Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘landscaping

Drainage Tweak

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Before all that sloppy snow fell yesterday, I spent some time on Friday refining a drainage path in the paddock. The horses took immediate interest, more so because I was working near a gate they hoped I would open. I had no intention of giving them access to graze in the arena at the time, but they eventually charmed me into allowing it.

Unfortunately, Cayenne violated my trust and stepped through the web fence out there and spoiled it for everyone.

I had to stop what I was doing to go into the barn for a halter and then march out after her in order to walk her back into the paddock.

I was not happy about the interruption.

We have not had much luck keeping a path open to drain that side of the paddock because the perpetually wet soil there is constantly disrupted by hoof prints in the mud. I’m trying to create a wider swale with a lip on each side, knowing that it will still require repeated maintenance to prevent hoof traffic from plugging it up.

In the long run, I’m hoping to shape the lay of the land enough that their normal activity doesn’t interfere with the way it drains. Water will always flow down the easiest route available.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the initiative shown by Cayenne to venture astray on Friday has any relation to the behavior I noticed yesterday under the overhang. Is she taking on a leadership role in the 3-horse herd?

Look how they lined up behind her to wait until she was done eating.

Gives the impression she is the one in charge. Time will tell whether this settles into a new normal among the three of them.

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Written by johnwhays

November 5, 2018 at 6:00 am

Early Success

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Part of me is hesitant to claim success about a recent transplanted tree, well, trees, but we have decided to enjoy it while it lasts. The truth really won’t be revealed until next summer, as to whether the four oaks we hastily decided to dig up and move out in the open field beyond the paddock ultimately survive the transplantation.

In the weeks since we moved them, these four oak trees have barely showed a symptom of shock. Now they are displaying the best of fall color, just as if nothing had happened to disrupt normal routine.

I don’t know if this apparent good health is a valid indicator of the overall success of our bold plan. I am prepared to discover otherwise next spring, but for now, we are tickled to see the normal fall behavior playing out.

If these work out, I will definitely be emboldened to do more of this to expand the range of oak trees on our property in the years ahead. There are so many little volunteer sprouts that show up every spring where they aren’t wanted or can’t be allowed to grow to maturity, we always have many opportunities from which to choose.

It is part of a long game, dreaming someday of tall trees that will provide natural cooling shade under which our horses can benefit.

It all starts with acorns and involves a little effort to nurture young trees in new locations.

Here’s hoping for success.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

Demanding Attention

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All I can do is what I can do today. Mentally, tasks pile up beyond my ability to execute, often resulting in my getting even less accomplished than I otherwise could. Just like excessive heat will sap strength and endurance, the visualized burdens of work that should be done drains my energy and motivation.

This summer, there are signs of neglect at every turn that have me on the verge of choosing to simply ignore them in hope of recovering at least enough impetus to accomplish one deserving chore per day. The problem with that solution is that my gift of intentional ignorance is susceptible to getting out of hand. 

It would be far too easy for this place to take on the appearance of neglect run amok.

Might be time again to make a list and establish priorities. I’m more inclined to allow tasks to grab my interest as I’m treading from one thing to the next, but working a prioritized list does help keep me from completely ignoring things that shouldn’t be neglected.

I do have a default priority of seeking to at least maintain an ‘appearance’ of fastidiousness here, by maintaining the landscape by the road well enough to fool passersby. The recent coarse shredding of growth along the right-of-way has left a gaping mess that I hope to improve, but for now is nothing but an eyesore.

Yesterday, I dipped my toes into the project and was disheartened to discover how much work it will be to get it to the state I would like to see. That machine they use twists and shreds the branches into a tangled mess, and there are a lot more of them left lying there than I was aware.

In addition to pulling out and disposing of those, I need to cut off all the sharpened short spikes of growth left behind where the operator didn’t cut all the way to the ground. Some are small enough to be snipped with a lopper, but others deserve the chainsaw.

There is plenty of debris that could be run through our chipper, but I’m inclined to haul it the short distance to my project of a border wall of branches creating a hedge barrier to the cornfield just to our north.

