Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dry conditions

Twice Blessed

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I arrived home yesterday, shortly after noon, and found everything in such great shape I could hardly fathom our good fortune for having found our latest house/animals sitter. Not only does she provide excellent care for our horses, dog, and cat, she cares for our home in every way. I swear it was cleaner when I walked in yesterday than when we left it last Thursday.

She brings in our mail and hauled our trash bins up from the end of the driveway. We checked in with her on Sunday night when we learned there was a tornado warning and she was already aware and waiting downstairs with Delilah.

Everything down at the barn looked great. We’ve been watching and treating an open wound on Mia’s leg that I thought still looked bad so I tried to get a picture to send to Cyndie for her review. Mia did everything she could to foil my attempts.

The good news is that those with better knowledge than us about this kind of thing have a more positive opinion of the progress. Someone is going to stop by to apply more salve to assure things keep going in the right direction.

From the looks of the property, that storm threat the other night didn’t bring much in the way of wind or rain. It is very dry and the prediction is for it to be hot and continued dry for the rest of the week. That’s not very conducive to the main concern I have right now about working on the gravel edge of our new asphalt driveway.

I only have two days before I’m scheduled to head back up to the lake for some biking in the woods. I’m holding onto the possibility that I won’t be working too hard here prior to that departure.

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Written by johnwhays

August 2, 2022 at 6:00 am

Bad Chemistry

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I am no chemist, but I know what transpired and the results were annoying and stinky, to say the least. This story starts in the dry days of the past summer. Days that became weeks of dry earth and high heat.

Wait, the story needs to start long before that. Skip all the way back to when we first got horses on this property in 2013. The first years we were here were rather wet ones. Put horses on wet ground and what do you get? Mud. Lots and lots of mud.

In the early years, there were several times when we were forced to put up a temporary fence around part of the gravel between the barn and hay shed so the horses could spend a little time off the mud.

The remedy to that mess came in the form of limestone screenings. Our local excavator suggested the crushed and screened limestone as a solution to the slippery mud. It worked brilliantly, although our slopes lend to a fair amount of erosion of the screenings during heavy rains.

The excavator had a solution for that, too. Keep an extra pile of lime screenings on hand to fill in the ravines. It actually worked for us. The weight of horses packs the surface and the hot sun bakes it to a solid surface that keeps the horses out of the mud.

The only downside I’ve seen is the dustiness of the screenings as a ground cover. Horses repeatedly stomp their feet to shake off flies and flies are relentless, so there is a non-stop kicking up of dust.

Anyone who lives down a gravel road knows about dust kicked up when the road is dry. One trick used to control dusty gravel roads is magnesium chloride. It will absorb moisture and leave the road looking a little damp.

What the heck. We gave it a try. Lo and behold, it reduced the dust the horses were kicking up and breathing under the barn overhang.

Jump forward to this past summer when it was hot and dry for weeks and Cyndie found herself spreading more and more magnesium chloride crystals in the area around the overhang. Maybe we used too much.

Last week we received some solid rain at an even rate for many hours at a time that was more than we’ve seen for months. The limestone screenings just beyond the overhang turned into a mare-urine enhanced stinky slurry of muddy, slippery limestone mush.

I wish we could magically extract the magnesium chloride, but lacking the chemistry knowledge of what substance might absorb those molecules, I opted for covering it with more limestone. It’ll either provide more material for the mush or it will bury the stinky stuff and get packed by the horses as the ground dries and hopefully will last until the next big wet spell.

That leads to the next complication as the temperature drops. When it becomes dangerously icy in the winter, magnesium chloride crystals work well to melt the ice around that sloping area.

Maybe I need to create a concoction of two parts limestone screening and one part magnesium chloride for ice melt to avoid ending up with more magnesium than lime.

The bad chemistry is actually a mixture of horses, big slopes, and slippery surfaces. There are only two of those three that we would seek to eliminate in this case.

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Strategic Mowing

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The drought we are experiencing has stressed all growing things but our grass is the plant that looks the saddest. I have tried to stay off it as much as possible to avoid completely turning it to dust. The problem is, we’ve got a lot of weeds that don’t seem to care one bit that it is so dry. Heck, they appear to prefer it.

In addition to the weeds needing to be knocked down, there are shady areas where the grass is growing enough to deserve mowing.

Since I am headed for the lake again this weekend, joining Cyndie who is already up there, I decided to do a little strategic mowing yesterday after work. I made selective passes over spots most visible from the road or our driveway.

It provides a first impression that implies our property is well-tended.

Closer inspection would reveal that is not entirely accurate.

