December 17, 2013

Lessons learned about clearing alien vegetation


The Gouna Hacking Party (as it’s affectionately named) was started more than a year ago by Ashleigh and Ian with a mission to clear the alien vegetation in Gouna. The Gouna settlement is the only inhabited part of the Gouna Forest and alien vegetation is strangling us and not so slowly either. We were later guided by Maretha Alant (Sanparks) to focus on our waterways as Gouna is an important water collection area and it’s necessary to re-connect mountains to rivers as alien vegetation strangles that path too. So a group of Gounians gather for two hours on a Wednesday afternoon with hats, gloves, hoes, tree poppers, bow-saws, chain-saws and anything else that will do the trick and get down to it. We move around to different spots and farms each week. We’ve learnt a few things along the way about alien clearing and thought we’d share them. These lessons may not be new for those who are already in this process, but may be useful for those just starting out:

  • It’s a work in progress and never completed. Keep your head down and clear one square inch at a time. Don’t look up.
  • It is so rewarding to see the view where aliens once grew.
  • Everything has a season and so it is with clearing aliens. Don’t cut when the tree is in seed – they spread more quickly that way.
  • Some aliens are more invasive than others – Black Wattle being the worst. Chose one enemy at a time.
  • Cutting too many trees creates high fuel loads for fires. A standing tree is a lower fire hazard than one lying on the ground. Spread the load by cutting, pulling, popping, clearing, chipping or chopping. Each has a season and a reason.
  • Coppicing (new growth from old) is only stopped with herbicides. And there are a lot of lessons to learn about that topic too. SANparks has greatly assisted in providing us with herbicides.
  • We’ve learned that cut stumps absorb poisons less efficiently in winter. Poisoning cut growth in wet weather is also inadvisable.

Our Gouna hacking team has become a well oiled clearing machine, each with a different role in the hacking picture. Many hands make light work. Seeing what we have achieved at the end of each hack spurs us on, despite the aches and wounds. Of course the best part is ‘beer-o-clock’ when we gather at the end the hack for a beer/glass of wine and a yak.

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