Archive for May, 1995


May 22, 1995    f:\dyw\wp\wildflow.wp5

Had great weather this week end – back in safety of basement now – the poison ivy itching has finally given way to minor muscle aches, sting of blisters and sun burn.

It seem harmless enough at first – I thought it might be a neat idea to replace some of the green stuff that has to be mowed at Frogtown {presumably weeds and hay} with wildflowers. I thought of it my self. Julie didn’t do it. I came up with it. Mia culpa. I have visions of acres of Technicolor with birds & butterflies romping about.

So, we went to the Dexter Feed Mill © and milled about with the herds of other weekend farmers {and Para’s (is the “para” in paramilitary; code for paranoid?) stocking up on weapons grade 10-10-20}  to get to the bin where they sold the seeds. A buck ninety five a tablespoon full. We bought 6 spoon fulls and got a Xeroxed page of instructions for free.

I paraphrase liberally (as I had to use the paper later to light the barbecue):

  1. Analyze your site. Determine the soil type (sand, silt, clay, muck), drainage, slope and sunlight
  2. Eliminate competitive vegetation such as grass, persistent weeds, etc. by tilling for one full growing season.
  3. Prepare the seed bed by removing killed vegetation, raking or thatching so about 50% of soil is showing. Scar soil surface to two inches with a rake.
  4. Broadcast seeds in usual manner. For larger area mix seed with vermiculite at to one ratio.
  5. Cover seeds with 1/4″ soil. Roll or tamp so seeds make good contact with soil.
  6. Add fertilizer high in phosphorus
  7. Water regularly.
  8. Takes one to three weeks to sprout
  9. Weed will be problem in first year. Hand pulling is best.
  10. At end of each season, mowing the area to eight inches in height encourages vigorous growth next year. May take 3 to 5 years to become establish.

OK, besides not knowing how to “broadcast” seed in any manner, and not being anal enough to measure 1/4″ of soil, or how to tell weeds from what just was planted, I think I did a reasonable attempt at following the instructions. Especially since things had been going pretty unevenly till then.

Perhaps I need to back up a bit…

You may remember when you were walking through the woods with Julie & me, & I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what to do with all the fallen trees & branches, and you said something like they made good homes for critters?

Well, I had been struggling with that and the notion that some of the branches could be ground up into wood chips and help cover the walking paths, reducing erosion and mud and helping return the stuff to soil. So I had (with some help from Julie) gotten the mulcher on the micro tractor. The mulcher is about the size of a garbage can, and attaches to front of the 16 hp Montgomery Ward’s smoke belcher. It took some doing, because of the weight and there are a couple of prongs on the mulcher that fit in slots under the tractor, and then you slide the trunnion pin through the holes in the side of the tractor, and into corresponding holes in the side of the mulcher. It sounded easy enough. Four hours later, we got to part where the rubber belt goes on.

But I needed to take off the pulley that the mower attachment used, so … off with mulcher to get  at the old pulley.

Much later, it worked! A few leaves & twigs at first. Instant mulch. So on to the trails.

Since I had to stop and feed the wood into the hopper and the parking brake doesn’t work real good, the trails developed puddles of chips at 2 to 3 meter intervals. I felt I had achieve a good balance between tiding up the unsightly – while leaving an ample amount of housing for the residences. Over the course of several weekends, I began feeding in larger material in an effort to make more chips. Old rotten stuff of almost any size would change into powder instantaneously. But some green clippings would grind away for many minutes. And some tough branches just banged like a spoon in the disposal. I suppose the blades needed sharpening.

Then, two weeks ago, a particularly firm limb snapped the top blade. Quarter inch steel  but thin by the weld at the center spindle. I called the M.W. parts department, and visited service center in Livonia – but they stopped carrying parts for it years ago.

Not to worry, I still had the roto tiller attachment that we hadn’t played with yet, and I had used up lots of branches any way.

Now, the roto tiller is more complex to get on than the mulcher. Part of it – the Power Take Off (PTO) pulley © fits in the front © in the same slots and trunnion holes. And the tiller and gear box © the tines that spin through the soil © attach to the rear trailer hitch. The is a drive shaft that runs underneath connecting the two, and a chain link to the handles that raise and lowers the tiller. (clear so far?) The tiller part weight about 250 lbs. and has 75 lbs of weights attached so it makes good contact with the soil. I took off the weight © to make the job easier. Using some 2 by 4’s  as levers we managed to get tiller in position so Julie could slide the clevis pins in place.

Then the drive shaft slides over a half spline on the tiller and the PTO is put in place.

Except the PTO wouldn’t quite get lined up so trunnion pins would go in. The drive shaft was too long. About two centimeters too long. Or the tractor was too short. I pushed and banged and disassembled and re-assembled, about 3 hours. I was tired and banged on the pulley with a hammer till it broke.

