Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘cutting grass

October Realities

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There is a feast underway over the decaying roots of the tree we recently removed from the small paddock.

If any of those mushrooms are edible, I don’t think they interest the horses. Our horses chew wood, but not so much the squishy fungi that feed on wood.

We are enjoying a summery October so far. I tried mowing the grass one last time yesterday. That’s the second time this fall I hoped I was cutting for the last time.

It’s a pain because I want to cut the grass short in preparation for the coming snow season but then it keeps growing and gets so long it is hard to cut short again. I took extra time to avoid excessive clippings laying around and also cut at an odd angle to offer the turf a break from the natural ruts forming where the tractor repeatedly rolled throughout most of the cutting season.

It looks pretty good today. Now if the growth would just go dormant, that’d be just great.

Just to push the universe in that direction, I drained the oil from the engine after I was done mowing. I’d love it if I could also drain the gas and park the machine until next spring.

I was hoping to be fastidious about the oil change and was very pleased to be able to drain it while the oil was hot. With pan in place, I attached the extending hose to the not-very-reliable plastic drain apparatus and pulled the piece open. A little oil leaked onto the frame and then the extending hose came loose and dropped into the pan of hot oil.

While rushing to try getting the hose reattached, the entire plastic piece pulled off and oil got all over the frame and ran along the edge to drip almost beyond the pan below. That had me racing to wipe oil while adjusting the pan while inadvertently getting the rag in the primary stream of draining oil.

Fastidious, it was not.

It didn’t really wreck my mood because that had already been smashed by having gotten the rubber clipping deflector on the end of the deck caught against a fence post on an incline and wrenching it out of position. If I would have simply stopped to get off and reposition the tractor, calamity could have been averted. But, no, I forged ahead and suffered the consequences of my bullheadedness.

Maybe all the bullheadedness of so many people refusing to accept reality is rubbing off on me.

I’m going to be able to clean up spilled oil, I’ll figure out a way to fix the clippings deflector, and I will strive to be open-minded about the possibility our grass will continue growing in October 2021.

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Several Things

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First of all, while I was on the bike trip, Cyndie contacted pest removal professionals to get rid of the raccoons that have made themselves so at home around here lately. Thus far, three have been captured and two remain at large.

Traps are set and baited in hope of getting the last of them.

Yesterday morning, while Cyndie was tending to the chicks, one of the Rockettes got outside of the fencing. In its tizzy to get back on the safe side of the netting, it found an opening that the raccoons had made the night before. The thing was, though, the opening was to the Buffalo gals/guy side of our divider.

Cyndie decided that was enough excuse to open the barrier and merge the two broods a little sooner than we had planned.

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It ended up being a kerfuffle-free mixer-upper. The older Buffalo brood had already scoured their courtyard free of any green growth but the Rockettes hadn’t, so the big draw was grass. There were some occasional knowing rearrangements and relocations of proximity by each group that showed they are keenly aware of who is or isn’t a member of each brood, but just as many moments when they behaved with obliviousness about each other.

Later in the day, I was trying to get the grass cut before predicted afternoon rain showers showed up. Just as I was nearing the usual point where I stop and refuel, there was a new gust of wind that ushered in much cooler air. Dark clouds were rolling in and some sprinkles started to fall.

I needed to park the lawn tractor in the shop garage with haste so I could hustle over to the deck on the backside of the house to fetch my tent before it got soaked by real raindrops. I had set it up there to sweep it clean and let it dry in the sun.

This is what I found when I arrived:

Oops. That gust I felt had picked up the tent and tossed it over the grill and dropped it upside down into the landscape pond. So much for drying it out.

Now the tent is airing out in the garage at the house.

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2021 at 6:00 am

Trimmer Replaced

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Much as I wrestle over making purchasing decisions, this one was easy-peasy. When Cyndie received the call from the hardware store service desk, the list of damaged parts was so long, she couldn’t remember them all. Cylinder, piston, shaft… Can you say, ‘catastrophic failure?’

She asked what the cost of repair estimate was. She asked what a new trimmer costs.

