Coping: The Landsman’s Manual (i)

Everyone – at least those in the fracking lands – knows that a landman (land-man, no ess) – is the person who goes out and negotiates land leases for oil and gas outfits.

But a landsman (with the ess) is a different critter and one of the few places I’ve seen signs for such folks is on land they are managing in Texas.

This is not an urban career.  It’s a specialized deal that involves knowing everything there is to know about land in a particular geographical area, right down to which timber company will give top dollar for harvested trees if there are many to be had.


Here lately, I’m been doing a ton of “landsman” work around our place and I thought I’d share some of it because it’s pretty danged interesting.

Yesterday’s appointment my ass had with the tractor involved neatly bush hogging 5-acres, or so, of the south 16.

Readers with not much real rural time may be appalled that we do such things but the fact is that if you have brush much higher than ankle-height, or so, you get some of the meanest, nasty’s:  The spiders which include scorpions, the snakes (cotton mouth, coral, and copperheads) plus an assortment of “other.”

After running goats on the land for about five years, they’d done a marvelous job of pretty much eating everything in sight.  So once we sold of the herd of 30-odd, it fell to Ures truly to keep things down to where the goals had left it.

Part of the job is mowing and the other part is picking up “deadfall” and the leftovers from previous “limbing up.”

One reader asked my we don’t simply bury the wood, but that’s easier said than done.  When oak or ash trees are less than six months down, they tend to spring up.  Hickory?  OMG, one damn tough wood.  So the size of the hole required is HUGE.

For the larger straight sections, sure.  We have a site on the west 12 where I’ve buried about 8 tall pines (18+ inch diameter) and buried them. 30 foot long, 5-feet deep. A foot or two of dirt mounded over.

But in real world land management, burying large lengths of trees has to be done with some caution.  It provides an ideal habitat for things like rabbits.  But, soon as the rabbits come in, so do the snakes.

Want a termite farm near your home?

The good news is that with the snakes came out family of hawks.  Elaine was out in the yard taking pictures Thursday as I was mowing and spied my “helper”:

This hawk had a wonderful time because of how I bush hog the field for them.

I begin by running a double line – call it 8-feet wide – of cutting down toward the creek.

Then I go up to the top of the property and zig-zag my way down the gentle slope.

The hawks had a field day!   They must have gotten a dozen of so geckos (we call them “insurance salesmen,” right Warren? lol), one 14-inch snake, and a few other things.  Their nest is around the 70 foot level of a big tall pine so the food delivery service was on for the kids as I literally beat the brush for food for them.

While Elaine was up checking on the garden, she also snapped a good picture of one of our other “helpers” around here:  A woodpecker who to give you a sense of scale, is seen here holding on to a 4-by-4 holding up the fence corner:

This guy didn’t hang around the garden long, but was off to a nearby pine tree where a bark beetle, or some-such, got his attention.

With a gusty north wind kicking up at times over 20 miles an hour, I cut the burning short.  It will resume Saturday morning after Peoplenomics is posted when winds for the whole day ought to be under 5-MPH.

I should explain that the “limbing up” which results in these branches is not just an exercise in landsmanship for the fun of it, though it does open up the property and let’s you see “who’s coming…”

Rather, it’s real role is fire suppression.  There are two kinds of fires out in the woods.  There’s a ground fire which burns the brush down low.  A “real” forest fire is when the canopy takes off and the fire begins to spread tree-to-tree without touching the ground.  “Crowning” it’s called.

When you limb up 8-15 feet from the ground, the odds of a fire getting up into the crowns decreases a good bit.  And like I said, it looks pretty damn good as evidenced by this view from the top of our front yard looking south to the portion of the field I mowed Thursday:

The wee bit of low smoke you see (lower right) give you an idea how little the fire size was.

There’s a ton more to it.  In fact, I’ve got Oilman2’s son coming out in a few weeks to make us a bid on doing more clearing and mowing.  The back 12 could use a good clean-out this year and it’s worth it to find the young and strong.

Armed with the right degrees, he’s building out the OM2 farmstead about 30 miles south of us.  And for occasional articles on the more rural side of life, don’t overlook the  (tm) where he’s been kind enough to post some of his works in progress as well as some notes from around here.

I looked for a simple “Landsman Basics”  ebook and I don’t see much on Amazon that would apply.  Oh, sure, you can find gobs and oodles of “property management” books, but other than tax planning, depreciation off into the sunset, and ROI’s versus inflation versus other uses of money…sure there’s that all over the place.

But in keeping with our observation that people have become “virtualized” the real “landsman stuff” – like how to sharpen a chain saw blade by hand, or using a machine….or tricks to faster on-off cycling of your 3-point implements… even basics like “What are the major categories of three-point hitches?”  None of that.

