Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘February

First Sign

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I know it’s only February, but spring can’t be far off now. Yesterday morning at work, I received this message from Cyndie:

Maybe that egg surprised the hen. Cyndie reported it was in the sand covering the floor of their coop, not one of the nest boxes.

If the first egg of the season doesn’t offer us hope for better days ahead, then we’ve been paying too much attention to news of the world. Well then, how about two eggs! By the time Cyndie went down to close the coop for the night, there was already a second egg, this time right where we want them, in a nest box.

There may be enough increase in hours of daylight to trigger egg-laying again, but this morning the hens got a brisk slap in the beak after a drop of 40°(F) temperature overnight. Ol’ Man Winter isn’t going to let us forget what month it is, regardless what fresh eggs make us think.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

Plowed Snow

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I took a picture to show how far snow flies off the township snowplow blade. That’s what I wish my little ATV plow blade could do. That’s not possible now that the banks on either side of our driveway are taller than the blade can throw. Guess I should have gotten that snowblower after all.

In the distance, you can see the darker snow rubble swath is wider than the road itself. In the foreground, you can see how the trees have been plastered by the spray of snow.

The energy of that flying snow is what pops our mailbox off its base every time the amount of snow is significant.

Looking again at that photo taken last Friday, it is surprising how different our landscape now looks. Today we have at least twice the depth of snow compared to when that picture was taken.

When I opened the garage to leave yesterday morning, we had only received a mere 3 or 4 more inches of light powder overnight. It made for a pretty tense early part of my commute though, because traffic was kicking up the unplowed powder into vision-blocking chaos before I reached the interstate.

At one point, I had to slow to a stop, desperately hoping I wouldn’t get rear-ended by another vehicle before the view cleared up.

By the time of my drive home from work, the late-February sun was shining through and making a significant contribution toward clearing snow off the roadways.

Our record-setting February snow totals conclude today. The weather service is predicting March will start out where February left off. We are supposed to get “plowable” amounts of snow tomorrow.

Color me not surprised.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Harvesting Popsicles

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It’s still February on the calendar, but our warm days have started the sap flowing in the trees already. As a result, the leaking wounds on our recently pruned maple trees are forming sap-sicles with a sublime sweetness and hint of maple flavor.

dscn5856eThe daytime temperature yesterday reached the melting point and the mostly sunny sky created the magical act of disappearing snow. I pulled the drifted snow off the roof over the front door and along the valleys beneath the main peak and the shingles started steaming instantly as they absorbed the solar energy and warmed up.

I had started the day with a walk down the driveway to assess the condition and found it to be a frozen mess. The snow that fell during the second half of the storm, after I had plowed once, was melting into a slush that had re-frozen overnight into an un-plowable mass.

That shifted my morning focus to shoveling. By the time I got to plowing in the afternoon, much of the driveway was exposed pavement. I cleaned up the edges, battling to keep the blade from slicing into the soft turf, and then worked on the gravel section around the barn.

That was a trick. The snow was sticky and the gravel soft. The task gets a bit less forgiving, requiring more attention to detail than I really wanted to give it. It becomes a mental wrestle to convince myself the chore even needs to be done, and if so, how thorough to follow through.

dscn5857eDo I need to leave space for more snow to follow? Will this be melted and gone by the time we next receive another plowable amount of accumulation?

I parked the Grizzly in the sunshine to melt the snow off the blade while I pulled out a shovel to clean up the edges. That’s when some maple-sicles caught my eye.

The first bites at the bottom are the sweetest and the texture is softer than frozen water. There is no question that these are not typical icicles. The hint of maple flavor is a wonderful natural reward.

I wonder how many grams of sugar I added to my diet yesterday.

That’s not counting the icing I ate on the couple of pieces of Cyndie’s spice cake I snuck in…

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Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2017 at 9:58 am

Patch Worked

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On Sunday, I just happened to stumble upon the fact that the snow-melt flowing down our drainage swale from beneath the driveway wasn’t coming out of the culvert.

“What the…!?”

I hustled to the other side of the driveway, and sure enough, the rushing water was disappearing beneath the mouth of the culvert. Nice.

I tell ya, property ownership is a trip.

I tried an on-the-fly patch in attempt to plug the opening enough to coerce the water to flow through the culvert, not beneath it. I dumped in sand and hay, plus tried stomping some of the residual snow to fill the void, but the water was moving with such momentum that my plug didn’t stop the flow.

I needed something impermeable. Old empty bags of feed came to mind, especially as they were also closest at hand. I cut open a bag and tried laying it as a sheet over the opening in hope the water pressure would push it in place to fill the opening beneath the mouth of the culvert.

The bag was more inclined to float.

dscn5848eI struggled to hurriedly push it below the freezing-cold water where I could cover it with hay and sand to redirect flow into the culvert. It started to work a little bit, so I worked harder to get the edges down to where water wouldn’t flow beneath it. Soon, it became obvious I needed to do something just upstream from there, so I added a second bag and placed a shovel on it to hold that one in place.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing, so I left it at that, fully expecting to find one or both of the bags out of place and wreaking havoc on desired flow sometime later.

Then yesterday’s rain storms arrived. Driving home, I noticed the ditches were filled with standing water and the creeks were running at full capacity with runoff. This time of year, rain water can’t soak into the soil because the ground is mostly frozen. I held little hope for the hastily placed feed bags at the mouth of our culvert.

