Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘brush cutter

Part Way

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I made it part way through doing a thorough job of re-leveling the gazebo frame when my patience for the project ran out and I resorted to doing a less-than-perfect, but good enough wrap up to call it done. Funny how the perspective changes when the limited hours in a day are slipping away and the cost/benefit assessment provides a justification for aborting a plan.

Only time will tell whether or not it was a worthy choice. In the short-term, we are well satisfied with our progress. The shaded platform is ready for use.

With that done, we did turn our attention to using the loader bucket to remove a significant portion of the oldest composting manure. These were piles that had gone cold due to no longer actively composting. Interestingly, of the three piles we tended to, two of them retained a lot of moisture and one was surprisingly dry.

The dry one proved to be suitable for rodent housing and it appeared we disturbed a momma mouse in the process of giving birth. While Cyndie was at the pile discovering that, I had driven off with a full bucket and spotted a large mouse scrambling to and fro on the mechanisms of the loader arms.

It was a little like trying to drive a car with a bee flying around you. It was pure luck that I didn’t bash into the side of the barn while backing up as I focused on trying to get the dang critter to jump off the bucket and not run up toward my position.

He skittered over to an opening at the end of one of the loader arms, so I lifted the bucket high to slide the mouse out, but I don’t know if it is actually open all the way through. I never saw where he came out, or maybe he’s still in there.

It’s the kind of mini-drama that we are growing accustomed to, and as a result, we tend to just shrug these encounters off and carry on with the task at hand.

All manner of creatures can be found taking advantage of the spaces we create. They probably see our occasional intrusions on their luxurious accommodations in a similar way we look at hazardous weather. It happens. You clean up after it and get on with life.

Mowing the fields dislodges a lot of crawling and slithering things. Last time out, the prevalent sighting was a leaping creature. Several large, long-legged frogs were disturbed by the big wheels and high RPM roar of the tractor. I’m pleased to be able to say I didn’t witness any unfortunate encounters with the whirring blades of the brush cutter.

There are still plenty of other compost piles for the rodents to take up residence. Better there than in our house. Inside, they have to deal with a storm called Pequenita. When that happens, we have to deal with watching where we place our feet in the morning.

It’s such a glamorous life we lead.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

Candle, Burning

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Ends, both.

I’m gaining some sense of what life is like for a lot of the farmers around here. Most of them whom we have come to know have non-farming jobs in addition to the crop and livestock work they do.

My day-job has gotten so intense, I’m puttin’ in hours today, even though it’s Friday, a day I don’t usually go in. At the same time, our ranch work is peaking, with the unbelievable spring growth about doubling the size of green things every two days.

The second I got home on Wednesday, I hopped on the borrowed John Deere lawn tractor and struggled till dusk to knock down the too long and too thick grass that hadn’t been cut since the old Craftsman engine popped a gasket two weeks ago.

Yesterday, same routine, different tractor. I walked in the door from work, stripped off the clean clothes and donned the grubs to crank up the brush cutter on the diesel. It was dry enough to cut the hay-field. Not for hay, but for the sake of mowing down weeds before they can mature.

We plan to mow that field short all summer long, hoping to give the grass a better chance at beating out the weeds. It’s a simple method that we have chosen in place of applying chemical weed killers. Just requires a little more patience, and an alternate source of hay bales for a year. We think we have both.

What I don’t have is, enough sleep.

Luckily, I’ve got incredible support from Cyndie, the energizer bunny. She is doubling her efforts to tend to the trimming up and down fence lines, while caring for all the animals, maintaining the labyrinth, buying supplies, Avenging poison ivy, watering and feeding our transplanted maple tree, and keeping me indescribably well fed.

Speaking of caring for our animals, I caught a picture of her the other day, giving Legacy a massage. That was about the same time I spotted the chickens hanging out on the bottom board of the paddock fence.

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That’s all I have time for. There’s work to be done!

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Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2017 at 6:00 am

Weeds Begone

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It took twice as long as I expected to finish cutting down the 4 acres we call our hay-field yesterday, but I was trying to do a very thorough job of removing the primary invader, Queen Anne’s Lace from sight. The biennial crop is the most visible evidence that we aren’t growing high quality grass hay out there yet.IMG_iP1562e

There is some grass there, and it has become obvious to us from the regular mowing we have done around the labyrinth and along the fence lines, that doing so will help the grasses and hurt the weeds.

Right now, we are thinking about just keeping this mowed short for a full year. We may have some additives applied to the soil, and add desireable grass seed over the top, before getting back to baling it again the year after.

