Back in October, our Kindergarteners had a fun time Seed Stomping wildflower seeds into our future meadow area, but of course, it takes time for the seeds to germinate. So it hasn’t looked very different for awhile. And then this past Wednesday, a team arrived to do something wonderful… build us a new wildflower fence and more!
Several of the USFW team can be seen here with our new wildflower fence, almost completed. It looks great!
A group of 12 Partners for Fish & Wildlife USFW biologists and fire crew personnel from the Balcones Canyonlands Refuge volunteered their entire day to come out and build a fence around our wildflower meadow area. As difficult as the building of a fence might sound, now imagine doing it in very unforgiving earth, with limestone rock just inches below the surface. After much pondering on the best method of attack on the worst of that rock, we opted for a pneumatic jackhammer, operated by compressed air.
A jackhammer was needed to get through all the rock under our meadow.
And boy, was it loud! Since the jackhammer could only be used on one hole at a time, the rest of the team used the various tools we borrowed from Keep Austin Beautiful to work on other holes. I’m sure the crew is still numb and sore after their long day of jackhammering, using the manual rock breaker and post-hole diggers, and mixing cement. They managed to get all 30 holes (30!) more than 18 inches deep, despite the rock in the way. Willpower and manpower and muscle power were all required.
The cedar posts had to be placed in a hole at least 18 inches deep.
Pat and Adam tackling a new post hole -- rock breaking was required on every hole!
Off in the soccer woodlands, the fire crew pulled out their chain saws to fell Ligustrums (both Japanese and Wax-Leaf), and weed wrenches were used to pull out Nandinas. Japanese Ligustrum looks similar to our native Yaupons, but don’t be fooled — it’s very invasive!
A USFW fire crew member finishes up the removal of a large multi-trunked Japanese Ligustrum.
The biggest tree was a Wax-Leaf Ligustrum, and it was probably the mother source of many of the other Ligustrums in the woods.
A giant Wax-Leaf Ligustrum, an invasive exotic, was shading out our native trees and spreading seeds into the woodlands.
With the removal of the Ligustrum, the native Texas plants will be safer in their habitat.
Some of our young students at school wondered why our crew was working in the woodlands, but rest assured the only plants removed were “bad” trees that were harmful to our habitat! All the natives — Ashe Junipers, Yaupons, and more — are safe — actually safer than ever now that the invasive plants are gone. We’ll still want to check for any exotic plants that we might have missed — but I think it’s safe to say that we’re winning the battle against the exotics.
USFW workers stacked up the invasive plants to be removed later. By the end, the pile was very impressive!
Back at the wildflower meadow, once the holes were finished, the posts were distributed and secured with cement.
The fence posts were placed around the meadow. Once securely in place, the crew cut them down to their final size.
Cement was used to secure the posts in an upright position.
The final step involved attaching the rails across the posts.
The rails will be 2 across, or possibly 3 across, when completed.
Due to technical difficulties, there wasn’t enough time to finish the remaining rails, so our district maintenance team is going to help us finish the job, so thank you in advance to them!
During the day, our Kindergarteners came out to cheer on the USFW team working on “their” wildflower meadow (the K classes have a very special attachment to the meadow, since they seeded it). As a special surprise, they also created beautiful thank-you notes to share with all the team. I wish I could show all the cards — they were so special and heart-warming!
The new fence will help protect and define our wildflower meadow. It will take a few years for the wildflowers to establish, but the rustic fence is going to make it all the more beautiful when the flowers are there. Our students will benefit from this new outdoor classroom for years and years to come, as will all the wildlife that comes to visit.
Thank you to the entire USFW team for all that you have done and continue to do for Caraway Elementary. Our partnership with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has enabled us to get our new rain tank, Purple Martin gourd system, and habitat benches, as well as many habitat projects still to come. And this wonderful crew on Wednesday made our wildflower fence dream a reality, and we are absolutely thrilled and so very grateful.
A special thanks to Wade Harrell at USFW — he has been such a great ally in helping us really make our habitat something special at Caraway.
By the way, cheers to our Green Team members who supplied food and drinks and other support for the crew. Everything was delicious!
USFW, we love our fence!
A view from the corner -- in all our meadow is about 2200 square feet in size. It's beautiful!
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