Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘cutting grass

Our Day

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A day after we celebrated Julian’s birthday with a family dinner at a Bloomington restaurant, Cyndie and I claimed yesterday for ourselves in honor of our 41st wedding anniversary. Our animal sitter, Grace, was on the calendar to free us up to do whatever we wanted. In the end, we both wanted to stay home and work on our property.

I am thrilled that our first accomplishment involved clearing small stumps, roots, and rocks in our north loop trail that have prevented me from being able to mow that section as low as desired for our walking trails. I’ve been wanting to take care of this nuisance issue for two summers.

In the afternoon, we focused our attention on the labyrinth. I brought down our new favorite tool, the electric push mower to give it a fresh cut.

We rearranged rocks and pulled weeds, addressing only a fraction of the total that is deserving of attention. The progress looks so good it has us both wanting to get back down there again soon to continue the beautification.

Just as we were about worn out for the day, we looked up to find the horses had wandered back to hang out in our proximity. That was all the invitation we needed to stop what we were doing to go hang out with them.

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Throughout the day we reminisced about our wedding day back in 1981, an outdoor service on a day with very similar weather to what we were enjoying yesterday. I remember the trees were starting to turn colors, similar to what is beginning to happen here this week.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

Cutting Pasture

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It feels like I have been cutting grass non-stop for days. I used to think that growth slowed to a crawl after August but I saw a chart at the State Fair this year that indicated grass growth in September can be compared to what happens in June. There is a slump in July and August when grass might even go dormant before reenergizing in September.

It used to confuse me that September was a recommended time to seed new grass but now I can understand why that is.

Our land is still overly dry but we have had just enough rainfall between dry spells that the greenery looks pretty lush and the grass seems as happy as can be. The reason it feels like I’ve been doing a lot of mowing is that I have been playing with our new electric push mower, and I cut grass in the labyrinth, then used the brush cutter pulled by the diesel tractor to mow the hay field, and yesterday, the back pasture.

In addition, I have been cutting beneath the fence lines with the power trimmer. On top of that, I knocked off the second phase of a twice-a-year mowing of the drainage ditch along our southern property line.

When it’s dry, the mowed ditch becomes an alternate trail for Delilah to explore. In that image, she has her nose to the ground exploring any animal trails hidden beneath the mass of cuttings. The months of growth in the ditch were four to five feet tall and it is a blind cut on the first pass. My foot is poised to hit the clutch to interrupt the power to the mower if anything that wasn’t supposed to be mowed is encountered.

I back up the full length with the brush cutter tipped up a bit and then lower it for the return trip in the forward direction toward where I started. It isn’t a straightforward simple cut because there are washouts where fast-moving water has eroded the soil and they meander back and forth so the tractor wheels occasionally drop down or the mower bottoms out as travel progresses.

So, it is a blind cut on a completely unpredictable terrain. It is a great relief when that task has been fully accomplished.

It is also extremely satisfying to have both big fields mowed. If you’ll recall, it isn’t so much the grass that we need to cut as much as the weeds we want to prevent from going to seed. Cyndie and I don’t want to use toxic chemicals so mowing is our chosen method of control. We also pull a lot of weeds but that is similar to trying to empty a lake of its water by removing a spoonful at a time. Although, it is very satisfying, psychologically, to yank a weed out by its roots.

The horses took great interest in my activity in the back pasture and gave me the impression they wished I would hurry up and finish so they could get back on it.

I’ll keep the gates closed for a couple of days to dry out the cuttings and give the grass a little time to sprout new growth before giving them access again. Meanwhile, they have the entire already-mowed hay field at their disposal.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2022 at 6:00 am

Caught Up

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For a day or two now, we are caught up with mowing all that is growing at the peak rate typical for June. Yesterday was a perfect day for cutting grass with the lawn tractor. It was dry with a nice breeze and the grass wasn’t overgrown. I was able to mow at high speed, there were no piles of clippings, and the finish looks top notch. I will enjoy it for the rarity it was because I regularly find myself facing one or multiple versions of cutting complications.

Cyndie raked the clippings in the labyrinth after giving them a day to dry out and it is looking its best, as well. Did I mention that, after a good night’s sleep, Cyndie was feeling back to her healthy old self?

I tried wearing my earbuds under the earmuff hearing protection I wear while mowing because I am caught up in a Kris Kristofferson song from 1976 that I just heard for the first time. I’m contemplating trying to memorize it so I can create my own version to play and sing.

“There ain’t nothing sweeter than naked emotions
So you show me yours hon and I’ll show you mine”

I heard Shannon McNally’s version first and then searched for the song origins and found both Kristofferson’s and Willie Nelson’s two versions. It amazes me that I haven’t come across this song sooner in the 46-years since it was written.

All credit goes to MPR’s “Radio Heartland” on the HD2 subchannel of KNOW’s 91.1 MHz. I rarely pursue music beyond my personal library collection anymore, so exposure to new music is mostly limited to what I hear on the radio when traveling in my car. My tastes have begun to age out of MPR’s “The Current” at 89.3 MHz FM so more and more I find myself migrating to the primarily acoustic, singer-songwriter, folk, and Americana offerings on “Heartland.”

