A Prickly Job...
but someone had to do it

By Joyce Wolff
Photos by Harriet Vaugeois and Walt Wolff

Spraying nearly 100 miles of Ranch roads, countless meadows, slopes, drainages, and then some to curtail several varieties of
Bill Wenstrom passes out assignments.
Spraying equipment on Fisher Peak Parkway.
Morgan Chai models her designer whites.
Vaughn Roundy is taking all precautions.
Hey Bill, does that red flag mean a lunch break?
Joyce Wolff sprays a patch.
We got the job done.
thistle (as required by Colorado law) was a daunting task. But Bill Wenstrom and his 30-plus undaunted volunteers did just that. When he suggested to the Board that property owners do the job, instead of hiring someone to do it, he faced a challenge. Bill, ever watchful to save the Property Owners Association (POA) money, mobilized his forces. (Please Click Here to read Bill's Subcommittee Report describing the highly successful First Annual Memorial Day Weekend Thistle Spraying Event.) When it was over we had so much fun we decided to make it a regular Ranch Event. So mark your 2002 calendar!

The weekend effort began on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. at the mailboxes, where Bill passed out assignments and took lunch orders. That's right, lunch was provided. Any participant who wanted them was outfitted with coveralls, booties, caps, respirators, gloves and goggles. The following three days found the herbicidal crew scattered over the Ranch riding ATVs, peering into the brush along miles of road, lugging heavy hand sprayers, moving water trucks around, and generally cursing the dreaded prickly plants.

The people who deserve credit and thanks for this volunteer effort are, first and foremost, Bill Wenstrom who worked endlessly to put the plan together. His crew included Jerry Withington, who not only sprayed but also shared the knowledge he has gained from having sprayed his own farm for many years. ATV sprayers were Morgan Chai, who steadfastly backed the idea, co-planner, Carol Rawle, Dagney Gahlu, Joanne and Vaughn Roundy, Joyce and Walt Wolff, Chuck Austin, the sister duo Betty Withington and Michelle Minion, and Bill Bumstead.

Then there were those hard working people who discovered that carrying handheld sprayers (about 20 pounds full) for hours on end is labor intensive. They were Ed Hockett, an unsung Ranch hero who is known to go the extra mile, Dale Swett, who hung in there, and Jim Davis and Harriet Vaugeois, who ended the day with longer arms. People who generously loaned ATVs and equipment, and helped in a variety of ways were Paul Richter, Diane Rader, Roberto Jordan, Carl Putz, Diane Dykes, Bob and Mary Ghormley, Eric Blucker, Neil Sexton, Linda Frost, and Bob Santoro. Carol Alfs and Shirley Lambert came from Albuquerque and spent the weekend carefully searching their property and spraying. Pat Roehl was posting schedules and pertinent information on the Website. The "Weed Committee" thanks everyone who supported this effort.

Monday, in celebration, the crew was invited to the Wolff's for a cookout. There was a lot of deserved self-congratulating conversation, including thoughts and plans for the Second Annual Memorial Day Weekend Thistle Spraying Event. The most rewarding outcome of the weekend effort was the knowledge that a few property owners had saved the POA several thousands of dollars by doing our own spraying. Next year will be even more successful. We now know it isn't an impossible job.

Spraying on Memorial weekend is ideal. The thistles appear earlier than most other roadside plants and stand out easily. Walt and I sprayed our Adopted Roadside over a period of two weeks then retraced our earlier route, seeking those plants we missed or that had come up later. (We found more than expected.) We also noticed how much more difficult it was to spot the thistles growing amidst the vegetation that in three weeks' time had grown to full size. Although we had some early hot weather, it was generally pleasant. The rainy season had not begun in earnest, so the herbicide was not washed off the targeted leaves. The best perk was seeing the amazing variety of grasses, flowers, and shrubs that this land has to offer. The roadsides abound with wild roses and gooseberries. On this weekend the wildflowers were profuse, details we miss at higher speeds.

Curtail, the herbicide, worked well and is less expensive than some. Next year we need to get everyone on an ATV. Hand spraying was too difficult for long stretches that could have been done on wheels. Hand sprayers must still be used in some inaccessible areas.

Anyone who plans to help with thistle eradication should attend Carol Rawle's annual Weed Zapper's School. For two years now she has conducted Weed Zapper's School, a weed identification walk, pointing out the three kinds of thistle we need to control. I was amazed at how many look-a-likes there are growing innocently beside the road: dandelions, milkweed, and a wild flower we called deception plant, which we nearly fired on several times. See Bill's Subcommittee plans for ongoing activities in his report. We hope many property owners will Adopt a Road.

Click Here to read about Weed Zapper's School.

Click Here to read Carol Rawle's article about thistles.

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