The introduction of the timber wolf back into places they haven’t been seen in a century has benefited other species that no one would have thought of when it all first started; Aspen trees. The trees, when they just sprout are eaten by elk and other herbivores and without the wolf roaming around plant eaters tend to stay in one spot until they have to move on. With wolves lurking about, everyone tends to more around more, avoiding where the wolves are. This tramples undergrowth allowing baby trees more sunlight to reach upward for when growing. Moreover, those place that seem like they would be a great place for wolves to ambush prey are now covered with Aspens as elk and other prey animals are getting a little choosy as to where they’ll go.
In my tiny patch of land here in Hickory Head, the back acre sat unused until 2007, when I decided to fence in that part of the world and turn the mutts loose upon it. I had to hack my way into the Southwest corner, where a mass of wild grape vines had been reigning since the time of the dinosaurs. I rolled them all into a great big vine ball and rolled the ball into the firepit where I learned that vines burn like napalm when rolled into a ball. Once the fence was up the landscape changed dramatically, and it mirrored what happened with the wolves and the Aspens to a degree.
The introduction of the fence meant the highway used to get to the pond was now cut. This was the road the herd of white tailed deer used, and they had learned to totally disregard the dogs, and the dogs disregarded the deer, too. The five foot fence means nothing to the deer because they easily can leap over such low things, but now they had to deal with this being dog territory. A yearling tempted fate and Sam’s speed one night and the deer had to cut back into muttdom to keep Sam from cutting him off at the fence. Bert was waiting for him to do just that, but a terrified deer was more than a match for Bert’s speed and all Bert got was kicked in the face. Deer hooves are as sharp as razors and Bert got a nasty cut above his right eye for his trouble, but that ended deer crossing through Dog Land.
The deer didn’t eat the wild grape vines and they stayed away from the huge briar patch just west of the shed, but they did seem to devour many of the Oak seedlings. With Sam’s surface- to- deer defense system on guard the deer gave up on the seedlings entirely. Moreover, the seedlings who survived the dogs’ comings and goings benefitted from the undergrowth being knocked down by the dogs who now openly and mercilessly hunted the small mammals who lived in the thick parts of the brush. Bert and Sam became the two best friends the small Oaks had ever had.
Soon after fencing in the back acre I did realize there were almost no young Oaks. The flooding that had taken place in 2005-2006 had killed off nearly all of them in the low places but there wasn’t any reason for there to be no young Oaks on higher ground, except for the deer. Once they gave up on feeding back there, my attention was soon drawn to the vines as the main Oak bane.
When I was rolling the vines up from the great clearing, there was a couple of dead small Oaks in the pile and I wondered how they got there. The truth was soon apparent when I noticed the first crop of young trees were not being eaten but smothered. Wild vines would grow up on the young trees until the tops of the trees bent over, and their tops were pointed down, not up. The vines grew much faster than the trees, and unless it was a tree near a dog path, (and yes dogs use the same trails over and over again, just like people will,) the trees stood no chance.
About three years ago I started going out and cutting the vines off some of the saplings I thought were in a good place for an Oak to be, and then I started doing it for all of them, time consuming as it was. Those wild grape vines can grow a six inches a day so I had to cut two or three feet of wild grape vine each week just to keep up. The green spiny vines didn’t grow as fast but there was more of them, and they bit through my gloves on occasion. The really big green vines were as thick as garden hoses and they were a bitch to pull out of the trees but they were the basis of a network of vines that went from treetop to treetop.
Vines, even when dead are a threat to young trees. They have to be pulled off the tree because the next generation of vines always uses the dead ones for ladders. The vines in the young trees are a bitch to removes because they have tendrils that attach the vine to the tree. Pull the vine off means the tree loses a lot of leaves and gets injured to the big vines have to be surgically removed. This is the first year it hasn’t been so bad. I’m finally finding fewer and fewer vines and those I do find are new ones who haven’t had the ladders to climb higher. I’ve discovered some of the thick one who were cut last year just now being able to climb into a young tree, which means as I cut them again now, they are out a year’s worth of growth. My young trees have been able to reach up for three years without any interference. They are beginning to reach a height where the vines have to have more than one season to reach the crown of the tree. As long as I can keep the vines down I can keep the trees up. Devineing the trees have helped them become young Oaks with a chance to mature, and we humans do not do that often enough.
Anyway, Michelle and I were playing Scrabble and I meant to use the word which means to take a vein out of something which would be “deveining” but I misspelled it as “devineing”. It would have been a game winning word, but we decided that because it was misspelled, my victory was null and void.
Anyway, if there are any Scrabble players out there, I would submit to you the word “devine” which means to pull the vines off on an object, especially another plant. I’m not sure what it would take to get it to be an official word, but if the word “snarky” can become common usage, devineing has a chance. All I have to do is keep trying to get the word in as long as hard as I have tried to keep the vines out.