growing faster now with less competition nearby.

Looking east over the northern end of the first three sections
Right now there is quite a bit of exposed soil, but I expect that quite a few plants will come up still before the weather gets too cold to allow for seed germination. I have continued to keep as many oak trees as possible alive while moving the brush around and in the years to come I am hoping that the majority of trees in the field will be oaks.

Another view of the White Pine
Having the access trail throughout this process have been great and I am glad that I was diligent through the years in keeping it open. Eventually the lanes can be tilled and will act as a fire break if I decided to burn any of the sections. The soil in this section is very sandy and would lend itself well the seed I have been collecting.

Looking SW over the far western section that was cleared.
Over the weekend I also started working on the north end of this section, but only did a little since I haven't really formulated a plan for the area yet. Of all of the sections this one has the most young oak and cherry trees, but I think many of the interior ones may have been damaged by the cutting. Native trees are pretty resilient though and I expect most will pull through. There are some mature oaks on the western edge of this section which will benefit from the extra sunlight and I expect them to develop more horizontal branches now.

The forecast for the weekend looks to be bringing more rain to an already saturated landscape. My fingers are crossed that it holds off since my window for seed harvesting is limited for some plants and an excessively wet climate can spoil the seed altogether. Soon I hope to collect some of the goldenrod and aster seeds, but it may be a bit still since some still are flowering. If anyone has good suggestions for native wildflowers that would look good in the areas pictured above feel free to let me know and I can look into adding it to the list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trail Camera Highlights

I posted some trail camera pictures not long ago so there were not that many new ones when I checked the camera after a week. However, there were a few good pictures that I thought I'd share. The property has had a lot of rain recently and the pond levels are high. Most of the trees have not started changing to their seasonal colors, but I expect to see that start happening in the next couple of weeks. Temperatures have started dropping a little which is good for days when I have time to work on cleaning up the pine branches.

Looking SW from NE corner of the field
It is nice to see some of the more mature deer moving around the area still during daylight. I'm hoping that due to the timing of the pines being removed that there is still a chance that the extra sunlight reaching the soil will stimulate plant growth that the deer can browse during the next six months. Going forward there should be more forage overall for the deer and other wildlife with the pine trees and the carpet of their needles removed.

Random dog
On Sunday while we were out cleaning up branches we had a few visitors who came jogging through our property with a dog. Due to the inviting nature of the property I am most likely going to have to invest in a gate near the road to prevent unauthorized access. I worry sometimes about my deer stands being stolen, but having a trail camera at least would help me with identification if needed.

This is the first picture I have had if this buck in 2016 that I am aware of. It is too bad he didn't step out far enough so that I could see what the other half looks like.

That is all for now. The deer tend to move more during the coming weeks so I expect some more good pictures in the near future. Soon I will be moving the camera back to the other pond and I expect the deer will be using it just as much as when the pines surrounded it.