Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘lawn

Weather Fatigue

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I succeeded in getting all our grass and innumerable dandelions mowed Sunday. I have one peeve about mowing this time of year, when the lovely yellow flowering weed is at its peak and starting to go to seed.

Do you see it? All that grass so freshly cut and one 10-inch dandelion stem sticking out like a sore thumb. There were others, but that one just stood out so defiantly, I couldn’t help but stop and take a picture. Then I snapped it off by hand.

Mowing dandelions can be a frustrating endeavor for a perfectionist.

Like the meteorologists predicted, Memorial Day was a total washout. It reminds me of two years ago this month when I had tried to host a day of cycling with friends in preparation for the Tour of Minnesota.

I captured this memory from that day:

I have gotten smarter about trying to make outdoor plans that prefer sunny, warm weather. I simply don’t make them. Yesterday, we responded precisely as a cold, rainy day deserves, snuggling back in bed for some extra reading and napping.

Pequenita was all in with that plan.

She doesn’t have a problem with this weather. Personally, I am getting worn down by this chilly rain pattern we have endured so far this spring. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if I could curl up and nap all day, but the landscape doesn’t stop growing just because it’s not sunny and warm outside.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and this trend will peter out by the time the bike trip kicks off in the middle of June.

It would help my frame of mind greatly if that were to happen because we are headed far enough north for this year’s route that cold and rainy could translate into a little sleety/snowy, if you know what I mean.

That would definitely exacerbate my current case of weather fatigue.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

A Portrait

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The author, in a rare moment of leisure.

DSC06645eCHCyndie took the picture of me reading while keeping an eye on the fire last night. See, I was still working. I was tending the fire so it would be hot enough to cook burgers when company arrived. Oh, were those burgers good! Probably made even more so by the homemade buns that Cyndie freshly baked moments before.

DSC06647eEarlier in the day, Cyndie had hosted guests who had some lawn games out and it inspired me to improve the croquet setup. I made my own little “sport court” out of grass. It is set up for croquet, but could just as easily double as a bocce ball space.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to find time for that much leisure.

I need to move composting manure to make room for piling the fresh collections. Production never slows, despite my running out of space to cook it.

Before I can get to that project, we need to head out with the trailer for another load of hay to be purchased. We will be silently chanting, “No rain, no rain, no rain” the whole way there and back.

With our lawn growing faster than I can tend it, it’s a shame I can’t bale it up and save those clippings for feeding the horses in the dead of winter.

Our experience with trying to acquire good quality grass hay for horses this year, hoping to improve on the several years of less than desired content we’ve previously had, has been enlightening. We initially dove into the task of getting hay with such naiveté.

We have discovered that what constitutes “good,” when it comes to baled hay, can be a very individualized opinion. On top of that, what nature provides and farmer skills harvest, in terms of moisture content, involves a very narrow target range. Too dry and the nutrition value to animals drops considerably. Too wet and it will mold and/or spontaneously combust in a conflagration that destroys storage buildings and turns planned food stores to ash.

Different livestock have varying needs from baled fodder. One version of hay does not work for all cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. Some of the local farmers are growing hay for their cows and are kind enough to offer to sell some of it to us if we want to feed it to our horses.

It can work, but it’s a bit of a guessing game. We ended up with a batch that had too much foxtail grass which caused mouth sores in our horses. We’ve had some with an annoying amount of sour dock weed and woody stems that the horses labor to work around when grazing. It creates a mess and interferes with them getting what they want. Both horse and human get irritated.

This year we found a batch that looked like ideal grass bales. They turned out to be too wet. Then we found an even better batch, and got caught in a downpour bringing it home.

We are hoping the third time’s the charm this morning. Then maybe I’ll sneak some time to finish that book later this afternoon.

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Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2016 at 8:13 am

My Friday

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Since I work a 4-day week at the day-job, Thursdays have become like a Friday to me. I feel an urgency to wrap up as many situations as possible before I leave the office, and the evenings are wide open with possibility. After slogging through a bit of a difficult day yesterday at work, I rushed home to hop on the lawn tractor to mow.

The week has been one of constant rain threat, and our grass is growing incredibly fast as a result of showers received. We plan to head to the lake for the holiday weekend, so getting it cut while the sun was shining made the chore a priority. I raced through the task and finished in time to meet George and Annaliese arriving for dinner as I walked toward the house.

It being my Friday and all, having company over for the evening makes it feel wonderfully more festive and appropriate as a kickoff to my weekend.

Cyndie made grilled lamb burgers with a lavish selection of healthy side options and we had a feast fitting the occasion. Adding to the frivolity was my chance spotting of an email from our daughter that she accepted a job offer of a new position at her workplace. Another reason to celebrate!DSCN4778e

After dinner, Cyndie pulled out the CrossCribb® board for a little good-natured, but intense, competition. The boys schooled the girls. We then changed to a different card game, from which I nabbed a clear victory. I was on a roll.

