Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘labyrinth

Interrelated Accomplishments

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One thing conveniently led to the next in the series of projects we chose to take on in yesterday’s unseasonable heat. While we had been working in the woods the day before, Cyndie discovered a spot that looked promising for digging up more rocks for use in the labyrinth. There remained a surprising number of plaster fake rocks defining the pathway that we have always intended to replace when we find suitable real rocks.

I can no longer recall how many of these faux stones were left behind by the sellers of our property because it’s been so long since we used them all up in the labyrinth. Since we started reclaiming them again and storing them on a pallet, we’ve reached roughly five layers of the plaster half-rocks now being stored in the hay shed. That is more than enough to keep in reserve for replacing ones that fall from the veneer of supposed field rock plastered around the foundation of our log home and the shop garage.

Yesterday’s rock exchange in the labyrinth resulted in a wheelbarrow full of the faux stones which I needed to purge. Convincing myself that we didn’t need to store any more fake rocks, I came up with a good use for them. I dumped them on the corner where our loop around the hay shed meets the new pavement of the driveway.

I have been working to build up the corner to support the lagging trailer wheels that follow off-track in a turn onto the narrow driveway. After adding rock to the shoulder of that corner, I have been covering it with composted manure, our most available natural fill.

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Our great need for fill along the driveway is conveniently coinciding with my goal of clearing out space in the compost area to make room for the coming winter.

So, to review:

  • We replaced faux stones that were temporarily used in the labyrinth.
  • I was able to use the faux stones as fill for building up the turn from the hay shed loop to the driveway pavement.
  • I’m using composted manure to cover the added material along that turn.
  • Using that compost helps to clear out space for winter collection of new manure and possibly bedding from the barn stalls.

It is wonderfully satisfying to be making these improvements and having our efforts pay off in advancing other projects concurrently underway. It feels like we are getting two rewards for one effort, multiple times!

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Autumn Views

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Picking up where I left off yesterday, here are four more wonderful photographs Cyndie captured revealing the colorful autumn views we have been enjoying this year.

Standing in the labyrinth, first, the view looking out…

Then, she turned around to capture the view looking toward the woods…

The one thing we didn’t take a picture of was the crime scene in our kitchen when we got back from feeding the horses in the afternoon. I saw it first and put up a gate to keep Delilah from going in. Cyndie was outside tending to our landscape pond and without blurting my shock over the scene, I hinted that something happened in the kitchen.

I asked her if there was a cover on the wine bottle. She didn’t take the bait and simply said, “Yes.”

I told her I thought Pequenita had been up on one of the kitchen counters.

It was the short counter between the stove and refrigerator where some onions and potatoes are stored. Obviously, an opened bottle of wine with a stopper in it was also there.

The basket of onions had fallen off the backsplash and probably tipped the bottle over. The stopper was on the floor by the center island and red wine was splattered all over the tile floor. I asked if it would stain the tiles.

It didn’t. Cyndie said it didn’t look like the cat had lapped up anything spilled on the floor. She must have leaped and run away in a panic. There were no visible paw prints in the mess. I found Pequenita curled up on a blanket on the couch up in the loft, acting as if nothing had happened.

As we were falling asleep last night, I asked Cyndie if there was any way that basket could have fallen on its own and knocked over the bottle.

Without hesitation, she convicted ‘Nita, despite the lack of incontrovertible proof. Yeah, I’m okay with that. That was my first impression, after all, upon discovering the unexpected autumn color splashed all over our kitchen floor.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

Harvesting Rocks

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Since it is harvest season, we decided to grab a couple of shovels and head into our woods to harvest rocks for use in the labyrinth. The back half of the circling pathway needs additional rocks to fully complete the borders. This time of year it is easier to see where old rock piles have been swallowed by the woods. From now until the ground freezes becomes prime rock harvesting time.

It might look a little like the photo above when we arrive at first but prying loose just one of the rocks can start a chain reaction of adjacent rocks coming free, one after another.

