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Stressless Farm Blog - Wildlife Habitat Improvements

Stressless

Active Member
575
44
Keene, OH
OK folks, there are some good lessons learned and lessons avoided in this thread. I plan to update this 'blog' with the 2020 plot rebuild and keep it going. Current planning is to try and rehab the older plots by notill and kill the weeds and broad leaves with IMOX.

Every story has a beginning, this one is 1993 right after Desert Storm I, I was stationed at Wright-Pittiful and my brother found a 100 parcel in Coshocton County, we went in with Dad and bought it. 2010 while on my third tour to Afghanistan Dad passed, then in 2013 my brother passed and the farm became mine thru the worst circumstance default. I never thought the farm would be mine, so I hunted gun and "Brown and Down" method as I moved with the Military, raised a family and deployed - deployed and deployed some more. Retired after 30 yrs in 2016 with a focus on Habitat Management and the fact that the neighboring uninahitied farms ~ 2,400 acres of mature woods went from "Brown and Down" to trophy management.

2016 Establishment.
There were gas pipelines and oilwell pads on the property ( the only even relativity flat areas) which were completely feral. I had been mowing the feral weeds /fescue and cutting the encroaching woods back since 2014.

Cutting the pipeline feral weeds, summer 2016
20160625_135951.jpg


I had spent the 2016 Spring going around to each farm neighbor, via county land records as none of the adjoining lots are inhabited - only a very very slight < 10% of the 2500 acres with my farms 100 acres is AG farmed/grass/ponds or otherwise NOT in a mature wooded canopy. I reached out trying to judge the loose Co-Op and development of relationships that would be mutually beneficial.

So I undertook putting in about 3.5 acres of plots with a goal to max the flatish areas I had and minimize the touch maintenance required. One of the neighbors I met did organic farming, I hired him to till the plots for a planned fall planting.

Same pipeline - tilled prior to seeding Aug.
20160910_105838.jpg

I did soil tests, I highly recommend only getting them done at your local AG feed store and discuss results with the local agronomist for what you want to grow and why. I applied the max AGlime and fertilizers based on the tests then planted Chicory, Red and White Clover and Alfalfa.... This was before I knew how fickle and fragile Alfalfa is. It doesn't matter what you 'Want" to grow, you need to grow the best species based on what the soil tests and environment will support that meets your Management goals. If I had done that I would have planted Birdsfoot Trefoil in the plots instead of Alfalfa and saved some decent $$ - Birdsfoot Trefoil it is a much more forgiving legume. I planted a nursery crop of oats and cereal rye over the Chicory, Clover and Alfalfa. We're all in Ohio so planting was mid Sep, the pic below is late Oct.

Pipeline Oct after planing in mid Sep - good moisture and good seed to soil contact.
10570.jpeg


The difference in the deer using the plots was remarkable, I stated that I wanted two years to pass between installing the plots and before I moved stands to how the animals reacted to them. Based on trail cams and seeing the results from almost barren fescue and weeds in the flat areas to high grazing fodder it was astonishing.
Over the fall and winter the deer ad other animals ate the 3.5 acres to "chin high" but the first green up, the rye came up first and let the pressure off the legumes which increases the survivability of the young seedlings. FYI, I let the rye bolt and head before cutting to add the gain to the mix of available food. If you do this heed a warning to let the fawning timeline pass and cut slowly to keep any fawn kills to zero.

Pipeline just past greenup May 2017
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Pipeline cereal rye bolt/heading Spring 2017
IMG_0379.JPG


After the rye is cut, the straw acts as mulch and fertilizer - giving your young perennial plot legumes a big step up. So less then one year from a vitural desesrt of palatable forage to acres of quality habitat. One thing that impressed me was the usage it got from turkey, the increase in rabbits and woodchucks.

Pipeline in June 2017
20170624_204240.jpg


It was at this point that one should have start managing for pests/weeds in the plots but didn't have a boom sprayer and didn't know about the IMOX brand that kills both weeds. everyone has their excuses as I do... but if you get a good plot catch, it's much easier to keep it healthy then try and resuscitate it. That;s the point of the blog - It's been 4 years with some frost seeding but no "weed control". Other posts in this blog will cover aspects of Ohio pond management, hand land clearing for esthetics and others.

