Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘cutting grass

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

Inspiration Fades

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It happens. Inspiration will wax and wane. My enthusiasm for this adventure we embarked on at Wintervale is ebbing away.

It has been a tough week for me. Where we once seemed to be enjoying a charmed life here, with progress advancing in surprisingly magical ways and solutions flowing with unexplainable ease, our situation of late has become a lot less mystical.

Have we gone off track somewhere? I don’t know. It’s life. Sometimes there are more problems than solutions for a while.

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for businesses to fail. Ours is simply failing to get started.

Full disclosure, I am writing from a state of overworked exhaustion. Why? Hay. Again. And the thought of facing today’s task of manure management, again.

DSCN4976eI threw 100 bales, 200 times yesterday, loading the borrowed trailer and unloading it. Carrying bales up and up to stack them in our shed. It is an endurance exercise where the climb gets higher as the fatigue grows ever more debilitating. At first, the bales seem light, but at the end, they feel a lot heavier.

Today, I need to move the compost piles to make room for more. Since I returned to the day-job, I haven’t been tending the piles in the daily manner I did when I was home all day. Once, every other weekend, is not cutting it.

It’s a buzz-kill.

Meanwhile, there are dangerous trees that broke off and are hung up in surrounding branches over our trail that I need to get after. And siding that needs to be scraped and stained before winter. On Monday, it will be August. Projects that should happen before winter arrives are beginning to loom large.

And we have yet to get our hay-field cut even one time this summer. It has become a field of weeds that are gleefully sowing their seeds for further domination. That is probably the biggest discouragement. It is why we have needed to trailer in more hay than before and it is the exact opposite direction from growing desirable hay ourselves.

It will go a long way to improving my outlook when that field finally gets cut and the weedy debris removed. We have decided to take a full year from hay production and plan to cut it continuously to stop the cycle of weeds growing to their seeding phase. We may also add some recommended soil enhancers and then plant a custom mix of grass seeds in hopes of achieving our goal of getting good quality hay to grow right at home.

That gives me a year of something to look forward to. More mowing. You know how much I love mowing.

Oh, by the way, our lawn tractor is not holding up to the abuse I put it through. I need to shop for something else. Maybe if I do it right, I’ll end up with a machine that I like so much it will change how I feel about cutting grass.

That’s what it is all about here: grass hay and lawn grass. Who knew I would find myself so fixated on a task to which I held such disdain in my previous years?

No wonder my inspiration has a tendency to fade every so often.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2016 at 8:18 am

Yard Hay

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DSCN4747eI mowed the back yard yesterday afternoon and ended up with windrows that look like I should be borrowing George’s baler to pick it all up. I feel like I have mowed when it has needed it worse, but not ended up with so much in the way of cuttings as I did this time.

That must be a good sign that the lawn is thick and healthy. I hope the same holds true for our hay-field out front in a few weeks!

The weather hasn’t been so kind to a lot of other growing plants. Over the weekend we had two nights of below freezing temperatures. Cyndie was proactive about protecting her newly planted wild flower garden both nights, covering them with blankets. She also brought all potted plants into the garage.

Unfortunately, we have too many growing things to protect them all. Several trees with new leaves look to have suffered to the point of drooping wilted leaves.

In the autumn, by the time we get freezing temperatures, the leaves are on their way to the ground, if not already there.

It’s not obvious yet if anything was damaged beyond recovery, but we will be watching the labyrinth with hope that plants there didn’t experience the couple of freezes as fatal. Cyndie’s initial survey brought hope that some may not have suffered at all.

That offers promise to which we intend to cling.

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2016 at 6:00 am