Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘design

Trail Inspirations

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After a second visit on Saturday for pure maple syrup and pancakes, Cyndie enlisted the artistic energies of visiting Williams girls, Ella and Sarah, to decorate some of the new blocks before we placed them on the trail.

It’s a bit of a shame that their designs will all too quickly be subject to the abuses of plodding muddy boots and paws, but that won’t stop the creative exclamations from still offering glimpses of inspiration to passersby.

The 60 new blocks paved another 8.5 feet of sloppy trail, but we’re still going to need a lot more pallets if we want to cover the length of perpetually wet ground down there.

The picture I used yesterday to show the blocks on the trail was from October of 2016. Yesterday, Cyndie took a picture with the newest blocks in the foreground, which is actually viewing in the opposite direction from the first image.

It’s not an exact comparison, but I like seeing one next to the other.

Can you see how far in the distance the old blocks run in the picture on the right?

2016

2018

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Reminds me a little of the yellow brick road. Oh my!

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Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Many Hands

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From the moment we arranged the two boulders in the center location of what was to become the Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, I envisioned a third stone resting upon them. The first challenge to fulfilling that vision was finding the right stone.

It needed to be the right shape and size, which I knew would mean the perfect stone would be too heavy for me to lift.

My quest for the specific stone was complicated by the fact that, without significant disruption, I couldn’t use trial and error to decide. Dealing with a such a heavy stone would mean the first one placed in that spot would likely be the only one placed in that spot.

Over the years, I experimented with light-weight objects to assist my eye for identifying what size and shape of rock I was looking for. Perfection proved to be hard to come by among the rock piles around our property, but last year I finally found one that had good potential.

It was buried in the woods, located conveniently close to the labyrinth. Using a small piece of woven fence panel and a strap, I created a sling to move it. Then I enlisted Cyndie –back when she still had two strong shoulders– to see if two people could do it.

It worked, enough to prove the concept, anyway. We stopped after getting it to the edge of the trail. There it sat for most of the year, because I wasn’t sure how to safely get it lifted high enough to position it atop the two boulders.

Yesterday, I realized we had the many hands of adventurous strong guys available to make the work light.

It’s a whole ‘nother story that we hosted a gathering at Wintervale with the families of Cyndie’s late aunt, Joan Brolin, to celebrate Christmas in September. That tale will likely get told in coming days.

I hadn’t thought about it in advance, but conversation somehow led to the topic of my wanting to figure out how to lift the heavy stone and place it. Cyndie’s brother, Steve, shared a video about a man who could move heavy objects by himself, using simple aids.

Cyndie’s cousin, Tom, thought we had enough hands and wanted to check it out. I grabbed a tape measure for one last confirmation that this stone would be the right size for what I was hoping to accomplish.

With little in the way of complications, five of us were able to move it, lift it high enough, roll it into place, and then rock it into a position that was stable.

It was an extremely satisfying triumphant moment for me.

Thank you to Cyndie’s brothers, Ben and Steve, and cousins Tom and Mike for helping fulfill my dream. And thank you to my daughter, Elysa, for capturing the event on my phone.

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2017 at 8:44 am

Eating Iron

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When I originally designed our slow feeding hay boxes, I wanted to make them robust enough to handle the tenacious jaws of always curious horses. I’d seen how much wood horses can chew off fence boards and didn’t want the boxes to come apart whenever hay runs out and they turn their attention to the structures themselves.

For that reason, I chose cast iron corner pieces as stops to prevent the grate from being lifted out when the horses yank up on it. On the other end, I used a metal chain like the ones that secure our fence gates. This allows quick and easy access to remove the grate, and I figured the familiarity of the chain for them would be a good thing.

I didn’t expect they would chew the iron to bits.

So far, they have only abused one of the two boxes, so I am using the other box to show how it looked with the cast iron corner pieces in place.

And this is what was left when I removed the fragments from the abused box yesterday:

Do you think they are getting enough iron in their diet?

Meanwhile, they have hardly chewed a scratch into the wood of either box.

Based on that, and because wood is easier to replace, I’ve resorted to a much less elegant stop, using two small pieces of scrap plywood.

Seems to me to be easy fodder for their teeth to grab, but we’ll see how this goes. Wont’ be the first time they surprise me if they end up leaving them intact.

Just when I think I might be outsmarting them…

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Written by johnwhays

September 3, 2017 at 9:27 am

Coop’s Up

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My carpentry lesson is coming to its conclusion. Yesterday we finished the corner trim and some inside details, bringing us very close to the end of construction. There are several final things on the punch list yet to install, including hardware to critter-proof all the doors and a ramp for the tenants, but we are just about out of excuses for actually getting some birds.

Maybe we’ll get around to taking this to it’s logical conclusion.

Built using substantially salvaged materials, all the way down to some reclaimed nails, it came from this:

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IMG_iP1411e…to become this:

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2016 at 10:17 am

Shaping Terrain

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dscn5371eDespite the sprinkling rain that pestered most of the day yesterday, I decided to try moving some dirt and turf from the drainage ditch along our southern property line to the adjacent sloped path.

When the new fence was installed and the drainage ditch improved, there wasn’t much width remaining beside a little bend in the fence. It was an impediment to being able to use the tractor to mow that section of path around the outside of the hay-field fence.