It was cheaper to buy a new one.

They didn’t have any stock of the exact replacement model, which is on backorder with an unknown date of arrival. However, there was exactly one unit in stock of the next model up. The additional cost put things equal to trying to rebuild the old engine.

The decision didn’t get any harder to make.

Cyndie had them put our name on that trimmer and hustled her way to River Falls to pick it up.

In the nick of time. We are already behind in keeping up with the runaway spring growth of grass in the labyrinth, along our trails, and under our fences. Unfortunately, he or she who isn’t the one using it has to suffer the endless droning of the precious small gas engine.

If I time it right, I can be under ear-muffs and mowing on the lawn tractor while Cyndie is trimming.

Of course, the glorious quiet when we finally stop the engines is always a little sweeter when the moment arrives. That adds incentive to trim quickly and make short work of the miles in desperate need of being cut.

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Last Cut

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I know this cat named Pequenita who is highly skilled at showing up for scratches at the precise time that I want to use both of my hands to type on my laptop computer. She seems to know that I can’t resist her demands for attention.

Today, we head to Edina for the weekend to participate in Friswold family activities surrounding a graveside memorial service for Fred on Saturday. Please keep Cyndie and her family in your hearts and beam your love when you think of them.

In preparation for being away from home for the weekend, I jumped on the lawn tractor as soon as I got home from work yesterday afternoon to tackle the project of cutting the grass shorter than normal for the late-season mowing session. The short cut left a lot of grass clippings behind that I am going to need to sweep up.

In addition to the excessive clippings, the early cold snap and noticeably shorter daylight hours brought on dew that had me cutting some wet grass before I was through. The amount of grass stuck to the bottom of the mower deck was epic. I disconnected the mower from the tractor and struggled mightily to lift the deck for cleaning. It weighed a ton!

The whole project was a little too much for the short time I had available, so the finishing touches will come later. I still may end up needing to cut some areas another time before winter, but I’m hoping most of the mowing is now done for the season.

I’m at that point of wanting to use up the last of the gas in the mower before parking that tractor for the winter.

When I was cutting down by the labyrinth, I had to work around a couple of rocks that had tumbled from one of my recent precarious balance installations.

It’s all good fun until you neglect to pick up the fallen rocks. Those two have returned to ground level and interfered with grass cutting in the vicinity. Far be it from me to stop and get off the tractor to move them. I just forged ahead, cutting around the obstacles to keep going uninterrupted.

During our work down at the labyrinth last week, I took a picture of the center boulders and the miscellaneous additions scattered around them.

It wasn’t getting much attention during our sessions of adding rocks to the path borders, but it is the center point destination of the journey inward, after all.

The future star of the labyrinth garden, that maple tree we transplanted to the middle, will someday, long after I’m gone, tower over the paths.

Maybe by that time, the shade it will provide can dissuade the grass from growing so fast beneath its branches.

I will be happy if we’ve already made the last cut of labyrinth grass for the season. We will be making tracks in snow down there again before too long.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Wondering

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What would really happen if I didn’t listen to the sales pitch of every slick promotion? What if I didn’t have an answer for every question that I could possibly imagine? What if wearing a face mask in public was easy to do? Oh, wait. I know the answer to that one.

I wonder how many businesses, especially restaurants, will never reopen again after the shutdowns. Are we on the verge of economic calamity, or not? It’s hard to conceive of how much worse it will get before it starts to get better.

Does anyone really question the fact there are “haves” and “have nots?” In the face of that, think about how many times we can find ourselves a member of either one of those two designations for a variety of given situations.

Nothing is so simple that it can’t be seen in more than one way. There is nuance in everything.

I am pondering the possible difference in amount of work required if we would have cut the growth in our empty paddocks sooner and more often, versus waiting until now, when the growth is tall, thick, and laborious to bring down.

I am using the trimmer to provide plenty of clearance around our fences in order to simplify mowing the rest of it with the brush cutter behind the diesel tractor.

All the while, I am remembering how the horses were easily able to keep growth in these spaces reduced to almost nonexistent.