Sure, you work most of it out by yourself usually.  But that’s the kind of real “owning real land” that is different than living in a city with a small manicured green postage stamp for a yard.

It’s a matter of time and effort.  Having had a “postage stamp” before (9,500 SF yard) it was almost impossible to spend more than an hour a week on it.  And that included weeding, fertilizer, edging – the whole thing.

You become a landsman by default when doing a good job on less than 20 percent of your land is an all day affair.

You evolve a sense of what Nature has planned and then try to work with that.

For example, there’s one part of the property where we have China-berry trees.  Damned if I can find a use for them, so down they go.  Nature figured it would be nice, but we get into disagreements once in a while. Me, the tractor and a cup of diesel usually win.

Same thing with goat weed, though 10-gallons of diesel.  Need a few bushels of organic  goal weed leaf?

Worth all the effort and more to come?  You can see where I left off Thursday and where this morning’s “seat time” will resume… The far left is what the rest looked like “before.”

I am sure some citified environmentalists will be upset.  “Why you’d be doing the Earth a huge favor by just leaving things alone, you in-sensitive lout!”

Odds are near-zero that the enviro’s would notice the tree in the middle right of the picture is our Catalpa tree – which produces some of the best fishing worms in the world around its base.

So, no, city slickers.  There is more going on with landsman work than meets the eye.

For example, there is goat weed mixed in a good bit of that rough.  In  this county that’s a “noxious weed” and all it takes is a complaint and next thing you know here comes an order to clear and pesticides and….

But this is the kind of disconnect we see all the time out here.  People in the city trying to tell us rural folks how to live and – how to manage our land.

Thanks, but we’ll work it out.  We’ll leave the Big City life to the city folks, but in return, leave the farming (even if it’s tree farms, like ours) to the farmers.


Write when you get rich – and a few more pix Monday as the Great Land Clean-Up continues…

22 thoughts on “Coping: The Landsman’s Manual (i)”

  1. Having come from farm country, I never knew a farmer that understood what
    “Retired” meant. It only gets harder as the years catch up to you. Plan “B”?

    • “Retired” means that you get Social Security or some equivalent setup that means you don’t HAVE to do a 9-5 or bring in a crop. You still do it if you want to, but on your terms.

  2. I do not understand why people move from the city and buy land in the country to then turn their country land back into looking like it belongs in the city! Very confused people.

  3. All that expenditure of resources and nothing produced to show for it.

    It’s the American way, move to the country, and spend thousands making it look like a CITY park by destroying the ecosystem. At the end of the day, grabs a beer, puts his feet up on the rail, and says, God I love this country life.

    You could at least find someone to run goats on it for a share. But no, don’t want anyone else coming on to MY land.

    Americans do that in Ecuador. Rent a property, but when the owner builds a second house (which increases their security) they immediately have to move. Eventually they come into town crying about how somebody broke into their house and took their computer and big screen tv. How could that possibly happen to such nice people? You see, if you put a local Ecuadorian family on your property (even a rental) and treat them well, it becomes a matter of personal integrity for them and their ENTIRE family to keep your property safe, so no locals will ever come near your stuff.

    • Right, the same down the street local yocals who broke in in the first place. Sounds like you got the down low ecudoran mafia down there. Too bad your society produces thief’s, just like here.

    • It’s not the American way, it’s the way the property owner wants it. If you don’t like it, move on. It’s HIS property, if he doesn’t want someone else running their animals on it, it’s HIS choice. If he wants HIS land to look like a city park, let him. Besides, most people nowadays are untrustworthy. I moved to the country to get away from the dishonest thieves in the city. Can’t trust anyone anymore.

  4. Scorpions and Snakes and Spiders Oh My. Up her in God’s country, SW Missery, at El Rancho de Chaos we have Ticks and Chiggers and Bald Faced Red Hornets Oh My. I fell asleep on the front porch one evening and woke to find myself down by the edge of the south pasture below the cabin. Somebody was saying, “If we carry him any farther the big ones will take him away from us.”

  5. LOOKS LOVELY. But I probably would have wasted my time watching the beautiful hawk as I do here when hanging out in the park.
    Somehow I don’t understand how YOU can accomplish all that what you’re doing, but please try not to explain to me.