Appropriate for a “Friday” night, I was up late and it felt like a party.

This morning, under on-again-off-again showers, it is too wet to pick up the windrows of yard hay that I created last night. They will have to wait a few days. We are off to the lake.

It’s Friday for real today!

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2016 at 7:44 am

Yard Hay

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DSCN4747eI mowed the back yard yesterday afternoon and ended up with windrows that look like I should be borrowing George’s baler to pick it all up. I feel like I have mowed when it has needed it worse, but not ended up with so much in the way of cuttings as I did this time.

That must be a good sign that the lawn is thick and healthy. I hope the same holds true for our hay-field out front in a few weeks!

The weather hasn’t been so kind to a lot of other growing plants. Over the weekend we had two nights of below freezing temperatures. Cyndie was proactive about protecting her newly planted wild flower garden both nights, covering them with blankets. She also brought all potted plants into the garage.

Unfortunately, we have too many growing things to protect them all. Several trees with new leaves look to have suffered to the point of drooping wilted leaves.

In the autumn, by the time we get freezing temperatures, the leaves are on their way to the ground, if not already there.

It’s not obvious yet if anything was damaged beyond recovery, but we will be watching the labyrinth with hope that plants there didn’t experience the couple of freezes as fatal. Cyndie’s initial survey brought hope that some may not have suffered at all.

That offers promise to which we intend to cling.

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2016 at 6:00 am

Growing Green

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DSCN4603eWe don’t even recognize this brave creature that has sprouted from the earth at an alarming rate of growth in the last week. I am amazed that it is doing so despite our frequent harsh returns to winter. This beauty is exploding forth with a surprising rate of growth whenever it sees more than a few minutes of warm sunshine.

Cyndie says she has a little sign downstairs in a bag that would tell us what it is, but she doesn’t remember off-hand.

When the weather isn’t snowing and freezing, which it has done overnight more times than not lately, the green growing things have been reaching for the sky. The ground is so saturated with water that I shudder at the thought of trying to drive my lawn tractor over the grass, but it is quickly threatening to get long enough to deserve mowing.

Reminds me of the annual dilemma we face with our hay-field. We would like to cut it before it gets so overgrown that the stems get too woody, but when that maturity is developing, the ground is usually still too wet to drive on.

Also, when the tall hay growth gets cut and is laying on the ground for a couple of days to dry, it doesn’t work so well to have the ground be still saturated.

Here is a worm’s-eye view of the back yard that will need cutting soon at the rate it is growing. I wonder what it is like to try mowing a lawn that still has snow on it…

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2016 at 6:00 am

Quick Work

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When you only have a limited amount of daylight in which to get your work done, you find a way to work quickly.

After seeing how nice the front yard looked after I mowed it to a close cut on Sunday, I desperately wanted to have the same result in the back. With the beautiful weather blessing us for another day, I made a point of rushing home from work and changing into grubby clothes.

There wasn’t much that needed to be done in preparation, so in no time I was on the back hill mowing all the leaves that had fallen. I made one pass around the perimeter and stopped to take a picture, hoping to get a “before” and “after” combination.

IMG_iP0959eThat image was lit with sunshine that would last barely another hour. Unsure whether I would have enough light to get an “after” shot, I picked the angle for this view and got down to business.

Since I was cutting very short, areas where the moles have wreaked havoc became much more glaring than when I leave it longer, but taken as a whole, the turf landscape looked rather noble by the time I was through.

IMG_iP0960eBefore snapping the second shot, I snuck a peek at the first image, because I’d already forgotten where I had stood to take it. For as little effort as I put toward aligning them precisely, I am tickled to have ended up with a shot that almost perfectly matched the earlier view.

The only thing missing was the sunshine, which was below the horizon by that point.

The hill is ready for becoming a sled run, in the off-chance we end up getting enough snow for that this winter, what with the “Godzilla-of-all-El-Niños” forecast to be moderating our temperatures in the months ahead.

If our current spell of good weather fortune is any indicator, we could be in for a short ski and igloo season this year.

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Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2015 at 7:00 am

Gorgeous Here

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It is absolutely gorgeous here right now. Among the reasons we chose September for our wedding, the biggest one for me is, it is my favorite time of year. The humid heat of summer is breaking, and the air is crisp, with cool nights and warm days. When the sky is clear, the blueness is exquisite and it’s no longer so necessary to avoid the toasty sunshine. In fact, it practically begs a person to pause and soak it all in.DSCN3968e

The challenge is, there is barely a moment for pause. The daylight grows short and preparation for winter weather requires new projects be added to the list of others already underway or planned. This year, I am feeling as though the growing grass didn’t get the memo about the arrival of September.

