Thorny Defenses

When I bought my farm, it included 20 acres of old coal mine.

There’s a spot back in the woods where what’s left of the “high wall” (mine entrance) stands, having been dynamited to keep people out. Coal was mined here from the 1890s until the 1920s and the coal seam was never particularly rich or good. But, it was coal. In those days the work was largely manual, with carts pulled by donkeys, and all the baulks and rails laid by hand. It was a low-cost operation, which meant it could be profitable.

The high wall

Owning something like that is pretty cool except it’s an invitation to tresspassers, which here in Pennsylvania means ATVs and hunters. That, above, is where the mine entrance used to be. Today, it’s home to Mr Robert Cat and his family. In the winter, if you look at the snow, there are cat-paw prints going in and out. It has to be a great lair for them: too small for a human, too small for a bear. Every winter I worry that the paw-prints will be gone, thanks to some hunter, who wants to stuff Mr Cat and put him in their beer den. That’s one reason I want to keep hunters and ATVers out.

Also, it’s kind of a magical wonderland. There are trees and weird slopes of crushed shale and it’s neat to wander about in there. Except, as you can see, ATVs have torn up the slopes and there’s nothing growing on them. A few years ago I planted bamboo and of the 12 small plants, there is only 1 alive. A dirt bike just grabs a plant and rips it out by the roots.

I used to wander around back here with my big blockhead horse P-nut, who was much happier to go booming up those slopes than I was. So sometimes he’d lighten his load by bucking me off, first. That’s horse humor. By which I mean, the horse thinks it’s hysterically funny.

That is the sole bamboo survivor, near the cluster of scrot-trees in the dead center.

This is the area I am trying to defend. I shot these pictures while I was seeding the slopes on both sides of the path with black locust. We’ll see what happens. I have some black locust in my lab, which is to say, my kitchen. I thought it’d be interesting to see how fast they sprout and grow and get some with roots in pots so I can plant them when they have a slightly higher chance of surviving. It’s still impressive. They grow like weeds.

The himalayan blackberries are already deployed but they looked not very happy, having spent some time in the postal system. I’ve got another flight of them inbound and I hope I can get them in the dirt faster.


  1. snarkhuntr says

    I spent quite a long time in some very rural areas, and there’s something about off-road vehicles that turns otherwise quite law-abiding folks into complete outlaws.

    There was even a grandmother who got pretty badly hurt when the police tried to stop her snowmobile because she was riding on private, posted, land. She fled, like almost all snowmobilers do, knowing that there’s no way the police are going to chase you with their trucks. She got too exited and rolled the sled. This lady had never, ever, been in any kind of trouble with the law before.

    It can get quite out of hand, especially as the sledding season draws to a close and all the legal areas have become rutted and packed down. Then the posted fields start to look like a lot of fun to a certain kind of asshol. e. Nevermind if the field is planted with a crop that shouldn’t be disturbed…. nevermind if the farmer has grain in bags out on that field, those will make cool jumps for your sled, and who cares if the carbides cut the bags open and 100K in grain gets ruined… it’s fuuuuun.

    This is how wires end up placed neck-high between trees. Not that I’m recommending that, there’s no property worth killing a person over, but I can understand the impulse. I have heard that laying out high-test fishing line along the ground in sledding areas can sometimes foul up their belt drive, but have no way of confirming that.

    As for ATVs, I have also heard of people placing caltrops or other tire destroying devices in areas where the asshats like to ride through. Narrow places on trails, etc. If I recall correctly, the book Ecodefense has a whole chapter, with pictures, of devices you can use to disable off-road vehicles, but ordering or reading it online likely gets you put on a watchlist these days.

    Again, not that I’d recommend any of these tactics – but they can be fun to think about, right?

    As for hunters – that’s a different kettle of fish entirely. My own newly-purchased property is in a prime hunting area, and we’ve got about 2km of trails on the property that we plan to expand. The property also backs onto Crown land, so keeping a predatory Elizabeth II off the site is a concern as well. I think the key to keeping the hunters out is going to be figuring out where they come in from, and what kinds of vehicles they’re using. Our land isn’t really accessible to trucks – there’s nowhere nearby they can park. If there was, I’d probably have a conversation with the owners of whatever place the hunters were parking and offer to gate it at my expense. If there’s nowhere to leave the truck safely parked, the hunters will have to enter the bush from somewhere else, likely away from my land.

    I own a drone, and if I find myself plagued with hunters, I intend to harass them and the game with it. It’s loud enough that it should spook most game, and if they are stupid enough to try to shoot at it I’ll have excellent quality video of the goobers not only committing a firearms offense, but also a surprisingly nasty aeronautics act one as well.

  2. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    ” if they are stupid enough to try to shoot at it I’ll have excellent quality video”

    I love this plan. Let us know how it works out.

