Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘frost heave

Posts Pounded

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We made our way around the entire loop of our fencing yesterday, pounding posts back down that our winter freeze had pushed up. Two years ago, after we no longer kept horses inside the fence, I loosened some fence lines to see if that would reduce how much the corner posts appeared to come up.

I don’t think it made any positive difference, but before tightening the wires back up in preparation of turning the electricity on, I wanted to get all the corner posts back down. Most of them moved down multiple inches easily, but a few hardly budged.

We didn’t fuss over those.

If nothing more than psychologically satisfying, it felt like a worthy effort. We rewarded ourselves after all the work by immediately turning on the electricity to the fence wires.

The familiar “click-click-click” came on and the display ramped up to a respectable 12Kvolts energy. Mission Accomplished.

Almost.

I still need to walk the length and verify voltage is present on all sections.

Cyndie already identified three locations where some arcing is occurring, so I want to look into those in hope of solving the causes.

That situation is no different than what we dealt with regularly back when we previously had horses, so it feels perfectly acceptable for welcoming the arrival of our new 4-horse herd.

We are stoked! We’re expecting to receive delivery on Friday. Hopefully, that can be confirmed after today’s visit from This Old Horse.

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Fence Maintenance

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I’ve tried a number of methods in dealing with fence posts that get pushed up by the freezing and thawing cycles that occur in our location. Our land has areas where the level of ground water sits just below the surface. It will drop during extended drought, but otherwise it doesn’t take much digging to reach moisture.

Every time it freezes, the water expands and the pressure slowly but surely pushes fence posts toward the sky.

Upon consultation with the owner of the company that originally installed our fencing, I learned that they would likely use a skid-steer tractor and press down with the hydraulic bucket. He suggested I save their time and my money and use the same method with my diesel tractor.

So, I did, and was amazed at how easily that pushed posts down. Almost too easy. It requires painstaking control and mental focus to avoid wreaking total havoc by overtaxing the limits of the posts or cross planks. One wrong slip and I risk doing much more damage than improvement.

There is one other complication with that method that pretty much stops me from even driving up to the fence. The ground in many of the areas of pushed up posts is so wet that my big tractor would sink into the mud and create an even messier problem to be solved.

That led me to desperately trying to simplify the task by just pounding down on the most obvious posts that had pushed up. Several different techniques to protect the post from damage and get the right angle and leverage all brought minimal results.

Yesterday spawned a new insight. I had a hand tool with a square steel pad for tamping soil that I figured would work to pound the top of the posts without damaging them. I also thought it wouldn’t hurt to add my 170 pounds of pressure to stand on a plank when slamming down on the top of a post.

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The thing is, I couldn’t feel if it was doing any good. I enlisted Cyndie’s help to watch for progress, which ended up providing great encouragement when she would report how much it was working.

I was thrilled. Right up to the point the steel tamper began to shatter under the mis-use. I tried to carry on, but the loss of weight in the tool seemed to diminish progress. Another tool was needed. We don’t have a specific sledge hammer, but I contemplated rigging something to use the wood splitting maul for the purpose.

That’s when the next inspiration struck. I could modify the broken tamper to make it the handle of a weighty block of wood that would match the fence posts I was pounding.

 

Look out fence posts. Here I come.

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Trail Bulge

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For some reason, the heaving path down the middle of our trails fascinates me. Some days the bulge stands out dramatically. Yesterday, I tried to take pictures that would show how high it had risen, but the two-dimensional images just don’t do it justice.

First, I tried shooting from my eye height when standing. Then I crouched down and snapped a shot for comparison.

I’m not sure there is any difference between the two for revealing the surprising upheaval of earth compared to the ground on either side of it.

The hump is frozen solid, but the very top surface of leaves and dirt melt just enough to get slippery. It becomes a challenge of constantly choosing whether to step on the residual ice or the decaying leaves for the better footing, ever wary that either could result in a slip.

Add in the frequent jolts on the leash when Delilah wants to make haste after some critter ahead and it’s a wonder we ever make it back to the house clean and dry.

When the trail offers better all-snow footing, and during the summer when it’s not very wet, I occasionally allow Delilah to race as fast as she wants and run behind her, but that is chaos for planting my feet. It tends to be at a pace that I can’t maintain for very long, after which she willingly settles down to a brisk walk and I spend the rest of the jaunt gasping to recover my breath.

