Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for September 2014

Small Steps

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There was a surprise rain shower yesterday morning that saved me from watering the newly seeded drainage swale across the south pasture. It was a little victory for me. I checked the weather radar and spotted the small band of precipitation sliding across the region, but it was not clear that it would pass over us, and didn’t reveal how much rain would fall. In the end, it was more than I expected, after I reconciled the fact it was going to rain on us at all.

I turned over a couple piles of composting manure under the cover of trees until the rain started to fall in earnest. Then I puttered in the shop, putting a new blade on the trimmer in preparation for work clearing growth along the hay-field south fence. That is one of the projects that is currently a priority. I spent a little time in the barn, methodically dumping bags of feed into the bin as the ebb and flow of the varying rainfall rattled the metal roof.

The morning just seemed to disappear. I contacted the fence installer and the landscaper in hopes of initiating their work for us. Both hope to start on Wednesday, but only one said, “Rain or shine.” Another little victory, because the forecast is for rain.

DSCN2440eAfter lunch, some sunshine started to break through, and I headed down with the trimmer to clear along that fence. It wasn’t a big victory, because I only got a short distance, but the progress was worth claiming as a little victory. The going was slow. There are a fair number of downed branches that lie out of sight beneath the tall grass and weeds.

It is surprising how much strength it takes to pull a branch from the grip of blades of grass. It’s like velcro times a thousand. For that matter, pulling an entangled branch from among others is like separating super-strength velcro. When I look back to see what is stopping progress, and it turns out to be the simplest of angled growth hooked on another branch, it seems so unlikely. In this case, it is the branches that seemed to be enjoying little victories at my expense.

The work becomes exhausting. Progress is slowed because it must be made in smaller doses. By taking extra time to cut branches where they “Y” out, I will end up pulling shorter pieces with less entanglements. By cutting smaller strokes with the trimmer, I can reduce the number of times I hit wood or dirt and extend the life of the blade.

When we had the brown-post/4-wire fence installed initially, we stopped short of replacing that existing fence along the southern run. Now we intend to extend that portion. For a variety of reasons, it makes sense to make the improvement complete, not the least of which is, Legacy messes with that section when we let the horses out there because it is not electrified.

If I am able to get the full length of that southern run cleared today, and ready for removal by the fence contractor, I will be happy to claim a BIG victory. It just takes a compilation of many small steps.

Small steps, I can do.

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Written by johnwhays

September 30, 2014 at 7:05 am

Monday Ponderings

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We opened our home to guests this weekend and were richly rewarded. Once again, we enjoyed evidence of how Wintervale comes alive with the addition of visitors. I, in particular, enjoyed the chance to talk with new acquaintances.

The weather was spectacular. Warm as a summer day, but with the lower angle of sunshine that late September offers. Our maple trees are peaking their color change to fluorescent orange. This time of year, days like this offer a chance to absorb every last possible feature to our core, in hopes it might somehow provide extra ballast for enduring the winter months when they arrive.

On Saturday, I met some folks (and their families) that Cyndie now works with at her (relatively) new job. Sunday, our precious friend, Melissa and her daughters came to spend some time. During their visit, our daughter, Elysa, and her friend, Anne, walked in the door, to our great joy and surprise. Later, I spotted the text message from Elysa, informing us of her plan.

The two days served to re-energize us and provided inspiration to keep after our dream of making Wintervale always be a place that will inspire others. With all the leftover food treats that remain from Cyndie’s bountiful spread, I could use a lot more visitors right now to help keep me from ultimately consuming it all myself.

Today, I get back to work trying to make appreciable progress on at least one of the 4-or-5-various projects I have started that deserve timely attention. If I am lucky enough to have landscapers or fence installers show up, that will be a bonus that determines the immediate priority. If I can’t decide, there is always watering to be done for the new grass seed I put down. That’s an easy way to consume a couple of hours.

DSCN2409eI’ve turned over mole-control to Delilah. She seems to enjoy digging up the spots where they have created tunnels in the lawn. It’s not actually effective, in terms of controlling the population of moles, but it does serve to keep her out of other trouble for a reasonable span of time.

Happy Monday, one and all!

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Written by johnwhays

September 29, 2014 at 6:00 am

Echo

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that echo
of a bird call
sounds so far away
yet prominent
in the predawn silence
that almost defines
this time of day

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2014 at 8:30 am

Posted in Creative Writing

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Morning Sky

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A few days ago, as Cyndie was stepping out the door to head to work, she hollered back to me that I should look at the pre-sunrise sky.

It looks like a wild-fire is raging just over the hill. Well, I guess it is a raging wild-fire, but it’s not just over the hill. It’s about 93 million miles away.

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

Planting Seeds

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I put in an extra-long day yesterday, planting grass in addition to the normal daily chores of caring for our animals. Getting grass seed planted in the new drainage swale took almost the entire day. It was a day when I really wished I wasn’t working alone. Back and forth I walked, so many times, to get hoses strung together to reach the full length of the swale and then to turn the water on and off. The distance I seeded is almost 2 football fields long.