Pipeline Aug 2018
20180615_080706.jpg


Getting an annual soil test (until you get them dialed in) at a local AG Co-Op and speaking to an certified agonimist is one of the things I can't stress enough. This is the third application of AG lime and should have Pipeline to 6.8pH. That big hoss AGLIME spreader back there is the cats ass. It can carry up to 13 ton AG lime and you can tell the driver how many #'s per acre and Wham/Bam/THANK YOU LOCAL Co-Op it's done - big time clearance, 4x4 it goes almost anywhere. $34/ton with a small charge $5/acre.

Pipeline Sep 2019
20190803_103438.jpg


So for 2020 - Cutting back some encoraching trees, weed control via IMOX with before/during/after shots and analysis.
 

Hunter II

Junior Member
561
85
Great write up. We are supposed to have a gas line come through our place this winter. I am looking forward to doing a plot exactly like you have done.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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Stressless

Active Member
575
44
Keene, OH
2020 update on this thread - again history that may be of some help. This plot is BackPad, it's on top a strip mine spoil bank that's about 70 years old and then in 1997 the spoil got leveled to drill gas and oil well. Hence "BackPad" got it's name.

Since the spoil got turned less than 20 years ago the organic matter and pH were hella off. I had this one tilled in 2016 as well, planted with the same mix Clover, chicory alfalfa mix. I put a cover crop of rye and oats on this as well in 2016. ... but it had much grass around the edges and I think inert in the fresh turned soil. This got AG lime and fertilizer over the three years as well and was completely dialed in with a Sep 2020 application.

As a first time food plotter I thought I had done well with the following pic of the forage utilization cage.

:2017:
20170730_175818.jpg


What I didn't know to look for or get/stay ahead of was the noxious grasses that immediately started in the plot - you can the seed heads... everywhere...

Well it looked peaky by the end of 2017 but I just let it go and the grasses massed....

:2018:
IMG_0499.JPG


It still had a draw, more than before the planting but as you see - 80-90% weeds - I thought frost seeding and cutting in the spring of 19 would get ahead of the grasses 'cause I saw someone say that somewhere--- it doesn't.

:2019:
20190706_182014.jpg


What I had created in the .6 acre food plot (~ 25% of the total land I committed to food plots at that time) was 'better' than some of the browse in the local woods but MUCH lower than the other food plots so of course this area didn't create the deer draw/movement I desired.

I knew I had to burn some plots down and regroup so I picked some co-located plots, and per Jeff Sturgis channel I busy. I did try IMOX on this but the weeds and grasses had killed out most of the original and frost seeded clover. BFT and chicory. The alfalfa from 2016 never- ever had a chance.

Once the entire mess was dead I burnt off this plot - this one, BackPad, was .6 acre the other two combined were about .5 acre so I wanted to experiment and see if burning off the thatch helped or hurt? Since I knew I was going to kill it I didn't brushog BackPad in 2020, that made two things - it gave a larger surface area for the Glyphosphate and 2-4d Ester to penetrate and kill it and when dead there is more dry thatch to burn.
IMG_1158.JPG




41269.jpeg


I wasn't available in late July to plant the peas/oats/beans and brassicas so I opted to focus on just cereal rye and split the plot next year, 2021.

Per the man, 200# of cereal rye went down 15 Sep, and then the drought. ... and more drought - I thought I'ld get a big ol' failure on all three plots of at least mostly fail. Then it rained 26 days after planting on 11 Oct...

I had put another 200# down 10 Oct right in front of the rain. So in early Oct I had zero draw with a dead plot and just maybe 5-10% of the rye I planted in mid-Sep germinated and growing due to the drought.

I suggest you watch this video before going to the next pictures... Trust me on this.


I had arrived 9 Oct and seeded on the 10th of Oct. These next pics are on 9 Nov. 30 days later. I the other two plots look about 60% as good - Burning off the thatch helps immensely - Drought or no...

