Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chinese Golden Gunpowder Tree

The new addition to the Captain's landscaping is about 8' behind the gator.

The Captain had a lapse of judgement.  He went on a day trip and trusted Kubota and me to keep an eye on the place.

 Animal  husbandry and nutrient transport

One of the dilemmas in animal husbandry is that animals will poop and pee as the fancy strikes them.  Over time, that results in a depletion of plant nutrients in one part of the operation and a build up of excess nutrients in other parts.

A typical pattern involves animals grazing near the edges of the paddocks.  Cattle will choose certain spots (called loafing spots in the trade) to rest, chew their cud and digest their food.  Upon rising, they will typically void their bladders and bowels.  That results in loafing spots gaining far more nutrients than the plants can use and a gradual impoverishment of the soil in the regions farthest from the loafing spots.

Loafing spots are usually shady or at the top of a knoll where the wind will knock back the biting insects.

Canny animal husbandrymen will attempt to counteract the nutrient transport by placing the water tanks and hay feeders on the places where the pasture is the thinnest.  Animals poop and pee when eating and drinking thus enriching those parts of the pasture that will get the most benefit from it.

Strategic feeding and watering falls apart when the temperature drops and the snow gets deep.  The physics of freezing hoses and bogged down tractors limits where the critters can be watered and fed.  Nutrients accumulate.

Standing Water

For some reason cows seem to be hardwired to poop and pee when their feet get wet.  I first noticed this while fishing for trout on the Coldwater River with my brother.  We fished through a cow pasture and noticed every animal took a dump as soon as its feet got wet.  All we caught on that trip were chubs but they sure were fun. 

 Dairymen in New Zealand use this tendency to their advantage.  They have their "girls" walk through a wide, shallow trough filled with water before coming into the milking parlor.  They poop as they walk through the 30' wide by 6" deep trough.  The poop that falls in that trough is poop that does not need to be cleaned out of the milking parlor.

Double Jeopardy

The Captain has a pond...more accurately a hole...near the only place he can feed his critters in the deepest snow.

A body of water that experiences very heavy nutrient loading is called "eutrophic", Greek for "well fed".  Slightly eutrophic bodies of water tend to clog up with vegetation early in the growing season.  Then they experience a vegetation die-off and then the water goes anaerobic and stinky.

The Captain's hole is so heavily nutrient loaded that it never sees that first vegetation bloom.  It goes right to anaerobic.

Eaton County, Michigan is not very livestock intensive.  In places that are livestock intensive, there are health concerns related to nitrates leaching into the ground water.

An ideal solution would be some way of sucking the potassium and phosphorous and nitrates out of the water and to have the wind disperse it on to higher ground.  Did I mention that my property is down wind of the Captain?

The Chinese Golden Gunpowder Tree

The Chinese Golden Gunpowder tree is a willow of indeterminate hybrid origin.  It appears to have Salix matsudana "Tortuosa" and Salix alba "Vitellina" in its background.

It will be OK if the Captain rips it out.  Unless his wife sees it first. She is surprisingly fine painter and she may take a shine to it.

The Captain will curse me if he does not like it and his wife does.

Its growth rate will be other-worldly given the vast amount of water and nutrients a scant six feet from its trunk.

Siting trees for use as nutrient pumps

Siting riparian trees for use as nutrient pumps requires a little bit of thought.  The last thing you want is for the prevailing wind to blow the leaves right back into the pond.  Those leaves create "biological oxygen demand" as they decompose in the water.

The ideal situation is to plant the trees so they are far enough from the water that they do not shade the water, that the leaves do not fall into the water and that the prevailing winds blow the leaves away from the pond.

The ideal situation also involves fencing the animals out of the trees because they will want to "loaf" beneath them and further enrich the soil you are attempting to deplete.

Alas, ideal situations rarely occur.  The Captain's Chinese Golden Gunpowder Tree is planted at the southern tip of his pond.  The prevailing breeze will blow most of the leaves away from the pond.  Also, the topography and the fencing will keep most of the shade away from the cows.

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