Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘grass

Got Ribs?

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We have been unable to enlist the help of our tiny herd of horses with improving the regeneration of our grass fields this summer. They have been allowed very limited access to the rich green grass in order to control both weight and the younger two’s penchant for laminitic hoof problems.

Yesterday, Cyndie allowed the horses a little time on the grass beyond the barren paddock and we both made the same observation. All three have slimmed down enough that faint lines of their ribs are detectable, even seen through their new growth of shaggier winter coats.

They’ve got ribs!

They certainly aren’t skinny, but the hint of rib definition helps to convince us they aren’t as overweight as they had been previously. We’ve made progress.

To celebrate, they were allowed a few extra minutes of grazing.

Hopefully, they will put more of the fuel toward filling out their winter coats, and not so much to just storing fat around their rib cages.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2018 at 9:52 am

Making Decisions

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With everything around here growing at warp speed, now would be a really bad time to lose the services of our Stihl power trimmer. Isn’t there a law of probability about this?

While Cyndie was making headway against the grass jungle taking over the gazebo on Monday, the trimmer became “wobbly.” She discovered the main drive shaft tube had suffered a metal-fatigue fracture.

That’s not good.

I dropped it off for repair in the evening, but their backlog of work is running at two weeks. It’s scary to imagine not being able to trim for that many days.

Cyndie thinks we should buy another one, and I am hard pressed to argue. There have been many times when we both could be trimming at the same time.

Pondering this. Something about it doesn’t feel right. I’m driven to balance the logic of a cost-benefit analysis, a crystal ball vision of what our future is here, and that unsettling gut feeling about the expense. Then I need to deal with the fact there is no right or wrong answer in the end.

You know me and decision-making. It’s not my favorite thing to manage.

One thing that I’m glad that we weren’t relying on me to decide, yesterday we got the details from our neighbor about his plan for the hay-field. It makes total sense to me now.

While he was cutting on Monday night, he was listening to the weather forecast. The outlook for rain all day Thursday was holding strong, so he smartly stopped cutting any more than he thought he could get dried and baled by the end of today.

We received encouraging news from him about our fields. He said the grass is real thick underneath, likely due to the mowing we did all last summer. In addition, he clarified that the tall grass going to seed was not Foxtail, as Cyndie feared (which is not good for our horses’ mouths), but the premium horse hay staple, Timothy.

We still have a long way to go in our transition from suburbanites to Ag-wise country folk.

(Brings to mind my stuttering pause into the phone when I was asked what kind of cows were trampling our property a couple of weeks ago. Um, big ones?)

Amidst the angst of dealing with equipment failures, it is refreshing to learn some good news about the outcome of our efforts to improve the quality of what is growing in our hay-field and pastures.

Despite all the challenges that continue to arise (and decisions thus required), Wintervale continues to evolve in an encouraging way for us.

Hurrah!

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Don’t Try

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We’ve been going about it all wrong. I’ve figured out a new way to grow grass. Simply don’t try.

It’s along the same lines as reverse psychology. It seems totally unlikely, but trust me. It works.

Here’s how you can do it:

Get a bunch of bales of grass hay. Four or five hundred worked well for us. Move them from one place to another, and then sweep all the leftover debris onto a hard gravel surface.

Next, drive back and forth across that surface over and over. Also, relentlessly bake that spot in the afternoon sun.

Never water it beyond what happens to fall from the sky as rain.

It doesn’t hurt to repeatedly process thoughts about not wanting grass to grow in the gravel area. You might even order a second load of rocky class-5 gravel to spread over the area. It’s what we did, and look at the results we got:

That grass is growing in the driveway where we don’t want it, many times better than it grows in areas where we actually want lawn grass. In addition, it is all grass. No weeds. In the lawn, many spots have more weeds and other odd ground cover growing than we have grass.

But not on the driveway. Noooooo. Just wonderful blades of grass there.

It’s not even simply a matter of not trying; we have actively sought to discourage grass from growing there, but to no avail.

I really don’t like mowing our gravel sections of driveway.

Unfortunately, I can’t avoid it. The grass grows too well there.

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Same Result

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Last fall I bought a new yard tractor to mow grass. It’s a level up from the model we took on from the previous property owners, with a much sturdier mowing deck and improved steering. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to use it a couple of times, I’m able to judge its worth.

Performance is improved in all areas except one. Despite the inclusion of hose fittings to wash the underside of the deck with water, it collects grass and needs cleaning just the same as the previous one.