The project was almost over before I had even completed the first pass along the fence line. For no apparent reason the shear bolt suddenly gave out and the blades stopped cutting.

We had waited the entire summer to have this field cut, and when it didn’t happen any other way, we decided to finally just chop it down ourselves. This interruption had me wondering if maybe we were making the wrong decision, but I had a replacement bolt and it was an easy fix, so I didn’t let that problem stop me for long.

When it became clear that it was going to take all afternoon to complete the task, Cyndie was kind enough to bring me lunch in the field. It felt just like farming!

When I got to the last little strip to be mowed, I wanted to include Cyndie in the moment of achievement. She was serving the horses their evening feed at the barn, so I whistled to get her attention as I was lining the tractor up for the final cut.

IMG_iP1565eCHShe heard the second of my shrill chirrups, and was looking to ascertain whether I was in need of her assistance while I was backing into position. I was intending to point out that it would be the last pass and I just wanted her to share in the joy of accomplishment, when the blades of the mower started clattering on a rock I hadn’t noticed.

The sound of mower blades hitting obstacles always tends to create a panic response. I stomped on the clutch and lifted the mower. My big moment of victory was dashed by a dose of humble pie. In a comical turn, now she did think something was wrong.

She hollered something to me, but I couldn’t hear her words over the rat-tat-tat of the diesel engine idling. After several fruitless tries, we walked toward each other until I heard she was asking if I had my camera with me so she could capture the moment.

We laughed over the fact I hadn’t hit a single thing all day, but just as I was hoping to get her attention, …clank. I had already mowed over that rock without incident in the other direction. Backing across it on the slope was a different story.

She took the pictures of my final successful pass.

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Did you see that bird she captured in the last shot? It looks as happy as me over having our field freshly cut.

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Written by johnwhays

August 6, 2016 at 9:13 am

Unchecked Growth

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It had been a while since I made it down to trim the fence line along the south border of our back pasture where it runs through a grove of trees. Some of the weeds were as tall as me. Yesterday, I made it back down there to finish what I started on Friday, before being interrupted to get hay.

The task was made a bit more tedious than I wished by the presence of some monster thistle stalks, which defy the nylon line whipping away at it. More times than I can count, I had to stop and remove the spool from the trimmer to re-feed the line.

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When I made it through to the end of those trees, it was time to mow the lawn. I didn’t want the growth in the yard to get out of hand. However, there were other influences at play which hampered my completion of the job. The mower engine began to balk. Instead of trying to analyze that situation, I parked the mower and returned my attention to the unchecked growth along the far fence line.

I pulled out the diesel tractor with the brush mower to cut down pasture weeds and then moved to the stressful task of mowing between the fence and a drop off to the drainage ditch, a space that is barely wide enough to fit. I also needed to navigate driving down into that ditch without tipping the tractor in order to knock down the growth that can obstruct the runoff we have worked so hard to facilitate.

Succeeding, with only a couple scares where my weight was shifted to the brake when what I really wanted was the clutch under the other foot, I had the worst of the runaway growth on the far fence line knocked down and the ditch opened up just in time for last night’s wild, windy and rainy thunderstorm.

There are leaves and tree parts shrapnel scattered everywhere this morning!

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2016 at 9:46 am

Tractor Time

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Yesterday I put in a double shift, first working the day-job and then immediately after getting home, hopping on the tractor to knock down weeds in our north pasture with the brush cutter. No rest for the weary.

IMG_iP0874eFortunately, time on the tractor can be meditative, especially if I am on a task that doesn’t require my full attention. Unfortunately, yesterday’s task was not one of those times. The fence around the north pasture is a temporary one of t-posts with webbed poly-tape fencing strung between them. It is not something I want to touch with the tractor or mower.

I made contact twice. Oops. Luckily, only minor, repairable damage. The second time, though, I needed to stop and climb down to pull the post out of the way so I could get moving again, without doing further damage.

In addition to needing to be careful of the fence, I also had to navigate a significant slope next to the driveway, as well as many pine trees throughout the field.

I honestly didn’t get much in the way of meditating done during yesterday’s tractor time. At least the field looks much better now without all the giant weed growth sprouting every which way.

I took Delilah for a walk in the field after I was done and in no time she located a small critter that had lost its hiding place. Speaking of hiding places, there were a couple of flattened spots that looked like a few deer had been napping near the middle of the field. With how tall the grass and weeds had grown, I’m sure the deer were well hidden while they were doing some meditations of their own.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2015 at 6:00 am

Animal Antics

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I’ve been working a few days a week again at the old day-job, at a time when there is much that needs attention at home. The grass seems to double in height every 2 or 3 days in some places. I swear I could mow somewhere every single day and never run out of things to cut.

