"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Even back when I lived in a medium sized house on an ordinary city lot, spring cleaning was still a daunting proposition. Open up all the closets, find and remove the fossilized cat poop (don't ask); go through the clothes and throw away everything that is truly beyond usefulness; clean the fridge and oven; wash the curtains and the slipcovers on the couches; start the yearly campaign against blackberries and morning glories. Not that I ever really did all those things in any one year, but just thinking about them was exhausting. 

Now that I live on five acres in a crumbling, antique farmhouse, the task of spring cleaning is larger by several orders of magnitude. By way of example:

I know I've mentioned before that the folks we bought this place from didn't do a very good job of removing the debris leftover from pulling down their old dairy barn. Well, I'm going to amend that statement. The folks we bought this place from purposefully and possibly criminally just buried large amounts of trash in the ground and then covered it thinly with sand and topsoil. A couple of years of settling has revealed the scope of the problem. There is literally tons of rubble and trash in the ground. It's shameful. The purchasing contract stated that "owners will remove debris pile," and I've thought about suing them to clean it up, but I decided I'm just not going there. 

Not only is this situation ugly and embarrassing (makes the place look extremely "trashy" ), but it has led to real issues of land management. The disturbed soil allowed some very bad weeds to get a foothold, in particular poison hemlock. Now, some of this is my fault, because I didn't recognize the hemlock and I let it go to seed the first year. But now, I have poison hemlock everywhere. It probably represents 10% of the total biomass on my land. At this point, it could only be controlled by one of two methods: massive spraying with copious amounts of serious poison, or a full scrape and till, followed by careful replanting with pasture grass.

I'm sure you know which option I'm choosing. Yes, the expensive and difficult one. I'm hiring a guy with a big excavator to come out and scrape all the crap into one pile (I can't afford the $100/ton dump fee) which I will then treat with copious amounts of poison to kill any remaining live hemlock. Then we'll till and plant grass. It means moving the animals off the main pasture for a good three months, and that means continuing to buy hay long into the time of year that they would ordinarily be foraging, so that is extra money on top of the $800 the guy with the excavator will cost. But I feel I have no choice. My land is useless if it is covered with a thick, waving carpet of poison hemlock.


Lanny said...

oh we had nubians once upon a time, for years and years. I miss them, their babies, the milk that no one could tell the difference between it and cow, but I don't miss the twice a day milking chore.

Nice pics

Lanny said...

That oh was supposed to read ooohoh

AnyEdge said...

So you're doing a scrape and till AND dumping poison? yikes.

I don't know what I did, but whenever I've sown you and 'penelope maude' pictures of my lawn, you accuse me of using chemicals. It looks that good. And I've never done anything but mow. I suspect that the old owners used them, but I imagine that after 4 years, there's not much left of them. Of course Mr. Fernandez down the street covers his lawn with enough noxious gunk I guess maybe there are residual effects for the whole neighborhood.

As for the buried trash, what dicks. I don't know why people seem to think that plastic and modern garbage is 'taken care of' when it's buried. When I was in Bolivia, there were whole fields that an inch below the surface were suddenly layers of disgusting detritus.

It's as if some people thing we can still use middens. Well, it didn't even really work in the ancient world! We're still excavating preserved middens 25,000 years later.

Aimee said...

Gene, yes, I have to use some poison, but instead of using it over two and half acres, I'm going to use it over about 40 square feet. I'll probably use Roundup, which, although produced by the truly evil Monsanto corp, does have one advantage. It binds to the soil, so it stays around and does it's job for a while, and it doesn't run off in the rain and pollute nearby wetlands. It will be safe to let the animals back in in two months, but I'll keep them out longer than that to allow the grass a good foothold.

~ Denise ~ said...

Oh, Aimee, that really stinks! Don't people know that metal does not make good compost?? sheesh! I hope the weather will at least cooperate with your plans. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your garbage plight. We bought an acre and a half that was a farm and after we had built our house and lived here several years we were finding old rusted pipe coming out of the ground and other metal junk. We had to dig them up so the kids wouldn't cut their legs. I don't know why people are like that, but I sure do understand your problem. What is this hemlock? A plant type? I was thinking trees. Good Luck...debbie

Jennifer said...

Sorry to hear about the junk the previous owners left behind. We have been on our farm for 11 years and we are still finding junk from the previous owners. I don't think they threw a thing away in the 20 years they lived here.