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

Posts Tagged ‘designing

Triple Fenced

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The heat and humidity have broken and it finally feels a little more like September now. We were expecting the transition to involve a lot more rain than showed up yesterday. The line of precipitation slowly moving west is doing so at an angle that is sliding from the southwest to the northeast and for some reason, most of the rain moved around, rather than over our region.

Ironically, now I am wishing we would actually receive a heavy dose of rain, because last Friday we put a lot of energy into shoring up the silt fence at the property line adjacent to our neighbor’s corn field. In fact, we turned it into a bit of a terrace with three-tiered layers of silt fence.

The first two are short sections to slow the flow before it reaches our long fence. Between the top two sections there is the skeleton frame for a berm, in the form of piled dead pine trees. The soil runoff will accumulate around the branches and hold them in place. Eventually, weeds and grasses will grow through the branches and that forms a nice natural barrier that will hold soil in place but allow water to flow.

We have added support to the fabric fence by using old hay bales that we can’t feed to the horses because they have gotten moldy.

If I am able, I hope to trek out there in the middle of heavy rain to observe the action as it happens. At the very least, I now know that we need to check it after every big rainfall and remove excess soil if it accumulates.

I don’t know why I originally assumed the soil fence wouldn’t need regular maintenance, but after the soil conservation consultant pointed it out so very matter-of-factly, digging out accumulation makes total sense to me now.

If our enhancements work to mitigate the mud overflow messing up that area, we will be one step closer to being able to enjoy a good cloudburst when it happens. There still remains a problem in the paddocks, where a terrace or silt fence is not an option.

We plan to do some digging to create a couple of better defined routes directing runoff straight to the drainage swale beyond the wood fence, hoping to reduce the amount of flow traveling to one spot with energy that washes away our precious lime screenings and creates a deep canyon of a rill.

It’s fine if a little flow goes that way, but it is currently a problem because most all of the flow is combining to rush sideways along the fence, instead of straight under it out of the paddock.

The trick in the paddocks is, our solution needs to be horse-proof. Their heavy hooves have a way of disrupting all of the simple spade-width channels I’ve created in the past, causing runoff to flow every which way, and ultimately not where we really want it to go.

The next version we have in mind will be scaled up. Maybe I should triple-size it.

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Written by johnwhays

September 26, 2017 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

Multiple Designs

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My poor little brain is getting a workout lately with a mixture of simultaneous design projects outside of my realm of experience. I want to build a bridge over a ravine, buy and install a signal booster for voice and data, and make a chicken coop out of found material.

At the same time, we still need to purchase and transport more hay for the winter, clear downed trees, cut and split firewood, keep the lawn and labyrinth mowed, and turn the composting manure piles.

All these latter tasks are the reason the design projects tend to get put off until later. I already know what to do to accomplish them, so I’m more comfortable filling time making progress on familiar work that needs to be done.

It is a source of some conflict between Cyndie and me. I struggle to figure out in my mind how each step will proceed, hoping to establish an order of assembly and final functionality. It tends to delay visible progress for a long time. Cyndie fearlessly dives into projects, solving problems as they arise and devising creative solutions in order to get things done.

I’ve heard that opposites attract.

Meanwhile, I’m chipping away at progress on the designs. We have had a long run of very poor connectivity and dreary news reports on possible plans for service upgrades. After the recent addition of a new cell tower nearby provided no noticeable improvements, a signal booster has become our next big hope.

Last week, I timidly scrambled around the portions of our rooftop that weren’t too steep, in search of a decibel reading on my phone. I am supposed to find the spot for the directional antenna that will keep it from pointing back across the house. Then I need to figure out how to get a cable from out there into the attic. Finally, I need to determine a location for the inside antenna and get it installed to beam the amplified signal to our devices.

I wish that was as easy to actually do as it was to write out.