We were quickly reminded that prop shovels made for the classic “breaking ground” ceremonies where executives and politicians all toss a scoopful of sand are not hardy enough for real work.

Cyndie claimed the shovel in the photo above from her mom’s garage last year as they cleared out possessions in advance of selling the property. Her dad had been involved in more than one of these ground breaking events over the years, keeping the shovels as mementos. This one is the second to have suffered this kind of fate when used in projects around our property.

I turned the previous one into an edger tool by grinding the what was left of the spade into a cutting blade.

After uncovering a reasonable number of healthy-sized rocks for our purposes, we used a wheelbarrow to move them from the woods to the periphery of the labyrinth.

The dusty clay soil gives them all the appearance of being one color at this point but a few rain showers will bring out more individual personalities over time.

Now comes the fun part, picking just the right rocks to fill in the gaps around the back half of the labyrinth pathway. My guess is we could probably use four times as many as we “harvested” today to achieve the full effect we are after, but this amount will occupy us for now.

I want to also get after staging more downed tree trunks and limbs for chipping. There are at least four different spots in our forest where the professional trimmers cut down trees late last winter, leaving the lumber for us to process.

Collecting rocks and trimming downed trees are the two ongoing projects that will never really have a completion point on our property.

They nicely compliment the other project that is always ongoing around here: composting manure.

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Written by johnwhays

October 4, 2022 at 6:00 am

Even Frostier

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Yesterday morning, Wednesday, September 28th, was even colder than the day before. Instead of a few random spots of frost, our entire back pasture was white from ice crystals on the grass.

It was a hard enough freeze to quickly dispatch some of the plants in the labyrinth. The leaves of hydrangea plants had begun to turn black and shrivel by the afternoon.

Once the sun got high, the temperatures were ideal for toiling in the late September rays. We were on the final stretch of weeding around the rocks lining the paths of the front half of the labyrinth. First, we rolled the rocks away to make it easier to pull weeds. Then, using a guide stick to determine proper spacing, I repositioned rocks to define the lanes again.

Having started at the center of the labyrinth where the distances of each circuit are short, dealing with the increasing spans of the much longer outer rings began to grow a little tiresome. Upon reaching our goal, we rewarded ourselves with a second session of the day hanging with the horses as they freely checked out the barn.

It was their second opportunity of the day and every indication is that our plan is working wonderfully. We placed a small amount of feed in each of the stalls as enticement and by the end of the last session all but Mia had ventured in and out of different stalls to nibble. Swings was taking advantage of the water available in hanging buckets in each stall.

It’s looking like we are making good gains toward adjusting their attitude about coming inside the barn during harsh conditions.

Compared to last winter, they are certainly giving us a much less “frosty” reception to the opportunity.

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Written by johnwhays

September 29, 2022 at 6:00 am

Our Day

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A day after we celebrated Julian’s birthday with a family dinner at a Bloomington restaurant, Cyndie and I claimed yesterday for ourselves in honor of our 41st wedding anniversary. Our animal sitter, Grace, was on the calendar to free us up to do whatever we wanted. In the end, we both wanted to stay home and work on our property.

I am thrilled that our first accomplishment involved clearing small stumps, roots, and rocks in our north loop trail that have prevented me from being able to mow that section as low as desired for our walking trails. I’ve been wanting to take care of this nuisance issue for two summers.

In the afternoon, we focused our attention on the labyrinth. I brought down our new favorite tool, the electric push mower to give it a fresh cut.

We rearranged rocks and pulled weeds, addressing only a fraction of the total that is deserving of attention. The progress looks so good it has us both wanting to get back down there again soon to continue the beautification.

Just as we were about worn out for the day, we looked up to find the horses had wandered back to hang out in our proximity. That was all the invitation we needed to stop what we were doing to go hang out with them.

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Throughout the day we reminisced about our wedding day back in 1981, an outdoor service on a day with very similar weather to what we were enjoying yesterday. I remember the trees were starting to turn colors, similar to what is beginning to happen here this week.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

Rock Relocation

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When I told Cyndie I was ready to drive the tractor into the back pasture to pick up that rock, she asked if she should move the horses out. I figured they wouldn’t be a problem and suggested she leave them be, without expecting them to be near as chill as they ended up being when the tractor rumbled past them all.

