Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘gravel

Better Base

leave a comment »

We returned home from the lake yesterday and got our first look at the completion of work by the excavating company that removed the old asphalt from our driveway. More important than just removing the old surface, they improved the base for laying down new asphalt. The new rock they added included a layer of surprisingly large-sized rock.

The big rock layer is visible on the edge of the more typical gravel base that was applied above it. This is just the thing I was hoping for after seeing how the previous asphalt sagged and broke apart over time due to the insufficient base.

Since we already had loads of gravel being hauled to our property, we asked them to also add fresh rock to the unpaved loop that circles our hay shed. The gravel that was laid down to originally create that drivable loop had almost disappeared beneath green growth that sprouted over the years.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

We don’t mind that grass and weeds sprout through the gravel (although I don’t like mowing it because rocks and mower blades don’t get along well) but we want to assure the loop remains firm enough to support heavy vehicles in all weather conditions. An additional layer of rock is a way of addressing that concern.

If all goes according to plan, the asphalt company will show up tomorrow. Based on what they mentioned when the job was quoted, the hot weather forecast for the week will be ideal for best results. “The hotter, the better,” they said. I will not be complaining about the heat this week no matter how uncomfortable it may get.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2022 at 9:29 am

Driveway 2.0

leave a comment »

Our next big project is now underway. We have committed to spending too many of our hard-earned saved dollars to fix the driveway that has been crumbling since the first few months after we arrived here. That was almost ten years ago. In the ongoing saga of our adventure of leaving the suburbs to create a sanctuary of rural bliss that we call Wintervale, this improvement on the land might be the least important but the most visible.

The old dilapidated pavement was still driveable, but it looked completely neglected (it was!) and was becoming increasingly more of a nuisance by the day. Smooth new asphalt will be a joy to have and it will make this place look even more amazing than it already did despite the lousy driveway surface.

We are contracting with two different companies that have worked together many times before. Yesterday, the excavating company that has supported us on multiple projects in the past, started the process of removing the old asphalt from a majority of the length. Specifically, the portion just above the shop garage all the way down to the road.

The asphalt company will overlay new pavement on top of the old asphalt in front of the shop garage and up to the house where little deterioration was evident.

After the excavators pulled up the first chunks of asphalt, they deduced the material used for the base looked like it was not as coarse as they recommend and it was not applied as thick as it should have been, especially in the low area where wetness and our clay soil combine to create a potential for problems.

Watching the process was mesmerizing for me. I stared in wonder like a little kid. The man operating the backhoe was an artist, deftly manipulating the controls to efficiently pull up and then break chunks of asphalt in one smooth motion.

After the first load of broken asphalt was hauled away, the truck returned with a full load of gravel to slowly pour out over the length of the excavated section. Then, that truck would be positioned beside the backhoe to receive more removed asphalt.

Eventually, a second truck showed up with gravel and joined the rotation. By quitting time, they had torn up about three-quarters of the length. They should be able to finish the entirety of their portion of the work before the end of the day today.

The asphalt company has us on their schedule to start next Monday with their work. When the quote was made this spring, the man said it would be best if they could lay the pavement during the hottest days of summer. It is looking good at this point with high temperatures in the 90s°F expected.

When your driveway is 900 feet long over two rolling hills, it becomes a significant feature of the overall property. I’m really looking forward to having ours updated to a new and improved version 2.0.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

Small Happenings

with 2 comments

There are days when the projects at Wintervale are a little less spectacular than others. On Friday, our order for a truck-load of gravel was delivered and I used the blade behind the tractor to spread it out. The results are subtle, but to my eye, it is a major improvement.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It doesn’t make a huge functional change to life around here, but it bolsters the foundation of the rest of our operation. Infrastructure, baby!