Over the weekend, I noticed that it is the corner fence posts that are all getting pushed up, despite my having released much of the tension from the wires.

It is easy to push the fence posts back down using the loader on the diesel tractor. Almost too easy. The first time I tried it, I was shocked over how little resistance there was to the hydraulic power and weight of the bucket. The complication is that the period of time when the ground is thawed enough to easily accept the posts being pushed down, the tires sink in and put me at risk of getting stuck and/or tearing up the surrounding turf something awful.

It becomes a classic case of timing being everything.

I’m not going to worry about the fence posts for now, but I will be anxiously awaiting the trails getting back to flat again as soon as the frost goes out of the ground.

Bring on the spring mud season!

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Ground Moves

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The snow melting continued with full momentum yesterday, exposing a lot more ground than the day before. We walked the property to survey the progress up close and witnessed more evidence of how much the ground moves this time of year.

The free-standing angel statue is once again a “lying-prone” angel. Poor thing takes a lot of abuse left on its own to deal with the elements. It’s not really alone in that predicament, though, as the peace pole beside it that is only anchored by an 8-inch stake will also tip over as soon as the frozen dirt around it melts enough to let the slightest breeze put pressure on any side.

Happens every year.

One thing that hasn’t happened until now is the arrival of an aggressive digging gopher within the confines of the labyrinth, but we can now add that to the ongoing saga of nuisances.

There were three or four additional locations of similar soil disruption messing up almost a quarter of the circuitous paths. I’m not looking forward to the struggle to redirect that beast’s attention elsewhere this summer.

When we reached the paddocks, I discovered it is very easy to see the distance two of the posts have been pushed up by the freezing and thawing of the ground. The telltale stain at the base is a clear gauge of how far they have come up in the last few days. There is an additional faded line that is a record of a previous, or possibly the original depth to which the posts were set.

We are just a week into March, so I am readying myself for a few more rounds of freezing and thawing cycles and probably one or a few snow accumulations before this kind of havoc changes to thunderstorms and tornado threats that will be grabbing our attention. It’s always something, you know.

Luckily, between all that calamity we will enjoy some glorious weather, too.

We’ve never been denied interludes of luxuriously blissful weather days, but have you ever noticed how the nice weather never ends up being as earth-shaking and attention-getting as the troublesome days?

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Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Retreating Snowpack

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Wave goodbye. The snow cover over our fields is fading fast. It is fascinating to watch it slowly progress, day by day as the hours of sunlight grow longer and the temperatures moderate. Winter is loosening its grip on our latitude of the northern hemisphere.

The ground is making its annual reappearance. It is also heaving dramatically where the frost was deep, pushing fence posts and chicken coops to new misalignments. Seriously, the coop has leaned another few inches since I last wrote about it. It’s the new leaning tower of Wintervale.

The trails are rising up in a bizarre center crown where our constant foot traffic packed the path solid all winter and drove the frost deeper than the surrounding earth. I don’t understand the physics of why it pushes up so much in the spring, but I’ve watched it for enough years now that I accept it as a regular routine.

One year it was so pronounced that I worried it would be a challenge to drive the 4-wheeler without bottoming out on the high ground between the wheel ruts. After a few days of thawing, the center of the trail surprisingly flattened out like nothing out of the ordinary had ever occurred. If I hadn’t watched the changes every single day when walking Delilah, I wouldn’t have had a clue about it.

On the subject of walking Delilah, if I hadn’t been so pressured by her to go out at sunset at the expense of finishing the movie I’d started during dinner, I would have missed the brilliance of Venus glowing all by itself in the western sky over the gorgeous orange glow radiating just along the horizon. The glow transitioned impeccably from that deep orange to a faint yellow that became an infinite variety of baby blues to almost black as the sky made its way toward night.

Opposite the bright spec of Venus, the waxing moon was on full brightness in the east, starting to cast tree shadows on the snow before darkness had barely started to establish its dominance.

I owe Delilah a debt of gratitude for allowing me to experience that early evening show as we waved goodbye to the day.

