Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘DIY

Ship Shape

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Lately, we are all about keeping up appearances. As I was mowing our gorgeous landscape yesterday, with the long driveway winding past the barn and paddocks, the beautiful horses grazing the grass arena, the wood-paneled shop garage with the bright red Ford F150 parked in front of it, up to the beautiful log house on top of the hill, I felt it must give the impression that we are rich.

Well, richer than we actually are. Of course, “rich” is a relative term, and compared to many of lessor means, we certainly are rich. We have been blessed with opportunity and are humbled to be able to live in this paradise, with means to commute the distances necessary to reach family, friends, and employment an hour away.

At the same time, there is another level of rich that comes to mind for me that would look a little different.

The first clue would be the condition of the driveway. Yeah, the fractured old asphalt with weeds and grass growing throughout doesn’t convey financial excess. Nor the age and condition of the rusted shell of a rolled pickup truck with the custom spray painted dents on the roof.

Of greatest significance, but probably not obvious to a passing traveler, Cyndie and I wouldn’t be the ones doing all the maintenance and grounds keeping. This weekend we did a LOT of work to keep this place looking sharp.

After a double day of projects on Friday, we started Saturday with the chain saw, cutting down a variety of standing dead trees that have been tainting the lively appearance around here for quite some time.

How many times do you walk past a chore (or chores) and pass it (them) off as a project for another day? Obviously, we can’t do everything at once, so some things have to wait. And wait. And wait.

There was a large spider web across the front of the shop garage one morning, but opening the big door didn’t disturb it. A couple of times, I had to stutter step my path to avoid getting a face full. Why didn’t I just knock it down? I was busy doing something else. So, the web stayed. For days.

This weekend, it came down. Spider webs are getting swept, equipment is getting rearranged in the garage, the paddock surfaces are scraped smooth and the rills created by runoff have been filled. The round pen sand has been raked and dead trees in the north field have been cut down, many carried to our makeshift natural barrier we are creating along our property border to the north. The grass has been mowed and the trails cleared with the power trimmer.

In high heat and humidity of the last full weekend of summer, the wealthy owners have done all this work by themselves, while also tending to the needs of horses, chickens, a dog, and a cat.

It saves us from needing to pay for a gym membership to keep ship-shape.

Maybe I can save that money up to pay for a new driveway someday.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2018 at 8:57 am

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