We could have horses and all the work that comes with caring for them or we have unbelievable growth of grass and weeds that I need to mow.

Honestly, we definitely prefer to have horses.

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2020 at 9:55 am

Autumn Mowing

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I don’t have any recollection of the lawn ever being so “June-like” this late in October. It felt totally strange yesterday to be cutting such long, thick, green grass with the air chilly and the sun at this uncharacteristic low angle.

In addition to the summery grass blades, the standing puddles of water left over from the recent rains were downright spring-like.

When I got done, the fresh-mowed lawn contrasted strangely against the golden hue of fall that the trees now provide for a backdrop.

It also seemed odd to be mowing the grass a few days after we had just received snow.

On my walk back to the house after I was done with chores for the evening, I stopped to take some pictures of the low sun beaming through the golden trees.

That carpet of leaves is a favorite of mine. I wish we could have layers of leaves that look like that as a ground cover, in place of lawn grass around our land.

Guess that means we would need to get busy transplanting more trees.

Spread the wealth!

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Making Decisions

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With everything around here growing at warp speed, now would be a really bad time to lose the services of our Stihl power trimmer. Isn’t there a law of probability about this?

While Cyndie was making headway against the grass jungle taking over the gazebo on Monday, the trimmer became “wobbly.” She discovered the main drive shaft tube had suffered a metal-fatigue fracture.

That’s not good.

I dropped it off for repair in the evening, but their backlog of work is running at two weeks. It’s scary to imagine not being able to trim for that many days.

Cyndie thinks we should buy another one, and I am hard pressed to argue. There have been many times when we both could be trimming at the same time.

Pondering this. Something about it doesn’t feel right. I’m driven to balance the logic of a cost-benefit analysis, a crystal ball vision of what our future is here, and that unsettling gut feeling about the expense. Then I need to deal with the fact there is no right or wrong answer in the end.

You know me and decision-making. It’s not my favorite thing to manage.

One thing that I’m glad that we weren’t relying on me to decide, yesterday we got the details from our neighbor about his plan for the hay-field. It makes total sense to me now.

While he was cutting on Monday night, he was listening to the weather forecast. The outlook for rain all day Thursday was holding strong, so he smartly stopped cutting any more than he thought he could get dried and baled by the end of today.

We received encouraging news from him about our fields. He said the grass is real thick underneath, likely due to the mowing we did all last summer. In addition, he clarified that the tall grass going to seed was not Foxtail, as Cyndie feared (which is not good for our horses’ mouths), but the premium horse hay staple, Timothy.

We still have a long way to go in our transition from suburbanites to Ag-wise country folk.

(Brings to mind my stuttering pause into the phone when I was asked what kind of cows were trampling our property a couple of weeks ago. Um, big ones?)

Amidst the angst of dealing with equipment failures, it is refreshing to learn some good news about the outcome of our efforts to improve the quality of what is growing in our hay-field and pastures.

Despite all the challenges that continue to arise (and decisions thus required), Wintervale continues to evolve in an encouraging way for us.

Hurrah!

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Buying Time

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By the grace of a friendly and helpful next door neighbor, we have bought some time to find out whether the engine in our lawn tractor is worth repairing or not. If not, we need to buy a replacement mower. In the mean time, we have been granted the use of an old John Deere 318 that burns a little oil to cut our grass while awaiting the ultimate solution.

I was getting desperate. Some of the areas that hadn’t been cut at all when our engine failed back on May 19th were getting so tall I was worried the borrowed mower wouldn’t be enough for the job. Alas, my fretting was unwarranted.

This Deere was up to the task. The weak link in the system was the novice operator. I struggled to get used to the biggest difference between this one and ours: a lever on the console for forward and reverse control, versus simple foot pedals.

I breathed a sigh of relief when, having mowed until light faded, I ended without incident.

Exciting as it was to be able to cut the grass again, it paled in comparison to the thrill over reports from visiting Elysa and Ande about their surprising interaction with the chickens. Well, one of the Barred Plymouth Rock chickens, in particular.

