Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘ATV

Fresh Snow

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While hiking with Delilah on our trails in the freshly fallen snow, I noticed this uncharacteristic specimen hanging about head-high on a tree.

Maybe the handiwork of some ingenious squirrel?

When we emerged from the woods and continued around the perimeter of our pastures, I caught sight of three of the horses standing out in the open. Only Mix appeared to have enough sense to stay under the overhang. I’ve never understood why horses choose to stand out in the rain or snow when they have the option of cover available.









Mix was still a little wet, so she hadn’t spent all of her time sheltered.

Thus far, all four horses appear to be coping well with the winter weather we have been experiencing, but the real test comes next. We are expecting a cold spell for a few days that threatens to go below zero (F) at some point.

I went out late last night to plow before the temperature dropped too much for comfort. Clearing snow in the limited illumination of the ATV headlights is an imperfect science. I’ll find out this morning if I missed some spots. Not that I plan to spend much time racing around on the four-wheeler to finish cleaning up when it’s wickedly cold out.

This is “stay indoors and work on jigsaw puzzles” weather.

If we are lucky, Cyndie will return from her mom’s today and it will get a little more festive around here. I’ve been alone since the day after Christmas and the isolation is starting to get old, especially coming on the heels of all the socializing of the holiday gatherings.

Cyndie and her brothers have been working to move furnishings to her mom’s new residence in the Friendship Village community and clean up and stage the old residence for filming by the realty company. That meant immediately stashing any and all Christmas decorations. I wasn’t surprised when Cyndie’s plan for a one-night overnight mushroomed into three nights away.

Too bad I can’t bring the horses inside the house to keep me company and get them out of the cold.

They’d probably prefer to go out and stand on the deck, anyway.



Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Snow Cope

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In a day of glorious sunshine yesterday, I labored to move what felt like an endless amount of snow. I succeeded in burying the Grizzly 660 ATV over the edge of the gravel drive around the hayshed. That forced me to get the diesel tractor started, but it wouldn’t be any help unless I could get chains mounted on the tires.

Those chains have been hanging in storage on nails in the back of the shop garage for two years and are so heavy that I can barely lift them. That is one reason I have found every possible reason to avoid using them for so long. Alas, necessity forces muscles to do what it takes and chains quickly became an afterthought while attention moved to dragging the ATV out of the snow and carefully maneuvering the Ford tractor to scoop snow into small mountains without getting it stuck, too.

By the end of the day, I was about halfway done with cleanup. Today I resume clearing snow off the eaves of the house roof and then shoveling away everything that drops onto the deck.

The horses appear to be coping well with the quick transition to deep snow cover and tracks reveal they are making gradual advances on excursions out into the hayfield and back pasture.

The snow up around the overhang is well-trodden so it doesn’t seem all that deep but frozen clumps clinging above hooves provide evidence of the depth they are negotiating out in the fields.

We expect a few more days with highs above freezing and moments of sunshine that will give the horses plenty of opportunities to dry out between their journeys out into the powder.

Coping with all the snow is what we do, even when it requires effort at the limits of available strength at any given moment.

Robustness r us.



Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2021 at 11:20 am

Makin’ Mud

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When the snow disappeared from the ground in our hayfield, the ruts from the tractor that had picked up the round bails during winter became clearly visible. Those tire tracks weren’t a concern for me until I could see the drainage swale water was following them instead of flowing straight in the direction we want.

Then I had an “aha moment.”

If the water was following tire tracks, I just needed to make some new tracks.

I decided to try using the ATV. Knowing it wasn’t as heavy as a big tractor, I accepted the chance it might not make the impressions I wanted, but it was safer than bringing out the diesel and getting it stuck in the mud. The surface is already too soft to be in the field with the big tractor.

With the plow blade still on the front, I added cement pavers to the basket on the back for added weight and headed into the field. Back and forth I drove, working to re-establish the track we want the water to follow.

The ATV, plow blade, and I got splattered with mud, even though the path was grass-covered, but I think I succeeded in creating a new preferred route to the curving ruts left by the hay bale tractor.

Now we just wait for the next dose of precipitation to see it work.



Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Necessity Invents

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I was running out of options, in regard to clearing snow. In addition to the advancing drifts narrowing the bottom half of our driveway, we are facing the possibility of more heavy, wet snow this coming weekend. If I don’t open up some space, the next snowfall would really be a pain to clear.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I needed to figure out a way to open more width along the rise where the drifting occurs.

It was tedious, but using the most available tool –our Grizzly plow– I decided to make a series of 45-degree pushes in little “bites” to move the bank out wider. In the first 20 feet, I got stuck twice, and needed to shovel my way out.