“And I wish that I was the answer to all of your questions
Lord knows I know you wish you were the answer to mine”

I am enjoying that this song has finally caught up with me after all these years.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Trimming Minutiae

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There is no drama about our activities yesterday and little in the way of specific goals. The hours passed as the earth rotated and shadows moved while Cyndie and I toiled on a variety of rewarding tasks.

I made the dreaded trip to buy gas for all our small engines and the diesel tractor. Ouch. That’s a burden on the pocketbook.

One way I reframe the harsh rise of the cost of fuel is to remember the time we had been shopping for a while and Cyndie grabbed a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina water at the checkout counter. It added the paltry amount of $1.68 to our over $500 bill at Lowe’s. It was a purchase of convenience, for sure.

That price for 20 ounces of water is equal to $10.75/gallon. Think about that.

With all gas cans full, I was able to resume using the power trimmer. I had completed all our fence lines over the weekend so the next crucial need was the labyrinth. It didn’t give in without a fight. The stones defining the pathway wreak havoc on the nylon line of the power trimmer.

One technique I attempt to employ to reduce the abrasion of the line against the rocks is reducing the speed of rotation. Maximum speed is not required to achieve an adequate cut. Still, the spinning will deplete line and require the bounce against the ground to advance more length. I can’t count how many times I would release more line and almost immediately the trimmer would catch an edge and torque right up to a rock and eat the new line I just bounced out. Aaarrrrgh.

Just when things are going smooth, the engine runs out of gas. At least I was wise enough to bring the can of gas along this time. I also had a spare spool of line with me, just in case. I needed to use both.

The challenge always seems to be coming out even in completing the intended cutting goal before running out of either line or fuel. When I finished the pathway of the labyrinth, I moved on to the firepit next to the labyrinth, as long as I still had both line and gas. After finishing that, I decided to hit the trail in the woods for as long as the trimmer would run.

It lasted a lot longer than I expected. I cleared a large section of the perimeter trail where the grass had gotten very tall. A bonus accomplishment I didn’t anticipate achieving.

After too many days in a row of trimming for hours, my throttle hand was letting me know it had had enough. That’s a good reason to stop using that tool for a while. Today my hands will be on the lawn tractor steering wheel.

We are in the month of never ending mowing, which is putting the job of never ending sawing and wood chipping on temporary hold.

Somewhere between those two, I keep intending to add never ending bike rides, but that keeps failing to happen.

Could someone slow down the earth’s rotation a little bit, please?

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

That Close

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I knew I might not finish trimming the grass along the fence line before the gas ran out but the closer I got, the more I hoped I might make it. My decision to leave the plastic gas can behind probably doomed my chances of not needing it.

There were one and a half lengths between posts left to cut out of the entire distance of our fencing when the motor sputtered out on me. Nothing to do but walk back to the shop garage and bring the gas can back with me.

We haven’t always been proactive about trimming the grass along the fence before it gets problematically tall, especially during the time when there were no horses on the property and we didn’t need the electricity activated. When the fence is electrified, contact with the growth around it puts a load on the circuit that pulls down the voltage.

The first time I used the power trimmer along the fence line, there were several areas where woodier stems of some plants would break the plastic cutting line. This time, around the entire length of our fences, I did not run into anything that the plastic line couldn’t cut. It was very rewarding to discover that we’ve been cutting it enough times now that there is no longer anything robust trying to grow under there.

It fits with what I was writing yesterday in that the job of keeping the growth off the fence is getting easier to manage over time. It would be just fine with me if eventually, nothing tried to grow beneath the fences and I didn’t need to cut it anymore.

I could intentionally neglect it. 🙂

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Last Last

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Honestly, even if the grass continues to grow, I refuse to mow in November. Yesterday will be the last “last time” that I mow this season. I’ve already mowed for what I hoped was the last time this fall three other times. Admittedly, the first “last time” was hopeful thinking that didn’t pan out. The rest could’ve/should’ve been the end of growing blades but warm sunshine and some rain have kept the grass happy and active.

Yesterday, I almost wasn’t able to finish what I started. Just after I got done cutting the front yard and was working my way around to the back, the mower shut down on me. I wondered if it was making a statement about also wanting to be done for the season. It was certainly the coldest air temperature I’ve been out mowing in –mid 40s(F)– so I wouldn’t blame the tractor for not liking it.

Turned out that it was a fuse that didn’t want to be forced to work on Halloween.

Now it’s November and that means deer hunting season is near. Already, the sound of gunshots is an almost daily experience as neighboring farmers are adjusting their sights and perfecting their technique in preparation for the big day. Delilah is ferocious about wanting to defend us from the sound of a rifle “carrrrack!” She rushes toward the sound until her leash abruptly hits its limit, barking all the way.

Then she barks some more. As in, over and over again, ad nauseam. Poor girl almost barked herself hoarse yesterday.

With the majority of our trees now void of their leaves, the sound of gunshots travels from miles around us, so it’s not just the next-door neighbors we are hearing from.

At least Delilah quieted down enough while on a walk that we were able to sneak up on a flock of turkeys that were hanging out in our field near the road. They initially thought about running away and then took to the air toward an unplanted field to our north, offering a gorgeous display of the emergency version of wild turkey flight.

The turkeys were probably loving that I had cut the grass short down by the road.

In case they are wondering, that’s the last “last time” I’m going to do that this year.

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Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

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