My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bye Bye Bacharis. Hello Willows

I am fortunate to have two wonderful young men helping me. Derek is working four days a week with me and Justin will be working for several days. This gives me time to get some of the heavy work done, especially getting into The Willows ponds and cutting out the baccharis so we can find struggling willows.  The original plan was to plant the willows in shallow water and forget about them.  But the ponds have been dry for several weeks so now the willows, which were barely rooted cuttings when we planted them, are near death.

Baccharis has filled in  the Willows pond areas

Derek cutting baccharis

Me weeding and building a dyke around a tiny, leafless stick of a willow

Justin watering one of the four trees he uncovered  while clearing this whole area himself.

Derek loading up the mule
Derek taking the baccharis to our pile
Derek adding a load of Baccharis to our recycling pile

So for the last couple of days, we have been using loppers to whack  the baccharis down. Then we weed around the little willow trees and build dykes around them to hold the water. Finally we haul buckets of water down the walkway to the nearest point of the trees. Then the guys jump (and I sort of roll) off the boardwalk and carry a couple of buckets to the trees. There's a wonderful rumor afoot that I'll get 100 to 150 feet of hose so I won't have to climb down the boardwalk and haul buckets of water over rough ground before fighting my way back up.  But the guys are young, strong and much taller than me and leap off and on the boardwalk and haul the heavy buckets with ease. . So more trees get to live.

Baccharis was never very much in evidence when I worked here several years ago.  But the hurricanes killed much of the normal vegetation and baccharis is an opportunist that can grow in poor, salty soils in dry conditions so now is the most obvious vegetation.

We had a nice reward for our efforts.  When we ran out of water, we stopped for the day and made a pass around Shoveler Pond before moving our operations to the shade shelter where we are cleaning, planting, bumping up, and filling pots with dirt for more plants. This little family of black-bellied wood ducks with very young chicks were swimming in the canal across the road from the dried up Shoveler Pond.

Black-bellied whistling duck family

We have several more days of chopping back the baccharis to find the willows. Later I hope to get it all removed so, when the rains come, the area can be a pond again. 

Meanwhile, I have recently started another batch of willow cuttings and plan to have about 100 or so of them by fall. We need more in this area as well as along the Hackberry Trail, and in the rookery pond. Here are the ones that just graduated to the shade shelter.  They start under a tarp at first.

Rooting willow cuttings - they will root all year around and have their own rooting hormones

So far this morning, I've hauled a load of water to the butterfly garden area and partially filled three buckets in the back of the truck.  Then I had breakfast and finished this blog.  Now I'm off for more willow branches so I can start another 30 or so trees before I work at the Visitor Center this afternoon.