We have spent several days at the farm the last couple of weeks. The cedar clearing project is progressing, though not as quickly as we had hoped. The more we cut, the more there seems to be. Pictured below is one of the areas John has worked with the skid steer. Past the piles, you can see the branches of Spanish oak and other hardwood trees that were being smothered by the invasive cedar (technically Ashe juniper). It is also known as mountain cedar, Texas cedar and blue berry juniper, as well as !X#!@! cedar and other “colorful” descriptors. It is a drought-tolerant evergreen tree that can be very pretty. However, once it has moved into an area and formed almost impenetrable “cedar brake,” it is very difficult to eradicate.
We only use the skid steer on the larger trees, but there are many smaller trees that have to be hand cleared. Here is John doing some work with his chain saw to remove smaller cedar and scrub beneath some of our Spanish oak trees.
The enormous piles of limbs will dry over the next couple of months, and we hope the Fish and Wildlife people will be able to do a prescribed burn later this spring. Then there will be room for new grass and other more desirable plants to sprout.
This has been a very mild winter; I don’t think it has reached 32 degrees yet in Volente, and it has only dipped into the high 20’s a few times at the farm. After cool nights, the sun has been warm, and dogs have enjoyed naps in the yard. Here, Rue is joined by Cousin Molly, who spends most of her time with her cousins when she and her family are at the farm.
Walks through the pasture and woods are popular with us as well as the dogs. Kota always picks up a stick to signal the beginning of a walk, a behavior she learned from Nickie.
It’s my understanding that Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating Pennsylvania groundhog, came out of his burrow on Tuesday and did not see his shadow. According to folklore, that means that we will have an early spring. I’m inclined to agree. This week, we saw a couple of wildflowers beginning to bloom, but the real story was the birds. Tuesday we looked out to see more harbingers of the coming spring. The trees in the yard were alive with flocks of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.
They were flying from branch to branch, especially in the female cedar trees, which this time of year have plenty of plump, blue berries. (Thank goodness, our trucks weren’t parked under the trees!) They worked their way through the trees for half an hour or so, then, just as quickly as they had come, the moved on. They did, however, leave us with renewed hope of an early spring.