Just getting the full length watered down took over an hour. I did have a little “help” with getting it wet before seeding. I let Delilah chase the spray and run around in the dirt to stir it up a bit. From now on, I will need to restrain her somewhere when I want to water. With the seed down, I don’t want her tearing it all up when she chases after that irresistible spray.

I purchases a seed mixture from our local feed mill that has oats in it and is supposed to germinate within three days. That’s about all the growing time we have left this year. This is one occasion when I will be fine with a warm week or two in October.

The concern is, if I don’t get something to take root and help hold the soil in place, the water that will flow down this path in the spring could create a huge washout. I’ll deal with that if I have to. It’s just nice to have this improved definition for drainage finally in place.

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upstream

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downstream

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Written by johnwhays

September 26, 2014 at 6:00 am

One Year

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A year ago today, our horses arrived at Wintervale. It feels like an awful lot has happened in the year since that day. IMG_3666eOne of my favorite memories is of the day Hunter laid down to chill next to me while I raked the paddock. They have done a great job of helping me to feel comfortable navigating in their space.

That thought takes me back to the previous May, when I traveled to Arizona to attend Cyndie’s final session of Eponaquest training, where I met Dunia and had my first lessons on interacting with horses.

That weekend gave me confidence that allowed me to quickly adjust to becoming a caretaker of our herd of four. I recall that on the first day we opened the big hay-field to the horses, I walked up to the top of the hill to check on them, and their reaction to my sudden appearance was to immediately gallop in my direction.IMG_2916e

It surprised me, and I suddenly became aware of being in a precarious situation. Instead of succumbing to panic, I relied on the knowledge gained during that weekend session in Arizona. With my energy and the wave of my arm, I projected my barrier distance, which they instantly respected. I was not trampled by the stampeding herd, despite the possibility.

Even though I have grown a lot in the year we’ve had them, I feel as though I barely have started to learn about horses. I am lucky that they are so patient with me. I think they understand that I mean well, despite my sometimes fumbling methods.

IMG_3689eAnother shot from the previous year… Couldn’t help but chuckle when I spotted this as I scanned through the image archives. Poor things. This was not one of their prouder moments.

It is our hope to accomplish a variety of improvements this fall, intended to alleviate the muddiness they were forced to deal with in the spring.

We prefer to see them basking in the comfort of a dry surface. In that regard, a little sunshine goes a long way…

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

Perfectly Annoying

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Suffering under my tendency towards perfectionism, I am experiencing some frustration with a few features of the swale that the excavator created. I am able to see some undulations that I anticipate could interfere with optimal flow, and his final path has a bend to it. I was hoping for a straight shot.

DSCN2417eThe guy who did the work on Monday was back again yesterday, bringing more loads of lime screenings for our paddocks. Lime screenings are similar to, if not exactly the same as, what is used for the infield of a baseball diamond.

I asked him if it was possible to eliminate the undulations in the swale by grading it more, or if trying to do so would actually make them worse. He indicated the latter. He assured me the slope is good and that, over time, the flow of water will smooth it out.

Too bad I couldn’t help finding out for myself. Late yesterday, I tried dragging our rake attachment behind the ATV, and then went and got the diesel tractor with the front loader to see if I could reduce the curve he had created. Daylight faded before I could make it too much worse than when I started. We’ll see what this morning’s light reveals. The low light from the east in the early morning does wonders to reveal high spots.

Meanwhile, I am very pleased with the new footing for the horses. I think they like it, too. Dezirea wasted no time in laying down and rolling in it. I hope they get plenty of time to pack it down before the next significant rainfall. It should make a solid base to keep them up out of the mud.

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In classic project form, halfway through spreading the piles, an oil leak was discovered in their skid loader tractor. Progress came to a halt while they tore it apart to deduce the cause. Of course, the replacement part was not available and would need to be shipped overnight. They were able to limp the loader back onto a trailer and take it back to their shop for repairs. Better the oil leaks at their place than into our paddock dirt. As it was, they needed to dig out a small section of oily top soil and put it in a pail for proper disposal.

Later in the afternoon, the driver came back with a different tractor and was able to finish spreading the second pile.

After he was gone, I felt free to start messing with the swale to enact my attempts at tweaking it toward perfect. I already know this much: He made it look a lot easier than it truly is.

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Written by johnwhays

September 24, 2014 at 6:00 am

Great Starts

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DSCN2404eOur fall colors are off to a brilliant start. It was a little foggy when I woke up, and became thicker as time passed. It made me wonder what the dew point temperature was. In checking, I discovered it was 44°(F), which is what the air temperature had reached, so we were at 100% humidity.

I could see the sun rise over our horizon, and instead of burning off the fog, it became more obscured as it climbed. When it finally burned through the milky soup, the changing leaves began to radiate color at maximum glow.

My week got off to a magnificent start of its own yesterday, because the excavator finally showed up to create a better defined drainage swale across our pasture! Of all days for my cell service to go wonky, I didn’t receive the call that he was on his way. I was working down in the woods, clearing trail. I dragged a few branches out into the open to toss on the brush pile, and immediately caught sight of him up on our driveway. It was a very happy moment.