The rest of that hedge wall needs to be trimmed, as well.

The diesel tractor needs an oil change before I put it to work on a big project.

The diesel tractor is needed to mow the dry creek drainage along our southern border.

Also need to move lime screenings to the paddock.

Want to blade the gravel drive around the barn.

The trail along the outside of our fence needs to be cut back with the power trimmer.

The fence line needs to be trimmed.

The trails need to be trimmed.

Dead trees recently fallen in the woods and on one trail need to be cut up.

Standing dead trees could be cut down, too. Would help look less neglected around here.

The arena needs to be mowed.

The round pen needs to be raked and grass around gazebo mowed.

The back up generator needs an oil change.

That’s what needs to be done today. I’ll start tomorrow’s list later. Right now I need to go out and see what grabs my attention to work on so I can avoid everything else that is on today’s list of chores demanding attention.

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Pulling Vines

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We are in the time of year when the vines are making surprising daily progress toward swallowing everything they can climb. Heck, some of the vines aren’t even climbing, they are simply smothering the grass.

While I was away this weekend, Cyndie pulled some weed growth near the edge of mowed yard and discovered it was a compound web that had already eliminated much of the grass beneath it.

My drive to and from the lake this weekend offered a wide variety of examples showing the aggressive reach of Wild Cucumber. Both trees and farm equipment were getting swallowed in multiple locations.

I have my eye on two spots where this vine has shown up near our north and south borders. My goal would be to keep them confined to the neighbors’ side of the property line.

I always pull wild cucumber vines out of our pine trees the instant I notice them. In the case of one of our neighbors who has done nothing yet to protect a prominent pine in the front of his lot, the front of the tree is covered all the way to the top, and beyond.

I check it every day that I drive past.

Because the wild cucumber is so pervasive, I did some research to identify it. I wanted to learn what I might be risking if I leave it grow on the north border, where I am slowly developing a natural hedge wall.

I have been piling pruned dead branches along this section, and welcome any safe growth through the tangle —it’s been mostly tall grass up to now— that will help hold soil in place during heavy downpours.

Cyndie and Delilah joined me in a walk to that spot to confirm my research findings. Passing many other varieties of vines along the way that didn’t have the same leaves, I was happy to see my suspicion was spot on.

I’m going to leave it, for now, partly because wild cucumber is native to Wisconsin. If it were an invasive, I’d be less inclined. There are no valuable trees growing along that natural hedge I’m forging, so I’m game to let the wild selection play out with a survival to the fittest mentality.

On our return trek toward the house, Cyndie took a couple of stabs at pulling other vines out of trees.

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We could spend a couple of days wandering the property with a sole focus on vine removal this time of year.

With plenty of other things commanding our attention all the time, saving our preferred plants from vines tends to happen in small, spur of the moment bursts whenever we spot them. It’s generally subject to whether we have available hands while en route toward other tasks.

Vine pulling work is never done.

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Written by johnwhays

August 7, 2018 at 6:00 am

Pushing Back

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Cyndie put in a heroic effort yesterday to win back our river stone patio on the side of our house. The ground cover growth had overtaken the surface with such gusto that it looked like our property had been abandoned.

Our summer weather has been very friendly to growing plants this year, both the wanted and the unwanted.

I pulled in the driveway after work one day last week and came upon a curious row of garbage bags filled with plant remains. My first thought was, now what?

Earlier in the summer, after our visit from the regional DNR Forester who taught us about the importance of controlling the invasive garlic mustard, Cyndie did a super job of focussed eradication. He emphasized the requirement of bagging and discarding the plants that have been pulled from the ground, because if you leave them lay, they will simply put down roots and regenerate. So bag them, she did.

I was going to be shocked if this large new collection of bagged detritus lined up on our driveway was from a previously undiscovered patch of garlic mustard.

Upon my inquiry, Cyndie described thinking she was just going to pull out some wayward unwanted growth under the pine trees in our front yard. Turned out to be a massive woven web that went on and on and became a full-fledged landscaping project in its own right.

