Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘landscaping

Chippin’ Away

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Little by little, day by day… We made another modicum of progress in dealing with the wealth of downed trees awaiting processing on our property on Thursday. I didn’t have a wasp get into my sleeve and painfully sting me four times when I grabbed a branch to put it in the ATV trailer. Cyndie can’t say the same thing.

Her wrist and forearm looked a bit like a hot baseball bat but that didn’t keep her from carrying on and loading branches into the chipper.

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Under the canopy of leaves that created dappled light over our chosen workspace, we made quick work of the collection of prime-sized, appropriately trimmed limbs we’ve been stockpiling for just this purpose. Once the trailer was emptied, we sought out worthy specimens scattered throughout the immediate vicinity.

That effort reaffirmed my interest in putting more time toward pre-staging the optimum branches for chipping. The brilliant chipper attachment we have can handle up to 5-inch diameter branches but too large a “Y” breakout on a limb will seize progress as it gets wedged in the narrowest point of the chute. Sticks and twigs that are small can also bog things down.

Lately, I find myself inclined toward optimizing production of the best chips for landscaping by choosing ideally sized limbs. There is a time and place for chewing up entire piles of branches, but lately, our purposes call for less shrapnel and more good chip chunks.

Our next task along these lines will be to process the remaining downed trees, trimming and sorting limbs for a future day of chipping. It will be a rewarding exercise on its own, but it is also a form of delayed gratification… if you know what I mean.

There is something really satisfying about grinding a trailer-load of arm-sized branches into a huge pile of wood chips.

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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

Concept Proved

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I did a test length of backfilling the sharp drop from the driveway’s gravel shoulder to the grass to soften the slope. We plan to toss some grass seed on that and call it finished.

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I think it is a reasonable improvement. Before we can actually achieve this level of finish, there remains a lot of distance of asphalt edge that is still exposed. I knocked off another 25 yards by myself yesterday. A little progress is better than no progress at all. I’m looking forward to Cyndie’s return tomorrow so we can double-team the job, which effectively doubles the distance we can complete in a day.

Actually, we have made enough progress toward getting the gravel pulled up over all the edges that seeing the shrinking distance that remains is starting to serve as “a carrot” enticing us to keep after it to get ‘er done.

I keep picturing the challenge I will have, come winter when I need to navigate the slopes of those edges to plow snow beyond the width of the pavement. The less steep we can make that slope, the better it will be for me for clearing snow.

Unfortunately, what I envision is that the blade will likely tear up much of the grass we might be able to get growing on those slopes by winter. It will give me extra incentive to be careful about keeping the blade up a few inches on the sides. I can hope that we get some good hard freezes before the first plowable amount of snow falls. That makes all the difference. If the ground isn’t frozen by the time I need to plow the driveway, it’s always a messy exercise.

I wonder if we will get much snow this winter. We didn’t buy the heated driveway option to melt snow off the pavement.

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Written by johnwhays

August 18, 2022 at 6:00 am

Lotta Landscaping

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Enough already with the driveway subject dominating my posts of late. I’m as ready to move on as anyone but there is a lot of work left to get the new driveway to the level of completion we seek. Bear with me for just a few more days. There will be a little break from this topic starting tomorrow. We are leaving this morning for the lake. I get to watch live coverage of the Tour de France for a few days! I can write about how great swimming is in that precious Round Lake water.

When we return home, our plan is to begin cleaning up the edges. It is going to be a big job but we are looking forward to it. Achieving that level of finish will be a very pleasing accomplishment. I know this because I have taken a couple of stabs at what it might involve.

Before:

Old folds of sod from when the original asphalt was dug up need to be picked up. The gravel will be raked up and shaped to cover the exposed edges of the new asphalt.

Here is a section where I did just that:

As we finish them, along the lengths of both sides, I will be visualizing what it will be like when I am trying to plow snow beyond the edge of the asphalt, which needs to happen to maintain a full drive-able width through the full winter season. It will be good to have the gravel base along the edges for that purpose.

A few days of lake life bliss will help us to be fresh and ready to go for a few days of landscaping next week. I’m looking forward to both.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

Tending Growth

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Without firm plans about what we would accomplish yesterday morning, I gassed up the big chainsaw and charged the battery on the hand trimmer chainsaw for a walk through the woods. We had a general goal of bringing down the most obvious trees that have tipped but then got hung up on surrounding limbs, but whatever caught our eyes was fair game.