As they explained it to me, Elysa crouched down among the chickens and the friendly bird hopped up on her knee. Then it kept going and hopped up on her shoulder.

When the rest of the chicks wandered away, Elysa tried walking –bent over for her passenger– to keep the loner from getting left behind. Much squawking ensued.

I guess we’ve done something right in the realm of socializing our birds to interaction with humans. I sure hope they are adept at figuring out the difference between friend and foe when it comes to non-humans.

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2017 at 6:00 am

That Guy

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I don’t think I’m that guy, but Cyndie says I might be. One of the reasons I have historically eschewed gas-powered equipment comes from the demands of maintaining the machines. If a device is electric, and all I need to do is turn it on to use it and back off when I’m done, that would suit me just fine. Maybe change the brushes if you keep it long enough, or take care of the batteries if it’s got ’em, but that’s about it.

It’s all the stinky gasoline, oil, air filters, fuel filters, and spark plugs of gas-powered engines that weighs on me. I don’t want to deal with them, so I wait. But how long can I get away with avoiding it without suffering performance problems? I prefer to have my machines functioning at their peak.

After putting our Craftsman lawn tractor through rather rough use, and suffering the consequences of a frustrating degradation in performance, I’ve adjusted my attitude about the machine.

Ironically, this ends up being less about the gas engine and more about the general use of the machine as a lawn mower. I really did use the thing with reckless abandon, mowing over rocks and sticks, heading down our rustic trails and over sharp drop offs, sometimes into wet areas where there was standing water.

The mower responded accordingly, bending and breaking when limits were exceeded.

I figured it was a piece of crap and that I should look into getting a heavy-duty commercial grade machine that could take such abuse. A mechanic at my favorite hardware store helped me to see it otherwise.

We already own a power trimmer. I should be using that appliance in all the afore-mentioned rough areas. My lawn mower is designed to cut lawn grass. If I use it as designed, it will do the job well.

img_ip1722eIn the past, when I finished driving the mower through all the abuse, I parked it and walked away, glad to be done with that nuisance of a chore. I was aware that grass would collect and build up under the mower deck, but it was hard to access, so I saved it for some other time.

I was tired, and the mowing was done. The last thing I wanted to do was mess with the job of clean up.

I wasn’t that guy.

Well, not entirely. Not yet, anyway.

Maybe I’m getting closer. Yesterday, Anneliese saw me cleaning the mower deck and asked if it had gotten plugged. That made total sense to my old way of thinking. You clean it when it stops working well.

Not any more.

No, it wasn’t plugged. Since the informative visit with the mechanic who gladly sells me products and services, I have changed my methods. I pull off the deck after each mowing, flip it over, and clean out the accumulated gunk, before the mower ever gets even close to plugging.

The same as the way that guy would do it.

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Cutting Grass

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Sure, I spent most of Friday mowing the hay-field, and then Saturday I mowed the lawn, but those two projects were easy compared to the work involved in cutting the overgrown grass in the labyrinth on Sunday. The growth since Cyndie last mowed was as thick as it was long. Seriously, I wondered if maybe she had skipped parts of it, because it was hard to imagine that much growth in such a short time.DSCN5013e

I paused for a photo when there was just a small strip left, just like we had done out on the hay-field.

Because it was so long, I was using our power trimmer to do the cutting. When possible, we use a reel mower that just fits between the rocks. At the rate things grow around here, I’m thinking we should keep our eyes out for reel mower with an engine to see if we can find one that would still fit the narrow path.

We would like to keep the grass cut putting-green short.

In a surprising shift from my previous mindset of being small-gas-engine-averse, we have had enough luck with the power equipment we have acquired thus far, that I am much more willing to consider the idea now.

There are just too many acres to manage and too many tasks that need to get done, to rely too heavily on human-power (even if it’s still my preference).

It helps that I have grown accustomed to wearing hearing protection, which takes the edge off.

That said, I still refuse to use a blower to clear leaves or clean sidewalks and driveways. Ain’t gonna happen.

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Written by johnwhays

August 9, 2016 at 6:00 am