Draining rain water was running at full tilt through the culvert under the road at the south border of our property when I arrived home. I stopped the car when I reached the problem culvert under our driveway and stepped out into the rain. First, I walked to the outlet side and was pleased to see heavy flow coming out of the culvert.

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Crossing to the other side, I was amazed to find both bags still positioned where I had placed them. The one funneling water into the culvert had flopped over sideways a bit, but it seemed to be holding in place down below. I pulled it back again to catch as much water as possible and deemed it a success.

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A more permanent fix will wait until there’s no water flowing, but for now, that crazy patch is certainly performing beyond my expectations. With the weather we are experiencing this winter, there is no telling when that opportunity for a permanent fix will arrive.

It will be no surprise to me if I find one or both of those bags down stream before their services are no longer needed. Stay tuned for further developments.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

Next Phase

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dscn5840ePicking up where the tree trimmers left off, I pulled the tractor out of the garage yesterday and we started the process of turning the piles of branches into wood chips. With the temperatures pushing into warmth much more typical for May or June, the timing was perfect for having fresh ground cover over the now muddy path leading down toward the barn from the driveway.

I quickly relearned how much physical effort is involved in the process of repeatedly feeding the chipping monster. The variety of branches that came out of our trees made for a constant struggle to detangle, reorient, and guide into the chute.

The smallest ends of branches will catch and get hung up on the corners, which interrupts flow, and the big limbs tend to bounce and torque when first struck by the powerful spinning blades. My body and hands frequently get smacked by the kick-back of the bigger branches.

After a prolonged session of working to make a pile of branches disappear into a wonderful mound of precious wood chips, I feel like I’ve been a few rounds in a boxing match.

dscn5836eCyndie helped to bring branches from farther and farther, and worked to cut junctions that “Y” off too wide to fit the bottom of the narrowing chute. We parked the tractor on the solid pavement of the driveway to be out of the mud that is quickly becoming the prevailing footing during this unbelievable February melt down.

We took a little break for lunch and then when I came out for a few more rounds of battle, it was T-shirt weather. It is just plain sad to be living through the end of cold and snowy winters like the ones I enjoyed as a kid. I fear for the precious trees I have been focused on caring for these last few days, as they react to the warmth and prepare to sprout new buds.

If they sprout leaves too early, they risk an ugly death from freezing when a hint of real winter returns for a last gasp reminder of cold that usually happens this time of year.

When I turned the key to restart the tractor, nothing happened. Well, not nothing. The indicator lights lit up, but there was no hint of sound from the starter. I have experienced this before. It was how I was first introduced to this tractor. No matter what I did, I could not get it to start.

That first time, I ended up needing to have a service person come out. He accidentally figured out the safety interlock of the PTO lever wasn’t getting met. After chasing a different possibility for a time, I came around to the same conclusion. It was the PTO lever again.

I got the engine started, repositioned the tractor to a new spot and was ready to go. I picked a big old dead oak branch to start and quickly busted the shear pin of the chipper.

I took the hint and called it a day for chipping.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

Leaping Day

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Does it feel like February seems longer than usual this year? Not to me. Everything still happens faster than I can comprehend. Happy Leap Day!

It’s like I need to come up with an extra post or something. Well, I have just the thing for today. After an outstanding weekend away at the lake with our friends Barb and Mike, we made it home to a wild reception from Delilah. The place was well taken care of, but it is always nice to reclaim our usual routine and let all our animals know we are back.

We checked out the trails, finding an incredible loss of snow over the weekend, and tidied up the paddocks while milling with the horses. A blink later, Sunday ended and the work week launched.

Our time at the lake is now just a memory.

One particular memory that I already treasure is a photograph that Mike captured. I was standing in front of him, looking out at the lake through one of the big picture windows. Suddenly, he told me not to move. He went behind me, came forward, then back again. At first, it wouldn’t focus for him. He was trying to catch the reflection he was seeing.

Finally, he got it.

FullSizeRenderI love it. Thanks, Mike!

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Written by johnwhays

February 29, 2016 at 7:00 am

Not Hot

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IMG_iP1135eThis is one of the not hot compost piles in our paddock. Not much in the way of decomposition happening there. Maybe that will change this weekend when the mega-melt of February is expected to arrive.

The frozen compost piles aren’t hot, but the temperature of the air will be. Add a chance for some rain in the mix and our lawn may become visible by the end of the weekend.

Mud season!

I suppose I ought to think about getting the garden tractor tuned up and ready for battle.

This early warmup in interesting, but warmth at this time of year is a fickle thing. One moment it feels all summery and promising, and a day later we could be socked in by a foot or two of heavy, wet snow. Do. Not. Remove. Winter. Accessories. From. Your. Vehicles.

The odds of needing them stays high through the first week in May around here. I’m inclined to wait until June before finally choosing to store them someplace safe, where I will never remember to look the following November when I am desperate to scrape frost off a windshield again.

IMG_iP1138eThis past Monday, the horses were enjoying the last hour of our increasingly longer daylight while I was tending to the frozen  manure pile closest to the barn. I have a sense that they are going to enjoy a warm spell, despite the messy footing it promises to provide.

With their coats still winter-thick, I expect it may feel downright hot to them.

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2016 at 7:00 am