It is hard to get ready for winter when summer won’t back off and make room for fall.

I spent most of the afternoon mowing lawn yesterday, after filling that dang right front tire on the tractor with a green slime leak sealant.

Today I face the need to work the power trimmer to knock down the robust growth along edges and fence lines. It’s a chore that resonates of mid-summer responsibilities, with one improvement:

That crisp and gorgeous September air doesn’t cause it to be such a sweaty, sticky job.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2015 at 9:10 am

Purposeful Problem?

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‘Twas the day before Memorial Weekend, and all through the ranch, we are going to try to get things in proper order to allow us to go to the lake for a day. Our daughter, Elysa, will take care of horses on Saturday and Sunday morning, after which, I will come home and she will get to head up to have a day at the lake.

Getting away from home to be with family on a holiday weekend is a valuable thing, but my mind is filled with thoughts of all the things that deserve attention around here, and I am pulled equally toward both.

I tried getting the lawn mowed last night, but in my haste, I rolled too close to a metal cable we had used to tether Delilah, and it became entangled in the blades of the mower. It was a classic case of choosing not to take 30 seconds to stop and climb off so I could move the cable clear of any risk, and ending up taking an hour to struggle with untangling the cable from around the blades. I was forced into disconnecting the mower deck and sliding it out from under the tractor so I could flip it over and remove the blades to get at the cable.

I am my worst enemy. Or, could it possibly have been for a reason? Before the mowing season began this year, I cleaned the mower and sprayed the deck with something to make it easier to remove grass clippings that build up. Since it has been so wet all spring, I have needed to mow through some ill-advised areas, kicking up mud and soaking-wet debris that I knew was creating buildup far worse than what I had scraped off over the winter.

I had tried reaching underneath to pull away the mud and clippings that were sticking, but it seemed pretty ineffective. To do the job thoroughly enough, I really needed to pull the mower out from under the deck and flip it over, but I was hesitant about revisiting the routine of undoing all the clips that would require.

Maybe my decision not to move the cable to a safe spot was a way to get myself to commit to the task of undoing the mower deck. If that’s the case, it’s too bad I still allowed myself to get so riled up about the incident. Ooh, I was mad, cursing a blue streak. However, with the sun about to set, I swiftly dispatched all the clips, easily slid the deck out from under the tractor, removed the tangle of cable, and scraped off all the accumulation.

Everything went back together as easily as it had come off, and I was able to test it by mowing a small area beside the driveway before it got dark for the night. It wasn’t that big a deal. Maybe now I won’t be so hesitant about dismantling it for cleaning next time it needs it.

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2014 at 6:00 am

Grass Management

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There is an ebb and flow to managing a 20-acre property and animals in a rural setting that on the surface is significantly different from my old life in the suburbs. From my perspective, it’s not as dissimilar as one might think, beyond the obvious increase in scale.

I was thinking about how it feels like I pay more attention to the weather now than I ever had before, but that’s not really the case. I’ve always been fascinated by the weather. I fretted about the dilemma of either too much, or not enough precipitation impacting the growing things on our suburban lot, just not on the same scale as I do now. Back then, it didn’t get the same degree of attention from me, I suppose because there was less at stake.

I’m sure I had the neighbors chuckling over my activities yesterday, as I rode my little lawn tractor to mow part of the big hay-field beside our driveway, racing to beat the rain. The back field looked so darn nice that I overcame my hesitation to look foolish, and cut as much as I could before time ran out. Just like we had done two days before, I started by pulling a rake behind the Grizzly ATV to scar the surface to be seeded, switched to the lawn tractor to pull the seed spreader, then set about mowing as much of the rest of the field as I could.

Most of what I was doing was in sight of the horses, and they seemed to take great interest. This is the field where we let them roam for most of the time since they arrived last fall. I expect they are feeling a bit frustrated to not be given access now that the snow has melted. Our plan is to graze them on other fields and to grow this space for hay.

I only cut about half of the field before the precipitation started. I think it will be a challenge to get the rest done, because what’s left is thicker grass to start with, it will be wetter, and the new moisture will help trigger a growth spurt. I had wanted to get the field cut before spring growth started, which is the reason I was using the lawn tractor in the first place. It is light enough that it can work before the ground is dry and not leave wheel ruts.

If I’m not able to get that second half mowed, it could provide comparison to show the difference mowing made.

Whether our plan to improve the grass in that field works instantly, or not, it sure looks better right away. It is likely the improvement toward getting good quality hay will be incremental over a few years. I’m okay with that. I spent a lot of years slowly transitioning our suburban lot from a lawn to a natural, leaf-carpeted forest floor.

By the way, word has gotten back to us that the folks who bought our old place are changing it back into a lawn.

Such is the ebb and flow of grass management.

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2014 at 6:00 am