2005 Noxious Weed Control
by Bill Wenstrom

More than forty resident and non-resident owners participated in organized weed control last year on the common area. Collectively, we worked the roadsides as well as off-road in the Gallinas Conservancy and Morley Townsite. An unknown number of others worked individually on their own property.

The Burlington Northern Railroad even cooperated by hiring a commercial pest controller to spray a portion of their right-of-way adjacent to SFTR. Unfortunately, their effort was limited. I'll need to contact them again and try to get them to expand the work this spring.

In the meantime, our program at SFTR will continue in 2005. In the past, our effort included a Weed Walk to educate newcomers on the species of interest, an Adopt-A-Road Program for roadside weed eradication, a group effort ("Weed Out") for Gallinas and Morley, and facilitating control by each owner on his/her personal property by loaning POA-owned sprayers.

This year we intend to eliminate the Weed Walk. The session last spring was poorly attended, in part because we were forced to reschedule on short notice due to inclement weather. On the other hand, most of our weed zappers can now readily recognize a thistle due to years of experience. We'll rethink the need for a Weed Walk if any new participants in the program express a need to have such a session. Please let me know.

We hope all who have participated in the past will again participate this year because we continue to take weed control seriously. We initiated a do-it-ourselves weed control program four years ago to save thousands of dollars in dues money formerly paid to hired pest controllers that we can now spend on other valuable projects.

The Weed Control Subcommittee of the SFTR POA Common Area Committee thanks all for their past help and invites everyone to again participate this year. We also hope to gain new volunteers from those that might visit the ranch occasionally or that might have recently relocated here.

Adopt-A-Road Program

Thanks to all who volunteered over the last four years for roadside weed control via the "Adopt-A-Road" program. Most of you will soon receive an email from me on this subject. Because of a great response, we had almost 100% coverage of ranch roadsides each year. As a result, I believe roadside weeds are much less abundant now that when I first moved here.

As many of you already know, this program is similar to the "adoption" program popular throughout the country (and at SFTR as well) whereby volunteers agree to collect roadside trash. SFTR owners patrol specific road segments at their own pace throughout the season according to their own schedule and eradicate the weeds found there.

Weed control is commonly defined as reducing weed populations in an area to a level where one can enjoy use of one's land. While there are four weed control methods (cultural, biological, mechanical, and chemical), the latter two are the practical methods now available to us.

Mechanical control involves digging, mowing, tilling, or otherwise physically removing individual plants in their early stages of development before they produce seed. Chemical control involves spraying them with herbicide. We use both methods. However, once weed seeds develop, the seed heads (or the entire plant) should be physically removed and burned or sacked for disposal in a landfill because the seeds could disperse even if the mature plant dies. Therefore, it's good to get them as early as possible before seeds develop.

At SFTR, weeds normally begin growing earlier on the north end of the ranch than on the south end. Those that took part last year remember that we initiated weed control much earlier in 2004 than in the past. That's because thistles and other noxious weeds started developing aggressively earlier in the spring than usual.

This year, we believe the frequent, short-duration snowstorms since early February have kept the ground surface cooler than last spring. Accordingly, thistles and others will probably sprout later this spring than last. Please begin now to watch roadsides, especially for thistle rosettes, as you drive or walk the ranch. Please notify me if you see any springing to life.

We hope those who adopted segments last year will retain them this year. Please check the Adopt-a-Road list and map posted elsewhere on the website. Should I not hear from you in response to this posting or my forthcoming email, I'll assume that you're willing to continue your participation in 2005.

If you've not adopted one or more road segments in your area of the ranch and now have the time to do so, please also let me know. We're always on the lookout for new volunteers to lessen the burden on others. Incidentally, the average adopter now patrols 3.75 miles of ranch road. If you're below that level and would like to do more (a little or a lot), please also contact me.

Some simple guidelines:

  1. Adopt-a-Road is a totally volunteer effort. If you find that you're too busy to continue, please contact me. We'll find a replacement.
     
  2. You do this work at your own pace and on your own schedule. However, earlier is better than later. We'd also appreciate a call or email when you've finished your work.
     
  3. I have the electrically operated POA sprayers (five 15-gallon units that may be mounted on an ATV or in the back of a pick-up and two 25-gallon units that are towed behind an ATV) in my shed. The POA also owns two 3-gallon, hand-carried units. First come, first served on checking them out so call ahead to check on availability. I also have herbicide and protective clothing (see below).
     
  4. If you want herbicide, please bring a plastic or glass container sufficient to hold 2 cups of herbicide for each 5 gallons of spray you think you'll use. I average about 1-2 gallons of spray per mile of roadside where thistles occur as scattered, individual plants or in small clusters.
     
  5. This is a roadside effort. Please eradicate all you can see from the roadway or reasonably get to off-road within the 30-foot easement on either side of the centerline. But don't get "too far" onto private property.
     
  6. Please report any serious infestation of private property. As done in the past, we'll send friendly reminders to owners asking that they check it out.
     
  7. If you're a daily walker, keep your eye on the roadside. Mark any developing concentrations of thistle rosettes with a small pile of rocks at the edge of the road. Marking is a big help when returning later to the spot for treatment.
     
  8. Please also carefully examine the ground for rosettes at or near the base of dead plants that we might have missed last season.

