It’s Roundup Time Again.

October 21, 2007

In preparation for the IPM, Bill’s second cut of the 20 acre field below the house left it looking like a golf course. With about 4000 seed walnuts sitting in the gazebo, I decided I’d better get a grid lined out on it while the getting was good.

The question was how to mark out a large field? My earlier efforts had made do with a 240 foot mason’s string with knots tied every ten or twenty feet. This system had some problems, most relating to the elastic properties shared between mason’s string and bungee cord.

I needed something long enough to go across the field in one length, only with zero stretch. Turned out it was waiting coiled in the garage the whole time: my dad’s electric fencer tape. This wire-reinforced plastic tape proved highly visible, easy to handle, strong and resistant to tangling. So I stretched the length from fence to fence. How would I put the markings on it? Remembering my days as a student surveyor, I conscripted my mother as chain-man, equipped her with a ski pole and twenty feet of tape, the other end attached to my aerosol sprayer’s handle. It worked like a charm. Whenever Mom came to a mark sprayed on the ground and the tape, she stuck in the pole. Stopped, I sprayed. Thirty-five stations later and the tape had its distance markings.

The rest of the layout went easily as long as the golf cart and a driver were available to get me from one side of the field up the steep hill to the other. After two mornings of leisurely work we had fifteen rows marked with paint and posts, so it was time for Roundup. That went on this morning, so I’ll wait about two weeks and plant the walnuts.

I read somewhere that a fork-full of fresh cow manure per hill will keep the squirrels away from planted nuts. By then Bet should be on holidays and I’ll conscript her to drive the spreader while I follow along and fork the fertilizer.

Roundup Man Returns

May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007 First, a note about the effects of the Roundup spraying adventure. It worked, really well. I have yet to find any seedlings killed accidentally, but my fields now show a neat pattern of burned spots with yearling walnuts preening in their patches of sunlight. Reluctant to go too far without a feedback loop, I sprayed around only two of the four rows of 5 year‑old walnut transplants. They are a sorry lot at the best of times, but the rows with the herbicide treatment on the competing vegetation show a lot more greenery than those without the help. Now all I need is a cape to go with my paper coveralls and rubber boots. Roundupman rules! A number of the hills which did not produce seedlings last summer have sprouted in the last two days. Neil Thomas had mentioned that sometimes the nuts will wait an extra year before growing, and the new sprouts are clearly from the fall of 2005 planting. Two days later and I have started to notice sprouts from the seeds I planted just after Christmas, 2006. Yesterday=s rain and the warm temperatures seem to have brought them out of the ground a bit early. No doubt the absence of competing cover helped here, as well. As I explained to all who would listen, I can really do it. The harvest, treatment, chilling, storage and planting, not to mention the spray to make a space for them B I did it all, and they grew!* My wife thinks I=m a little dotty, wandering around the walnut patch greeting each new arrival, but it=s an exciting time of year. *The sardonic response, of course, is, “So what? They’re weeds. They grow everywhere!”

With about four inches of rain in the last week and very warm weather today, the seeds can=t want for growing conditions. And they=re popping up in droves. Some of the hills where I planted three seeds last Christmas now have three, closely‑spaced seedlings. So far the Roundup has done a good job on the grass and doesn=t seen to have hurt the walnuts, though at times my marksmanship was in error and seedlings have found themselves pushing up through the living grass. In the future I must remember to mark more carefully where I have planted seeds, but I was in a big hurry at the time, shaken by a frigid wind and unable to believe that the weather‑window would last. I have taken to last year’s metal stakes again to indicate where the new sprouts are growing in advance of a pass by the mower. With some pleasure and to the bemusement of observers, I have tracked down each emerging sprout over the last few days and marked its location with a metal stake. The back field now looks like a metal‑daffodil field again, albeit with tattered and faded blossoms this time. I have hedged my bets by planting more seeds around the older transplants. I slipped a couple to the east and west of each butternut hill, as well. The success of last fall=s seeding raises the next question. The local seeds are fertile and winter‑hardy. That=s obvious. But what if they are inferior nut producers? Before I make any grandiose plans I should ask Neil Thomas to compare some of the Croskery Woodlot seed with cultivars from other locations. Oh yeah, the buckhorn. Seems they like a little 2% Roundup solution on their leaves. It takes care of those embarrassing orange spots, but does little else. Perhaps I should consult the label for more specific instructions in dealing with the invasive pest.

Today was the day. Even my horoscope insisted today was for action, not talk. So off I went to the feed store to go nuclear. With some pride I produced my card, certifying my membership in the pesticides club, those few members of our society empowered to spread wholesale death and destruction as a part of their daily working lives. A simple swipe of my consumer=s card and I was in possession of enough bad stuff to kill every living thing in a thirty acre field. Cool! As soon as I had the 10 litre jug and its complimentary cardboard box home in my kitchen, I started in reading the label. ALabel@ is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to pesticides. In this case the information came in a 59 page pamphlet, the back side containing another 59 pages in French. Stuck to the label, of course. ARoundup-tolerant soybeans@ didn=t do anything for me, so I confined my reading to chapters relating to safety, mixing, and walnut and nursery crops. What I was unable to find in the pamphlet B sorry, on the label B was clear instructions on how much of the blue stuff in the jug to put into my backpack sprayer, currently sitting empty. The clearest instruction I could decipher called for a .67% solution. Uh, in 15 litres that would be a tablespoon, then, right? I ran the numbers and it all seemed right, so I mixed it up and off I went, fashionably clothed in disposable white coveralls, blue plastic gloves and a faded green Stetson. Getting a loaded backpack sprayer onto one=s shoulders is an awkward process for someone of my girth and inexperience, so I built a shelf on the trailer to hold the sprayer at the right height until I could slide into it and walk away. It worked fine the first time I tried it. The second time the shelf slipped and nearly took my shoulder off when the sprayer tank dropped. Today=s effort had the shelf securely fastened. No more ambushes from the tank, tank you. The purpose of today=s mission was to nuke the vegetation threatening new hills of walnut seeds planted last Christmas between the other yearling walnuts in the field. The new crop would take the grid from 20′ by 20′ to 10′ by 20′, if you get my drift. I had thoughtfully sprayed fluorescent orange dots on the new hills as soon as the snow went and I could locate the spots where I had shoved the walnuts into the soft ground.

Turns out the sprayer works fine. After a lengthy but pleasant session, I ran out of spray and headed back to the house. Over lunch my mother asked, AHow much concentrate did you put in the tank?@ AOne tablespoon, or 15 ml.@ She hooted with laughter. A15 ml is way too little. It must be 150 ml that you are supposed to use!@ Mom always was way better than me at math and common sense. Why would anyone write a manual calling for a .67% solution? Isn=t there a better way to express that? Shamefacedly I found my error. 150 ml. is, in fact, the correct answer. Oh, well, all I have to do is retrace the route and apply the missing 135 ml in some more water. The worst thing was that I had read the 400 page Pesticides Safety textbook and pulled a 98% on the exam. The multiple choice test is one thing; the field is another. There=s nothing simple about farmer math.