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Wood Removal Progress

November 15th, 2017

Facing my Tractor Fears

Today I overcame one of my big fears. I drove the tractor on the right-of-way by my farm, parallel to the road, leaning over, with a big log on the front end loader. And I did not roll the tractor and die.

Marion County and FEMA are sending trucks to carry off Irma debris, and it’s a huge gift to citizens. I can’t even guess what it would cost to pay a tree service to haul tons of wood off my land. Free is preferable. The problem is that it’s not easy to get trees cut and moved. I’m alone, I didn’t have the right tools or access to the whole farm until some time after the storm, and the only place where I can put the trees and count on having them picked up is along a scary ditch.

The free pickups will not last forever, and I am way behind.

My property consists of two adjoining lots that abut a highway. One lot is at the top of a hill. When cars approach that lot, they are approaching a high place. They can’t see past it. The area by the road is fairly flat, and it would be a great place to put wood, but I would have to drive the tractor right beside the road in a place where drivers doing 70 would be very surprised to see me.

The other lot is easy for approaching drivers to see, but it has a lot of growth on the right-of-way, and the ditch is not as flat. This is the safest place to put things, but I was putting it off because of the ditch’s slope.

Somebody in the government surprised me by coming by with some kind of machine (which I never saw) and cutting back the brush by the road. That’s a huge help. Now I can go up and down the lot with the tractor well off the road. The trees and shrubs don’t obstruct my path. With the obstructions gone, the only things preventing me from dumping trees were cowardice and laziness.

Today I drove the Kubota down to the end of the lot and moved a few big logs down the ditch and dumped them. It wasn’t bad at all. I kept the bucket low so the tractor’s center of gravity would be down by the ground, and I moved carefully. Everything worked out well.

If I really work at it, I may be able to get rid of a third of my big logs before the government bails on me. A third is better than nothing.

After I moved the logs, I went back to the area by the house and picked up a 12-foot-long trunk. I wanted to see if the Kubota could lift it. No problem. I took it to the gate between the house and the burn pile, and I raised it so I could get through the gate. Then I lowered it again and took it out by the pile. My friend Mike was here over the weekend, and he played with the tractor. He dumped a lot of wood not far from the pile. I decided to add the trunk.

I lifted the trunk, because you have to have the loader up high in order to lower the forks and drop things. Then I dropped the trunk. The rear wheels of the tractor either left the ground or tried to, and the tractor tilted to the left. This all happened very quickly, and then the trunk fell clear and the tractor righted itself.

This was not quite what I was hoping to see.

For a fraction of a second, I wondered whether I was in the process of rolling the tractor over. On myself. My new lesson: avoid dropping heavy objects quickly. I don’t think I’ll need to repeat the lesson. It made a pretty deep impression on me.

Maybe I should start using the safety belt. I don’t want to overreact, but it’s just possible that I need to start buckling it.

The weather here is very nice now. Working outdoors is much easier than it was a month ago. Sadly, there is more dust, because the ground is dry. But I’ll take dust over mosquitoes, sweat, and heat stroke.

I can’t burn anything in this weather. The other day I was near the burn pile, and I used my plumber’s torch to light the grass by my feet. It did not go out. The fire started spreading. Once I was sure it was not going to die down on its own, I stamped it out. My experiment told me what I needed to know. No burning until it starts raining again. Everthing I can’t put by the road will have to sit and molder.

I’m getting better at taking care of this place. I may conceivably develop the necessary skills before the farm disintegrates from neglect. I have chain saws, two leaf blowers, a string trimmer, and a lithium-ion hedge trimmer that has to be seen to be believed. I’ve learned how to kill unwanted plants with diesel. I’m starting to understand how badly the previous owners chose ornamental plants, and what I need to do to fix it. I’ve even boned up on good choices for tree planting. I’m thinking chestnuts, black walnuts, peaches, and maybe a persimmon.

I feel nervous about killing and burning a bunch of plants and trees the sellers clearly worked hard to put here, but it has to be done. I have like eight different types of shrubs around the house. I need to cut back to one or two. I have the ugliest, most oddly situated magnolia trees on earth. They need to be cut down. I have 70-foot live oaks 50 feet from my house, killing the grass and threatening to fall on me. They have to go.

I have three citrus trees, and I’m pretty sure every one has citrus greening. The fruit are disgusting. And what fruit they are. Navel oranges! The Ford Granada of oranges. No juice, no flavor, and hard to peel. Tiny grapefruit. Ponderosa lemons.

A ponderosa lemon is a ridiculous lemon-like fruit which is nearly as big as a grapefruit. People call them lemons, but they have no taste other than tasting sour. In Miami, damaged citrus trees are famous for dying back to trunks which sprout ponderosas. I guess they’re used for root stock. Anyway, it’s a pathetic fruit. I suppose you could use them to add acidity to food.

There are a lot of great citrus fruits to choose from. Best of all, hands down: the tangelo, also known as the minneola or honeybell. It’s like a giant orange that tastes a hundred times better, and you can peel them with your fingers. Another winner: the tangerine. But if you have tangelos, tangerines are somewhat superfluous. Pummelos are great. A pummelo is a gigantic, dry-fleshed grapefruit which is very sweet. Persian limes are good. If you’ve never had a lime grown in a backyard, you have no idea how good Persian limes are supposed to be. Key limes are good for cooking. Kaffir limes produce leaves you can cook with. Ruby red grapefruit are great for juice or eating with a spoon.

Why anyone would pick the trees currently dying in my side yard is a mystery.

I need to have a county agent come out and confirm that they’re sick. Then down they come. Sad, but citrus is being eradicated all over the world, and it’s best to get it over with and plant something else.

There is a new greening-resistant fruit called a Sugar Belle. It’s sort of like a tangelo, but I think it’s more acidic. I may see if I can get a couple of trees. They’re patented, so you probably can’t pick one up at Home Depot.

If you didn’t know citrus was being wiped out by a plague, sorry to break it to you. Enjoy it while you can. The plague is global, so eventually citrus will be hard to find.

I plan to cut some of the hopeless shrubs around this place and put in blackberries and raspberries. I should get on that immediately.

Years from now, right before I die, this should be a very nicely landscaped farm.

I’ll try to post photos next time. Hopefully no gore.

One Response to “Wood Removal Progress”

  1. Walt Says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of work. Down here, Brevard County, East Coast, the citrus is dying, slowly, slowly . . . when my Family moved here (Titusville, Fl.), in 1971, we had a large grove to the west of our subdivision. It is long gone, replaced by condos . . .