Tom Worley

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since Oct 06, 2016
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Recent posts by Tom Worley

wayne fajkus wrote:I look at the OPs pictures. They tell a lot. Everything is green. The trees look healthy. I see that and question why black lotus is needed.

x2.  With black locust the first question I would ask is:

- how much work do I want to do?  If it's a small acreage near the house, black locust suckering can be kept in check with pruning 1-2 times a year.
- is my soil nitrogen limited?  If not, maybe the benefits of firewood and fence poles still justify planting black locust.  But if I don't need additional nitrogen in my soil, maybe black locust isn't worth the trouble.  

That said, I love them.  To me it's worth having one or two big ones just for the masses of white flowers crawling with bumblebees come mid-April.
5 days ago
I'd think phragmites would work fine for cob; like Daniel mentioned I think straw's use is ubiquitous only because it's more commercially available.  Warm-season grasses like big and little bluestem, prairie dropseed, and Indian grass should work fine too- the species are different, but the material (cellulose) is structurally the same.

Maybe experiment, build a couple bricks of different materials, a couple 3x5 walls and see what works best for your situation.  I don't think you'd have a problem substituting one fiber source for another, though.  
5 days ago
Growing up, the death of an old bird meant grandma spent a day rolling and cutting dough for egg noodles.  Not proper dumplings, although that's what we called it.  There's three inches of snow on the ground right now, and I'd kill for a bowl.
5 days ago
The USDA PLANTS database does a pretty good job summarizing distribution and origin of many North American plants.
5 days ago
I think the pole saw would work alright; another option is to use it to girdle the trees, then come back in with the chainsaw once the needles have dropped.  At least here red cedar is a common fencing material, you may consider seeing if area landowners would be interested in cutting some for fence posts.
1 month ago
Things I'd be aware of:

- Most places in the Ozarks the soil is thin and ancient, stony, without a lot of nutrients or organic matter.  Soils will be deeper on ridgetops (and really, the Ozarks aren't "mountains" but a couple plateaus deeply dissected by rivers and streams), and in those stream bottoms.  Soils are also generally deeper on the northern and eastern borders (the counties bordering the Missouri and Mississippi rivers).  There's a considerable amount of exurban development, but some nice smaller communities as well.  

- Chicken houses are big business.  Especially in the southwestern Ozarks, south of Springfield and west of Branson.  You'll know by the smell.  Check out aerial imagery on any property you're interested in and see if there are any in close proximity (I found this handy map:

- Feedlots aren't uncommon.  Missouri's second only to Texas in beef production and feedlots are a feature of the landscape, typically mom-and-pop operations of <200 animals.  Ozark streams are surprisingly high quality considering how often cows are pooping in them.  Again, know your neighbors, drive around the neighborhood, scope out aerial photography.  

- There's a legacy of mining (in places).  Mostly around Joplin and south of St. Louis (Jefferson, Iron, Reynolds, and parts of Washington, Franklin, St. Francois, and surrounding counties).  Mostly lead and zinc, some cadmium, and on some parcels in those parts of the state there may be heavy metal contamination.  Parts of the region have underlying granitic bedrock and issues with radon, too.  

- There isn't a lot of elevation, but there's a lot of relief.  Environmental conditions (soil type, soil moisture, amount of sunlight, etc) will vary dramatically from a ridgetop to a creek bottom, over only a couple hundred meters. Air drainage is something to keep in mind, especially with fruit trees.  

- Soils can be thin and rocky.  They're ancient (untouched by sea level rise or glaciers for a couple million years), so a lot of the nutrients and organic matter have leached out over time.  You can have seasonally perched water tables where there's an impermeable clay layer a few inches or a few feet below the surface. Community Commons is a free online mapping tool that where you can add all sorts of data layers- they have a "soils" option, and you can use it to explore soil properties of parcels you're interested in- it's

Places to check out?

I-44 west and south of Springfield: Crane, Cassville, maybe Aurora.
Springfield to Lebanon (South of I-44): Mansfield, Forsyth, Ava.
Lebanon to Rolla (South of I-44): Hartville, Cabool, Willow Springs, Newburg, Licking
Lebanon to Rolla (North of I-44):  Crocker, Dixon, St. Elizabeth, Vienna, Freeburg
Rolla to Sullivan (South of I-44): Mountain View, Thomasville, Alton, Winona
Rolla to Sullivan (North of I-44):  Belle, Linn, Owensville
Sullivan to St. Louis (South of I-44):  Centerville, Van Buren, Caledonia, Fredericktown, Marble Hill

There's also some fairly rugged portions of the state outside the Ozarks.  The counties just north of the Missouri River between Columbia MO and St. Louis can be quite rugged, and about an hour north of St. Louis, near Mark Twain Reservoir, is pretty hilly as well.  Land's more expensive up there, but it's a nice area and not too busy.
2 months ago
If they're native to West Virginia they're probably black walnut (large, dark, roundish nut with a corrugated surface).  There's an outside chance they're butternut (white walnut), the shut is narrower, shaped more like a pecan, but still with that dark, corrugated exterior.  You may need to be careful- most butternut trees in the eastern US have been wiped out due to a fungal canker disease.  The disease is apparently also found in black walnut, although it's less virulent in that species.  

I don't know if it's been established in California, if it'd have an impact on native or introduced walnut species, or if it can be spread through the nuts- so you may want to be careful and float the idea by agronomy or university extension folks beforehand.  
2 months ago
Here in the midwest folks burn hay pasture fairly regularly, but I can't recall seeing grain fields/straw burned, either in conventional ag systems or in the numerous Mennonite communities I've worked around and traveled through.  Typically the straw his harvested and used as animal bedding or for other projects.
2 months ago
If they're spayed or neutered I don't really have a problem with barn cats,  but...

A feral cat may range three or four miles- that's something your pigs, your goats, your chickens aren't doing- they're locked behind fences and gates, in paddocks or coops.  I think many folks would be pretty surprised at how many "barn cats" are wandering ditches and country roads at four in the morning.  Being warm-blooded, cats can mouse year-round, and that's definitely a benefit.  They also kill the snakes and other critters that also eat rodents.  In many instances they don't simply occupy an empty niche- they open that niche by killing the competition.

As with a lot of answers, "it depends."  Whether cats are compatible with your system or not depends on your goals.  For me, I wanted to rehab the family farm whose timber had been high-graded and the pastures exhausted; I wanted to provide habitat for wildlife and a big garden for the extended family and the farmer's market.  Cats kill wildlife, full stop, even well-fed cats.  If they didn't, they'd provide no service to the farm.  Feeding feral cats only gives them a nutritional advantage over the native predators they're competing with, which are dependent entirely on what they can catch.

When our farm went from a dozen to two or three fixed cats, I didn't notice a marked increase in the number of mice or rats.  And I didn't see cats in the pasture, I didn't see cats in the woodlots, I started seeing rabbits in the yard, two coveys of quail in the hay fields, more lizards in the garden, more black rat snakes, more speckled kingsnakes. To me it was a reasonable tradeoff- but if I had a smaller, more intensively managed property, if I was dependent upon my production as a primary income...I may have made a different decision.  As long as the decision is informed, I don't think it's reasonable for folks to take issue with it.
10 months ago
That's excellent!  Personally, I wish box stores and shopping malls were treated like Superfund sites- the owners putting money into a pot for reclamation when they (inevitably) go under.
11 months ago