The pile visible in the photo on the right isn’t more gravel. It’s the lime screenings that we distribute in the paddocks to improve the footing for the horses by reducing areas of mud. After heavy downpours, we use screenings from the pile to fill in the rills that may have formed.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

We had some other small happenings around here yesterday, and it made for a spectacular occasion. Our dear friends, Mike and Barb were able to bring their grandchildren, Jackson and Allie for a visit. It was a last-minute addition, and when the “surprise” opportunity was suggested to the kids, Jack’s response was, “Is it about a horse?”

By coincidence, young Jackson has a thing for horses. He also seems to have a strong intuitive sense, as well.

When they all arrived, the first order of business was to head straight to the barn from the car, instead of stopping inside the house. After a brief initial, and very cute, attention to the chickens, the horses pretty much ruled the day.

The kids took turns grooming and riding on Legacy, fed all the horses apple slices for a treat, helped with chores and feeding, and ultimately settled on reading some of the driest academic books from Cyndie’s library.

Despite Cyndie offering other options of kid books from the shelves, Jackson honed in on that section of horse books. When Cyndie was guiding them through one of the books, scanning the pictures and skimming the words, Jack wanted to know if she was “really” reading it, and where she was in the text about anatomy and physiology.

I’m not sure who had the better time, the kids, or the adults getting to witness their thrills.

Oh, there was also a dinner of some world-class grilled steaks. Thank you, for that, Mike!

No small happening, there.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 22, 2017 at 10:29 am

Fortuitous Failure

leave a comment »

The plan was to get one load of gravel, one load of sand for the round pen, and two loads of lime screenings —one to spread around in the paddock, and one to keep as backup to fill washouts as they occur. In order to receive all these deliveries in the time while weather is good for doing so, we plotted out the order and location for dumping the piles.

The primary concern was to avoid having the heavy truck drive into the paddock, because the previous time we allowed that, it led to problems from the extreme compression straining buried electric fence wires between gate posts. I was also concerned about collapsing the buried drain tube we had installed from the barn gutter downspout.

The truck driver always seems more than willing to drive anywhere, leaving the responsibility on us to restrain the choices in protection of property. He long ago demonstrated complete disdain for the well-being of our asphalt driveway.

By my figuring, if we got gravel first and spread it out before the next delivery, the truck could drive on the new gravel and dump the lime screenings at the entrance of the paddock. I would spread them inside the paddock. The sand could then get dumped beside the barn, where I could move it by loader scoops, driving over the new lime screenings through the paddock to the round pen.

That would be a lot of tractor hours, but it was worth it to me to protect the paddock from the heavy truck.

Then Cyndie received word that they currently had no stock of lime screenings. The driver delivered gravel on Thursday with a plan to bring the sand on Friday morning. I had a short window of time after work on Thursday to spread the gravel, so he could drop the pile of sand the following morning in the spot where we wanted it.

DSCN4043eIn the middle of that task, as I tried to back up in order to spread the scoop of gravel I just dropped, the tractor lurched forward. I shifted again. This time it wouldn’t go backward, or forward. Tractor fail!

That wasn’t in my plan.

I struggled to remove a cover plate to see the mechanism of the gear shift lever. That didn’t help much, because even though I could then see it, I didn’t actually understand what I was looking at.

The options rattled through my mind. Call my very knowledgeable neighbor? It was getting late. Call the implement dealer? That would have to wait until morning. What about the sand delivery? Where would I put that?

Well, this failure caused me to rethink the possibilities and opened up a new willingness to have the truck drive through the hay-field. He would only need to pass through gates in which there was enough turf to limit the compression that happens from the weight of the load.

DSCN4042eIn the end, I have a new appreciation for the inconvenience of that shifting failure, because it has saved me a lot of work. The dump truck placed the sand in the center of the round pen. The hay-field held up well under the load, but the driveway has some new wrinkles where he made the turn on and off it.

The service man from the implement dealer made short work of the tractor repair by afternoon, replacing a pin and snap ring at the base of the shift lever, and I finished spreading the gravel.

That shifting failure is one I will remember fondly for the better outcome that came as a result.

There may be a life lesson available in all this.

