Jerry Mills at Mills Apple Farm

Oct 10, 2019
Jerry Mills: Grass trimmer cuts giant ragweed down to size

Labor Day was a good weekend. People responded to our internet advertising. We were busy all three days. Nice.

Suckered again. We opened the farm on Labor Day weekend, and had a good crowd. The fruit had taken forever to ripen. It was a perfect crop, up to that time. Few worms, not a single fire blight strike, no summer diseases. Weather was hot and dry, or hot and wet. It was easy for me to hang out in the house “for health reasons.”

Then sugar showed up in the ripening process and rots immediately appeared in apple skins that I should have sprayed earlier. It was too late for the early varieties. Could I spray the Goldens, Grannies, etc., and save them? We’ll see. Some people areslow learners.

Commercial and home-adapted blades for brush cutting under trees with a Stihl brush cutter at Mills Apple Farm, Marine, Illinois. The triangular blade shocks the cutting head gears and causes excessive wear. The regular saw blade that comes with the machine is not hardened and has difficulty cutting woody stems. The old carbide blade has the center hole widened to one inch to fit the Stihl. Even though it has missing carbide teeth, it still easily out-cuts the other blades with less strain. This blade was used for five years on thousands of such plants. Photo: Jerry Mills

Tool of the month. Frequent rains during the summer washed out herbicide and sent giant ragweed shooting up through the apple trees.

We do not have a mower that mows between trees in a row so it is a mess. The solution for the moment are long Stihl grass trimmers with saw blades on the end. The blades that come with the trimmers are for soft plant tissue. They bounce off woody, mature giant ragweed stems.

However if we substitute the Stihl blades with carbide tipped saw blades it is a different story. It takes a little grinding for the carbide blades to fit the trimmers but the different is worth the effort. There is a good feeling of satisfaction in pulling those monster weeds out of the trees.

A man can move three times faster with those blades. Even me, for a little while.

Last month I spent too much time bragging about my big John Deere lawn mower. One thing not learned in three years of ownership was how to use the cruise control. It is simple. The switch is under the steering wheel. I had never noticed it.

Well, last week I did. I was cruising around our house cutting grass. For some reason the mower ended up aimed at the house and I forgot how to disengage the cruise.

Have you ever rammed a little house head-on with a 4,000-pound lawn mower? There was just a small hole in the siding but a large piece of plasterboard dislodged on the inside wall. I felt like two cents when Marilyn saw it. Repair showed a shattered 2×6 stud.

Daughter says I am too old to be operating big machinery. Not sure why.

Health wise, things are looking up. After all of the foolishness in the winter and spring I am getting stronger. I can walk upright further without being winded. Water buckets and bags of Sevin are still heavy but I can handle them now.

Heart surgeon said, “Do as much as you can, no limits.” Parkinson’s doctor said, “Just do not fall down backwards and you will be OK.” Marilyn, bless her heart, thinks, but does not say it, “get off your duff and go exercise more.” She rides her exercise bike with the tension set on high, twice a day for 15 minutes. I am too lazy to go across the road and ride mine.

I hope our story inspires others to be proactive. We feel we still have some good living to do.

Jerry Mills, Mills Apple Farm

“Notes from the Farm,” a collection of columns written by beloved grower Jerry Mills, will be for sale at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO (Booth 949). Copies are $20, with a portion of the proceeds from book sales being donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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