As you might recall, the Road Committee earlier requested the assistance of Adopt-A-Road weed controllers in identifying places along ranch roads where thick vegetation blocks sight-lines, making the roads less safe than they otherwise might be. This is fairly common on sharp curves, for example. Removing this vegetation within the road ROW improves road safety for our guests and us.

Now that the ranch is starting to "green-up", leaves and other new growth might create some unsafe spots less obvious over the winter. If you spot any of them, please contact me (see below) or John Albert who chairs the Road Committee. John's contact information is Johnwldwd@wmconnect.com or 846-3920.

Fifth Annual SFTR Weed Out

The 2005 Weed Out will begin at 9:00am on Saturday, May 28. This is substantially later than last year and has been moved back to the Memorial Day Weekend as it was for the first three years. As noted above, we've reverted to Memorial Day because we expect weeds to start growing later than last year due to late season snows.

Meet at the Bulletin Board. This is another excellent opportunity to save substantial POA dues by participating in an activity we would otherwise pay a contractor to perform. Perhaps we'll meet new neighbors. We'll all enjoy a spring day or two outdoors.

Depending on weather and the number of volunteers who actually show-up, we'll focus first on the Gallinas Conservancy and then the Morley Townsite. Hopefully, we'll again secure financial participation from the owners of Morley.

We need volunteers who own sprayers (with or without ATVs) or who are willing to use the POA's hand-carried sprayers to go off-road in the above areas. The spray we use is a water-based, 2-1/2% solution of a non-restricted herbicide (i.e., one available to the general public) named "Curtail." It is neither dangerous nor persistent if properly applied. We also get excellent results with this product. At about $45 per gallon, however, it's expensive so we try to minimize waste by not broadcast spraying. Rather, one sprays weed concentrations as one encounters them.

We found it very effective when using an ATV to "partner." One partner drives the ATV crossing a meadow or following a roadside in a relatively straight line where possible and spots weeds. The other roams alongside with the spray wand and hose. Occasionally, they switch jobs.

To mix the herbicide solution in the field with a colorant, we'll also need volunteers to provide at least two tanks of water. Pick-up mounted water tanks work best because the water needs to gravity feed into the spray units on ATVs or on the ground. However, trailer-mounted tanks also work where the terrain allows them to be parked up-hill from a convenient spot to fill sprayers. We'll reimburse you for the cost of the water.

We can use all the volunteers we can get, especially those who own sprayers of any size and an ATV, who are willing to loan a sprayer or ATV to another volunteer, or who are willing to come along during the Weed Out to "partner" with an ATV owner.

We'd also like to schedule a spring BBQ, preferably on Memorial Day, May 30. All who volunteer in any way to help out with weed control are invited to attend. The committee provides drinks, brats, burgers, and all the trimmings. But we need an additional volunteer with plenty of deck space, seating, and a grill to host the event. Please let me know if you might be interested so that we can later publicize the location.

Because we anticipate a substantial "rebound" in weed populations this year as we did last year, it may be necessary to repeat our treatment in Gallinas Canyon and at Morley in the fall. Labor Day Weekend might be an appropriate time although we'll make a final decision as we monitor weed re-growth throughout the season. However, please pencil in September 3-4 on your calendar just in case.

Individual Property Owner Effort

Colorado law requires all owners to control weeds on private property. One of the archived articles on the website specifically discusses the availability of commercial weed control services to residents and absentee owners. We encourage owners to aggressively attack the problem by loaning POA sprayers to all who want to use them and by providing protective clothing free of charge.

By the way, Colorado law also permits weed control on private property by local governments. The cost is then billed to the owner with a 15% penalty for administrative services and inspection. So, if you find weeds and D-I-Y or hire a professional, you'll not only soon have a relatively weed-free site, but you may save dollars and legal hassle in the process.

Supplies and Equipment

As mentioned above, I have the POA sprayers and herbicide in my shed. I also have a supply of protective clothing. Specifically included are goggles for eye protection, respirators (masks), gloves, coveralls, and boot covers. Everyone should use eye protection. The other items are less mandatory and probably listed in the order of their desirability. You should also wear a cap and, hopefully, sunscreen.

These items are free to participants who may use them in the common area or on their own property. I have coveralls and other protective equipment for all who have ordered them in the past. However, I may need to reorder some items. If you are a new participant or haven't used this gear in the past, please notify me. Consult the size chart below. Sorry no smalls.

Coverall Sizing

Size Height Weight
Medium 5'4" - 5'9" 120-170
Large 5''7" - 5'11" 150-200
XL 5'9" - 6'2" 180-230
2XL 6'0" - 6'5" 200-250

We also need owners to volunteer the use of their ATV and/or sprayer should they not be able to personally participate in the May Weed Out. Your ATV will be returned clean with a full tank of gas.

Each day during the Weed Out we'll provide cold drinking water, soft drinks, and lunch (Subway sandwiches and chips). We take orders for sandwiches each morning and deliver them to where you're working noonish.

Call (846-7457) or email (bwenstrom@bacavalley.com) me to confirm your participation, provide comments on anything we might do more effectively or efficiently, or ask questions. I'll also come by to pick-up any equipment you're willing to loan and deliver any supplies or equipment you need from the committee.