Summer Time Annoyances On The Farm

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Summer is in full swing. Work is super busy and we have been working 12 hour days (some times 13 hour days), and every other week we are lucky enough to have to work Saturdays as well. Life on the farm has been just as busy! Talk about burning the candle at both ends. Peas and beans are needing picked  and frozen/canned, along with many other veggies that are becoming ripe and ready to pick/pull. Weeds and grasses are going gangbusters, and water consumption for animals is at a yearly high. Every aspect of the farm life is busy and buzzing. Which brings me to my first “Summer Time Annoyance.” Here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest we have a plethora of Bee’s called “Yellow Jackets.” The nasty little boogers are making nests EVERYWHERE this time of year. My big farm truck has sat in one spot for about 2 months now, and I went to get something out of the toolbox in the truck bed, as soon as I opened the lid I was swarmed with about 50 angry little bees and saw their nest is already about the size of a softball attatched to the underside of the toolbox lid. For any one not Familiar with the Northwest Yellow Jacket, their are not actually a Bee per-say, they are a Wasp, and closest animal relative is the aggressive Hornet (definition per Wikipedia). Honey bees for example tend to want to do their job, and will only sting if threatened, and once stung the stinger pulls out killing the bee. A yellow jacket wasp however, hates humans with a passion and will go out of their way to sting you on site! Their stingers stay connected to their bodies and can sting you over and over and over. This is especially no fun since once they see you, they will drop what they are doing and come sting you, and as you run away they will fallow you in a cloud of large numbers all stinging you over and over again, and pack a healthy dose of venom in each sting causing massive sting swelling. Long story short, I HATE these little boogers! So i went and bought some wasp and hornet killer (3 cans of the shoot kind of spray). I went all around the house spraying all the years new nests (as this is an every summer event. Yellow jackets make nests in shady protected areas of all types, including mouse holes underground, under house and building eves, under gutters, truck bed tool boxes, truck beds, anything they can crawl under and dont get rained and snowed on. Twas a good year for the Yellow jacket this year. Killed 13 nests under the house eves, 4 under the pump house eves, one in each side of the truck tool box, 3 inder the lips of the bed rails of the pick up, found one underground one that i used a large 4th of july smoke bomb on and covered the hole with dirt after lighting it and throwing it down the hole, and 2 in the woodshed! 25 in nests in all! Take that you mean little suckers! 

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Brush Removal Day (F**K*NG Sotch Broom!)

ImageLooking out my Living room picture window this morning, hot cup of Folgers in my hand, the aroma from the coffees steam drifting up my nostrils, and the sun beaming into the living room from the East. “This will be a great day to do some spraying!” I think to my self. I havn’t posted anything in about a week, i started a new job as a machinery operator and overtime has kept me pretty busy. Yesterday (Saturday) was my first chance in a week to tend to the farm. We have new baby goats born earlier in the week that have taken up my workday evenings in feeding and casterating and general care. So saturday i grabbed the trusty Troy Built brush cutter and set out on the 20 acres with a full tank of mixed gas and a vision. “Brush Be Gone!” here in northwestern Oregon “Scotch Broom” and “Tansie” are the two main culperates. Tansie will actually kill alot of livestock, especially cattle if they injest it. So it’s a must for removal. I spray the hell out of it every year. Or if I am walking by and see a plant I will try and pull it up by its roots, leaving the roots exposed to direct sunlight to kill the little bugger. The other bad weed we have is Scotch Broom. This stuff isn’t really poisonous to livestock, but it literally will completey take over a farm around here in a matter of a couple years! It’s a real booger to kill. It’s a bi-annual plant, so it only comes back every two years, so just when you think you got it all killed, cut, sprayed and all gone, the crop from year before last comes up and you got a whole new crop of the stuff. The other problem is seeding! There are probably 10,000 seeds on one single plant. So once it goes to seed, one single gentle wind and the stuff has seeded it self over literally 5 acres! I will admit during bloom it is very pretty, but it starts off like a thick 1 ft tall carpet, by the next year it is 6 feet tall. After a couple years, I am not exaggerating, this crap will be an inpenetrantable solid wall 12-15 ft high! Spreading and seeding itself every year along the way and spreading. Long story short, who ever got this stuff started here in the Pacific Northwest should have a red hot fire poker shoved up their ass! Every year i spray, and cut, and spray and cut and spray and cut. Our farm was over ran with the stuff when we got it, part of why we got it so cheap. Every year it’s a constant year long effort, and every year I gain about an acres worth, it’s a hard battle to just break even and keep the stuff nuetral with out getting worse, let alone making head way one it. But, what i have been doing and has been successful so far, is i spray it a few times when i can, then go and cut it off with the brush cutter. I build a fence around the area etending the pasture, and put goats in it for about 2 years, as they eat off any new shoots and seedlings coming up. This seems to work pretty well, but is not cheap, and is a lot of work. Any ways, so yesterday, I took out the brush cutter. I cut a piece about 3 acres in size (yes, by hand with a darn weed eater with a blad attatchment, hence what I mean by alot of work). Some of it was sprayed and dead, other spots were not, and were still healthy growing plants. I cut them off any ways, so at least they will not goto seed on me, I can keep it kind of nuetral this year, and allows me to focus my real hardcore scotchbroom killing and removal efforts in other locations. And since the sun is going to be out today, as soon as the morning dew is heated off the grass, and everything is dried up a bit, I’m gonna fill up my back pack sprayer and head off. I will do one pack sprayer of CrossBow to spot spray Scotchbroom, tansie, black berry vines, and any other broad leaf weeds vines and plants i do not want. Once that is done, i will mix up another backpack sprayer full of my own custom mix. I will mix 1/2 Crossbow (and not water it down as much as reccommded) and the other 1/2 will be Round-Up (It too will be a little more concentrated that recommended). The reason for this mixture, is i use it along my fence lines, the driveway, etc. It pretty much kills everything. My fences have a hot (electric) wire running about 10 inches off the bottom wire, so i spray the fence lines to keep things from growing into the electric fence and shorting it out. I do this every year, and the result is about 6 inches on both sides of the fence line, that is just bare dirt, where nothing grows. PERFECT! It also makes fence repairs, removal, etc ALOT easier not having grass and weeds and vines growing up through the fence and making it all tangles up and hard to get out of the ground. Also, the less organic matter that grows, the less that dies, which leads to the least amount of decomposed organic matter, resulting in a LACK of top soil getting taller and taller each year, which in turn for the general farmer means that the bottom wire of your fence pretty much remains where you originally put it, instead of the bottom wire getting covered by dirt, rusting off, and comprimising your fence strength, usability, and helps the bottom line of actually keeping critters inside the fence where you want them. In case some people are not familiar with general herbicide applications, CrossBow is very useful, and kills broad leaf plants only(It WILL NOT kill grass), it great for spot spraying unwanted plants, weeds, vines, etc and not killing all the grass or having big dead spots all over. Round-Up is another very useful spray, but it kills grass, and smaller kinds of weeds like dandilions and that sort of thing. This is great for spraying along fences, spraying driveways or walkways, around flower beds, that sort of thing. Always be sure to read labels, and try and think ahead of what you really want your end result to be. In other words, if you want grass around to grow and look nice, or to feed livestock, or to choke out young upcoming brush and weeds, then keep Round up the hell away! On the other hand, if you are trying to keep grass out and keep vines or berries or other broad leaf organics alive, then keep the crossbow away from it. As i write this I keep checking outside, the sun is up pretty good now, I can feel the heat from the window, telling me it’s about time to go out and start mixing up some weed killer! Thanks for listening folks.