Marion County Noxious Weed Department finished its annual spraying program in October, but the department stays busy even during cold weather.
Department employees spend the winter cutting brush in county ditches, director Rollin Schmidt said. The department receives more positive feedback for clearing brush than spraying weeds, he said.
“It’s a nice break from spraying,” employee Jim Wilson said Monday. “Spraying is more technical.”
Spraying weeds requires using the appropriate herbicide, depending on which weeds are in an area, he said.
Brush and tree control has already started, and the department has stowed its summer equipment.
“Of course we winterize all the spray equipment,” Schmidt said.
Department employees run antifreeze through hoses and nozzles to prevent damage during the winter. They took the spraying rig off the department’s one-ton truck, allowing it to be used as a flatbed.
The most common tree encountered is red cedar, Schmidt said. Hedge is a distant second, followed by a variety of other trees.
Red cedar doesn’t grow back after it is cut down, but other trees require chemical spraying to keep them from regrowing.
Schmidt sends two people to clear brush together, for safety reasons. When he worked in Harvey County during the 1980s, an employee was severely injured by a power drill and couldn’t make it to his radio to call for help. Ever since, Schmidt has been careful about always having two people working when power tools are involved.
The department has two pieces of equipment to cut down trees: a pair of manual clippers and a powered brush cutter.
The brush cutter is similar to a gas-powered lawn trimmer, but it is so big that it requires a harness to use, and it has a saw blade where the trimmer twine would be.
Employee Erick Brandsted said it does the job effectively, as he demonstrated Monday on a red cedar tree on 210th Road near U.S. 77. It cut through the tree in a matter of seconds, without without requiring Brandsted to stoop or kneel.
Brush cutting lasts until April, when the department shifts back into noxious-weed-spraying mode.