Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘DIY

Rare Occasion

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Like an orbiting comet that passes through our outer atmosphere several times in a person’s life, every five to seven years, I have been known to cut my hair short. I haven’t done so since January of 2011, when I convinced Cyndie to cut off my dreadlocks.

Last night was one of those rare occasions.

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I have no idea if I will wait another five or seven years for a follow-up haircut, but I have an inkling I’ll never again produce the color that was on the end of the length that Cyndie cut off for me last night.

Even though I am not even 59-years-old yet. (I refer to my age as, “way down in my 50s still” to Cyndie, despite the lack of appreciation she shows for my youthful vigor.)

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Subtle Change

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For most of my adult life I have maintained a pattern of growing my hair long for a several years and then in an abrupt change, having Cyndie crop it close to my scalp. One haircut every five to seven years suits me just right.

The years that I kept my hair in dreadlocks were a temporary deviation from the norm which I particularly enjoyed. Those came off at the beginning of 2011 (see it here) and I haven’t had an extreme cut since then. In the last year, I have had a few days when I wanted to take it all off again, but something kept me from following through.

Earlier this week I was searching images for current hairstyles and found the ones that appealed the most to me were all long. Of course, the primary trend for 2017 was long on the top and cropped on the sides, but I can’t quite pull that off because my top is disappearing with age.

The difference in color between my long ends, which are rich with a reddish-brown hue, and the new growth that is increasingly gray-tinged is dramatic.

I searched images to find haircuts for graying and thinning hair with a receding hairline, but the results were a bust.

After a consultation with my barber, Cyndie, we decided to keep it long, but give me a healthy trim. Usually she takes off the frayed ends a few times a year, but this time we opted for several inches at once. She also trimmed around the temples and along the neckline, which almost always gets neglected in my usual unrefined version of styling.

I figure it’s a pretty low-risk experiment. If I find myself still thinking I’m ready to be done with the length, I know I will enjoy the feeling of rubbing the stubble again after I convince Cyndie to go to that extreme.

I think both of us know that the next time she cuts it all off, each passing year there’s a chance it will never make it back to long again. For now, we’ll enjoy it while I’ve got it.

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Written by johnwhays

November 16, 2017 at 7:00 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

Beyond Me

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For me, building our chicken coop was a stretch. I’d never tried any construction project of that magnitude before, and I was choosing to work from found materials and without a blueprint. It was a small miracle it turned out as well as it did.

Now, Cyndie is telling me we need to modify it to have a divider that will allow us to introduce unfamiliar birds to the existing flock of three. Today, a functional version of her vision is completely beyond me. I have no idea how I will secure all the nooks and crannies with chicken wire to a point where two unfamiliar flocks of birds will co-exist for a while in that one coop.

On to something I can do. Yesterday, I put the old F150 to work doing double duty. First, it was a road trip to the cities to pick up a load of unwanted used pavers from a staff member at the day-job. Drew was nice enough to offer them up for free if I would go to his place and make them disappear.

I had a plan to use them on one of the muddy spots on our trail through the woods. Before I could get to that step, I needed to reclaim a pile of rock that I had stumbled upon when creating a path to the new chicken coop last year. There was an old rusty box stove in the woods that I believe was used to boil syrup. It looked to be generations old, and the area around it had some old busted cinder blocks and a pile of landscape rocks.

Those rocks would serve nicely to fill a spot in the trail that tends to puddle, so before setting the new paver pieces in place, I wanted to transfer the rocks.

The chickens showed up to help, but were almost too eager to get after the creepy crawling creatures revealed when I scooped a shovel-full. They were more interference than they were helpers, but they sure are cute to have as company.

While the hours of the day vanished, one after the other, I hustled to get the pavers moved out of the truck. We had an appointment to pick up a load of hay around dinner time.

Hoping to minimize the handling, I wanted to transfer from the truck to the ATV trailer so I could deliver pavers directly to the path in the woods.

After a cursory two trips of distributing pavers, I had a good start on the trail, but needed to stack the rest up by the shop for use at a later time. The appointed hay hour was fast approaching.

Given this morning’s new assignment with the chicken coop, I am thoroughly enjoying the mental ease and physical feasibility of yesterday’s projects. New hay is stacked in the shed and pavers cover the muddy trail.

Next time it rains I’ll be excited to walk the enhanced surface of the trail at the bottom of the hill.

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2017 at 9:31 am

We’re Nesting

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The due date is upon us. Baby chicks are scheduled to ship today and we are preparing for delivery at Wintervale Ranch. Cyndie even bought a stuffed chicken with real feathers that she hoped to use in training Delilah about the soon-to-be-expanding clan we want her to accept as one of our pack. Didn’t really work because she isn’t the least bit interested in it.