    • it’s 5 am and I’m working I will quit about 5-6 PM tonight. I do it 7-days a week.
      And this is my “retired” mode

  6. As you get older the only thing you’re going to need is a riding lawn mower, you won’t be able to climb up on the tractor no more and the only reason you used to riding lawn mower it’s to cut the grass in the driveway so you can go check the mail with the car on the way to the doctors appointments,lol, but maybe by then Amazon will deliver the doctors

      • I guess what I really like is well where there’s a will there’s a way, will it be my way or their way

  7. Elaine did a great job on the pictures! I wish I was that good with birds – we have some fascinating ones here, though without the colors. You’ve reminded me of the work I have to do as it’s gone from cold/wet to dry and intense sunshine. There are hours that I simply feel the burn from the sun the moment I step out from the shade. Good job of mowing/limbing. It’s on my list, but other projects come first, and burning that much brush here would never work in springtime winds.

    • too much time requirement and we sold for a good price. They tear up fences, jump on vehicles, climb on tractors and want to wrestle when I don’t. Our big buck, Dick Chinny weighed about 230 and had horns. – when he wants to wrestle you need to be careful because they all head butt…and I got sick of it. They also jump/climb fences
      naw, we are exempt for the trees and maybe one of these days a milker cow or two…

      • George, you might look into sheep; they’re more grass-oriented in their grazing and will keep things open and parklike for you. They’re also way more agreeable to the pleasant fantasy that human fences keep them in. No need for a ram if you just want lawnmowers! There are several wool-less varieties for no shearing, too. I like our sheep, and do the shearing, even though they’re Husband’s carnivore project. He keeps a ram, for a steady supply of lamb, but I’m trying to talk him into a meat lamb program of purchase in spring, graze all summer, and butcher in fall, to give us winters off. One of those “downsize in place” ideas!

      • I concur exactly but about the cows they have miniature cows that you can buy of course then you’re going to need the extra strings on your fence because they’re smaller, but they are cute, and milk producers

  8. City people lecturing about “Nature” amuse me. Simply put, tall brush means fire and snakes and death in Texas. Especially from now till Fall. Maybe some sheep would be a good substitute, but the hardest working poeople I know say goats are the hardest work on a farm, so . . . Yeah. I have a tractor too. And I hire people with chipper/shredders to make mulch out of fuel. A fire around here in uncut brush killed 1500 horses quite a few humans, and destroyed thousands of homes South of Austin, a few years ago. If it had been in California they would have called it the fire of the Century. I know people who died eearly, from the grief and stress of losing everything.

    Ever heard a horse on fire, running for its life? Ever held your dog, cat, or grandfather, after a rattlesnake bit them? Has your family’s house ever burned down? I can answer yes to all those questions, so smugness in this regard about “Nature” reveals little more than lack of evolution of spirit.

    • Thank you. Why all this had to be explained shows how continually arrogant and ignorant some of these posters are to run George down for doing the right thing.

  9. I have to mow the grass, it is a must. Some of those grasses grow five foot tall. If you don’t cut some of the acreage, skunks move in and that’s bad.

    How to rid your yard of a skunk? Good question. Here’s the answer, I think.

    I had a skunk under an outbuilding a few years back now. I could see him wandering around here and there around the farmyard, you knew he was there. I couldn’t figure out what to do, hard to kill a skunk unless you run over one on the road. What can be done? Well, I thought to myself one day, “To hell with him, I am going to pee where he exits each night.” The skunk was gone and I never saw him again. Problem solved. It happened one other time at a different location out in the trees, the skunk moved on after I located his digs.

    You mow you grass to keep those kinds of critters at bay.

    Two fox were in the yard a couple of days ago, the dog tore after them. They have one helluva shriek when they make noise. They’re looking for gophers and possibly the pheasant eggs out there where pheasants nest.

    Three deer were right in the driveway about four nights ago. They’ll eat up your lettuce if you don’t use deer netting over the lettuces. You’re surrounded by millions of open acres of pasture and cropland, and the deer want to eat your vegetables. It is an outrage, so the dog has to do the work of chasing the deer to greener pastures.

    I don’t mow because I want the place to look like a manicured yard, I do it for safety reasons and to make the workload far less. Grass, brome grass and blue grass, can grow up to your neck where the conditions are good.

    Tall grasses left uncut dry over the winter and are a fire hazard. A grass fire is serious business, especially when the grasses have grown to five feet tall and are dry. If it starts afire, look out.

    A mowed yard won’t burn like someone poured gasoline on the dry grass.

    Mowing is a for your health and safety, not to make it all look good.

    Also, saw a bald eagle up close about three weeks ago. It was about a hundred feet away and on the ground, those bald eagles have an impressive wing span.

    Now that the water table has risen some four feet or more in my geographic region since about 2009, more moose have moved into the area too. More marshland and thousands of trees have died due to the water table remaining at new highs.

    It’s Sunday, so it is beer time all day today, so there.

    • Thank you, great educating post. Common sense and being in touch with nature seems to be out of style. Now maybe the George trashing will stop.

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