To be safe, based on what we learned about the garlic mustard, she decided to bag it, just in case.

Yesterday’s growth wasn’t so threatening, just prolific in an open area of river stones.

Luckily, the recent heavy rain (3-inches on Thursday) has softened the soil to ease the extraction of unwanted growth. Cyndie produced impressive results reclaiming our patio area in the high heat of a classic July day yesterday.

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Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2018 at 9:56 am

Spontaneous Transplantation

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Last night presented one of those moments that would unfold without us having a clue where it would ultimately lead. Thankfully, due to Cyndie’s willingness to run with it, we took a step that was long overdue.

She transplanted some volunteer sprouts of oak and maple trees.

It started with her walking the dog and me doing some work in the shop. I had the door open and some music playing. Suddenly, Delilah popped in to say hello. Cyndie paused to trim some growth around the vicinity.

While pulling weeds, she discovered the saturated ground made it easy to pull out the new tree sprouts.

We’ve been talking about transplanting trees for weeks, but never really formulated a plan on where they would go when we finally take action. Since she now had a stack of multiple beauties fresh out of the ground, it presented an urgency to decide on a new location for them.

I honestly have no idea why I didn’t come up with this before, but it hit me in an instant that planting them just outside the paddock fence would someday offer a natural shade for the horses inside the fence.

So, that’s what Cyndie did.

It will require some care to give these babies a fair chance at survival, but given the vast number of new sprouts showing up every spring, we will always have plenty of opportunities to try again, in case of any failures.

This is another thing that I would love to have done years ago, to have already taken advantage of that time for growth. The shade I’m looking forward to could be a decade away, to get the trees tall enough and filled out enough to cast a useful shadow.

It’s like our story about growing our own asparagus. People told us that it takes at least three years after planting to start harvesting stalks. For some silly reason, that information repeatedly caused us to not take action. Inexplicably, our response to something that required waiting a significant amount of time for results was to do nothing. Over and over again.

After three years, I mentioned that if we had just planted some when we first talked about the possibility, we could be harvesting already.

Then Cyndie came across the brilliant idea of not planting from seed, but buying a 2-year-old plant and burying it in the ground.

We are learning to get out of our own way.

In this regard, the spontaneity becomes our secret weapon. We will always get more progress if we just do it, and not wait for the “perfect” plan. We need to not worry so much about the possibility of failure.

My old mode of thinking involved not wanting to work hard on planting trees if they are just going to die, but I’m getting over that now. Maybe the four tries to succeed in the center of our labyrinth have softened my resistance.

We transplanted this group yesterday without any planning or preparation.

I have no idea what the result will be, but at least we have taken the required first step, thanks to Cyndie’s adventurous spontaneous effort.

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Nice Out

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It seems like I have fallen into a heavy rotation of posts about the weather, or at least, heavier than what I’ve normally referenced since starting this blog so many years ago. Living in the country with acres to tend and animals to care for has a way of amplifying the significance of the weather, particularly when the conditions are extreme or out of the ordinary.

As we enter the last week of April, finally having warm sunshine be the order of the day is unleashing a sense of urgency for getting into the outdoor spring chores. We started first thing in the morning yesterday, building a fire outside to burn combustibles from Friday’s garage clean-up that didn’t fit in our trash bin.

While we were out on that side of the house, we also moved all our outdoor furniture back on the deck, trimmed shrubs, and raked around the landscaping.

The afternoon was focused on the labyrinth. Cyndie did some plant pruning and raking, while I busied myself with reorienting and balancing rocks that had been felled by the long winter.

I was in the woods, digging up some additional rocks, I felt something on my eyebrow that I thought was debris that had kicked up, but when it didn’t just brush away with the back of my gloved hand, I paused. Removing my glove to better reach behind my sunglasses, my bare fingers were able to extricate a tiny tick. Most likely, a deer tick.

Happy spring!

At least it’s finally nice outside.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2018 at 6:00 am