Monday, February 28, 2005

Picking Sticks

Picking Sticks

When we bought our farm, it was literally a forest. In order to raise animals, we spent the better part of nine months clearing the land, burning the stumps and debris from the clearing, and fencing the pastures. We currently have two pastures: Pasture One and Pasture Zero—also known as “the maternity ward” because it has fencing more appropriate for little crias. Even though our animals arrived in December, our pastures are not what you would call “grazing ready.” In fact, Pasture One is little more than a field of sticks and mud, and Pasture Zero—which is has more trees, and so, more little sticks— promised to erupt into knee-deep poison oak come springtime.

This means that Charles and I have been engaging in a chore the past few months that we affectionately call “Picking Sticks.” It involves bending over and picking up loose sticks on the ground. This needs to be done so we can till the soil later this summer and plant a real pasture. Lately, picking sticks has also involved using the DR Trimmer/Mower that my grandfather gave us. That is certainly the tool for the job of hacking down poison oak shoots.

Other technology that has helped in picking sticks includes a heavy comb rake for collecting and lifting more than one stick at a time, a wheel barrow for transporting debris from one end of the pasture to the other, and kerosene. Why kerosene? As far as Charles is concerned, the best part of picking sticks is how you get rid of debris like this…you burn it. A couple weeks ago, Charles used gasoline to start the burn pile. This resulted in a column of flame about twenty feet high and a large “whoosh!” Kerosene is not as likely to evaporate your eyebrows in this way.

The major downside to picking sticks is the fact that most of the sticks involved are poison oak. Both Charles and I are allergic to poison oak, although I am more allergic than he is. I tend to break out in wretched rashes that travel to many places on my body. Recently, my outbreaks of poison oak have been better, and I attribute some of this to a product called Tecnu. Oh, what wonderful stuff! It rinses away the oils from poison oak if you wash within eight hours of contact, and it helps reduce the spread and duration of rashes that pop up. I need to buy stock in that company.

We spent Saturday picking sticks in Pasture Zero, and although it still isn’t perfectly clean, we feel it is safe for little crias to play in, and it looks so much better than before! It no longer resembles a temperate jungle. We’ll never be able to make pasture zero into a park, but we like the fact that it looks like we tried. But now you know how much work it is to clean up an area like this. We wonder everyday how the pioneers did it.


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