Getting hung up like that was not going to cut it, if I was going to finish this project all at once. I needed to alter my technique.

I decided to skip ahead to focus on the narrowest section first. If getting stuck was going to keep me from getting very far, I should at the very least widen the narrowest portion of the plowed driveway.

I can’t say it was any particular savvy on my part, other than recognizing what was happening, but my switch to a new spot arbitrarily reversed my direction so that I was cutting into the snow bank from the opposite angle. In so doing, I ended up pushing first with the skinny side of the plow blade.

It quickly became apparent that this orientation facilitated backing out, while coming from the other direction was getting me hung up on the wide end of the blade.

I didn’t get stuck once finishing the rest of that whole southern stretch of the driveway.

John – 1; Drifts – 0.

I win!






Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Plowed Snow

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I took a picture to show how far snow flies off the township snowplow blade. That’s what I wish my little ATV plow blade could do. That’s not possible now that the banks on either side of our driveway are taller than the blade can throw. Guess I should have gotten that snowblower after all.

In the distance, you can see the darker snow rubble swath is wider than the road itself. In the foreground, you can see how the trees have been plastered by the spray of snow.

The energy of that flying snow is what pops our mailbox off its base every time the amount of snow is significant.

Looking again at that photo taken last Friday, it is surprising how different our landscape now looks. Today we have at least twice the depth of snow compared to when that picture was taken.

When I opened the garage to leave yesterday morning, we had only received a mere 3 or 4 more inches of light powder overnight. It made for a pretty tense early part of my commute though, because traffic was kicking up the unplowed powder into vision-blocking chaos before I reached the interstate.

At one point, I had to slow to a stop, desperately hoping I wouldn’t get rear-ended by another vehicle before the view cleared up.

By the time of my drive home from work, the late-February sun was shining through and making a significant contribution toward clearing snow off the roadways.

Our record-setting February snow totals conclude today. The weather service is predicting March will start out where February left off. We are supposed to get “plowable” amounts of snow tomorrow.

Color me not surprised.



Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Long Day

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When I finished fixing the winch cable on the ATV after work Monday, Cyndie helped me get the plow re-mounted so I could clean up the driveway from the morning drift adventure. It had been a long day, so I made short work of the task and headed inside to warm up.

Cyndie asked if I thought it was late enough that the chickens would be in the coop yet. That’s code for, “Will you be the one to go down and close the chickens in for the night?”

I spotted them after I’d taken just a few steps off the driveway. They weren’t inside, they were on the manure pile in the compost area.

I suppose it was warmer footing than standing in the snow. Cyndie had mucked out the stalls earlier in the afternoon and the chickens seemed to take a liking to the fresh addition on top of the snow.

After taking that picture of them, I tried to get the hens to follow me to the coop. They didn’t fall for it, I think because to get there on the shoveled pathway, required starting in the opposite direction of the coop. I got the impression their little chicken brains weren’t processing the logic.

Heck, I’ve even seen the horses, wise as we know them to be, appear to get stuck when an escape involved going away from the direction they ultimately want to achieve.

I walked to the coop without them. To waste some time while waiting for them to figure out the escape route, I started breaking trails in the deep snow around the area. Plodding down a trail that heads toward the shop garage, it occurred to me to open a path between the coop and the compost piles, for the chickens to use. One pass through the deep snow didn’t do much in the way of packing it down to make it easy for bird feet, so this didn’t offer an immediate shortcut. It did, however, bring me up behind the chickens in a way that naturally moved them off the pile in the opposite direction from the coop.

Once I had them moving, I just kept the pressure on, and created a little conga line going down the path toward their nighttime shelter, with me leading from the rear. It was pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

They marched right up the modified ramp (post-possum-crashing incident) and I was able to slide the door shut behind them. Chickens were ready to roost.

It was an entertaining end to my surprisingly long day.



Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Sad News

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On our way home from dinner last week, we stopped Cyndie’s convertible to visit with our neighbor from across the road, who was out for a walk. In the middle of general chit-chat, she asked if we’d heard about the woman who lived behind their property.

We hadn’t.

The 68-year-old woman had been out in her pasture spraying weeds when her ATV rolled, ending up on top of her. When her husband finally discovered her, she was dead.

Just like that.

It’s stuck with me. One moment she was tending to a chore, and the next, her life was over.

Swanson was operating a four-wheeled ATV with a chemical sprayer attached to the back rack while spraying weeds on a hillside in a cow pasture. The ATV lost its footing, rolled down the hillside and came to rest on her. The Pierce County Medical Examiner pronounced her dead at the scene.

Any day, an unexpected accident could happen. Have I been complacent on our property? I probably have, but never feeling my life was at risk.

It’s sobering.

Be careful out there.

