Journal for November 25, 2012

This is a good time of year to work on brush clearing.  The temperatures are cool, the leaves are gone, and there’s still no snow on the ground.  Mike and I worked on one project together, and I’ve been working on several on my own.

The area we worked on together was a thick aspen/birch woods that was growing above a line of old, open grown Burr Oaks, and between Hidden Oaks Meadow and Hidden Oaks Savanna.  I had girdled the trees years ago – beginning in about 2005 – but we hadn’t figured out how to tackle the jungle of dead and fallen trees and thick brush until this fall.  (Here’s a more detailed description of how we do projects like this.)

The is the earliest photo I can find of it – from 2006 – after the aspens had started dying.


This is what it looked like this year – at the end of October – just before we started clearing.


Part way through – showing some of the piles of brush and trees


At the end – there’s still some work to do, but we’ve cleared out most of the fallen trees and the brush.  There are still dead trees that haven’t fallen – hopefully they’ll fall over the winter and we can clear them out too.  Now we have to wait for a few years to see if the savanna vegetation will come back.


I’ve been working by myself on 3 different areas – Sumac Point, the Knife Edge Point, and Indian Grass Point.  All three places are much too steep to use a tractor, so I’ve been clearing by hand. I cut the woody brush, treat the cut stumps with glyphosate (Roundup), and pile the brush somewhere out of the way – usually back in the woods.  (Here’s a more detailed description of this approach to remnant restoration.)

Indian Grass Point is the point behind the house.  It’s easy to get to, so I work on it a lot.  The west-facing slope is very steep, and has prairie/savanna plants growing under thick brush and birch trees.  I started clearing it in 2007, and girdled the birches in 2008.

Here’s a view of some of the earliest parts I worked on….

in 2007, before clearing


and after clearing


The same cleared area in May 2011.

That was so successful that I’m working my way along the slope to the north – straight ahead in this photo.

This is the area I’ve been working on this year – the way it looked when I started, a few weeks ago.

And this is the way it looked yesterday – after 6 or 8 days of work.


I had never been very far along the bottom of this slope – the brush was so thick that it was difficult to walk.  As I was working along, I came to a spot where it suddenly the brush stopped, and it opened up into a small savanna – a hollow in the hillside with scattered, mature Black and Burr Oaks, and not much underbrush.  It’s fun to find a place like this, that I’ve never seen before.  I always think that we’ve explored every inch of this land, but obviously we haven’t.  I’ve named this one Lost Hollow.

The path into the hollow


Part of the open area in the center of the hollow


Looking out to the west


One of the big Burr Oaks.  This one has lots of holes that have partly or completely grown over.  I think they were made by Pileated Woodpeckers.


A few flowers were still blooming on November 9th – Aromatic Asters in Western Prairie.


And we had our first snowstorm on November 12 – but the dusting of snow melted later that day.


A few photos from the wildlife cameras…

Wild Turkeys


Raccoons – heading out to find some trouble to get into…



Back home again, after the night’s adventures…..