I finished clearing the lines of electric fence yesterday, but it took jumping into grubby clothes the instant I got home and leaving Delilah in her kennel a little longer than I like. I worked until I used up the gas in the tank and then headed up to rescue the dog and we went to the barn to feed the horses.

DSCN3475eNormally, we pick up their feed pans as soon as they finish, but I just left them and walked Delilah out into the pasture. After unclipping her leash to let her explore freely, I stepped out of a gate and restarted the brush cutter. My progress was slowed a bit by trying to frequently locate Delilah and assure myself she was behaving well.

I was trying to accomplish two things simultaneously, having her get some time running freely to burn off her energy, while also working to finish the trimming. She did a great job of entertaining herself. I noticed that she had made her way back into the paddock area, where the horses were calmly idling.

Delilah grabbed one of her favorite horse toys, an inflated heavy rubber ball with a big handle, and began running around shaking it like she does when I am there attempting to pull it away. The next time I glanced up, I couldn’t immediately spot her. Just as I began to fear she may have crawled under a fence and run off, I realized she was close to one of the horses. From my distance, I couldn’t tell which of the chestnuts it was, but probably either Hunter or Cayenne.

I kept my eyes on them, with Delilah mostly obscured by the wood rails of the fence, concerned that either of them might act out unfavorably. Suddenly Delilah was trotting away, shaking the ball. It looked to me like she was trying to get the horse to play with her in the way that I do. It was pretty cute, but the horse chose not to engage.

As the sun slid behind some low hanging clouds and evening settled in, I successfully finished trimming the last of the electric fence. During one of the several refueling stops that were needed, I had run Delilah up to the house and put out dinner for her and Pequenita. I was able to finish with Delilah in the house, which sped things back up a bit.

As I was dragging myself back to the shop with my arms aching under the load of the trimmer and gas tank, I spotted Dezirea oddly walking through a small batch of young trees near the far fence line. My first thought was to question the strange route, but instantly I got the impression she was using them to scratch her itches.

Then a branch cracked and Cayenne leaped into a panic gallop to get away. Our horses really seem to startle over the sound of a stick breaking. Her reaction spooked Dezirea, who then bolted out from the trees. That got Legacy’s attention, and he galloped after them.

Just as quickly, they all stopped, satisfied they had successfully averted a potential predator, and went back to grazing. I felt like I had pulled a double shift, but having the animals as entertainment while I worked went a long way toward offsetting my day’s-worth of fatigue.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2015 at 6:00 am

Risky Behavior

with 3 comments

I engaged in some risky behavior yesterday, and it was thoroughly pleasing. Regardless the likelihood of exposing myself to the dreaded oil of the poison ivy plant, I did some heavy trimming with our Stihl brush cutter. There is something incredibly satisfying about accomplishing the clean and trimmed look that this tool enables. All those edges that I can’t reach when mowing with our lawn tractor are so quickly dispatched.

Ian will know just what I’m talking about. It was when Cyndie and I were visiting him in Portugal that I discovered what can be accomplished with a brush cutter. There is immediate visual reward for the work and it creates a wonderfully clean landscape.

I needed to get after several areas, but I was primarily needing to clear our fence lines. When things grow tall enough to make contact with our electric fence, they start to put a load on it and that brings the voltage down. I didn’t have enough time to finish the whole chore, but at least I took care of the most visible portions first, so our place looks freshly maintained.

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Still plenty left to do

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Looks great when it’s done!

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There were only a few times when I thought I spotted what could possibly have been poison ivy, but I was shredding away and chose not to stop and try to confirm. Forging ahead, I just made a point to be very careful about what I touched while I worked. When I stopped and came in for lunch, I brushed off as best possible with my gloves, and then washed my arms and hands thoroughly with cold water.

I’ll know in a day or two if I was exposed.

After lunch, at the high point of sunshine for the day, I got up close and personal with one of our very visible known patches of poison ivy, and sprayed it with a new organic weed killer that I had ordered online. Just like the description I received from someone who recommended this brand, the leaves began to wilt within hours. So far, it appears to be working dramatically well.

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I felt a bit embarrassed over how much pleasure I was getting out of seeing that the weed killer was working so well and the plants were suffering, but the risk of being embarrassed is something I am more than willing to accept.

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Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2015 at 6:00 am