Monday, March 24, 2014

Hand Clearing Brush

Brush clearing is a major, almost never ending task on this homestead. Living in the tropics has its negatives. A job well done, especially when it comes to brush, just deserves to be done over and over again!  I'd be disheartened if I expected to just chop the brush down once and be done with it. So I have to look at it from a different point of view....I'm growing and harvesting biomass. Yeah! Ah, turn a negative into a positive. Makes me feel so much better! 
This brushy area has been cleared before, so I don't have to deal with big saplings, thorny bushes, vines, or other nasty stuff. The ferns all pull out easily but I find that I need to wear gloves. Those ferns can cut your hands. The brushy stuff is mainly Mexican elderberry, a noxious weed that I'm gradually ridding from the property. The stuff readily spreads, is tough to kill, grows back rapidly, and resprouts from any cutting you cast aside. Only the goat will eat it, and even then, not much at a time.I can't use the debris as bio-fill without seeing hundreds of new plants sprouting. As a result I have to either chip it then hot compost the chippings, or take it to the dump for green waste disposal. Today I ran all the debris through the chipper directly until a pit, adding horse manure in layers as the pit filled. Adding water then capping it with dirt, the pile should heat up pretty hot. I'll finish filling the pit two weeks from now with a three foot deep manure/grass clippings cap which should also get pretty hot, thus killing any sprouting elderberry. All that bio-fill should rot just nicely, filling the pit to the surrounding ground level. I have plenty of pits to fill in around here because the farm is on an old lava flow that's only partly degraded. 
So after a morning's effort, most of the brush overgrowth is gone. Chips are scattered about, but I'll leave them where they lay. This time around I plan to kill off as much of the Mexican elderberry as I can. I've successfully eliminated it in other places by applying a herbicide to the cut stems then a few weeks later having the goat graze down any small sprouts. If I bring the goat back to graze 3-4 times when the shoots are small, it seems to kill much of it off. That elderberry doesn't like being grazed down repeatedly. After Bucky has done his thing, I'll kill any stubborn resprouts with a herbicide. I'm not a big user of herbicide, but at times it has its place.

Tools of the trade today:
...a small chainsaw for anything thicker than 1/2"
...a hand sickle for the small stuff
...a chipper for shred everything up
...gloves to protect my hands goggles to protect my glasses

Last task to be done: apply the herbicide. I cut or yanked out all the small stuff by hand. What I couldn't yank out easily I cut with the chainsaw. I then used a small paintbrush to apply roundup to the cut stump. Covered the stump over with a plastic bag and secured it with a rubberband. Since its been drizzling almost every night, this will keep the herbicide from washing away. 
Lots of treated little stumps. 
A close up look. 


  1. Do NOT consider me to be any expert in using Round-Up - but from what I am told, the Round-up needs to be taken up be "new growth" (green leaves) so that it will kill the root system, but it will decompose rapidly, and is not a persistent herbicide. The elderberry is very persistent, but your repeated eradications will eventually win out. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
    I found a tough plant here to be what is called the Himalayan blackberry. I decided to take it on by location, not whole-area eradication. The vines are almost gone from the areas I've declared to be vine-free, and now I'm starting on only two zones to be eradicated, near the well pump-house, and around the old chicken coop, which might be beyond saving. First goal is to clear the jungle! I know it will try to re-take the areas I've only slash-cut, but the next cuts are on one-tear growth, which is much easier to fight than decades-old stuff!

  2. Crud - I meant one-Year growth - got lots of tears anyway!