Frankly, the movie I had been watching didn’t hold a candle to the twilight scenes available outside.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

Not Level

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This isn’t the first year I’ve had the impression that the chicken coop is leaning away from level, but it’s now become more obvious than I am able to ignore. Every time I walk past it, I fight an urge to walk over and push it back to level, but I’m the one who buried those six posts 3-feet deep each. A little push on the side of the structure won’t do anything to press the far posts back down to where they started.

Part of me wants to think it’s just an optical illusion given the relative reference of the surrounding ground. The view from the other side doesn’t look all that bad.

If I’d bother to walk up to the shop to get the level there would be no questioning it, but the issue is an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” level concern and has yet to warrant the intentional hike in order to verify my instinct. Wouldn’t really make any difference, anyway. There is nothing I would do about it either way.

Actually, I don’t need the level. If you didn’t already spot it, go back and look at that first image. There is an easy reference line –two actually– revealing a straight verticle in the items hanging on the outside wall. Based on those lines being straight up and down, the horizontal boards are definitely not square to that.

The frost heave that occurs in the ground is in charge of the angle of this structure. The legs of the coop were not installed like footings for structures that must meet building codes.

Luckily, our hens don’t seem to give a cluck about it.

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Written by johnwhays

March 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

Tipping Point

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Back in September, I boasted of the big victory of using visiting family with strong backs to finally accomplish a dream of placing a third rock upon the two large boulders at the center of our labyrinth.

It was a great moment.

Then, along came winter, and the heaving of earth as the ground frost increased in depth.

The other day, while exploring the woods with Delilah, we came out on the backside of the labyrinth and I spotted the little rock on top was tipping over.

Mother Nature has a way of proving we do not have as much control over things as we’d like to think.

I’m undecided about trying to push it back upright now, or waiting to see how the boulders move as the season progresses.

Somehow, it feels like a fitting metaphor for a lot of things that are tipping or are out of my control.

I am inclined to observe what happens without jumping right in to do battle against the elements.

It’s another adventure, only in slow motion.

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Written by johnwhays

January 8, 2018 at 7:00 am

Sinking Feeling

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I was all fired up to pick up where I left off on Saturday with the plowing of trails, but my plan changed quickly when I discovered a flat tire on the Grizzly. Actually, the fact that it was flat was no surprise. I’ve been nursing that tire for quite a while because it has had a slow leak.

The difference now is that it is not as slow a leak anymore. When I added air there was a very audible hissing. I had never been able to actually hear the leaking air before yesterday. Time for some Slime.

Actually, the time for Slime was way back when I first realized it needed air every time I wanted to use the ATV. Maybe I was thinking this would be one of those problems that would go away if I ignored it long enough.

It wasn’t one of those problems.

I rearranged my goals for the day and turned my attention to moving hay bales from the shed into the barn. When I slid the barn door open I discovered the iron rail that is supposed to be a catch for the two doors had dropped out of reach.

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Or maybe the ground has heaved up around it. It’s confusing.

I don’t know what the difference is from last year, when the ground and the rail both heaved up to the point we were rarely able to use the big doors.

All I know for sure is, the ground sure moves a lot around here.

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Written by johnwhays

January 16, 2017 at 7:00 am

Frost Heaving

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I know I have lamented how wet things were here during autumn, and you’d think I’d be over it now that winter has finally made itself known in full, but I must admit to still having a gripe over all the water.

Cyndie made a run to the feed store in the truck to pick up bags of horse food and wood shavings yesterday before the next predicted snowfall event arrived. After offloading some things at the house, she was going to drive down to the barn to unload the bags of feed and shavings, and asked me if she should park the truck inside the barn since it was going to snow.

I recognized her question as a way to enlist me to move the snowplow blade that is on the ground just inside the big sliding doors of the barn.

I volunteered. “Sure, you can park in the barn. I’ll go down and move the plow out of the way.”

Except she couldn’t. I didn’t bother moving the plow because I couldn’t open the big doors. The saturated ground had heaved when it froze and was pushing the doors up off their rollers and had wedged them tight.

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Cyndie had already worked to scrape the ground beneath the small door earlier in the day so she could get it open.

The big doors aren’t going anywhere for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2016 at 7:00 am