None of them even lifted their heads from chomping away on the grass at their feet. It was a rewarding demonstration of how comfortable they are getting with their environs and our activities around them.

As I was filling the hole with composted manure, the horses took turns approaching the rock and the tractor to see what was going on in their field. I love being able to be in their space and have them so calmly accept our presence.

The labyrinth was the easiest place to put the rock and the easiest spot to set it down was on the outer edge. Without any pre-planning, I grabbed two other available rocks from nearby and placed them on top, reserving the right to switch them out later if we come across ones we like better.

There is something satisfying about this whole process that makes me want to do it right away again. Luckily, there is a known candidate for relocation currently buried on our north loop trail. I know it is there but I don’t have any idea how much of it is buried out of sight.

I’m hoping to find out soon.

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Written by johnwhays

September 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

Latest Addition

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We have another new tool for managing our landscape. I have tried three different methods of cutting the grass path of the labyrinth, starting with a reel mower. The grass grew too fast for the spinning scissor mechanism to keep up. Next up was the Stihl power trimmer. It worked well enough but took a long time (hours) and used up a fair amount of plastic line and multiple tanks of gas. It was a real workout.

The new tool, a 21″ electric push mower, seems like it will be the winner for this job. The third time’s the charm.

I couldn’t stop smiling after I finished the job in just 40 minutes, exhausting only one of the two batteries it holds.

There are a couple of spots where I hope to adjust the rocks to optimize the exercise. There is one small portion that is probably an inch too narrow and several where the width is wide enough I needed to back up and make a second pass. Most of the curving pathway is perfect for an easy walking push directly along the route. Adjusting the entire distance for a perfect width will make the job even more fun than it already is.

I’ve been contemplating a push mower as an alternative to the yard tractor for areas in our front yard where there are obstacles and slopes that are tricky to navigate. When I found an electric model that would fit well in the labyrinth and got Julian to bring one he owns for a test, the decision became pretty easy to make.

By the way, this manufacturer offers riding mowers, too. Hmm. No more oil changes, dirty air filters, spark plugs, fuel…

It’s tempting.

Even though there are other things I was hoping to accomplish today, all I really want to do is mow the tricky part of the front yard with the newest addition to our collection of yard maintenance tools. Somewhat reminiscent of a boy with a new toy.

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Written by johnwhays

September 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

Driveway Fun

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On Saturday, Cyndie and I had so much strenuous fun raking gravel up against the edge of our new asphalt that we took yesterday off from doing any heavy labor. Our afternoon was brightened by a visit from Julian who brought over his battery-powered push mower and leaf blower for us to test.

Cyndie has decided a blower is the best way to clean out the large areas of river rock landscaping around our house. I’ve been thinking for a while that a small push mower might be a better tool for mowing around our sloping front yard’s features and might even fit on the labyrinth pathway. One of my hesitancies in adding more power equipment has always been a disdain for small gas engines. I’ve already got three times more than I want to care for so the possibility of switching to electric is enticing.

While we were playing with Julian’s battery-powered equipment, he hopped on his electric one-wheel board and took a few spins on our fresh asphalt.

You would think that the new driveway would give us a break from struggling to maintain a well-tended appearance around this place but I discovered evidence of nature’s tenacious ability to demonstrate dominance over us by way of the first weed sprouting through the pavement.

It didn’t take more than a month. Really?

The electric mower worked well in the labyrinth and finished the job in a third of the time it has been taking us to use the power trimmer. Just a few adjustments of the rocks forming the pathway borders at the 180° turns and the 21″ deck will fit nicely. I think some electric outdoor power equipment is likely in our future.

At least we will be able to keep the labyrinth looking well tended.

