Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘composting manure

Instant Aging

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I have developed an unmistakable hunched-over gait that instantly adds years to my appearance. Even though I have been able to carry on with a wide variety of chores, my recent disc flare up has slowed my motions dramatically.

I didn’t have too much discomfort mowing the lawn on the small tractor. I did mostly okay using the power trimmer to cut back the overgrowth along the trail outside our southern fence line. I raked. I used the pitchfork to turn composting manure.

Oh, the chickens love that task. We uncover a lot of crawly insects when disturbing the compost piles. We do the scratching for them. They just show up to reap the rewards.

Funny how they turn those creepy bugs into eggs we find irresistibly delicious.

Regarding my difficulty with standing straight after I’ve been sitting for a while, I’ve got a hunch. Without actually being able to see how the degenerating disc is causing me pain, I can only guess using the sensations I feel.

For the most part, there is nothing more than a dull sense that something is amiss. I never know what movement or gesture is going to result in the feeling of electric shock, when I presume the bulging disc suddenly reaches a nerve.

It seems to me that my body takes it upon itself to protect me from the possibility of the shock by locking up the muscles in the vicinity. This happens unconsciously, and when I try to stand up, those frozen muscles are no help. The remaining muscles have to do all the work, and my movements look incredibly labored.

Eventually the rest of my back, neck, and shoulders become stressed and fatigued from essentially fighting against the frozen lower back muscles that are trying to protect me from the feeling of being stabbed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy my body is trying to save itself from the stabbing shocks, but it reaches a point where the protection is as bad as the injury.

Today, I have new respect for the stilted shuffle of an old body. It’s probably busy protecting itself best as it knows how.

I’m hoping the continued addition of yoga strengthening and stretching positions will provide added information for my body to reign in the extreme reaction of seizing up completely.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for aging to come on instantly, but regaining youthfulness requires a lot of effort over a relatively long period of time?

I fail to see the harmonious balance of nature in that.

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Written by johnwhays

September 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

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

Gettin’ There

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Well, in case you haven’t noticed, today is June 14th. It just so happens, the Tour of Minnesota biking and camping week starts on June 15th. Holy COW, that’s tomorrow! I suppose I better start getting ready to go.

Today is my last day at the day-job before starting this annual biking adventure. After that, it’s a quick stop for some supplies, a rush home to get some grass cut, and then it will be time to start packing.

Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Bike, check. Helmet, check. Bike shoes, check. As long as I pack those essentials, I will be functional. The rest is just superfluous accoutrements.

Okay, maybe I’ll bring a camera, and some clothes, a sleeping pad, sunscreen lotion, and ibuprofen. But that’s it. That’s all I need.

Oh, and a toothbrush. Spare shoes. A raincoat. A hat.

I found our old original Foxtail toy. I’m bringing the Foxtail

After dinner yesterday, in order to check off a couple of chores from my pre-departure list, I pulled out the diesel tractor and attached the loader. Cyndie and I transferred three large piles of composted manure to a remote location, to provide plenty of open space in the compost area before I go.

Whenever I was off dumping a full bucket, the chickens would show up to check out what Cyndie was doing. I could see them scamper away each time I returned. Eventually, I paid them a visit on foot to offer my regards.

They are just starting to show hints of what they will look like when they mature and start producing eggs.

As of last night, we still have all twelve birds. This kind of success is what breeds our willingness to keep trying the unencumbered free-range life for them.

After they start getting hunted again, our thoughts will change, I’m sure.

Speaking of them getting hunted… while the world was all caught up in the escapades of the downtown St. Paul raccoon that scaled a 23-story building in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we had our very own varmint contemplating a climb up the side of our 1-story coop.

I admit, it wasn’t nearly as exciting, but it made for a cool capture on the trail cam.

You can almost read his mind, as he computes the potential reward of maybe gettin’ up there.

I wonder if I should be electrifying the hardware cloth that covers the windows. I’m hoping there is no reward whatsoever should he or she actually decide to make that climb.

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Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2018 at 6:00 am

Clutter Rearranging

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With the weather finally making a turn for the better, yesterday Cyndie spoke about possibly cleaning up in the garage to find gardening tools. The May labyrinth Peace Walk is only two weeks away, and she wants to trim back the winter-kill on the plants before the big day.

I spent the morning rearranging the gigantic winter manure pile in the paddock, while she brushed the shedding horses as they munched hay. They are definitely ready to be done with their winter coats.

I hope that means they know the cold temperatures are done for the season.

After lunch, we started poking around in the garage. One thing led to another and pretty soon we found ourselves into a full-fledged spring cleaning effort. The kind that uncovers boxes of things that haven’t been touched since we moved in.

I finally got around to sweeping sawdust off the yard tools stand which had been there since 2014 when we had carpenters build the storage room in our basement. That’s four years of not bothering, for those keeping score.