In the pic below the utilization cage is just to the right of the wellhead. The circles of wire to the lower left are resistant chestnut trees I planted.

backpad1.JPG


20201109_081603.jpg


When Jeff talks about horizontal food, one green sprig every 1/2" this is what he's talking about. Every square foot of the plot is now a high draw in the area.

I DIDN'T use a:
  • Plow
  • Harrow
  • Disc
  • Cultipacker
... I think using any of the above would only increase the results but with some spray and spreader - both I have as backpacks, I could make this high draw anywhere.

In 2021 I plant to utilize BackPad, 2" and Bottom plots as split plots the way Jeff describes, but that's next year and further posts. Basic recipe is:

For Ohio:

Cut and herbicide the plot twice leading up to the July planting. Physically burn off if possible.

Late July:
- 1/2 the plot in 50% winter peas, 30% beans, 20% oats = 150#total/acre
- 1/2 of the plot brassicas blend at 6# acre - I will use a higher ratio of tillage radish to help break and loosen the spoil bank soil.

Early Sep
- on the 1/2 plot with peas/beans/oats add 200# acre cereal rye
- on the 1/2 brassacas side add 50# urea / acre

Rotate halves every year.

Hope this helps.
Stressless
 
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Stressless

Active Member
575
44
Keene, OH
Made the list and checked it twice for the 2021 farm plot plan. I liberally stole from Jeff Sturgis lessons in switchgrass and "no-till" plots. I've never planted buckwheat, switchgrass of brassicas before so instead of moving all my plots to a fall/winter focused draw I'm hedging it and keeping with a 1/3 of my plots acreage in a known producer - and hedging that with overseeding rye into them. I'll be posting my efforts, thoughts and results in this thread throughout '21 - any of your thoughts suggestions questions etc please post up.


2021 Plot Goals
  • Move >2/3% of my plot acreage to a focused fall/winter food source, Rye/brassicas leaving 1/3 of plots in nitrogen fixing legumes. – take out “islands” in Pipeline to get ratio close
  • Legume plots, Spoil, SkiJump Greenbrier and Pipeline overseeded with 200# of cereal rye for fall/winter draw.
    • Use Best food plot mix adapted for Mid-Ohio:
  • Each ‘Fall’ food plot, FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom will consist of
    • Summer
      • buckwheat 100%
    • Fall/Winter
      • ½ plot winter peas, soybeans, oats & cereal rye
      • ½ plot brassicas & tillage radish
  • Open up tree canopy shaded portions of BackPad, 2”, FrontPad, GreenBrier
  • Add 12’ strips of switchgrass, Pipeline- making ‘islands’ to Bottom, FrontPad, BackPad –
    • each switchgrass strip marked with orange ribbon.
    • Using frost seed method, simazine(pre emergent), Gly and 2-4d(post emergent)
    • Mow as necessary June and Aug


