Relative Something

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

Archive for July 2018

Wondering If

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While trimming the remaining grass around all the pine trees over the weekend, three things triggered a new hypothesis about our ongoing loss of red pines. I’m wondering if it might have something to do with girdling from the trees being root bound.

I did some searching to see if being root bound might contribute to the way so many of our red pines are coming out of the ground at about a 45° angle before eventually turning to grow straight up, but didn’t find any hint of that connection.

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Then, while writing to describe my latest discoveries to our regional DNR Forester, it struck me that the eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow that fell in May of 2013 tipped many of our trees, but not all of them. In fact, mainly the red pines leaned over. If they were planted without proper attention to the roots, well, a root bound tree would have a hard time standing straight under that kind of load in the wet ground.

While laboring to walk through the cut growth with the power trimmer on my shoulder, I stumbled over an old stump of a long-dead tree. I was curious about an obvious circular root growth, but just tossed it to the side.

Later, while trimming beneath pine branches, I caught a brief glimpse of a girdling root on one tree which triggered a memory of long ago, when we lost a tree in Eden Prairie to root girdling. It led me to go back and reclaim that old stump for a picture, finally thinking I might be on to something.

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It occurred to me that I should also take a picture of the girdling root I had just spotted on that live tree. I retraced my path to find it again, but to no avail.

I was hot, tired, sweaty, and covered with weeds and grass shrapnel. I didn’t have the energy or mental acuity to execute an intelligent search. I am confident it is out there somewhere, unless maybe it was just an optical illusion that my mind used to help guide me further along this theory I was concocting. I’ll allow for a possibility it was all in my head.

If I receive a response from our Forester that lends credence to my thinking, I’ll undertake a more organized research expedition through that grove of pines again.

I realized, in afterthought, that my tired searching was mainly focused on looking at the leaning red pines, in support of my hypothesis. Maybe the root I noticed had yet to cause a problem, and was on one of the trees that still looked just fine.

It all definitely has me wondering. Did these red pines have already compromised root systems when they were all planted? There are several stumps still in the back yard from trees I cut off at ground level after they died. I could always exhume those remains to collect a little more evidence.

Put that on the “someday” list. For now, I’m going to wait to see if our DNR Forester thinks my latest findings could possibly explain our red pines slowly dying, year after year.

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Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2018 at 6:00 am

Quickly Fixed

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The chickens finally did in the ramp of woven sticks leading up to their door into the coop. In trying to mend it, the outer braces let loose and I pretty much ended up rebuilding the whole thing.

Unfortunately, many of the old twigs had lost the necessary flexibility. They snapped before I could bend them into position. Cyndie showed up and helped scout some greener specimens among the random growth nearby.

Then she grabbed my camera and documented the process.

Luckily, there is no sound with the images, so my verbal frustration over the breaking sticks was not captured.

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Just like that, it is complete again. I asked the chickens to leave it alone this time.

I’ll let you know how well that works out.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

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Another Cut

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I’ve written about our frustration over waiting for our hay-field to get cut before the weeds had a chance to go to seed. Now that those fields have been cropped clean, my attention turned to knocking down the weeds and troublesome invasive plants growing rampant on the other side of our driveway.

When I finished mowing, I took a picture.

A day later, Cyndie showed me a photo album our friend Melissa shared with pictures from her visit, days earlier. I couldn’t resist grabbing Mel’s gorgeous image from a similar vantage point, taken before I had mowed.

It causes me a little regret, because the visual of the before/after doesn’t necessarily look like an improvement. There are a few butterflies that aren’t very happy with me, as well. I’m hoping they will find their way over to Cyndie’s other gardens where she has offerings that are desirable to both us and them.

As much as we love the natural look of our uncut field on the north side of our driveway, it contains problem plants that we don’t want migrating across to the hay-field we have been working to improve for years.

One future possibility we are considering is doing a prairie restoration. That process starts with a prescribed burn, which makes it a production that we can’t accomplish all on our own and will need a fair amount of planning and follow through to bring to fruition.

It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but it is involved enough that it won’t just occur on a whim.

Until then, we will continue to periodically cut down the growth as a way of controlling the weeds from completely taking over.

Sorry, butterflies.