We decided to use one of our existing troughs as the brooder, hoping to devise a mount for the heat lamp that will avoid the melting of whatever non-metal material it is.

Over the weekend, I fabricated a mesh cover for it from a roll left over from one of my attempts to protect the trees in the paddock. At first, I thought it was a hassle that it wanted to roll back up and not stay flat, but once I got the dowels attached, that turned out to be a feature, not a bug.

It tends to “grab” the lip of the tub for a nice firm fit.

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I was wrestling with bending the branches I wanted for the radius at each end when I remembered the cuts in the tree stump that Cyndie had photographed, which I recently featured in a post. I made a little slice part way through the branches which facilitated the bend just enough.

You never know from where inspiration might eventually arrive.

We are going to take a shot at raising them in the barn. I’m trying to figure out where I will end up putting a bed out there for Cyndie, since I expect she won’t be able to leave them untended out there for any length of time.

I sure hope these birds will have big appetites for bugs.

If all goes well, I have a feeling we are going to need a bigger coop.

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Written by johnwhays

March 21, 2017 at 6:00 am

Appliance Surgery

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We’re not sure whether the kitchen appliances have been updated in the 27-years since this house was built, but we do know they have a fair amount of mileage on their components. Last week, Cyndie opened the dishwasher door to a shockingly loud CLANK!, crash.

I thought she had yanked it open past a plate or utensil that was somehow snagged. I was wrong.

A few pulls of the door revealed it wasn’t something inside the dishwasher that broke. Root cause diagnosis was made easy by the added evidence of a stray string suddenly appearing from the bottom right corner of the door. I figured a spring had broken, but research revealed the door “cable” that attaches the spring is a common weak link.

I did call local retailers for parts, but unsurprisingly found none in stock. Without having positively confirmed with a service person that I had correctly identified the part needed, I took the risk of ordering the replacement kit online. The site I landed on offered a video demonstration of the process that lie ahead for me.

It gave me confidence it would be something well within my ability.

Now all I needed was the parts.

Through the miracle of tracking, I could watch as my package reached Wisconsin, but failed to be delivered. A day went by. Then another. Finally, the tracking information updated. Even though it was still showing it would be delivered that day, it was now listed as being in Fargo, ND.

Oops.

Fargo must be where they figured out the error of their ways. It was rescheduled for delivery the next day, thank you very much.

dscn5884echWhile I was outside monkeying around with my chainsaw-on-a-pole to clear low-hanging branches, the delivery truck snuck up the driveway and left my parts on the doorstep. In no time, I was on the floor in the kitchen, re-enacting the video I had watched on replacing the door spring cables.

Put another feather in my cap, and add a little more time on the life of our old KitchenAid.

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Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Working Well

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dscn5534eIn case you’ve been wondering lately how the old slow feeder boxes I built are holding up, I’m proud to report they are working out really well. Precisely as I had envisioned, in fact. On this cold December morning, as Delilah and I made the trek up the driveway from the mailbox, the four horses were visible under the overhang grazing peacefully, 2 per box, in the brief splash of early sunlight shining over the horizon to the east.

I expect those few minutes of sun and blue sky are all we will see today, as clouds are now prevailing and we are due to receive up to 8 inches of snow by the end of tomorrow.

Prepare the shovels.

With this morning’s temperature hovering in the single digits, the herd was very interested in fueling their internal furnaces with non-stop input of hay.

dscn5541eWhen I arrive with a new bale in the wheelbarrow, which I need to repeatedly remind them is off-limits for grazing from, they hover close for the instant of opportunity to chomp up a mouthful when the first portion lands in the box. I let them take bites while I methodically, but swiftly, arrange flakes in the box. I want to get the grate in place before they take to pulling more than bite-fulls at a time and dropping them on the ground.

It pleases me greatly that they never show any hint of displeasure over the addition of the grate. I can start sliding it in place while they are mid-bite and like a precisely choreographed performance, settle it in place as they seamlessly continue pulling up bites, now through the openings. The grates don’t appear to bother them at all.

Being famously picky about the quality of their hay, horses will ignore what they don’t want until it becomes the only option. Then they will usually eat that anyway. We have bales from several sources and we don’t always get the same hay in each box. When they like it, I will find nothing but dust left with the grate settled on the bottom of the box.

Frequently, there will be a half-eaten bale with a whole bunch of unsavory cast off grass nested on top of the grate. They pull it out and nose it aside while continuing to graze their way down to more desirable tidbits. They seem to have a brilliant ability to discern. However, when I collect the neglected leftover hay and drop it off somewhere else in the paddock, often times they will follow me over to eat it.

Maybe the new and different ambiance makes it taste better to them. Regardless, the slow feeder boxes are working out just like I hoped they would, and that makes me continually happy.

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Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2016 at 10:56 am