2021 Plot plan/touch rate (it looks like a alot - but actually only 7 events working on the plots throughout the year)
  • Feb Done
    • Frost Seed switchgrass, Pipeline to Bottom, FrontPad, Backpad (Done)
    • Marked each switchgrass strip with orange tape (Done)
  • March NLT 20 Mar
    • Acquire packermax cultipacker
    • Blow leaves off legume plots Spoil, Ski Jump, Greenbrier, Pipeline Legume Islands, Dam
    • Heavy Harrow Ski Jump, Greenbrier, Pipeline Legume Islands, Dam
    • Frost seed legume plots w Birdsfoot Trefoil, Red/White Clover, Chicory on Spoil SkiJump,Greenbrier, Pipeline, Dam
    • Spray Switchgrass strips with 2 quarts per acre simazine
    • Finish opening up canopy release on BackPad, 2” try to some done on FrontPad, Greenbrier
* Dam food plot isn’t in the legume section as grasses aren’t being killed, I want the strong roots to bind the soil in case a beaver dams up my overflow... again. Only some legumes are expected to grow- goal over 2-3 years of mowing/frost seeding 25% of the plot will be legumes
  • Apr mid Apr – thru 1 May (One week Turkey hunting)
    • mid Apr - soil temps >50F Spray Switchgrass strips with 2 quarts/acre Gly and 1 Pint/acre 24d
    • Spray Spoil, SkiJump, Greenbrier, Pipeline legume Islands with increased rate IMOX - 8oz/acre based on 5.5oz IMOX/acre last year
    • Finnish opening up plot canopy release FrontPad, Greenbrier
    • Post Turkey season, Spray with 2 quarts/acre Gly and 1 Pint/acre 24d FrontPad, 2”, BackPad, Bottom, Switchgrass strips
  • May
  • June 1st/2nd week
    • FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
      • Heavy Harrow
      • Seed 50# of Buckwheat/acre,
      • Cultipack FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
      • Spray w/Gly FrontPad
    • Brushhog GrassyKnoll, Pine, Dam – as required Spoil, Greenbrier, SkiJump, Pipeline legume islands
    • Mow Swithchgrass plantings if needed
  • July
  • Aug 1st/2nd week
    • 8 weeks growth period in buckwheat fields (June 5th plant – Aug 1th(latest) smash Buckwheat, day for day slip to the right
    • Split FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom in half 50/50 Mark w different ribbon color
    • Green and Black halves
    • 1st week Aug prior to Buckwheat smash, seed ½ of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom with/ below #/acre (Greens Side)
      • 75# Winter Peas
      • 40# Soybeans
      • 35# Oats
    • 1st week Aug before Buckwheat smash, seed other ½ of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom with/ below #/acre (Black Side)
      • 7#/ acre tillage raddish FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
      • 3#/acre brassica
    • Once seeded, cultipacker smash buckwheat, spray 2quart/acre Gly FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
    • Brushhog legume plots as needed
  • Sep 11th Sep or within a 3-4 days
    • Light harrow (Greens Side) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
    • Seed (peas,beans,oats side (Greens Side)) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom with 200#/ acre cereal rye
    • Cultipack (Greens Side) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
    • 75#/acre Urea (46-0-0) on brassica (Black side) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
    • Overseed Spoil, Greenbrier, SkiJump, Pipeline legume islands w 100#/acre cereal rye
    • Brushhog GrassyKnoll, Pine, Spoil, Greenbrier, Skyjump, Pipeline legume islands, Dam
    • Mow Swithchgrass plantings if needed
  • Oct As soon as possible ~ 9 Oct
    • Light harrow (Greens Side) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
    • Seed 200#/acre on (Greens Side) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom
    • Cultipack (Greens Side) of FrontPad, BackPad, 2”, Bottom

Capture.JPG
 

Stressless

Active Member
575
44
Keene, OH
KISS and 6p's -- 6P's (Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance)

I put together my 2021 seeding chart to get an idea of how much this trouble is gonna cost me. Seed rates and $'s are correct, some from brands of Northwoods whitetails up in MI and some from Merit in Berlin OH. Figured if anyone else wants to try this these are good numbers to work from. It gives a real good estimate of costs per seed and per plot for doing just legumes and also the Ultimate No Till recipe of Sturgis across various plot sizes. We dialed the plots in last year, pH and N-P-K so not taking soil samples in 2021 except for Ski Jump which got limed in Sep 2020.

For the Greens plots, I split the four plots in half, FrontPad, BackPad, Bottom and 2", and segmented Pipeline into sections with switchgrass to make 'islands' of greens and legumes this year. Acreage totals for Greens and Legumes came out to be close enough for me for what I want going into the 2021 WTD hunting season.

Be happy to share the spreadsheet via email to anyone that wants to use the formulas. The three "bagged" varieties, Cereal Rye, Buckwheat and Fall Forage units are in $/bag and the others are in $/pound as that's how they sell them and makes it easier.

2021 plot plan.JPG
 
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Stressless

Active Member
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Keene, OH
Great time in TOO mid-March, I went with something a little different this year after watching @at1010 proselytizing 'soil heath' ;)over on another post I decided to give leaving the organic matter on some of the plots instead of blowing them off. Got the harrow this winter as planned and tried lifting the leaves and debris up so frost seeding would get the seed on soil required.