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Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2018 at 10:02 am

Extreme Pruning

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I understand that there is a significant road right-of-way distance that the township is responsible for managing, but I didn’t think our low-traffic rural road warranted clearance as wide as a county road. Had I known they were going to do such extreme pruning to our road this summer, I wouldn’t have wasted a good part of a day doing a quaint version of the job myself this spring.

Back sometime in May I suppose it was, I had taken the pole-saw to the trees after a close call on my bike. When rolling down our driveway, I couldn’t see if there was anyone coming from up the hill until just as I reached the road. It didn’t allow time for a calm stop, if you know what I mean.

On Thursday afternoon, I started mowing the grass and came upon a very strange item obstructing my progress along our driveway. As I was picking it up, I saw Jackie driving in and I held up the shredded shrapnel of a leg-sized tree for her to see and gave a quizzical expression of “What the heck?”

She rolled down her window and told me there had been some serious work done along the road because there were pieces of trees all over our trail.

It surprised me a little, because they had already come by relatively recently to cut the weeds down like they do every year.

This time was different. For the first time since we’ve lived here, they came by with some monster machine that eats trees and spits the pieces out hundreds of feet away.

I would have loved to have been around to see the spectacle, except I don’t think there is a safe distance from which you could view it, based on the size of scary chunks of tree pieces that are now strewn surprisingly long distances away from the scene of the carnage.

They left the cottonwood trees, though. For now, anyway.

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I wouldn’t be surprised to discover they left them only because the size of those trees would require different equipment.

I’m a little sad that the “efficiency” of using a machine that chews up anything it touches ends up leaving so many shredded half-trees and tangles of branches. The front of our property looks like an advertisement for disarray and neglect.

I want to go cut this poor remnant to the ground.

Or, I suppose I could make a flat cut at the top and balance a stone on it, for accent.

It looks like they left rabbit ears on it. Maybe I should carve a bunny face.

If I could reach as high as their machine, I’d cut off the 18-inch shredded limb stumps on the side of the cottonwoods, the way a proper branch pruning is supposed to be done for a healthy tree.

Maybe their not doing so is a clue about the future of those cottonwoods.

Time will tell.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2018 at 9:50 am

On Schedule

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The first egg appeared yesterday!

Right on schedule, per our calculations. Melissa and Sarah were visiting and Cyndie took them down to check the coop, just in case. The fact that they were present to witness the occasion was fitting, in that last year they were all up at the lake together when I reported the appearance of our first egg from that flock.

The Williams girls are our good luck charms.

The chickens were being very social while the ladies played a few rounds of ladder golf on the driveway. Instead of being intimidated by the flying obstacles, the birds took great interest in the colorful orbs.

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Maybe they thought the golf balls looked like eggs.

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Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2018 at 7:21 am

Momentum

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Words on Images

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More Bales

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With all those fat windrows laying in our fields, there was more than enough for us to take a wagon load of bales for ourselves. It took a little creative arranging to fit them in the shed, with our recently purchased bales already stacked to the ceiling, but we found a way to make them fit.

Jody successfully completed baling the last of the windrows, leaving our fields with the clean look of being freshly cut.

Cyndie climbed the mountain of bales in the wagon and heaved them out for me to stack.

We won’t need to go to a gym to get a workout, that’s for sure.

There’s nothing like putting in a full day of work and then following that up with an intense effort of throwing more than a hundred bales in the July heat.

Since we wanted to keep bales from our back pasture, I had some time to kill while Jody finished filling one wagon with bales from the hay-field. I took advantage of the time to turn and rearrange our composting manure piles.

While I was nearing completion of that task, Cyndie called me to meet a neighbor who volunteered to take our miscellaneous metal scrap that was slowly accumulating. That was a wonderful happenstance, allowing me to clean out a pile of ugly metal trash that we’d piled up over the five years we’ve been here.

It was a rewarding three-for-one night of accomplishments that left little time for much else.

Dinner didn’t happen until 8:30 p.m., and bedtime was a little later than usual, but we were buoyed by the satisfying accomplishments we’d achieved.

Once again, we are feeling happy to be done with stacking bales for a while. This time, that joy should last for a much longer span of weeks.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2018 at 6:00 am