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Written by johnwhays

August 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

Caught Up

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For a day or two now, we are caught up with mowing all that is growing at the peak rate typical for June. Yesterday was a perfect day for cutting grass with the lawn tractor. It was dry with a nice breeze and the grass wasn’t overgrown. I was able to mow at high speed, there were no piles of clippings, and the finish looks top notch. I will enjoy it for the rarity it was because I regularly find myself facing one or multiple versions of cutting complications.

Cyndie raked the clippings in the labyrinth after giving them a day to dry out and it is looking its best, as well. Did I mention that, after a good night’s sleep, Cyndie was feeling back to her healthy old self?

I tried wearing my earbuds under the earmuff hearing protection I wear while mowing because I am caught up in a Kris Kristofferson song from 1976 that I just heard for the first time. I’m contemplating trying to memorize it so I can create my own version to play and sing.

“There ain’t nothing sweeter than naked emotions
So you show me yours hon and I’ll show you mine”

I heard Shannon McNally’s version first and then searched for the song origins and found both Kristofferson’s and Willie Nelson’s two versions. It amazes me that I haven’t come across this song sooner in the 46-years since it was written.

All credit goes to MPR’s “Radio Heartland” on the HD2 subchannel of KNOW’s 91.1 MHz. I rarely pursue music beyond my personal library collection anymore, so exposure to new music is mostly limited to what I hear on the radio when traveling in my car. My tastes have begun to age out of MPR’s “The Current” at 89.3 MHz FM so more and more I find myself migrating to the primarily acoustic, singer-songwriter, folk, and Americana offerings on “Heartland.”

“And I wish that I was the answer to all of your questions
Lord knows I know you wish you were the answer to mine”

I am enjoying that this song has finally caught up with me after all these years.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Trimming Minutiae

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There is no drama about our activities yesterday and little in the way of specific goals. The hours passed as the earth rotated and shadows moved while Cyndie and I toiled on a variety of rewarding tasks.

I made the dreaded trip to buy gas for all our small engines and the diesel tractor. Ouch. That’s a burden on the pocketbook.

One way I reframe the harsh rise of the cost of fuel is to remember the time we had been shopping for a while and Cyndie grabbed a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina water at the checkout counter. It added the paltry amount of $1.68 to our over $500 bill at Lowe’s. It was a purchase of convenience, for sure.

That price for 20 ounces of water is equal to $10.75/gallon. Think about that.

With all gas cans full, I was able to resume using the power trimmer. I had completed all our fence lines over the weekend so the next crucial need was the labyrinth. It didn’t give in without a fight. The stones defining the pathway wreak havoc on the nylon line of the power trimmer.

One technique I attempt to employ to reduce the abrasion of the line against the rocks is reducing the speed of rotation. Maximum speed is not required to achieve an adequate cut. Still, the spinning will deplete line and require the bounce against the ground to advance more length. I can’t count how many times I would release more line and almost immediately the trimmer would catch an edge and torque right up to a rock and eat the new line I just bounced out. Aaarrrrgh.

Just when things are going smooth, the engine runs out of gas. At least I was wise enough to bring the can of gas along this time. I also had a spare spool of line with me, just in case. I needed to use both.

The challenge always seems to be coming out even in completing the intended cutting goal before running out of either line or fuel. When I finished the pathway of the labyrinth, I moved on to the firepit next to the labyrinth, as long as I still had both line and gas. After finishing that, I decided to hit the trail in the woods for as long as the trimmer would run.

It lasted a lot longer than I expected. I cleared a large section of the perimeter trail where the grass had gotten very tall. A bonus accomplishment I didn’t anticipate achieving.

After too many days in a row of trimming for hours, my throttle hand was letting me know it had had enough. That’s a good reason to stop using that tool for a while. Today my hands will be on the lawn tractor steering wheel.

We are in the month of never ending mowing, which is putting the job of never ending sawing and wood chipping on temporary hold.

Somewhere between those two, I keep intending to add never ending bike rides, but that keeps failing to happen.

Could someone slow down the earth’s rotation a little bit, please?

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2022 at 6:00 am