Yeah. I will.




Written by johnwhays

July 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

What Else?

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There is nothing else for me to write about today. Our everything this weekend is buried by this April snow storm event. Twenty four hours after the last picture I posted yesterday, the view doesn’t look all that different.

We got pummeled by windblown snow all day long. I think our total accumulation is somewhat reduced by periods of tiny, sleety snowflakes that dropped straight down from the sky between the blustering gusts of blizzard winds. The drifting snow on the ground is very dense.

It looks like a little more accumulation, viewed on the deck where I shoveled a path to the rack of firewood.

The classic comma spiral of the storm, visible on the national radar composite, is providing us a little break from heavy precipitation this morning.

Just like the eye of a hurricane, the calm won’t last.

We could yet have a significant accumulation blanketing us after the back side of the storm makes its way slowly east.

I can’t remember, did the ground-hog see his shadow or not, back in February?



Written by johnwhays

April 15, 2018 at 10:11 am

Prepping Machines

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It seems like it should be simple to just cut down a couple of trees and grind the branches into chips, but there are a lot of little steps to setting up and actually executing the tasks.

After work yesterday, I set about prepping some of the equipment, in hopes of priming this morning’s start on this weekend’s logging project. The chipper attachment was stored a couple levels deep in the shop garage. I needed to do some rearranging before I could get access to it.

The back-blade was still on the big tractor, so the first order of business was to find somewhere out-of-the-way to park that.

Except, that wasn’t actually the first order of business. I decided to move the Grizzly out, to make room for fueling up the New Holland, and in so doing, ended up driving the ATV down to the barn to hook up its trailer.

After that, I was finally ready to back Big Blue out of the garage and get rid of the back-blade.

Once that was done, I hooked up the chipper to the 3-point hitch and parked the rig in the barn.

Next, I started collecting equipment I would want to haul to the work site in the ATV trailer.

Chainsaw. Check.

Chain oil, mixed gas, wedge, face shield, leg protectors, ropes, come-along, chains, pole saw, log holder, hand saw, ax, spare ear muffs/hearing protection, ladder, rake, branch pruner… and if I can find it, a kitchen sink.

Still, there will end up being a need for some item that I forgot to bring. Honestly, one goal of bringing so much down there is so that we won’t need it. I’m not above using a little reverse psychology with the universe.

My hope is to have tedious setup tasks taken care of in advance to get full benefit of volunteer help for cutting limbs of felled sections of trees, feeding branches into the chipper, and cutting trunks into logs. If we are really productive, there will be the added chores of driving loads of woodchips away and dumping them, or hauling logs up to the woodshed.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity for hearty fellowship in the great outdoors and an outcome of safe and healthy success for all bodies involved, particularly the discs of my lower back.

I don’t want to get too greedy, but some time for good-natured banter around a fire with people’s favorite beverage after a day’s physical workout would be a fine outcome, too.

I’m just sayin’.



Written by johnwhays

December 1, 2017 at 7:00 am

Prudent Preparations

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I did salvage my pride on Sunday by getting out in the warmth to knock off a few more winter preparation steps. After getting the Grizzly back from the shop with fresh fluids and cleaned up brakes, it occurred to me that I had yet to install the new beefier cable on the winch. That’s a chore that would be much nicer to do when it’s not freezing cold outside.

The primary use for that winch is to raise and lower the snowplow blade. That involves a heavy repetition of back and forth on a very short length of the cable. The original was old and brittle which made it susceptible to breaking, which it did, frequently –almost always at an essential time while clearing snow.

Fixing that usually involves working in the cold and after dark. A broken cable is always an unwelcome incident, but at a critical point in plowing, the impact is intensified.

When all else fails, get a bigger cable.

I hadn’t been working long when the chickens showed up to see if my project involved anything they could eat. I’m guessing they were disappointed by not finding anything. I stepped into the shop for a second and when I returned, there was a fresh pile of chicken sh*t on my pliers.

That’s a skill, dropping it so squarely on the tiny surface of the tool. I was duly impressed and totally disgusted.

With the new cable installed and ready to lift the plow, I moved on to the swapping out the summer tires for the winter set. That beast is now ready for the snow season.

Before we even get to that, the ATV and its trailer will be put to use this weekend transporting chainsaws, ropes and gear down by the road. It will also be hauling loads of cut wood back up to the wood shed, and picking up the inevitable forgotten tools that were missed the first and second trips of the day.

If a winch and heavy-duty cable turns out to be needed, it’ll be ready for that, too.

I just hope the more aggressive winter tires don’t completely chew up the not-so-frozen ground. I didn’t think to prepare for top soil that has been re-melting in the late November 60° afternoons.



Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2017 at 7:00 am