This weekend we cleared the last of two stumps that were in the way of our perimeter path around the back pasture. That brought us to the next obstacle, the ravine. It has bumped up our interest in having the bridge installed to facilitate foot and mower traffic around the entire circumference.IMG_iP1594e

Also during the week, I drove the truck to work so I could bring home a couple large panels from a crate we had received that I felt would make a good floor for a chicken coop. That has helped us lock in a plan on size and enabled progress on burying support posts.

Three design projects that I am uncomfortably unsure about how I will ultimately complete to my satisfaction, but which have some momentum in play. With Cyndie’s help, we’ll keep making progress despite my inclination to wait and think on them a little bit more everyday.

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2016 at 9:22 am

More Designing

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DSCN2175eI recently built a platform outside the back door of the barn for Cyndie’s portable sink. She said she liked it, but that she was also hoping to have a work station for washing horses in that area. On Friday, I worked on a design for a way to provide that, just beyond the sink.

The area will require a fair amount of fill, so I decided it was time to use the loader bucket on the diesel tractor. Moving massive amounts of manure was one of the reasons I figured I needed this tractor, but up until now, we have been managing just fine without it.

Actually, our neighbor, George, was just asking about our manure pile, and happily offered us the use of his manure spreader, as long as we can fill it using the loader on our tractor. That would allow us to spread our fertilizer on the hay-field. His asking created incentive for me to practice my skills using the loader for something other than snow.

DSCN2181eIt doesn’t come naturally for me. I have better control using hand tools. However, there is no denying the increased efficiency the loader provides. I can move a lot more fertilizer in a lot less time. One of my problems with mechanized assistance is that it also allows me to make a lot bigger mistakes in a shockingly quick blink of an eye.

For now, I am using the mostly composted manure from long ago as clean fill around our property. I moved a few bucket-loads to the spot and now have a sense of space that will be needed. I plan to bury a couple of fence posts to make a hitching rail and build up a platform where the horses will stand. We have some plastic grates that interlock, which we will fill with pea-gravel, and then that will be covered by rubber mats. I expect there will be a layer of plastic beneath the pea-gravel to cause water to drain in the direction we want it to go.

DSCN2193eLuckily, Cyndie said she doesn’t expect to be washing horses for a while, so I have time to proceed in phases.

She was able to make use of the new arena space in the afternoon, exercising the horses with a lunge line. It was beautiful to see. The horses responded nicely to the exercise, and moved proudly around her in this new workout space that has been created.

Every day is something new around here. The progress of late has been invigorating for the soul, yet taxing on the body. That end-of-the-day shower is becoming a ritual of renewal and recovery after long days of heavy laboring.

During a brief pause between tasks yesterday afternoon, Cyndie brought out popsicles and invited me to join her on rocking chairs overlooking the back yard. With a cool breeze washing over us, it was a precious (and intentional) opportunity to take a moment to enjoy the richness of blessings we are surrounded by here. They are more than enough justification for the hard work we find ourselves engaged in day-after-day.

Written by johnwhays

August 2, 2014 at 6:00 am

Garden Tending

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IMG_2565eWe have spent the last two afternoon/evenings down at the labyrinth garden, trying to finish off marking a rough outline of the path, and get things planted. The creation of this labyrinth has been an important priority for Cyndie, and she has forged progress against all manner of weather delays, lack of time, and conflicting demands.

I think she has been buying plants for that garden all summer long, and I haven’t been able to help her to see where they should go. She has needed to get some in the ground just to give them a chance to survive until we know where they will ultimately fit. Now we need to get everything planted before the growing season is over for the year.

A couple of weekends ago, Elysa helped accomplish the greatest amount of progress, defining the basic path borders for 3-quarters of the labyrinth, using paving stones that Cyndie purchased. Last night, I came close to completing the marking of the last quarter section which remained to be defined, and was then able to adjust the width and shape of the borders previously laid out. That finally brought enough definition for Cyndie to recognize the route, and allowed her to commence with relocation of wayward plants.

There is still a lot of work to do, before it becomes a true realization of the idea we jointly developed, but for now, the route is walkable, and I think that is amazing progress, given all the other things we are doing around here, simultaneously.

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Written by johnwhays

August 15, 2013 at 7:00 am