The results are in the picture below and well - I'm a believing believer now. I've got crap soil, my very best plots have very low organic matter and the worst are made on top old strip mine spoil piles of acidic shale piles. After one pass with the harrow I went back and couldn't find any debris that was still matted to the soil or would prevent a Clover/BFT/Chicory from being able to contact the soil. Since I got this in a couple frosts were still in the forecast so I didn't roll with a towed water filled culitapacker.

Frost seeding the legume plots got done, as well as planting screening with switchgrass and hitting the switchgrass strips with 3 qt/acre of simazine. .

Half of Pipeline plot with a 6'x8' harrow.
20210312.jpg


I used the leaf blower on a couple plots I frost seeded as well, Greenbrier and SkiJump to assess the actual results of the harrow vs leaf blower but DAMN the harrow is faster and much less time consuming.


I lined up way too many chores to get thru this time so I reluctantly cnx'd going to the farm with no name( thx again @bowhunter1023) tour on Sat but got 9 core bedding areas marked and three near food plot bedding areas bucks and does respectively. These and South side plot canopy tree releases should provide a marked increase in holding ability in the maturing woods. The TSI work in this covers about 4 acres, the nine ~33 yrd somewhat circular opening in the core area are .13 acres/per and the 3 larger near food plots areas to try and hold the does total about 2.5 acres. Within the core area opening which will be hinge cut to 2.5' I'll add 3 groups of white spruce. I'll revisit the areas very other year to cut back the suckers and deciduous trees and give the spruce a chance to develop.

The woods is post 25 year clearcut, the canopy is getting thicker and higher thereby reducing the hardwood regeneration cover and browse - much as @at1010 described in his videos - my 'buck bedding' circles are roughly 100-120 yrds apart and each one will thicken up quiet alot just this year alone.

The beaver pond in the middle of the core area is ringed by obvious daily movement sign and perennial rubs.
Capture.JPG


Light blue plots are Peas,Beans,Oats then Rye
Light yellow Plots are brassica
Light green are legumes (Red/White clover, Chicory, Birdsfoot Trefoil)
Yellow strips are switchgrass screening areas
 

at1010

*Supporting Member*
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Boy sir, you have a beautiful-looking farm! That just looks like a big buck is going to step out in NOV, with steam coming out of his nose, looking down that lane for a hot doe!

Great work, sir!
 
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Stressless

Active Member
575
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Keene, OH
Boy sir, you have a beautiful-looking farm! That just looks like a big buck is going to step out in NOV, with steam coming out of his nose, looking down that lane for a hot doe!

Great work, sir!

LoL - Thanks @at1010 - took a bit for me to wrestle this devil box into submission but I found my pics from a couple years ago. Short story, was heading back to sit in the stand that's about 5 yards up from where this nice buck is standing. I just walking out into the Pipeline Plot and looked up (carrying my bow) at about 80 yards I saw a deer feeding but I was 10' out into the plot - so I looked and got my phone out took these pics. He busted me (skylined) and bounded off.
20161109_165556.jpg



20161109_165623.jpg


That stand is long gone and I have learned many things from this personal teaching moment! :rolleyes: :ROFLMAO:
 

Stressless

Active Member
575
44
Keene, OH
At camp to get after turkey come Sat and hitting the legume plots I'm leaving with IMOX.

21041.jpeg


Some good globbers on Cams and heard a few. We'll see how bad the freeze is, lotsa of oaks are blooming right now.




IMG_1437.JPG


I like this one with the two submissive hens, stud getting his girls all lusty...
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Stressless

Active Member
575
44
Keene, OH
April management chores are done(but not all done), Broke 2 bones in my right foot the morning I was leaving my home office to roll TOO. After the truck was packed for the trip, I walked thru my office to check to make sure I didn't leave anything out and caught the edge of my foot on the corner of my cherrywood desk... - "stubbed my pinky toe" doesn't do it justice. Complete fracture of the 5th middle phalanx and greenstick fracture of the 5th proximal phalanx. "ouch" so in the truck 30mins later for the 13 hour drive up was a Pain In The Foot LoL... THAT slowed getting the chores done.

