We've been working on clearing the rest of the Fish Pond--the long-dry, old retention pond that we're reclaiming to use as pasture. I'm not good about taking "before" pix but here's one from when we were first looking at the farm in the summer of 2008.
This was taken from where the beehives are. As you can see, there's only a tiny sliver of grassy area going back into the pond (the Black Walnut tree at the right is on the berm around the pond and is a good marker for seeing where the pond starts). Here's what it looked like when Jim was standing in the pond where that grassy bit ends and the wall of Blackberry canes began:
And here's how it looks now:
Yup, that's the same walnut tree on the right but now you can see all the way through to the old chicken coop. We still have a lot of downed trees and annihilated vines to cart out but once that's done, we'll be able to fence off the space and let the buffs trim down all the remaining vegetation. One of the big chores has been making a path through the bamboo forest on the side closest to our house. The previous owners thought they had planted the kind of bamboo that doesn't spread. Oops! The photo doesn't do justice to how big a swath I cut through here but take my word that a lot of bamboo came out. Hopefully, it will be clear enough to get the fence through. There's still quite a bit just to the right of where the photo above ends. Let's take a closer look at it from the other direction.
Really, there's a path through here:
You'll have to take my word that this was solid bamboo from left to right. If you look closely, you may see a white pipe sticking out somewhat horizontally in the lower half of the picture. It's one of many interesting things we found as we cleared. There are two PVC pipes that appear to run under the driveway from the well house to the pond. I suspect they were used to pump water to the pond from the old hand-dug well. If they're still in good shape, we might be able to use them to run water to a stock tank for the buffs--that would be a huge score! It would save me from hauling as much water by hand and not require us to dig up the driveway to run pipes to automate the process. The water buffalo will eat the bamboo--the leaves at least and probably the young shoots--so that will help with keeping the remaining bamboo from spreading too much.
Another find was on the other side of the pond under this Box Elder tree that sits above the feeder creek:
This same dead or dying tree is home to what we think are oyster mushrooms. What I missed when I was focused on fungi, however, is how the tree has grown up on and around a bunch of stacked stones in the creek. Upon closer inspection, we think the stones were supports for an old bridge across to the Booth and Krabapplestan. But wait, there's more. We also found a large, cast iron pipe running from the pond and emptying out over this same stacked stone area. We haven't figured out where the pipe begins; only where it ends. And one of the stones appeared to have a channel cut into it to guide the water in a particular spot. We have no idea what all this means but have been trying to come up with an explanation for what we're looking at. Maybe instead of a bridge, there was some sort of gate to regulate water flow. We have found a concrete structure further down in the pond that looks like a way to bring water in or let it flow out. It may be time to call in the old timers and see if they have any clue.
We're learning to pay attention to where the weed-like Box Elder (locally known as River Ash) grows. Another discovery this weekend was that of a yet another Box Elder tree growing around a large iron hoop. We'd been working around this tree several times before but never noticed what appears to be some sort of iron wheel perhaps from some old piece of farm equipment. Funny that we missed the hoop when we found an old plow near the same tree a couple of years back. And then there was the tractor pedal assembly trapped by another tree on the other side of the driveway near where we found the old mower blades. At least we know our land isn't iron deficient.....
Just looks scrubby, right? That is the chicken coop behind it and that's a project for another month or year. Here are some closer shots to give you an idea of how well the hoop has been enveloped by the tree.
You can see a pin or dowel of some sort on the inside of the wheel (for securing spokes, perhaps?) as well as a piece of old barbed wire. This tree, like so many others in the fence line, was used as a substitute for a fence post and has grown around the wire so it now runs completely through the middle of the tree. Not good for the tree and not good for the guy who has to cut the tree down with a chainsaw. We will be cutting the tree and trying to liberate the hoop/wheel eventually.
So, it was a weekend of many discoveries. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and got a lot of exercise in the process. Next up: an update on the buffs who also had a lovely weekend.