By Ron Huff •
Spring has brought the usual flurry of activity at Frog Holler but even more than usual. Even though it has been over two years, we are still trying to get over the destruction caused by Hurricanes Florence and Matthew. In addition, the recent acquisition of some additional land has made it necessary to expand into those areas. While some of this land is cultivated, most is in various stages and conditions of pine tree growth. Longleaf is the preferred species and it is predominant, but there are areas of Loblolly, which are not as desirable. It all has suffered from some neglect and needs attention.
The management of Longleaf Pines is a long- term project that requires interventions on a regular basis. Controlled burning is the preferred method and all of our land currently needs that. I have been trying for two years to get burning done through forestry programs, but the wet weather has put burning contractors behind. My last conversation with my contractor was that he was just never going to be able to get to me. I am now back at square one. In the meantime, trees die, limbs fall, undesirable vegetation creeps in and new pine straw that could be raked and sold goes to waste. Although I was able to burn some large piles of stacked up dead trees a few weeks ago, there are about a dozen more piled up and waiting. At this point in the year, they may have to wait until the fall.
The raking of pine straw for the purpose of making a little money to offset the cost of farm management is also a never-ending quest. I do not intend to get into the business of doing the raking, and have had a hard time finding reliable help to do this. Most want to rake up the easy straw, leave piles of sticks and pinecones and move on. I have endured this over the years but am determined to find help that will clean up after themselves, and perhaps even help in controlling the growth of trees and vines that make raking hard and inefficient. It is also hard to get on any kind of a schedule for the raking. It always seems that the rakers have somewhere more important to be than our farm. I am trying to get the farm in better shape so they will move me up the priority list a little. Another long-term effort.
I got up one morning recently with the intent of burning, but found that it was too windy. Instead, I decided to ride the four-wheeler around the farm to take mental inventory of where things stand. Passing several acres that have needed burning for two years, I crossed into property that we have owned for six years or so that has been partially cleared for a hay field. This is ready to be sprigged with Coastal Bermuda which will, hopefully, be cared for indefinitely by our neighbor who grows the hay. This is a big positive. A quick look at adjoining land that was just purchased revealed the undergrowth so thick that I could not ride through it. This will hopefully soon be thinned for wood chips and opened up to better manage the Longleafs.
Skirting around our best hayfield I ventured into the new stand of nice Longleafs that have been neglected for several years but are still beautiful and productive for straw. This area needs burning badly. It is on my list. I next crossed the entire farm to a stand of 15-year-old Longleafs that now need thinning, but are producing good straw. It has just been raked but awaits the thinning. Across a dirt path is our prettiest stand of Longleafs, some nearing 100 years old. We just cleaned the area and it looks the best ever!
Overwhelmed, I headed towards home, riding the edge of the field, which has just been planted in deer corn. To my right was a wall of honeysuckle hundreds of feet long. That immediately lifted my overloaded brain into a state of spring euphoria. Looking to the left, I spied a dozen beautiful wild turkeys. Their back feathers glistened multi-colors, like oil on water. One tom gave me the full show as he puffed up with pride. He might look good on a plate.
There’s lots to do but lots to love at Frog Holler.