It’s almost comical at times because Cyndie and I approach things very differently. She is given to focusing on multiple goals simultaneously while I find myself inclined to leave some things for later and head off for the next big tree as she lingers behind to take tending to the next level.

Well off the trail, we came upon two noteworthy finds. It is always surprising to find an isolated old fence post and rusty barbed wire in the middle of the woods.

A remarkably thick and fascinatingly curling vine stem was less surprising but equally unwelcome. We pulled it out to save with visions of conjuring some artistic use for it in the future.

When we emerged from the trees, it was time to tend to the ornamental tall grass up by the shop garage. The old growth gets cut back in early spring. This year we went with an extreme cut in preparation for a plan to try digging into the biggest bundle and dividing it for transplant.

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We don’t even have a plan for where we want to transplant them to next but we’ve got enough options that it will become a challenge to decide where not to add this gorgeous grass. The first challenge will be coping with the bed of rocks the main bundle has grown through.

Good thing I am a patient man.

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2022 at 6:00 am

Ground Visible

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The change of seasons is marching full ahead with great results. I appreciate that our snowpack’s meltdown has been happening at a perfectly gradual pace. It’s been cool enough during the overnights that melting pauses so the runoff has been controlled, for the most part.

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Delilah and I found the fields entirely bare when we emerged from the woods where there was still snow covering the ground on our morning stroll.

By afternoon, water was flowing as the melting of remaining snow picked up again. It is very rewarding to witness the unimpeded drainage flowing where Cyndie and I worked hard to correct the grade in front of her perennial garden last year.

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My “swale” in the paddock hadn’t maintained its shape nearly as well and the water was draining randomly across the main travel path of two gateways where hoof prints in the soft earth disrupt any coordinated drainage. While cleaning up manure yesterday afternoon, I did a rudimentary job of stemming the flow as best I could, using the flimsy plastic tines of my fork scoop tool.

I want the water to flow out of the paddock to the left of the gate opening to the hayfield, not across the primary travel pattern of the horses. Any attempts I make toward achieving this goal end up getting stomped on by horses who don’t seem to notice what my efforts are intended to accomplish for them.

It’s almost like they have no idea how much they weigh and the amount of disruption in soft, wet soil they create.

One other creature who has no idea how much of a disaster she creates is Delilah. She prances around everywhere she pleases in the snow and mud and then assumes a little toweling off when we come inside the house and she’s good to go.

Sweeping the floor is an adventure after practically every outing.

Yeah, the ground is visible alright.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2022 at 7:06 am

Culvert Replacement

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While we have been busy tending to multiple maintenance projects on our buildings, the Township in which we reside has been preparing to replace the drainage culverts beneath our street. Yesterday just happened to be the day the work started.

Once they got underway, there was only one option available exiting our driveway. Our route south was closed for the day.

I have no idea how they measure the need for replacing culverts, but there is plenty of evidence that our street is deserving of resurfacing. I am hoping the culvert work is simply a matter of taking care of things below ground before upgrading the surface above.

The road crew guys are never timid about flaunting their command of the right-of-way footage. They didn’t hold back at all in their reshaping of the landscape area immediately beyond the culvert where it opened up on our side of the road. I think it deserves to have some rock added there, but since they never have included that in the past, I’m suspecting they won’t again this time.

It would be great if they could toss some grass seed over the area I mow and replace the gravel where the entrance to our hayfield gate is located. I don’t know whether I have any say in how it is finished, or not. Maybe if I tell them I am a descendent of three important Pierce County families of 150 years ago it could give me a little extra clout.

Of course, when they are on location, I am 65-miles to the west at the day-job, so there isn’t much chance we’ll talk.

Cyndie is up at the lake this week, so I’ll just have to settle with whatever the road crew sees fit to do.

It is their right-of-way after all. I trust they know what they are doing.

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Written by johnwhays

August 4, 2020 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Out

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It is very easy to be out and about on 20 acres while maintaining appropriate social distance from other people, especially when our property is surrounded by fields and forest. Yesterday afternoon when the sun warmed things up a bit, I took a crack at a few chores in the great outdoors.

My first order of business was to do something about the increasingly dilapidated ramp to the chicken door. I don’t know whether the main culprit is the hens or some other critter, but somebody doesn’t like my weaving of willow branches.

I tried monitoring the ramp with the trail cam, but there is so much chicken activity that I get a couple of hundred photos during the day while capturing nothing after dark. I haven’t had the patience to keep trying long enough to see what animals are nosing around during the nighttime.

