While the Texas Hill Country is known for it’s beauty, it is also known for it’s never ending infestation of Juniper cedar tress. Juniper cedars are fast growing, bitter tasting trees that take over land fast. They are highly allergenic for many people, making them the bane of society for allergy sufferers. It is also the bane of our beautiful oak trees. Because Junipers have very shallow, wide spreading root systems, they take the water out of the soil at an alarming rate, leaving the oaks to work very hard to pull water from deep within the ground. Many times cedar will grow all around an oak, because birds will eat Juniper berries and then drop (poop) the seeds from the branches of an oak tree. This is like slowing tying a rope around the oak’s neck. It literally chokes the life out of the tree. In drought times, like we have seen the past couple of years, it escalates that process because not only is it choking out the oak, it is sucking up every drop of water, leaving the oak to wither and die. Large Juniper trees drink 35 gallons of water a day.
The only good thing about Juniper cedar is that it makes great fence post material, because it has a very slow decomposing rate. Many of our fences are made from it, but we do not have enough fence to build to use all the Juniper that is taking up valuable graze land.
For years Preston and I have talked about getting a bulldozer out here and wiping out the cedar from our property. We have cleared about 15 acres by hand with chainsaws and a tractor, but it’s slow very slow going, especially with so many other projects happening here the past 4 years. We still have about 20-25 acres left to clear that is heavily wooded in Juniper, choking out some enormous, beautiful oaks.
So, imagine my surprise when two weeks ago, while Preston and I were clearing out a path for a new fence line, he started taking off through the wooded area, just looking, thinking. A few minutes later he came back and basically said “Hold the presses, I’m calling to reserve a dozer!” Enough was enough. To rightly conquer this land and get it fully back to it’s potential, this was the only way to go. He promptly came in, got on the phone, and set up a 7 day rental and delivery for a John Deer 450, the equivalent of a D3 dozer, that just happened to be practically brand new! Woo Hoo!
Yesterday it was delivered. Our whole family, minus our Techie who’s away for a week, ran outside when the eighteen wheeler pulled into the drive way. The kiddos talked non-stop about how exciting it was, Preston’s side kick ever negotiating for a pond, My Shadow completely mesmerized by the whole process, and I steadily videoed the whole thing as promised to our Techie who was super bummed to miss this monumental event. Preston sauntered on over to the truck with a grin from here to Africa spread across his face. This was it. It was finally here! All the dreaming, all the planning, all the imagining what this place could look like. It was finally a reality.
It was only moments later that the dozer was unloaded, papers were signed, loads of money changed hands, and Preston was off. Being his first time to ever drive something this big, he wanted to get out and “play” with it to learn the ins and outs of the machine.
While we love the kids to help and be a part of nearly all we do here on our homestead, this was not a kid friendly project. So, after Daddy took off, I loaded the kiddos up and took them for a fun day playing with a neighbor, God bless her eternally!
Then it was time for me to get to work.
My job is to clear the Juniper out around all the oaks with a chainsaw, so that Preston can swipe the trees out and pile them with out tearing the oak’ roots out in the process. It is a long hot job, but I’ve got to tell you, every big, massive, ancient, and majestic oak that I freed was like setting a war prisoner free. I could almost hear them shouting for joy as they burst with new life and energy.
Working together, our first day, which really didn’t get going until about noon, we cleared about 4 acres. It was a good, good start. It would have taken us lots of days to clear that much by hand alone.
At the end of the day, as dusk set in, we stood, completely filthy, covered in sweat, bar oil, cedar needles, and a little blood, and looked at what we accomplished. It was a high five, pinch yourself moment.
So today is day two. Last night I woke up multiple times thinking it was time to get up and start, rolling over to find out it was 2 a.m. and the like. So excited to see what secrets this place has, to see it take on a new look, open up all the potential graze.
It’s a good day to be alive on the homestead!