Pastures,Rocks & Trees is a premier pasture design service in Hammond, LA that offers professional field sculpting, hard sculpting, wood sculpting, and more in Hammond, LA and the surrounding areas!

Services offered (as advertised):

Field sculpting, Hard sculpting & Woods sculpting: From mowing, removing rocks and stumps, seeding, aerating and fertilizing, to installation of underground and surface drainage systems, restore and increase productivity of your fields and pastures for easy maintenance. Relocate or create inorganic focal points (rocks, fences and small buildings) for “naturalized” impressions. Shape and integrate trees and surrounding woods with adjacent open spaces. Enhance overall spatial and visual relationships while increasing your overall real estate value. Construct easily maintained walking paths and access roads.

John’s background and personal goal:

John has spent thirty, productive years as a designer/builder of both residential and commercial “spaces” over the entire United States, including ten years of specific small landscaping/design projects. John’s customers employed his services primarily for his strong artistic abilities supported by solid construction practices. All enjoyed successful financial rewards from his employment.

When John relocated from Maine to western Massachusetts in 2001, he re-focused his artistic talents into sculpting larger units of land, creating “naturalized” impressions. John uses much of the same machinery as most landscapers and dirt contractors. Similar to any artist, however, his machines are only tools just to shape and obtain an end result. He enjoys a hands-on, pro-active role in design more than just wielding machinery around, as a glorified lawn-mower jockey, under the guise of “ground maintenance.” John anticipates assisting each client to become a strong, independent, and knowledgeable steward for his and/or her respective properties. To facilitate this process, John has collected most of the necessary tools for creating both beautiful and functional landscapes, hand-in-hand, with each client.

Field sculpting:

Every individual has their own unique image of what ingredients constitute a field or a pasture. Those personal images often become tailored by daily use of those open spaces by both domesticated and wild animals, as well as the plant materials either from either cultivated or natural growth. Success of these open spaces depends on the steward’s ability to integrate all or selective needs, including one more: his/her own personal aesthetic needs, such as ponds, retreats, visible islands of ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees . . . thus, creating an artistic statement

From an excavator with a retractable thumb and various sized buckets for precise work, to a bulldozer for a broad-brush approach, John has collected a stable full of equipment to rejuvenate efficiently any “open space.” Attachments for the front of his 75-hp articulated tractor include: a bucket loader, an adjustable pallet fork, a stone fork, and a grubbing/root blade with a retractable clamp for both quick gathering and loading. Attachments to his 3-point rear hitch include: a 8’ wide rotary mower for an initial rough finished cut of brush and grasses: a 6’ flail mower for a finer finished cut and total shredding of all surface growth into small particles for effective mulching and decomposition: a 3’ Meri-Crusher for grinding brush, bushes and small trees (= 4” diameter) back into the soil 8” deep, thus, repelling invading hedgerows; a hydraulically controlled grading blade and a York rake for shaping and smoothing contours of banks, drainage ditches, wood roads; a power rake for gathering stones and wood debris into windrows for collection and removal; an 8’ bog-harrow disk cultivator for chewing up ground covers; a 9’ flexible chain harrow for braking up clods as a final, smooth preparation for seeding; a 6’ foot drill seeder which plants individual seeds (both large and small in size) in 3” rows at precise depths for instant and reliable germination; a pendular spreader for broadcasting both pelletized fertilizers and small seeds: an 8’ aerator which eliminates mechanical compaction down to a 8” depth in pastures; and a ripping tooth (sub-soiler) which breaks up compaction and improves drainage to 18” depth. John also employs a manure/top spreader capable of spreading all sorts of materials. Lastly, he can use his bulldozer as a broad-brush tool to reshape the overall contours of open landscapes.

Hard sculpting:

Hard sculptures, whether relatively large or small, always become major components of most landscapes but often are ignored. They include everything non-organic such as rocks, fences, driveways, paths, building, etc. – anything, which does not grow and can be seen, more or less, during the winter season. Hard sculptures usually emerge as the backbone of their respective spaces and, therefore, become major parameters to which all other features ultimately pay visual homage as seasons change. They commonly incorporate soft sculptures such as trees, colorful shrubs, and/or ornamental grasses, but remain focal points within major vistas.

John’s father built stone walls as his hobby and thus exposed John to the intricacies of stone construction during John’s early childhood in the northeast. If alive today, John’s father would enjoy both the efficiency of John’s equipment and how he deliberately tugs at the orderliness of perimeters/borders (such as, “coloring” outside the prescribed lines). Whereas John’s father believed in orderliness and control, John shies away from the concept of single, direct control but carefully acknowledges the balance of all control sources. [Do not the differences between generations become rich and wonderfully colorful?

Tools and machinery for John’s hard sculpting include almost everything from his excavator, moving material with his tractor, trailers, and trucks to his shop tools stored in his mobile tool shed. John deliberately restricts the size and weight of his machinery to be transported by his 1-ton truck so that he can maintain a more inexpensive and “smaller footprint.” If anything larger is needed, John either rents or subcontracts the precise equipment.

Because hard sculptures develop into the “backbones” of landscapes, John searches for clues of dimensions, directions, and context (material to be used) from the actual landscape in which the hard sculpture is to be located. Solitary organic structures (trees, shrubs and plants), depending on their seasonal performances, often can augment hard sculptures. Hard sculptures hopefully never violate, or overwhelm, the scene in which they supposedly support. Otherwise, given time and gravity, they too eventually will be eliminated given the lack of emotional concern by the owners.