I finally realized that it was not going on. I should have recognized the fact that something was wrong – there were 1/8″ deep scars in where the pulley had rubbed against a steel bracket, maybe by a former owner’s efforts.

So I began to struggle to take the tiller off the hind end of the tractor.

As it was getting dark, and I was picking up the wrenches and other debris, Julie comes around the corner and says “You weren’t in that poison ivy, were you?”

I have discovered that Fels Naptha soap does work – although slowly. And Benadryl

(orally) helps suppress the itch enough so I can sleep.

Julie thinks that this stuff she makes with essential oils is a cure all, but I tried it and the stuff only spreads the rash. There is an aura of mystique in folk medicine from rain forest. Natural cures and such. But the stuff is vacuum distilled from dead plants. Distilling isn’t a normal natural process (except rain, maybe) – not plant oils. And the carrier is mineral oil – refined petroleum.

Naphtha is the stuff that boils (distills) between gasoline and kerosene from crude – old dead plants. What’s the difference in concept? It’s not like you can find either just lying about in nature. Somebody has to prepare the stuff from the “raw ingredients” using chemical and physical processes. Take soap – like the “pure” Ivory brand – made by rendering (boiling) lard (dead animal fat) with lye (sodium hydroxide – drain cleaner). It seems pretty “synthetic” to me.

I just don’t get it. I can’t differentiate the concepts. Why one is Natural and one artificial?

I did learn a lot last season about poison ivy – except how to recognize and avoid it. The

uncontrolled experiment goes on. The criteria for a successful therapy is that the works – I stop itching and rash goes away.

I’m struggling with this concept that sort of got started in 60’s  (actually rumor was it started in mid 1700’s with Industrial Revolution) and won’t go away:

“Natural” is Good

“Artificial” is Bad

I’m trying to be environmentally hip (as much as I can – being an engineer, over 40 and all)

I can not see the good of poison ivy. What part of the eco-system would collapse if there were no poison ivy? Nothing can eat it, and it climbs up healthy trees and kills them.

Take mosquitoes (please! Ta-da – bump!) They are just coming out this week and I expect a big crop this year. They seem to fit in. They are irritating as hell, especially when they fly in your ear while trying to down shift to merge onto the freeway and an 18 wheeler is climbing up your ass hole.  But at least you have a chance of slapping them – against the sun burn skin. And presumably the frogs, birds, and bats eat some. I’d rather not have them  but I can sort of rationalize their existence.

But poison ivy! Just no excuse for it. I had to fix the spray pump. The water from the hand pump well has silt in it that clogs the parts. Then out with the defoliant. I just don’t care that it is a “chemical”. And I don’t care if the over-spray hits an innocent honeysuckle or grapevine (which kills the trees two – making more potential mulch). My mission is to rid the county of the stuff.

I fantasize about one of those tanker planes full of some brew herbicides that would cleans the land. Unfortunately, the truth is  vines sprayed last year seem to be back again – maybe more resistant.

Back to the wildflowers…

With no roto tiller – my visions of fields of flower had to be down sized – considerably.

Just as well. The few spoons full of seeds were good for about 8 by 1 meter plot.

Using the shovel, I dug up a modest section of sod. Separating the soil from the roots is accomplished by banging the clump against the shovel, then tossing remaining roots over left shoulder.  This went well for an hour – then quickie thunder cell moves in. I needed the cleansing and rest, but half an hour later the thatch weighs 20 times more, and soil adheres to roots  like mud. By the time I concluded soil was as properly prepared as I cared to do  the sun had pretty thoroughly dried it and burned a crescent on the exposed portion of my bumm.

Now for trips to well and hand pump water in to buckets into wagon pulled by tractor and most of the water slopped out as we bumped back up the hill –  watering mounds of wood

chips and the poison ivy along the paths.

Now that I have some quality time with the computer, I can contemplate at leisure this paradox:

Wildflowers don’t seem to be very wild.

Hope you are finding a balance with Nature, & lots of love

Dad (& Julie)


Leave a comment »

Great Move

FROM:    David y Wright, 71510,536
DATE:    05-07-95 09:38 AM

At last it is done
Closing was thursday at 1pm
3 loads to dump and countless treasures distibuted  to unappreciative barbarians.
Grannie can wiggle about in new burrow – just barely
should be better as boxes get stowed and one more round of “do I realy need this?”

Green things are appearing   may get to 70 farenhight today.

have busted blades on mower’s shredder attachment  after shreeding many twigs and branches – but endless suppply so must replace – goal is to spackel walking paths at Frogtown with chips – as well as remove some of loose material from woods.
am sharpening mower blades and looking at small trees and defenseless wood to attack with chain saw.

House plans move – forward, I hope. compromises, compromises compromises..  I’m giviing us 50-50 odds of being in by Christmas. (Julie is certain we will)

Free from Chrysler – I must start seriously thinking about doing sominthg productive. or at least that pays.

More later. love to all

Dave, Julie &  Cat

Leave a comment »