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It was recently announced that a world record was broken on Crooked River Farm! Not by me, but some fellers who needed some land for a couple of days in order to break the record for light painting.  Nice write-up on the web site below, which includes a very well done video that has some drone shots of one of the bottom-land fields.

and an article in our local paper –

I noticed some Ailanthus trees dead by the side of the highway, and wrote asking my local paper what was up with them – was the highway department killing them?  They actually wrote an article about it –

Of course he mispelled basal bark treatment and neglected to mention triclopyr, the herbicide used (mentioned elsewhere in this blog).  But those problems are easily forgiven, with the note about “nonalfalfae”, a natural occuring fungus that is killing the trees.  And that it has been found at milepost 125 on I81, which is exactly where I saw the dead trees.  Poking around on the interwebs, I found that this was the very first place that this was discovered in VA. I’m sure it was noticed there, as it is close to VA Tech.

Further poking around finds that the fungus is actually called Verticillium nonalfalfae.  In a scientific article published only a couple of weeks ago by VA Tech and University of PA researchers, in the field, 100 canopy Ailanthus trees were inoculated across 12 stands with VnAa140 (verticillium nonalfalfae) from 2006 to 2009. By 2011, natural spread of the fungus had resulted in the mortality of >14,000 additional canopy Ailanthus, 10,000 to 15,000 Ailanthus sprouts, and nearly complete eradication of Ailanthus from several smaller inoculated stands, with the exception of a few scattered vegetative sprouts that persisted in the understory for several years before succumbing.

The article concludes: Our results indicate that V. nonalfalfae is host-adapted and highly efficacious against Ailanthus and is thus a strong candidate for use as a biocontrol agent.  I’ve written to the VA Tech researcher to see if I can get the fungus to innoculate some trees here.

So, like rose-rosette disease killing off the invasive multlflora, we now have potential biocontrol of ailanthus.  Next up, something for autumn olive?

Got some goats, sheep, and llamas onto Crooked River Farm this week. After the cows have grazed the pasture, the goats and sheep will eat a lot of what the cows don’t, increasing yield per acre, decreasing the “weed” load, further benefiting the pasture, and further increasing the yield per acre.  Virtuous cycle – at least that’s the theory.


The llama’s are there as “guard animals” – they are supposed to protect the flock of sheep and goats.  Again, that’s the theory. I once got a llama and a donkey to protect the sheep flock I had for about 25 years.  The donkey harassed the llama to death (literally) and proceeded to terrorize the sheep until we moved him to another paddock and ultimately, to another owner/farm. So far the llamas seem to be behaving themselves and doing their duty protecting the goats and sheep. Will be watching them all closely.  In theory, theory and practice are one and the same – in practice they are not….

The brown marmorated stink bug, one of our newest and most insidious and invasive pests, has a symbiotic relationship with the ailanthus tree according to a recent article in the Staunton News Leader.  Dr. Ames Herbert, an extension entomologist from VA Tech, says

“Heavy infestations seem to be associated with fields with wooded borders, especially if there are concentrations of the invasive weed Tree of Heaven,” Herbert said. “Both are native to China and the (stink bug) seems to be strongly attracted to that host, especially when the trees are putting out their seed clusters. It’s like a happy reunion.”

The highest concentrations of the stink bugs have been found where the invasive plant is also found in high numbers, Herbert noted.

The article does not offer the best advice for getting rid of ailanthus, but it makes an additional case to do so.

If you google “ailanthus eradication”, this blog is ranked #1.  That, and “multiflora rose eradication” are the two biggest reasons people find this blog on their own (over 20,000 hits so far).  So over the next few months I will try to increase the information available on this blog about eradicating these invasive exotics.  VA Tech and Penn State have both done some research on using Verticillium wilt as a natural control of ailanthus, with the main disadvantage being that it also kills mimosa trees.  I will try to post more on that soon.

Late last week, I was using my trusty, rusty, Stihl chain saw to saw up one of the dozer piles of Virginia Pines so it would burn.  I love my old chain saw – it was the first quality chainsaw I had bought about 1o years ago, and it has given me yeoman service.  Still starts on the first few pulls and does the job.  When it got dark, I put the saw into the bucket of the tractor and headed back to it’s usual parking spot.  On the way, I passed a brush pile we were burning and saw a log had rolled out.  I pushed it back in with the tractor bucket.  And unknowingly dropped the chainsaw into the burning pile at the same time and went home.  DOH!



Oh, well. Trish had been agonizing over what to get me for Christmas.

Welcome to this blog about the Crooked River Farm project. Along the bar above, or summary to the left, you can get a little bit of history of the farm and what we’ve done up until about the 1st of Dec 2008. After that, I’ve resorted primarily to the blog format for updates, which end up in the Topics section on the left.

I hope you experience the full schadenfreude of farm restoration and custom home building!

Trish and Chris

Suffolk Punch Draft Horses in Upper Pasture

Suffolk Punch Draft Horses in Upper Pasture

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