Tom's Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cleaning up the East Basin

The area we call the East Basin is the last remaining part of Pleasant Valley Conservancy to be restored. It is a 5-acre hill site at the far east end of the property, and we because it was really out of view down a hill, we chose to ignore it. When we finally started to restore it, back in 2006, we did not know exactly what problems we were going to have.

Historically, the 1937 air photo shows that this site was completely open, and was probably prairie. Because it was far from the barn, and surrounded by land of other owners, it would have been difficult to pasture. Since it faces south and southwest, it gets good sun and because it is hilly, it is well drained. Except for a gully in the middle, we think it was probably dry mesic habitat.

Through the years of neglect, this basin gradually filled in with shrubs and trees. There were even two small garlic mustard patches, the only significant infestations of this difficult plant on the property. There was also a major aspen clone, with close to 100 trees.

Most of the tree and brush removal was done in the winter of 2007. In May 2008 the aspen clone was girdled. In summer and fall of 2008 resprouts of shrubs were sprayed with glyphosate. Canada goldenrod and mullein were also treated with herbicide. Since there was nothing "good", we did not have to worry about peripheral damage during spraying. In summer 2009, the site was sprayed twice with glyphosate, using a pump rig with a 300 foot hose. The herbicide treatment was very effective. Starting in September of this year, the girdled aspens (now dead) were cut and stacked. We have been archiving seeds for planting in November. A lot of these seeds were collected last year and after cleaning and mixing have been stored. The seeds collected this year will also mostly be used here.

So now our job is to get this site ready for planting. There is lots of wood on the ground that must be removed so that our seeds can find the bare soil.

Yesterday afternoon we started cleaning up the site. Our goal was to figure out the best way to do this. We made good use of our Kawasaki Mule and pickup truck. We also used our Kubota tractor, which has a custom "bucket" connected to the three-point hitch (see photo).

While some of this "heavy" work was going on, I cruised the site with a portable herbicide sprayer containing glyphosate, spraying whatever perennials looked bad. There were quite a few patches of motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), a persistent weed.

Among other things, I spent some time looking at the soil and bedrock. Since I have a detailed bedrock map of Pleasant Valley Conservancy, I know that the rock in this area is Jordan sandstone, and that the soil is an eroded unit of Elkmound sandy loam. However, the Jordan sandstone in the East Basin seems to have a lot more iron than that elsewhere on the property, and the soil is quite red also. (The color actually shows in the lower photo.) It will be interesting to see how this prairie develops!

We hope to have several volunteer work parties yet this fall. We need to burn all the brush and aspen piles, and will need quite a bit of help throwing woody debris on the piles (usually a fairly enjoyable activity).


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