Thursday, March 08, 2007

Article: Spring clearing

At New Year’s I proclaimed 2007 “My Year of the Horse!” Like so many New Year’s resolutions, my proclamation has rung hollow these past two months. But as the weather warms and the days grow long, it becomes easier to live up to my vow. Last weekend, I actually got on one of my horses and rode for the first time this year. Buoyed by my success, I decided to tackle a major horse-related issue--a riding arena.

I’ve wanted an arena ever since we moved to Buda fifteen years ago. We have the land but it’s covered with juniper and mesquite. In some places this “forest” is so dense I have never been through it. It’s a fire hazard. The trees suck all the water from the soil and block the sun, stunting any grass that might provide grazing. Over the years I’ve tried and failed to contain this unsightly, exuberant growth. This year I conceded it was time to call a professional.

The idea of hiring someone to clear some land is not new. My husband, Rick, has put this idea forward every year. “Get someone out to cut some trails for you,” he’d say. “You can’t do it yourself. You’re not strong enough and you don’t have the time.” These seem like reasonable arguments but everyone knows you can’t win an argument with your spouse through reason. I steadfastly refused. No bulldozer was going to tear up my land and push down trees willy-nilly, leaving them lying on their sides, bare roots exposed to the sun. Still, this year I admitted the time had come.

I searched the web for land clearing and Central Texas. There were quite a few hits. When I began going through them, I realized there was an option I had never heard of. One of the first web sites I examined introduced me to the track mounted mulcher.

The track mounted mulcher is a miracle machine. Its caterpillar tracks allow it to travel over rough terrain. Its small size means it can squeeze between trees and through gates. Since it’s a mulcher, it gobbles up a tree and spits it out as mulch. The mulch can be left on the ground to protect against erosion. Since it is mulch, it eventually returns to the soil restoring lost nutrients. I still have piles of dead juniper from when we had the fence line cleared ten years ago so the transformation of brush into mulch particularly grabbed my attention.

I searched a few more web sites and found someone operating out of Austin. Within a couple of days, he was out examining the property. I was embarrassed by the state of things. Massive, multi-trunked junipers spread their horizontal branches until they almost touched. And the scraggly mesquite that grew in the narrow spaces between them clawed at us as we examined the task.

Carl nodded knowingly when I indicated where I’d like my arena. “You’ve got some nice land here,” he said, “but I wouldn’t put your arena right there. Those big junipers will either leave big stumps or big holes. It’d be better to move it back a little to this area that’s mostly mesquite.” I nodded. Of course he was right.

Finally I asked the big question, how long would it take and how much would it cost. I was shocked when Carl said most likely it would be around two days at $1200 per day. That’s quite a bit of money but I’m sure it’s not worth spending fifteen years without an arena for.

This morning Carl started working on my land. In just an hour, the place was transformed. I stood on a carpet of mulch and gazed about me. Carl had left some trees as shelter for the horses and some to block the view of neighbors, some he had trimmed so they actually look like trees rather than monstrous bushes, others had gone through the mulcher never to be seen again. It was beautiful.

After the arena, Carl is going to make a few riding trails for me. “I’m an idiot,” I told him. “I should have listened to Rick years ago and had someone clear this land.” Carl informed me that the track mounted mulcher wasn’t available years ago. I smiled to myself. So I was right and Rick was wrong after all. Go figure.

This is the link to Trees Unlimited / Natural Texas, the company that cleared my land.

Photo: A row of large junipers (aka cedars) in the back pasture. You could hardly see the house from this location.

Photo: This enormous juniper was in the corner of the pasture closest to the cul-du-sac. We want to make a driveway through here some day.
Photo: This is the same juniper from the last photo! And the whole row of junipers from the first photo has been turned into the mulch you see on the ground. This took about two hours.
Photo: This section of the pasture was rife with mesquite. Behind the gate in the Back 18, was a solid wall of large, dense junipers. I once had a trail through these but it disappeared over the years.
Photo: This is looking back at the area in the previous photo. Before the mulching, I couldn't have gotten to this spot and even if I did I'd be in the middle of a mass of junipers.

1 comment:

The People History said...

thats amazing how many days was it in total

sounds like a miracle machine as you say thanks for the tip

will show my wife your blog she will love it