Plot management:

Sprayed the remaining legume plots for 2021, Greenbrier, Spoil, parts of Pipeline and Bottom, on 19 Apr with 6oz IMOX/acre, hit the two current legume plots that are very grassy, FrontPad and part of Pipeline, with 2 qts Gly and 1 Pint 2-4D Ester / acre. I decided to hard kill those lost grassy plots based on the results of fire burning BackPad plot last year. Thick dead thatch burnt great and cleared up for good seed/soil contact. Just killing with herbicide and seeding thru the thick thatch showed much poorer results on the neighbors plots. To try and build the soil I plan to harrow, broadcast and cultipack the dead grassy plots in June just to build OM, not expecting much but going to sow it in anyway.

The plots I converted to rye last fall, BackPad & 2", I terminated 30 Apr with just 2 qt Gly/acre as the 2-4D residual 'might' last past the buckwheat I plan to plant in early June.

Greenbrier plot was in a strategic location between a couple bedding areas and other large open wooded food sources, as mentioned the nearest AG is over 3/4 mile thru closed canopy hardwoods and 200'-300' elevation change from the borders. I had been looking at expanding Greenbrier for a couple years, I released what I could last year to allow sunlight to reach it - that task showed much promise. I needed excavator work done on a couple 25+ y/o logging road/trails, almost 1/2 mile that water bars had almost completely failed on. I decided on getting after Greenbrier and expanding it by 100%. Of course it rained over an 1" the day before.... but we got two of the four excavator projects done.

20210430_084425.jpg


This was a 70+ y/o strip mine spoil bank, knowing it was hot, 4.6-4.9 pH I wanted to get lime on it as soon as possible, 2T/acre AGlime to start it, with a follow-up of 2T/acre pelletized lime in June to get it into the 6's pH. I'll soil sample this fall and dial it in late winter of '22. I've shown this before but the flowing spreadable AGlime from CalPro is the shiizzit. 100% pass 10 mesh sieve, 75% pass 30 mesh sieve.... 150# (3 bags) flows thru a ATV moultre spreader < 2 mins. Not one clump - better than bagged pelletized.

20210430_164059.jpg


Harrowing in the 2 ton / acre lime.
20210501_093327.jpg

All done and ready for a 12' screen of switchgrass and filled in with 50#/acre of buckwheat in early June - due to the injury I ran outa time and didn't sow anything into the vinigar soil prior to leaving. This area will get 2T/acre pettetized lime and 50#/acre buckwheat in June than early Aug 150#/Acre mix of Peas/Beans/Oats and 200#/acre rye in early Sep.

20210501_094827.jpg


LoL - also in Jun I'll be pulling that stand in the big Chestnut tree and moving to a one of a couple trees I've selected.

BackPad:

We started releaseing BackPad in January, finished up cutting this Apr with a couple hours of clean up and stacking black locust for camp firewood planned for June. Again the injury kept me a t a 2-3 hours and then I was on my back with a cocktail self medicating.

Before starting in Jan.

20210114_114702.jpg


Completed felling of the BackPad release.
Capture.JPG


TSI:
When we marked the borders of the areas I wanted cut, we selected nine .13 (~36 yds) acre circular areas and three 1/2 acre or larger areas, I used standing exiting crop trees as borders as much as possible. We might get some sun scald on a couple crop trees but the released crop trees, many oaks, will produce better mast and growth than an existing closed canopy.
22206.jpg


These areas have "channels" cut thru them to allow the deer free access to all the hunge cut trees and not deadend cul-de-sacs
22202.jpeg


The only thing I didn't get done within these areas is to plant 18-20 green spruce trees in 4-5 tree clumps within each opening. That's moved to June - I'll prolly plant 20% more conifer trees as I'll loose that many more planting on the edge of summer instead of spring.
 
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