They did the majority of sawing in the garage, and everything got covered in dust, but that tool stand was right in the line of fire and was buried. With all the rakes, shovels, pruners, loppers, and brushes hanging on the portable stand, the sawdust was deemed harmless and not worth the time.

My Achilles heel of order happens to be flat surfaces. After much of the garage clutter had been pulled out and sorted, Cyndie took advantage of our momentum and went after the workbench in the back corner that is a catch-all to a monumental degree.

Old fluorescent light bulbs, some associated fixtures, screws and brackets left over from purchased assemblies, a broken staple gun, boxes, bags, gloves, old shoes, metal rulers I didn’t know I had, an electronic work light I don’t remember.

It’s great to dig into all of this stuff, but the questions that lead to things landing on that flat surface in the first place still remain. Do we throw away or keep? If we keep, where to put it that will be of any value to us in the future? If we throw, how to dispose of the electronic or hazardous items than can’t go in our weekly trash bin?

Unfortunately, way too much of the stuff that we cleaned out of the garage yesterday made its way down to the shop, where the flat surfaces are now doubly cluttered.

The house garage now looks pretty nice, but it wasn’t really a great clutter busting effort in the end.

It was clutter rearranging.

But it’s a start.

We need to go prune some plants in the labyrinth. The shop clean up will be a project for another day, hopefully sooner than in four years.

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Almost Spring

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We’ll get there eventually. In a spattering sleet yesterday, I finished toiling away on the giant winter’s-worth pile of manure in the paddock to stir some fresh oxygen into the middle where there are signs of productive microorganism activity. The chore has been on hold, awaiting enough of a thaw to make reasonable progress possible.

On Thursday, the temperature reached 50°(F) under a gray sky. It was almost enough to inspire hope, except the forecast threatening another serious blast of winter wind and snow loomed large enough hold us fast in the beat-down of prolonged Arctic conditions.

I took a picture out the front door on Thursday afternoon, then again on Friday morning in a downpour of graupel, and finally, an hour ago.

They tell us this is just the beginning. Oh, joy.

The calendar says spring, but the weather just laughs and says, “Whatever.”

I’ll say, “Almost.”

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Written by johnwhays

April 14, 2018 at 8:56 am

Final Step

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It starts out as luscious green grass. The horses eat it and their bodies process it. They spread it on the ground for me to scoop up and shape into big piles. In the piles, microorganisms take action and the temperature climbs to around 160° (F). Eventually, things settle down and the pile cools.

At that point, it’s ready for use feeding growing things which puts that luscious green back where it came from at the start. The final step is loading some bags for sharing our wealth with others.

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My project yesterday was a little more involved than usual after the chickens showed up to offer assistance. Their version of helping seems to always involve getting as much in the way as they possibly can. I tried negotiating with them, but it seems as though they don’t understand English.

Compost work was interrupted by lunch, after which our attention shifted to the north pasture. With Cyndie assisting, we pulled the posts with a chain and the loader bucket of the diesel tractor, which cleared the way for me to mow the overgrown field.

Well, not exactly. The evergreen trees in that field have gotten so big, the tractor doesn’t fit between many of them anymore. It becomes a maze of weaving around groups of trees that are often too close together to provide easy weaving.

It was certainly more trouble than I could manage, in terms of getting the field to look decently mowed. I did achieve a wonderful version of the ‘bad haircut.’

The night ended with a small setback, as the chickens made their way into the tree over the compost piles again before we could entice them to the coop. It seems as though the training for that may not have a final step, but will be a repeating exercise for some time to come.

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Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Dust Bathing

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While I was busy sprucing up the property, the chickens were sprucing up themselves with a rousing dust bath yesterday afternoon. Apparently, two of them had simultaneous interest in the exact same spot of sandy ground. If it hadn’t been for their two different colors, I wouldn’t have been able to tell where one left off and the other started.

The three of them were pretty cute in their companionship earlier in the day when I was turning the piles of compost. They would climb up on the pile I was working on, startling a little bit each time I tossed another scoop on the heap. Not intending to alarm them, I would switch to a different pile to work, after which they would migrate over to help me on that pile.

After a few hours of compost management, I pulled out the Grizzly with our towable grader/rake and did some laps in the round pen to disrupt the uninvited weedy grasses that love taking root in the sand. Maybe the chickens will take a liking to the newly raked sand over there.

Finally, I cranked up the lawn tractor to mow the yard and all the nooks and crannies from the house to the road.

I feel ready to return to the day-job. The next big task demanding attention is the labyrinth. With Cyndie reduced to one working arm, that garden has been mostly neglected. It is something I can probably do after work one of these nights, if I have any energy for the project. The grass and weeds have gotten tall and thick, so it won’t be a quick and easy job.

When that is completed, I need to get after the north pasture, where Cyndie has already removed the fence webbing. I want to pull the T-posts that remain standing and then knock down the shoulder-high growth with our brush cutter. That will be an adventure in mowing what you can’t see.

Sure hope the chickens stay out of that field.

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