Passing Time Pruning Trees During COVID-19

The coronavirus response has had an undeniable effect, but one farmer finds pruning trees to be a productive distraction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Keeler Johnson

These days, I think we’re all a bit on edge, to put it mildly. The COVID-19 outbreak has had an unprecedented impact on seemingly all walks of life. It’s hard not to spend time catching up on the latest news and developments. We all want to stay up to date on the best recommended practices.

At the same time, I think people are looking for diversions—distractions—to occupy their minds while they stay at home and practice responsible social distancing.

It seems many folks are turning to streaming services for entertainment. I hear views are up sharply across all the major platforms. This is a fine idea—and I’ve contributed a few views to those rising numbers—but for the most part, I prefer taking a more active approach.

Check out these 4 fun farm ideas to help you pass the time.

Prune Away

Getting outside and tackling a productive farming project seems like the recipe for a morale boost. Depending on where you live, this isn’t an option for everyone. But for hobby farmers with a few acres of their own … what are you waiting for?

Spring has come relatively early on my northern Wisconsin farm, with warm weather triggering a nearly complete spring thaw three weeks earlier than last year. I’m taking advantage by diving quickly into one of my favorite pursuits—pruning trees.

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Ground conditions are still too soggy for driving tractors and wagons around, but that doesn’t mean I can’t prune like crazy and create piles of branches to pick up later in the spring. Armed with pruning loppers and a hand saw, I’ve been tackling all corners of my farm, cutting the dead lower branches of pine and spruce trees to improve their appearance and make walking around the trees easier.

The Solitude of Hand Tools

I could use a chainsaw and probably get the work done quicker, but such a noisy machine would defeat the real purpose of what I’m after—peace and quiet.

While I work, I listen to podcasts, passing the time learning about fun topics I’m interested in. Tackling a productive project while simultaneously learning something new? Now there’s an ideal combination! Plus it gives me something to ponder other than COVID-19.

Noise-canceling headphones keep the noise out while you work.

A lot of my pruning efforts have been concentrated on windbreak trees surrounding an old pond that doesn’t hold much water anymore. It’s fun to keep an eye on the pond as it tries to fill during the spring thaw while I’m pruning trees.

Through careful observations, I’ve determined that the water is leaking out underneath one of the clay banks and dispersing into a clearing behind the pond. Trying to find the exact location of the leak (and repair it, if possible) has been an entertaining challenge and perhaps a topic for another day.

The only problem with all this pruning and productivity? I’ve already created an extraordinary volume of branches to deal with later this year. And I’m not even close to finished with the pruning.

It’s going to take days (and countless trips with my trusty red wagon) to properly clean up the mess I’ve made.

But in the scheme of things, that’s a good problem to have, right?

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