The other day I wrote about some of the weeds of significance we have on our property. Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) was one weed that we had identified using the excellent Weedwise app and I decided it was to be the first on my hit list.
I thought we had one tree and a handful of suckers. My initial assessment was wrong. Very wrong. I found we had a thicket of around 40 trees, between 4 and 6 metres tall, in a nook between an old timber and wire fenced horse paddock and the boundary.
Tree-of-Heaven is a deciduous tree. It forms dense clumps or thickets from suckers which spread from its roots. These clumps out compete other more desirable plants. It is a major weed in North America where it is choking natural woodlands. Once established, it is very hard to get rid of.
I decided the best approach was to first mechanically remove the trees and slash or dig out the suckers. Then any future growth would be small suckers that I will be able to spot spray to kill the plant. The first step was to drop the trees.
Thankfully the timber is very soft and light, and the chainsaw made short work of dropping the trees. The old timber fence was abutting up next to the thicket, but as it was already in need of replacing, I ended up felling a few trees onto the fence. This made it easier and safer to fell the trees, and allowed me to protect some of the other trees growing in the vicinity.
The result was small mountains of branches and logs. Without an army of helpers to move the logs, I put the stick rake / blade onto Lucie the old International 674 tractor, and set to work. Lucie unleashed all 61 horses (perhaps a few have escaped the stable in the intervening years) and pushed the logs into a couple of large piles. It sure beat man-handling the logs.
The next step was to remove the stumps. I had deliberately left them quite tall, to allow me extra purchase when pulling them out. If I had the room, I would have pushed them all over, but as this encroached on the neighbour’s place, I had to pull most of them out. A recovery chain proved most effective. Before I bought the tractor, I used to use the 4WD to pull out stumps, but the tractor with its low gearing, agricultural tyres and 4WD allowed me to pull them out in a far more civilised manner.
The war against weeds is far from over, but we have taken a few steps in the right direction.
Lucie is proving her worth as a reliable and hardworking spare hand. After we had pulled out the weeds, I treated her to a change of oil and some fresh grease on the moving parts. Over the next few days I hope to change the fuel and air filters too. Then she will be good to go for another hundred hours or so.
In the meantime, it is nice to sit back and relax. Moving out to a hobby farm isn’t for everyone, but you might have figured I love it out here. Especially when you get to take a few moments to enjoy a sunset that makes all the hard work worth it.