Stumped!

Tuesday I drove up to Maine to help out with the stumping of the orchard site.  My dad (who is a building contractor) called on Dick Holbrook, his usual dirt contractor, and Dick’s guy Vance brought a big John Deere machine down to do the job.  Vance pulled out a couple dozen stumps, including a couple big maples 2 feet or more in diameter, broke up and moved a mound of rocks, and consolidated all the brush into one big pile.  Here he is at work:

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He buried the stumps off in the woods to the southwest, and piled the rocks (probably five or more cubic yards) in a big heap at the north edge of the orchard.  There are plenty of nice ones there, in case Holly ever wants to practice his dry stone laying skills.  The story of the rock pile is a mystery; there was a big grassy mound with rocks and bricks sticking out in the center of the orchard that we assumed was an old foundation, and the area is peppered with old wild apple trees that are presumably descended from the originals that the old timers kept.  But when we got into it, though there were some very nice rectilinear blocks as well as the usual rounded boulders, we saw no glass, metal, or any other signs that there had been a structure there.  There is barbed wire mixed in with the stone wall around the orchard perimeter, so someone was definitely trying to keep something in or out, but I feel that if there had been a significant structure there we would have seen more evidence.  At this point I have to conclude that if there was a structure there it must have been minimal (perhaps a cowshed of log walls) or perhaps it was moved away. 

Anyway, at the end of the day the stumps were gone, the mound was flattened out, and the site is ready for the brush to be burned and the soil prepared for planting.  While Vance was working, I cleared some undergrowth to the east of the orchard, and started thinning an area for the new sugar maples along the stone wall that leads down to the cove.  I’m cutting out all of the trashy fir and most of the red maples and leaving the straight oaks.  I understand that maples are relatively tolerant of partial shade, so I plan to let the oaks grow up a bit more while the maples get their start, to avoid clear-cutting an ugly gash in the hillside.  The maple cuts remarkably quickly with a sharp chain, and the work is pleasant in the cold with the sun out.  Vance says the excavator uses about 10 gallons of diesel in a day, and I probably burned a quart or so of 2 cycle mix in the chainsaw.  The power of petroleum is remarkable; the work that excavator did in a day would probably have taken the old timers a month with two men and a team of oxen, and I’m sure it would have taken me a week to do the amount of cutting that I accomplished in a few hours with the Stihl.

 Next steps: Burn the brushpile; yark out the remaining roots, add lime and goat manure (and possibly seaweed from the cove, or some other goodness), and prepare the soil for a cover crop; perhaps peas/vetch/oat mix, which is said to work well under typical Maine conditions.  Here’s how the site looks now:

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