I think part of me doesn’t want to know and part of me doesn’t really care. My fix will be the same, regardless of whoever is messing with it.

I had collected a bag full of downed branches beneath the willow tree with a plan to redo the bad parts of the ramp but ended up having a change of heart. I decided to try cutting some finger-sized trees from our forest to weave bigger green wood through the existing frame.

A lot of the willow branches I originally used were dead, so they just dried out more and got brittle, making them easy to break. I think the thicker and greener sticks will stand up much better to abuse.

Around the shop garage, I chopped down the dried shoots of tall ornamental grass, pulled out the failed sheet of plastic water barrier that was supposed to redirect drainage, and then detangled the broken cedar post and bird feeder from the cage of vines that covered it.

It felt a lot like warm weather yard work, which was strange just a day and a half after the blast of snow we had received. At the same time, it was a glorious distraction from the mindset of sheltering in place and the unending gloom and doom news that is the other hard to avoid attention-getter of the moment.

My health is still good, my hands are washed, and I’m physically isolated all weekend at home. Today, I return to the day-job and will strive to avoid infectious invisible droplets.

I hope you all find an opportunity to get out wherever you are to spend some time beneath the open sky. It’s good medicine for long-term in-place sheltering.

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Written by johnwhays

April 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

Makin’ Mud

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When the snow disappeared from the ground in our hayfield, the ruts from the tractor that had picked up the round bails during winter became clearly visible. Those tire tracks weren’t a concern for me until I could see the drainage swale water was following them instead of flowing straight in the direction we want.

Then I had an “aha moment.”

If the water was following tire tracks, I just needed to make some new tracks.

I decided to try using the ATV. Knowing it wasn’t as heavy as a big tractor, I accepted the chance it might not make the impressions I wanted, but it was safer than bringing out the diesel and getting it stuck in the mud. The surface is already too soft to be in the field with the big tractor.

With the plow blade still on the front, I added cement pavers to the basket on the back for added weight and headed into the field. Back and forth I drove, working to re-establish the track we want the water to follow.

The ATV, plow blade, and I got splattered with mud, even though the path was grass-covered, but I think I succeeded in creating a new preferred route to the curving ruts left by the hay bale tractor.

Now we just wait for the next dose of precipitation to see it work.

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Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Final Touches

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With the big job of moving the gazebo done, thanks to our kids’ help, Cyndie and I made some final tweaks yesterday to complete the new setup. As so often occurs, a plan with one thing in mind expands to several others that need to happen first, to reach the ultimate goal.

Our main objectives were to level the base beneath the bench seat and move the hydrangea tree by transplanting it to a different spot around the labyrinth. We quickly agreed that the place where we put a gracefully rotating section of a tree trunk to stand as a visual attraction would be ideal for the hydrangea.

That old trunk was starting to disintegrate anyway, under the combined pressure of many woodpeckers and natural decay. When we struggled to pick it up, we discovered it hadn’t lost as much mass as appearance led us to suspect, but it looked beat up enough that we didn’t feel bad booting it from its prominent spot.

In the image above, you can see the trunk is now farther out on the left. The hydrangea tree is front and center, garnished with a fresh mulch of wood chips I made on Friday.

Before we transplanted the tree, we wanted to have water available, so I needed to get a hose and turn on the spigot up at the house. That required that the four-way splitter that was removed from the spigot last fall needed to be found. I’m sure we thought we were being obvious when we stowed it away eight months ago.

I was proud of myself when I remembered to grab a level for the bench at the same time I was retrieving a hose from the shop garage. Unfortunately, I needed to send Cyndie back up to find the hose splitter for the spigot.

While she was gone, I trimmed the golden weigela bushes that were on either side of the bench, and now being crowded by the gazebo.

Relocating the hydrangea tree was the most rewarding, as that completely opened up the primary access to the gazebo and bench, which also just happens to serve as an archway entrance to one of our trails into the woods.

It looks odd to no longer see the gazebo in its old spot above the round pen, but we are very happy with the new location beside the labyrinth where it is bound to get much more use.

In addition, this opens up the old spot to easier cutting and raking for hay. We have connected with neighbors who were thrilled with the opportunity to cut and bale our fields for their growing herd of llamas. For a while there, we were a little worried that all the effort we had put into improving our fields would be lost if the weeds were given a chance to return unchallenged.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2019 at 6:00 am