Ya think?!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2015 at 9:37 am

Not Whining

leave a comment »

Darkness is here. I leave for work in the mornings now with the surroundings in total darkness. It makes for a drastically different drive from the mornings when painted skies of dawn filled my view over the summer. Before long this darkness will begin to feel completely normal, but for now I am very aware of the difference.

The chilly temperatures have me switching back to long sleeve shirts. That means the onset of the perpetual battle to avoid soaking the cuffs when I wash my hands after coming in from working outside. I’m considering making a couple of little “cones-of-shame” like the ones dogs sometimes have to wear, which I can slip over my hands to protect my long sleeves from getting wet when I wash.

Our home is under siege of the dreaded Asian lady beetle. I have gained a heightened sense of paranoia over my ever-present cup of ice water, ever since the time one of the nasty buggers made its way into my drink and I crunched it with my teeth. Even though I have a cover to protect the contents, I feel no sense of confidence that there won’t be a chance one of the invaders has made its way into the drink when I didn’t notice.

Cyndie and I have decided to order some additional loads of sand and gravel to have on hand before the snow flies. The ground is dry enough now that damage from the heavy dump truck will be much less than if we wait until spring, but I still fret over the impact that truck makes. We decided not to have him drive into the paddocks, but that leaves us with the challenge of choosing a spot where the loads can be dumped, and figuring out a way to spread the load out to the areas where we ultimately want it.

We also face the inevitable further abuse to the crumbling surface of our ailing asphalt driveway that the truck will dish out. We’ve given up on trying to repair the existing damage, but that doesn’t mean we welcome the increased distortion by the weight of a fully loaded dump truck. We want the sand and gravel, we just don’t want the abuse caused when it is delivered.

But I’m not whining. Really. Just venting a little bit. And it feels much better having done so.

Now I can get back to enjoying the splendor of a fall that is glowing all around our house this year. It is putting on quite a show!

IMG_iP0926e.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

Custom Workout

leave a comment »

A while back we spread a thin base layer of gravel in the round pen and I drove on it with the 4-wheeler, hoping to pack it down. I’m not sure it helped. The turn radius that was required seemed to disturb the surface about as much as it packed it. I’d call it a draw. We let it set for a week or so, walked the horses on it some, then decided it was good enough. Time to move on to putting down layer-two: lime screenings.

DSCN2561eIt has been dry enough lately that the dump truck was able to back all the way through the paddocks up to the gate that opens to the round pen. I made a couple of test runs with our wheelbarrow to move material in, quickly deducing the tractor would be the more effective method. That meant I needed to remove a panel from the round pen, but that can be accomplished with a reasonable amount of effort. Tasks like that are why I don’t need to go to a gym and lift weights to maintain my chiseled physique.

Trying to maneuver an object that is too tall and almost too heavy to lift, while being careful to protect myself from exacerbating problems with degenerating discs in the lumbar region of my back, is an amazing workout on the rest of the body.

To be successful, there is a point when the too-tall object slowly begins to lean in an undesired direction that a person needs to give up trying to hold it upright, and let it gravity have its way. I pick my battles. It is a way to survive, allowing me to pick it back up and finish moving it where I want.

Strangely, I find the effort of moving the pile using the loader on the tractor almost as tedious as, and much less satisfying than, using the wheelbarrow. I suppose my unskilled technique with the machine is a primary reason. I expect I’d enjoy it more if I was proficient at it, but I don’t enjoy using it enough to spend the time necessary to master the nuances that currently evade me. Maybe in time…

When the entire round pen was covered with a thick layer of lime screenings, I experimented with a few methods of packing it. The tamper worked really well, and it was another great workout for the arms and shoulder, but I couldn’t justify spending the time necessary to do the entire surface by hand like that.DSCN2566e

Dezirea made a gesture toward assisting me as I worked, but then chose to pack only a very small area by standing still for the majority of her visit.

