Saturday, August 13, 2011

Logrolling, cutting pasture, catfish dinner, geeky calculations

The weather lately has been very nice.  A few days ago a cold front displaced the opressive heat and humidity that had blanketed the midwest for a month.  Friday morning the outside temperature was 58 degrees.  The weather was perfect for cutting the pasture out front – dry but not hot.  The Swisher brush cutter was hitched to the garden tractor and they were both gassed up.  It took about five hours of mowing (and several long breaks) to cut 3 acres of pasture. 

I let a neighbor who raises cattle take the first cut on the pasture for hay.  I’m not too keen on doing this often unless some fertility can be returned to the pasture.  Cutting hay removes a substantial amount of minerals and nitrogen.  After the first cut the hot weather settled in.  The heat and drought was really hard on the pasture grasses.  The grass stopped growing while the weeds did not.  Morning glory took over some large patches.  This mowing cut back the weeds and should stimulate the grass to grow.   The cooler weather and recent rains will hopefully give the grass the upper hand against the weeds.
Cutting pasture will wear you out.  The ground is not smooth, in fact it feels like riding a bucking horse sometimes.   Then there’s the noise of the motors, the hot sun, the tedium.  Glad I only have to do this a few times a year.

Something needed to be done about the tall stump from the cherry tree.  At four feet in height it looked really bad.   The tree was felled last fall.  Since it had a large branch about two feet off the ground I had to make the felling cuts above the branch, about four feet high, leaving a very tall stump.  The way a tree supports a branch cantilevered to the side is to me an engineering feat.  The wood fibers of the branch integrate seamlessly into the main trunk to make an incredibly strong connection.  I took a picture of the stump last spring after cutting up most of the trunk for firewood.

For the logger cutting a tree for firewood,  branches are to be avoided.  The wood at the branch point is denser and harder than straight grain wood, and is nearly impossible to split.   That’s why I made the felling cuts above the branch.  Cherry wood is very hard and will quickly dull a chain, although it is easy to split.   I did not want the added difficulty of cutting through a branch when felling a tree nearly two feet in diameter.  
So I thought I might get some useful firewood from this stump, even though I wouldn’t be able to split all of it.  The cutting was tedious.  It’s not a wimpy chainsaw, but with a 20 inch bar I had to work around the stump.   After refilling the gas tank and resharpening the chain I finally cut all the way through the base.  The log just sat there in place.  I needed to push it over to cut it up.
The thought crossed my mind that the log could roll down the banks.  But how likely was that since it was not at all round?  The branch that had been cut off left a knob on one side that would surely keep it from rolling, wouldn’t it? 
I had just enough leverage to push this big beast over.  The log fell over and began to roll.  It rolled up to the knob and hesitated.  Then it rolled over.  It rolled completely around and came around again to the knob.  This time it hesitated longer.  Surely it will stop this time, I thought.  It rolled over again.  I realized that things were going south quickly.  The log rolled up to the knob again and hesitated again.  This time I got to the side of it and tried to exert some resistance.  I wasn’t about to stand in front of this thing, it would have flattened me.  The log rolled over the knob again.  Now it had reached the steep part of the bank.  Game over.  The log picked up speed and rolled straight into the pond, its final resting place. 
The stump looks much better if that’s a consolation.  The log can just be seen through the weeds at the shoreline.
And here’s a closeup.  That log is not going anywhere. 
So now I have a very large log in the water.  A nice platform for turtles to sun themselves.  But I got the germ of an idea to use this log:  build a small deck onto the log as a fishing platform.  The log will get waterlogged and not go anywhere and should last for years.   Being a geek I ran some calculations for the log’s mass.  At 22 inches average diameter and four feet long it has a volume of about 11.5 cubic feet.   I looked up the density of black cherry, and that works out to a little over 400 pounds.  It’s a good thing I did not try to jump in front of it to stop it.   
I’ve been trying to catch a catfish the last two days with no luck.  The fish were very wary.  I thought I’d try my  luck again today.  The hook was baited with the catfish bait, which has a most disagreeable odor.  And as a former bench chemist who has worked with some incredibly foul smelling sulfur compounds that is saying something.   The bobber was set at four foot depth.  I lobbed the lure into the middle of the pond and sat down and enjoyed the quiet. 
After about ten minutes a fish struck hard.   The hook was set.  I knew it was a nice fish right away.  The fish I’ve been catching lately have all been about 16 inches and I wanted one of the larger fish that are in there.  This one was 18 inches.  Two inches difference in length may not seem like much but keep in mind that the fish is larger in three dimensions.  So an 18 inch fish is almost 50% heavier than a 16 inch fish.  It made two really nice thick filets and the backbone was frozen for chowder. 
I coated the filets in Andy’s cajun breading and pan-fried them in canola oil.  Lemon parsley potatoes were prepared with Yukon Gold potatoes, butter and fresh curled parsley out of the garden.  And a side of tomatoes and cucumbers with a little shaved parmesan and salad dressing topped it off.   I had to buy a cucumber since my plants got bacterial wilt, but the bulk of the meal was sourced right here.   Almost a crime to eat this well.
Of course the head and entrails went into the compost bin.  I’ve found that fish heads in the compost bin literally disappear after a few days.   The compost pile has been getting fish offal about once a week since early June.  Should make for some rich compost with plenty of nitrogen next year.


Dirt Lover said...

Ahhh, what a life! Sounds like you had a great time, and all right at home. Nothing better. We've put fish parts in the garden/compost for years. It's great for everything.

Anonymous said...

Glad you weren't flattened by the log -- loved the geeky calculations!

I have pepper envy. The weather here has taken a cool and cloudy turn. I have lots of green tomatoes and peppers, but nothing seems to be ripening....

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