We briefly discussed a plan, which started with me moving the horses out of the way, into the pasture to the north of the driveway. Of course, I was wanting to do this quickly and placed the halter over the first horse that allowed. That happened to be Hunter. He did fine, until we reached the pasture gate. Then he became hesitant. I succeeded in getting him inside and headed back to get Legacy. Next, came Dezirea who was showing a little extra nervousness. The sound of the excavator’s skid-loader may have contributed.

When we arrived at the pasture gate, the rambunctious boys were crowding our path. I grabbed the handle of the web-line that creates our “gate,” and opened it to guide Dezirea in. As I did that, Hunter took advantage of me and hopped over the web as it sagged, getting himself loose outside the pasture.

In that second, he gained all my attention, but I had the gate handle in one hand and Dezirea’s lead line in the other. Luckily, he simply started grazing in the grass out there, giving me a chance to release Dezi from the halter and secure the gate before going after him. It was the classic opportunity for me to be in a hurry and him to not want to be caught. I know how that exercise plays out, but I felt pressured to get the last horse out of the paddock and open gates for the excavator. After a couple tries to entice him into the halter again, which he rebuffed instantly each time, I resorted to just getting the lead line over his neck.

It is not very secure, but he begrudgingly allowed me to force his return using that method, getting him back through the gate again and inside the pasture. It took some effort to relax my energy by the time I made it back to the paddock for Cayenne. She was her usual angelic self, and with the horses all together in the north pasture, I could focus on facilitating the excavating.

DSCN2412eIt was a joy watching the skill of the operator, Andrew, as he worked to create the gently sloping channel across the width of the south grazing pasture.

Now I have a time-sensitive need to get some grass seed planted. It’s so close to too late in the season that I had given up thinking about that part of the project. However, the weather prediction indicates there could still be enough time to get some growth.

Anything that starts growing now will be helpful come spring, when the flowing water could cause significant erosion if we don’t do anything.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2014 at 6:00 am

Edge Straightening

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Fall has arrived! That means it’s time for everything apple and pumpkin.

It may not be my officially assigned duty, but it is the moral thing to do. Cyndie baked apple crisp yesterday, and I instantly took it upon myself to do everything in my power to make sure the edges remain straight. With utmost diligence, I keep watch over the pan, taking action when necessary to assure the remaining edges, whenever a portion has been served, will always be straight and true.

It is a grueling responsibility, but for all the effort she put into creating such a work of art, it’s a way of showing my greatest respect for her craft.

I’m pretty sure the recipe she uses involves one and a half shovels of brown sugar, a pail of butter, a can of oatmeal, lots of cinnamon, and a couple of apples added to taste. It works.

Her recipe doesn’t make it any easier to keep the edges straight, but it does make the process of doing so somewhat less onerous.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2014 at 6:00 am

New Tricks

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Just like when I was a little boy, I have once again been inspired by my big brother, Elliott. He taught me new skills in tree trimming while he was here to rope climb into our trees and cut hanging dead limbs. Ever since that day, I have wanted to emulate the techniques he demonstrated for tossing a line over a high limb, and for handling ropes.

On a (now-regular) shopping errand to Fleet Farm for equipment and supplies, I picked up a weight from the fishing department and several hundred feet of small gauge woven line as my new method for getting a rope over a tree branch. I can now look back and laugh at the time I tied a heavy pad lock on the large rope we had, and repeatedly threw it aloft in attempt to snag a hanging branch. It was laborious and inefficient, although ultimately exhaustively successful. My new skill has made that exercise ancient history.

I was able to use the new weighted line, and technique learned from Elliott, to get a rope around the huge limb that came down in recent winds. The heavy end of that limb made it to the ground, but it was so big that most of it remained hung up in the branches of the neighboring trees. As I cut the lower portion with the chain saw, we wanted to pull the top over, getting it out of the branches in which it was held, hopefully without causing any additional damage. It worked like a charm.

DSCN2380eWith that task accomplished, I was able to practice the braiding technique Elliott showed me, gathering the rope in a method that allows it to quickly come undone next time it is needed. For some reason I haven’t figured out yet, I’m doing something that causes the ends to be uneven. Happily, it gives me an excuse to keep practicing. I’ve discovered I really enjoy handling rope.

Since my current tree branch trimming methods primarily involve keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground, my new rope skills caused me to reconsider the high-limb rope chain saw that I previously looked upon as having questionable viability. Comically, what I didn’t recall was that I already owned one.

While searching for a container to hold my throwing rope, I spotted a short bucket on the floor in my shop that was exactly what I wanted. Inside it were a pair of worn out gloves that deserved to be thrown out, several rags, an old ratcheting pruner that has been missing, and lo and behold, a rope chain saw I had never used and forgotten I had received as a stocking-stuffer gift (I think) some years ago.

Dispelling my previous doubts, I have discovered that it works GREAT! Thanks to the new tricks Elliott showed me, I was able to get that chain over a branch that was higher than I ever imagined I could reach from the ground and cut through it with relative ease.

Look out lofty dead tree branches… here I come.

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Written by johnwhays

September 21, 2014 at 10:04 am