Since it was new, I decided to give the suggested water cleaning steps a chance, despite everything I’ve heard debunking the method. It just seems wrong to be getting the nooks and crannies of metal parts wet.

The results were as underwhelming as I’d expected.

Having mastered removing the deck for cleaning on the old mower, I figured it would be just as easy on this one, allowing me to turn it over to see the results directly.

In total neglect of checking any instructions, I boldly forged ahead to remove clips at the attachment points. Right away I realized, there was no handy lever to release tension on the belt. That didn’t stop me from getting it apart, but I knew it was going to complicate getting it all hooked up again after I was done.

Flipping the deck quickly revealed the gross limitations of the water method for cleaning. That might work if all you did was cut a short length of grass blades from a lush lawn. My reality involves a lot more weeds, small branches, dirt, and dust, combined with occasional areas of thick, too-long grass which packs on a complex brick of debris to the underside of the deck.

The sprayed water didn’t come close to being effective enough.

When it came time to reattach the deck, I made multiple futile attempts before finally wrestling all the clips in place at all the attachment points. All that remained was to get the belt over the pulley.

No matter what contortion of positions I tried, I didn’t have enough hands or leverage to muscle that belt in place. I knew there must be a logical procedure I wasn’t figuring out.

Yeah. This is the part where I went inside and consulted the manual again.

Surprise! There is a little square hole on the arm of the tensioning pulley intended for the post of a ratchet driver that would allow for enough leverage to get the belt over the engine pulley. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

I also learned that I had removed two clips too many, which complicated the task unnecessarily.

So, cleaning the deck ends up being the same result as the old yard tractor, but properly informed, it will ultimately involve an easier process of removal and re-attachment.

Overall, I’m happy to report being very satisfied with the upgrade!

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

Making Peace

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It is getting to a point where I think I just need to make peace with the fact that water runoff on our property will carve its own path no matter what feeble attempts I make to direct it.

We received another short-but-robust deluge from the rain gods yesterday afternoon, which generated eroding runoff flow digging ever deeper into all the existing rills and washouts that had already evolved from the last few downpours this summer.

While standing on one of the spots inside the small paddock where our insufficient attempts to establish a direct route to the drainage swale had long ago spectacularly failed, I tried to envision what a successful solution might look like.

I picture a much more assertive effort along the lines of what you would see done to create a drainage ditch along a roadway. If we dig an unmistakable ditch, we could dump the material we scoop out of it to fill the washouts we’d rather not have.

The big challenge with a serious excavation is getting planted grass to sprout and hopefully hold soil in place before rainfall gets a chance to wash it all away. If money were no object, maybe we could line the ditch with enough river rock to form a creek bed.

Aw, heck, why stop there? Let’s just line it with a rubber pond skin first, and then pour on the rock. Wouldn’t that make a sharp-looking dry creek that’s always ready for a flash flood. It’s called Rainscaping.

There are a lot of images out there depicting some incredibly artistic solutions along these lines. Fifty dry creek ideas right here! But there is one thing missing from all photos I saw: weeds.

If we tried any of those solutions, in a very short time, you wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful rocks through the 3-foot tall weeds that would happily take root.

Maybe there’s a happy medium in there somewhere. I’m thinking I need grass to grow to hold soil in place, or rocks. How about grass and rocks?

It would be a hassle to mow, though.

Back to reality. The rocks to cover the distances I need would be an awful strenuous effort to accomplish, in addition to the cost of having them delivered. Grass seed is something I can afford and plant easily myself.

It doesn’t cost anything to dream. I like picturing the possibilities. In the mean time, I am stuck looking at the ongoing and frustrating erosion that has had the better of me for the last five years.

I want to work on making my peace with that.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Getting Trim

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We made visible progress on the grounds yesterday by finally cutting the middle section of pasture that hadn’t been mowed all summer.

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We haven’t even installed the tarp cover of the gazebo next to the round pen yet, which reveals the lack of workshop activity in the early season of 2017.

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That is changing now. We are cranking up preparations for a shot at accomplishing a summer’s worth of workshops in the final month. The horses have been patiently waiting. I think they are getting excited seeing the increase in maintenance of the grounds.

They can tell it’s soon time to do what they do best.

Now all we need is people interested in discovering what the horses have to offer.

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Short Note

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No time for blathering on this morning… Finished with breakfast, we are hustling down to rake and remove piles of grass from the labyrinth before rain arrives today.

While we work, you enjoy this image of berries and flowers that Cyndie captured.

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Written by johnwhays

July 9, 2017 at 8:50 am

Posted in Chronicle

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