By JON ROALES
Winter is here, there is no doubt about that. As someone who has worked outside his entire adult life, that means one of two things. Either, I am putting on many layers of clothes and trudging through cold days, or I was laid off.
While it is not very fun to work out in the cold, there are things that are sometimes much easier to do.
Benefits to winter weather. For instance, the ground freezes up and it is easier to fell trees without tearing up the land. The winter is also a great time for pulling equipment into the barn or taking it to a shop so that routine maintenance can be done.
What I really like to do, though, is plan.
I remember many times where my former boss would sit on things all winter, complaining that there was not any work to be done, laying people off — only to have the first signs of spring roll around and suddenly everything was behind.
So if you own a farm, you may be thinking about what you are planting in what field next year, catching up on articles from various publications. Have you ever considered what you want to do for invasive species in your winter plans?
Broadcast spraying herbicide in a field works well for controlling unwanted species in the field. It does not do anything for unwanted species in your fence row, ditch, or woodlot.
Species like Ailanthus, Autumn Olive, Purple loosestrife, Garlic Mustard, and many more occur in these out of field areas and usually require different methods of eliminating. They are also different times of the year that are better for cutting or spraying invasive species.
Why bother treating these areas if you are a farmer? They do not make me money so why bother spending time on them.
Well, seeing the average price for 1000 board feet of prime black walnut was around $1,000, oak almost $600 and hard maple not far behind. That woodlot that many farmers have been ignoring for years is actually worth money.
What about fence rows and ditches? It is far too common to rip them out for just a row or two more of beans or corn. Well, those are prime habitat for quail, pheasant, rabbits, and a whole host of other creatures, many of which eat insects that we spend thousands of dollars a year spraying to keep away.
So let us get back to planning. Every farmer and forester has a plan, whether they are sowing seeds, planting trees, birthing calves, or harvesting. The plan looks at the soil, weather, what the moisture looks like, when it is possible to spray, and when you hope to harvest.
When was the last time that you checked the creek for erosion?
Or when was the last time that you pulled out your overall conservation plan at all?
Now is the time, it’s cold outside and warm inside. So pull out the plan, talk to your local Soil and Water office or NRCS, and put in some loose times to address overarching natural resources issues.
Who knows, there might be EQIP money to help you with a project or it might be time to harvest some timber and that is money you can take to the bank.
(Jon Roales is the agriculture and natural resource technician for the Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District and has been with them since 2013 he can be reached by calling 740-942-8837 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)