  3. Dunc says

    Tricky business, coal mining – shitty, horrible work, but work that paid, and put food on the tables of people who would otherwise have starved. Here’s a song that captures that ambivalence, sung by a good friend of mine:

  4. says

    Tricky business, coal mining – shitty, horrible work, but work that paid, and put food on the tables of people who would otherwise have starved.

    Yup, and it put the finest of cuisine on the linen table cloths of bastards like Andrew Carnegie, who made huge fortunes off of miner and steelworkers’ lives, without ever getting near the danger or the heat. Mining was one of the great engines of inequality – and the US mining interests delayed automating until it was too late to make the industry profitable again, and it was in a death-spiral. Along with steel. And the short-sighted bastards whine that it was the Chinese that did them in. Ha. Since coal is part pay-master to Congress, of course none of them will call “bullshit” on them. “I love coal! I’ll bring coal back!” How, exactly? By saying “please?” to the Chinese? It must pain American politicians awful sore to have to do the great big Dance of Coal-Pretending every so often. Dance harder and maybe the unicorns will come back, too!

    Here’s a song that captures that ambivalence, sung by a good friend of mine:

    That’s really good! I like.
    So here’s a cheerful coal-mining song by Slaid Cleves:

  5. Dunc says

    There are no cheerful coal-mining songs, for some reason… But that’s pretty good.

    It’s crazy to me, this business of bringing the coal jobs back… I’ve never spoken to or heard of a miner who didn’t want their children to have a better life, not to have to do what they did. Sure, the work was the lifeblood of the community, but they all wanted something better for their children… “Son, you go to school and learn your letters; Don’t be no dusty miner like me”… How the hell did we get to a place where people want their kids to have the same shitty, horrible jobs that crippled them, or put them in an early grave? To my mind, there’s nothing that shows how beaten-down we’ve become quite like that – that the best we can apparently hope for is that our kids will at least not be even worse off than we are. (Not that I have any myself…)

  6. johnson catman says

    If you have one sole bamboo survivor in good health, you will eventually have a bumper crop. Since there are no pandas in Pennsylvania to thin the crop out, it will do what it does best: be fruitful and multiply. It may take a few years to get to the tipping point though.

  7. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    Hmm. I know there was a joke earlier about bouncing betties, but one could probably make something non-lethal and much nastier using a bit of mesityl oxide, animal protein, and a small CO2 or N2O cartridge.

    Fun fact: 16g N2O cartridges are used in some inexpensive hybrid rockets (e.g. S’Creamer from Aerocon Systems). I had briefly given some serious thought to the idea of adding proper ‘jump jets’ to small ‘mechwarfare’ robots using N2O catridges, but after some number crunching with various fuels wound up being way to small to get enough thrust for the <10kg legged robots involved.

  8. johnson catman says

    MattP @7: Any type of intentional devices, even if non-lethal, would probably bring the kind of response that Marcus is trying to avoid. The natural solutions that he is cultivating will be effective unless the trespassers decide to use some type of defoliant, which would probably be illegal since they don’t own the property.

  9. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    johnson catman @ 8
    True, an intentional device – depending on design and what remains after activation – might bring a response other than gagging/vomiting. Still far less labor intensive than just mining the area with cowpies collected from the neighbor’s grazing cattle, and the fairly persistent spray-on stench would certainly make other’s highly aware where their vehicles were trespassing. And they are already destroying plants with their trespassing vehicles, so getting caught on video spraying defoliant is not likely to get any more of a response from the pigs.

    And now that I think a bit, one could probably just send the drone on an automatic schedule to patrol and spray around the entrances with a bit of the brew leaving those areas always stinking. Give the natural barriers a bit of protection while they grow in. Then again, I seem to recall there being dumbfucks with 4×4’s last year running through cactus stands and cutting paths on protected federal lands/parks last year or an earlier shutdown in cheetolini’s term…

  10. Tethys says

    How wonderful to have wild cats living on the land. It’s unfortunate that fools on wheels are preventing nature from reclaiming those piles of mining debris.

    The native Kalmia/laurel might be a good candidate for making it impassable to ATVs. Perhaps you could seed them with a plant called rest-harrow? There is a low creeping variety Oninus repens and a taller, shrubby type Oninus spinosa. They are legumes just like the locust trees, and get their common name from their very strong root system which stopped the plows.

    Oddly enough, it is also used in the process of making Bulat steel in medieval Russian legends. Apparently the blade is quenched in a vat of liquid that contains the rest harrow extract, and then a horse rider took it and rode as fast as possible.

    I’m pretty sure there are links to various metal smiths modern experiments with the plant in the Wikipedia entry for Bulat steel. Sadly my device is no longer compatible, or I would provide the link.

  11. Tethys says

    Just for the record, I hate autocorrect. The Latin name of rest harrow is Ononis, not Oninus. It is a member of the pea family, and is grown for it’s pretty pink blooms.

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