The “organic design” process is repeatedly most rewarding to John and his clients, similar to opening presents. It also can be the scariest to those clients who easily become insecure about their eventual, overall $ costs. Once a direction of any design is chosen, John offers either a total price and/or a price per installment. In this way, neither the “organic” flow nor direction becomes written in stone. Better yet, the flow/direction is not truncated prematurely because of pre-conceived frightening costs. Lastly, the client’s pocket is not emptied suddenly. This gentle approach should facilitate each client’s ultimate control as he/she becomes a stronger, effective steward.

Woods sculpting:

Woods sculpting (and tree sculpting) is John’s personal description of maintaining complex balances between protective cover of “woods” and vulnerable “openness” of adjacent spaces. It includes both the upper stories of the trees as well as the ground beneath those trees.

In the northeast, often fields and pastures were created by carving out wooded areas. If not restricted by steep slopes, utilization of straight lines emerged as offering “efficiency” in maintaining those open spaces. On Louisiana’s wet prairies, straight drainage ditches/canals, loaded with copious underbrush but few trees, outline wide-open spaces with little variation. Too often, there are no inviting oases nearby or undulating lines. In the northeast, differences between juxtaposed woods and open spaces resemble large, dark curtains to bright stage lighting. A live oak, growing in the middle of wide-open Louisiana field/pasture, provides a wonderful contrast in form and color to the, otherwise, overwhelming dominance of bright sunlight associated with large, open spaces.

In the northeast, temptation to clean out thoroughly the underbrush within the bordering “dark” woods (so that the viewer can obtain access either visually or physically) risks violation of the ecological interdependence between woods and their inhabitants. Small animals and ground birds often need thick, low-lying growth for comfortable survival. In order to coax wild animals into open spaces for one’s visual entertainment, a series of protective “safe” covers, similar to a chain of islands, provide the viewer visual relief and the wild animals a place to graze. [In the south, however, most stewards prefer that those small animals, often poisonous and dangerous, remain strictly within the deep cover of those drainage ditches.] Colorful birds and larger animals (deer, etc.) can be attracted to isolated islands purposefully created for artistic highlights.

Solutions to conflicting needs (both artistic and ecological) often lie in creating balance, interactive “fingers” of safe coverage next to open areas. Each “open” area/finger may provide food and a playground for animals while creating a vista to human audiences with particular objects (either organic or non-organic) as focal points. Each “closed” area/finger/island, therefore, can offer contrasting species, colors, and textures. These closed areas then become figurative “mile markers,” creating a relative distance and depth for the viewer. At first, finding solutions may appear difficult, but tenacity usually produces solutions. As we begin diving into these complex scenes, hopefully, we can identify and enhance the many natural and deep interdependencies. We also may nurture our own enjoyment and humility.

The greatest physical difficulty which John faces in woods-scaping is leaving each respective site with the least impact; that is, no footprint. The size of John’s tractor is deliberately small for its horsepower. Its articulated steering translates into tight turns with the rear wheels following the exact tracks shaped by the front wheels. Forestry attachments for its 3-point hitch include: a winch cable & grapple hooks enabling transport of long logs suspended in air without dragging and tearing up the forest floor; a cord-wood trailer converted to a hydraulic dump with very high ground clearance for moving heavy materials over rough terrain; a trailerable, self-powered hydraulic man-lift which allows John to trim branches up to 50’ in height and 30’ in width without climbing on the trees themselves and possibly damaging them; the 3’ Meri-Crusher which grinds up everything, including small unwanted saplings (= 4” diameter), back onto the forest floor and thus eliminating re-growth of tenacious, small stumps; a walk-behind, self-powered stump grinder to eliminate large and difficult stumps which the Meri-Crusher cannot handle or reach; the combination of a grubbing/grapple blade and York rake to gather up trimmed branches and leaves into piles and/or for processing eventually into compost. John employs various sizes of chain saws, with biodegradable bar oil, and a 4’ log splitter for stacking and drying firewood. Lastly, John uses a trailerable tub-grinder for shredding all organic waste into compost and/or mulch of less 1” diameter.

On-site recycling:

Piles of discarded brush, branches, leaves and grass/hay temporarily may attract small birds and animals as safe havens, but they also can be viewed as unsightly and unfinished projects. [Again, this decision rests in the eyes of the beholder and each steward’s wallet.] Burning brush piles is an inexpensive option, but it wastes valuable nutrients. John suggests utilizing small, healthy thickets or bushes within the woods themselves as “protective islands” instead of piles of decaying brush. Moreover, he recommends grinding the discarded brush/branches (= 2” diameter) and recycling them immediately into the nearby gardens and pastures before they lose their valuable nutrients, within six months, from natural evaporation (reference: the ramial wood concept). A recipe of mulched leaves and branches spread over nearby fields/pastures provides needed carbon and fiber for healthy soil. If that soil is aerated, those fiber pieces eventually are pulled deep into the soil and provide needed “tilth.” In short, a very healthy recycling program of nutrients is created directly and naturally on the client’s site.

Summary:

Solutions to design quandaries and problematic spaces often reveal themselves once the obvious negative components are addressed first. Most of these remedies need not to be expensive or complicated, but may require several years to complete in small increments. Improvements in both aesthetic qualities and health of one’s property translate immediately into increased real estate value. Drastic changes, without considerable forethought, historically create greater and unforeseen problems more damaging than initially addressed. Some spaces may be perfect as they stand and need very little “improvement.” In either case but for most land sculpting projects, many fingers in the pot from open-minded cooks can produce a great broth!