Sunday, March 15, 2009
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.