It feels good to have trimmed up the most prominent grassy areas despite the remaining spots where the weeds are getting taller than grass blades. I’m going to focus on the fact I am avoiding driving over the sections where the grass looks the most stressed.

A long, soaking rain would be a welcome change, but we have only been getting brief, heavy bursts that promote just enough growth that I have to strategically mow the green areas while the stressed areas fail to show signs of recovery.

I am curious to learn whether this month will offer any change to the weather pattern we have experienced for the last two. Time will tell.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2021 at 6:00 am

Really Dry

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There are places suffering a lot worse drought consequences than we are, but the impact of our moderate drought conditions right now are noticeable all around our property. In the nine years that we have lived here, I have only seen it approach this level of dryness one other time.

It gets a little nerve-wracking owning large animals when grazing land begins to dry up. So far, I’d say we have been pretty lucky. Our hay shed is stacked high with bales and our fields have plenty of growth left from May that the horses have only lightly grazed.

We are still hoping the neighbor farmer who previously rented our fields to grow hay will cut and bale the hayfield soon. The horses barely put a dent in the growth out there and it’s long past ready for cutting. I assume it has increased value to him given conditions, but his delay tending to the task has us wondering. (We just learned his equipment broke down but he’s got it fixed and hopes to make it out later today.)

I feel really lucky that so much of our surroundings are staying as green as they are. Out of the roughly 4 acres of grass I mow, only two spots have dried up to a dead-brown-looking crisp.

We do not water the grass around the house and both front and back are faring really well considering.

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I think a lot of it has to do with the surrounding shade that keeps the ground from baking as severely as open areas.

Now if the trees can just hold out long enough to outlast the dryness, the rest of our land might get by just fine.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Survey Results

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We walked around in search of trillium yesterday and found mixed results. I think in my next transplant effort I will keep them closer to each other upon replant. Here is a view of three I planted:

No flowers, but the two at the top each have new sets of three leaves appearing beneath them. Is this the expansion underway that I seek? Better than finding none at all. In other locations, we struggled to find all three points of a triangle where I would have planted them. Sometimes two, sometimes only one.

At the same time, we did find several isolated trilliums with flowers located in places where neither of us remembers having transplanted any.

New growth on the ground in the forest is rather sparse this spring, maybe in a reflection of the uncharacteristic dry conditions we are experiencing.

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The photo on the left above is an example of new shoots appearing beneath the one with the flower, which excites us with hope that more could result in the future. The image on the right is an example of a lone trillium with little else of any variety seeming to flourish much.

It just might be a slim year of growth. Yesterday’s passing clouds never spit enough sprinkles out to simply wet the ground surface. We are forced to try to do some watering outselves.

I turned on the water to the labyrinth and we transplanted one more vine from where it was trying to strangle a tree to one of the legs of the gazebo. This will be the first year of an attempt to grow a canopy of leaves as the cover of the gazebo instead of the old canvas that was getting threadbare.

Nothing like trying to inspire new growth during a time of drought.

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2021 at 8:51 am

Yard Pests

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As the saying goes, “this is why we can’t have nice things.” Sure I’d like to have a smooth green carpet of inviting lawn grass to run my toes through as I frolic in the yard with our dog or play croquet and bocce ball, but no, I don’t want to exterminate a throng of burrowing pest to achieve it.

We pick our battles and this is one I don’t want to fight, so we live with the ongoing dirt mounds and raised tunnels of destruction scattered widely across all of our mowed areas.

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With so much real estate available for the critters to thrive, we willed the marauders to move on to open fields by stomping their tunnels and mounds in our yard last year, but as the snow receded and the topsoil begins to thaw, the evidence appears as if their numbers have tripled.

They aren’t getting the message.

The wind is blowing warm air our way today and bringing with it fire warnings because the ground is very dry this spring. Almost all of the snow has melted and we don’t have any muddy areas along our trails. The drainage ditches had water flowing in them only two times this year. It is surprisingly uncharacteristic compared to the previous 8 spring seasons we’ve lived here.

If we observe the yard at a distance, it looks just fine. There remains one dwindling pile of snow near the front door, but that’s about it. Today is officially the first day of spring.

Warm sunshine will beckon for us to romp in the yard and toss the old horse toys for Delilah to chase.

The season of mowing draws nigh, but we are going to need some rain or I’ll be able to trim the lawn with a pair of scissors.

Although, that might just be enough to drive the yard pests back toward the open fields. Either way, it seems we don’t get to have nice lawns.

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Written by johnwhays

March 20, 2021 at 9:54 am