Originally, I envisioned using the loader on the tractor to dig out the sediment that has been accumulating in the ditch, but it hasn’t been dry enough to do that for months.

Since I was already working along that fence line this weekend, I decided to see what I could accomplish using a shovel to dig it out by hand. It was a little messy, and a bit tedious, but it was probably a better method for then using the material removed to improve the path.

Using blocks of dirt and turf that I could barely lift with the shovel, I built up the low side until it was wide enough to fit at least the lawn tractor, for now. Might be dicey fitting the diesel around that bend.

The strip around the fence only received infrequent attention and would grow tall and thick, so I had been mowing navigable portions with the brush cutter. Now that I will be able to drive the lawn tractor around, it will be convenient enough that I can keep it cut short all the time.

Well, as short at the rest of the lawn, which all grows so fast that short is a relative term.

With that little narrow bend of path fixed, there was only one other barrier remaining to allow driving the full circumference of our horse-fenced fields. Back in the corner by the woods there is an old ravine that was created by years of water runoff. Previous owners had dumped a lot of old broken up concrete in it to slow the erosion.

We have created a better defined intentional swale a short distance above that directing the bulk of energized flow into the main drainage ditch. It crossed my mind to fill in the ravine, but some water still wants to follow the ease of that natural route and I’d rather not fight it.dscn5373e

Simple solution: a bridge. For now, nothing fancy. I used a few left over fence posts and then broke down and actually purchased additional lumber to make it wide enough to drive across.

I placed them across the washout yesterday in the rain, leaving the task of cutting a notch in the dirt on each side to level them for today.

Then I will be driving to the airport to pick up George and Anneliese. I’ve come to the end of my solo weekend on the ranch. They are going to return the favor of airport transport after midnight tonight when Cyndie arrives home from Guatemala, so I can get some sleep before the start of my work week.

I’m looking forward to having everyone home again.

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2016 at 9:15 am

Taking Shape

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We are getting close. This weekend we got wallboard nailed on the frame of the chicken coop. That closed it up except for the people-door (because we ran out of pieces long enough to use for that opening).dscn5294e

Elysa and Ande stopped by, surprising us with a visit yesterday. They provided some key assistance toward getting all the gaps filled. It was a bit of a Tetris game to match the boards and the spaces over the studs.

Just having additional hands to hold something in place or hand me another nail helped immensely to keep things humming along. My process involves a lot of pauses to plot several steps ahead and then measure, mark, and cut the pieces.

I had a limited number of large boards that I was trying to match with the best possible spaces. When we didn’t have a long enough piece available, the alternative was to use multiples of the shorter boards. There were a lot more of them from which we could choose.

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In one of our design-on-the-fly decisions, Cyndie and I decided to have two horizontal hinged openings on the wall of the nest boxes. The lower one will open downward and create a little shelf to place cartons while collecting eggs. I decided to use the space above the nests, where there will be a slanted board to keep the chickens from perching, as a small, angled storage area.

The upper opening will be hinged at the top and swing upwards to provide full access to the cubby space.

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When we excitedly got one of the boards mounted on the backside, I realized I’d forgotten about cutting the slot opening for the access door to the poop-board. Now I’ll be doing that after the fact.

That’s the kind of thing that happens when you are making things up as you go along.

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Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2016 at 6:00 am

Internal Detailing

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img_ip1745eWhen choosing to make it up as you go along, assembly projects can gobble up a lot of time. I had visions of putting up the walls on the new chicken coop yesterday, but never quite got that far. We did make good progress on visualizing the steps we would take to get the internal details finished, despite not actually making the final cuts and screwing the last few things into place.

We started the day by completing the all-important “poop board” assembly that is located underneath the roost branches. We have designed it for a plan of daily sliding the board out for a quick cleaning, scraping off the droppings so they can be composted for fertilizer.

While I was sawing and nailing the bits and pieces associated with that feature, Cyndie worked on making an entrance ramp for the chickens, using branches for the outer frame and then weaving grape vines around them.

img_ip1743eSlowly but surely, I devised a plan for how we will secure the edges of hardware cloth with trim boards that I have scrounged from a store of lumber in the garage that has probably been around since the day the house was built.

That means it has been here through two owners before us.

We cut pieces of hardware cloth to cover the window openings on three walls and got those stapled in place. Then I did some work on enclosing the ceiling below the roof structure.

Cyndie cut openings in the plastic bins we are using for the nest boxes and I measured and marked the dividers for those.

It was about that point in the day where things stalled a bit, because I had forgotten twice earlier to take my spare battery to the shop to get it charging.

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Note to self: When working on the last internal details, don’t neglect the other important details of taking care of the equipment that allows you to finish the task at hand.

img_ip1740eEventually, the second battery ran out of power and I was forced to take them both up to be charged. That left me unable to cut anything on which I had marked dimensions.

With luck, that will allow me to make some good progress this morning, quickly cutting the prepared pieces to finish the nesting boxes and securing the last of the hardware cloth beneath the roof.

Then it’ll be time to close the walls, baby.

Oh oh. That means I’ll next need to figure out how I’m going to do the doors. One more thing I’ve never done before in my life.

I’m pretty sure we’re gonna need some hinges…

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2016 at 6:00 am