I switched my energy to dragging a metal fence section across the surface, which gave it a nice appearance, but didn’t contribute a whole lot to packing it. Today I will bring in the 4-wheeler again to gently drive around, and drag that fence section. We’ll let time pass to help the surface settle and then order the delivery of sand to finish off the surface.

I’m mulling over how I will spread the sand with the tractor without disrupting the lime screenings at the same time. It will be a chance to practice taking my machine skills to a new level.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2014 at 9:05 am

Big Strides

leave a comment »

Today we have reached a milestone of 2-years since the day we stood in the suburban Verizon store making a purchase of a mobile device to provide internet access at our new home. I know that because our 2-year contract ends on the 17th. That step was the first of many we would be making to transfer our lives from Eden Prairie, MN to rural Beldenville, WI. For some reason, I have a solid memory of that Verizon event, probably because it was the first. Most of my other memories are much more vague.

With the daytime temperature yesterday soaring into the 70s, it was a banner day to get things done around here. I finally finished getting the bird feeder re-built and re-installed in its old location outside the sunroom. It feels great to have that off my list.

I spread out just enough of the pile of gravel in our driveway to see there would be enough to put some down as a base in the round pen. That is another goal we have wanted to achieve for a long, long time. Cyndie is home from work for a couple of days and she was able to help distribute the gravel that I was bringing with the tractor.DSCN2506e

She also asked for my camera and took some action shots while I was manning the controls. You can see I left the wood chipper attached to the back, to serve as a counter-balance, but that was a nuisance because it inhibited my maneuverability inside the limited space of the round pen.

Luckily, she didn’t get pictures of me panicking at the start when I realized I left a gate open and the horses were getting into the area I intended to work. I had removed a panel from the round pen and laid it down, and then propped open the gate into that pasture area. Then I headed off to get the tractor. As I was driving over to get access to the gravel pile from behind the barn, I spotted the horses milling about in the area I was planning to work.

I stopped the tractor and rushed over to remedy the situation, but did not check my energy. They picked up on my anxiety right away and started their own mini-panic. Two of them reacted correctly and rushed back into the paddock. The other two turned the opposite direction, extending my problem. I didn’t know which way to go, back to close the perimeter gate I had propped open which would give them a complete escape, or to the paddock to contain the two who had moved inside where I wanted them.

My hesitation allowed the two in the paddock to come rushing back out where I didn’t want them. In their hasty flight, they cut right through an area of composted manure I had spread to create a viewing plateau. Legacy slipped in it and smeared his entire right flank with a huge tattoo of blackness, but kept his momentum going and continued on with the rest of them.

I eventually restored order and got on with my task, but they were all amped up and continued to sprint around the hay-field and back into the paddock a few times before finally settling down again. Cyndie said that they were getting some good exercise out of it.

Between their energized running and our finally accomplishing the goal of getting a base layer down in the round pen, it was a day of truly big strides.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2014 at 6:00 am

Desperation Move

leave a comment »

On Saturday we took steps to provide our horses access to some dry ground by stringing temporary electric fence around a section of the gravel drive between the barn and the hay shed. As you can see in the image, they were most enthralled by the small area of green grass that was available in one small corner.

IMG_3779eEventually, they spread themselves out and each nibbled on hay we distributed in 4 spots, hoping to entice them to stay long enough to dry out their poor muddy feet.

It’s not a very big space, but it is better than nothing and they seem to appreciate our effort. With rain storms continuing to roll through, the mud situation just gets worse every day. We had to come up with some option to give them a break. The areas around the feeders where they previously found refuge, standing atop the buildup of spilled hay, has started to fail them and their hooves are beginning to push through. There was nowhere else for them to go.

That area of the driveway is solid, and they can stand there to give their hooves a chance to dry out. It is a bit of a desperate move, but it is a means to an end that buys us time while we await a change of conditions that doesn’t look to be arriving any time soon.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2014 at 6:00 am

Posted in Wintervale Ranch

Tagged with , , , , , ,