Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mowing

Mentally Preparing

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Today is my last workday before I leave for my bike trip and it is obvious to me that I will not have all my work done before I go. When you can’t change something, acceptance becomes an attractive option. There will be plenty to do when I return.

Yesterday after work, I did some of the dustiest mowing in my life. The dryness resulted in clouds of soil dust covering me and the tractor. Much sneezing ensued, but I am very happy to have that task checked off my list.

I’m mentally preparing myself for being away from our animals in the coming days by thoroughly appreciating every moment with them before I go. As I mowed along the perimeter of the back pasture, the horses came over very intentionally to graze near the fence as I passed.

We are definitely developing a bond with them.

The area around the chicken coop has been receiving increasing pressure from the raccoons during the nights. We’ve reached the point where we might have to give up on this idea of coexisting with the masked bandits.

Both groups of chicks continue to grow so much every day it seems like the Rockettes will never catch up to the older Buffalo gals.

It’ll be Cyndie’s decision if she decides to try merging them while I am away, but I’m guessing that will be unlikely.

She may be too busy trying to keep up with the produce coming from the garden. Salads have been locally sourced lately.

Those peas are so prolific we almost have more than we know what to do with already.

The lettuce is superb. What a treat!

Meanwhile, my mind is trying to run through all the things I need to gather for successfully tent camping and biking for days in a row. It’s not like I haven’t done this trip before, but it has been an extra year since the last one.

The clock is ticking on my days of planning. Tomorrow, Cyndie will drive me to Hastings and drop me, my bike, and camping gear off and I’ll consider myself on vacation.

It’s a green vacation, too. All these people riding bikes for days instead of driving their cars.

We haven’t had any measurable rain for weeks. What are the odds that will change while we are on the road?

I need to mentally prepare for the possibility.

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Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Strong One

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We all have different strengths, don’t we? Yes. Yes, we do. But I am not sure about the comparison of muscle strength between my precious wife and me. This occurred to me yesterday after I got our lawn tractor stuck and needed to go get Cyndie to help.

Despite the more than three inches of rain that had fallen the previous 24-hours to thankfully soak our parched land, I was attempting to mow before things began to adequately dry. I was literally cutting between the trailing scattered showers.

Mow the front yard until rain started falling, park the mower in the garage.

Mow by the barn until it started raining again, park the mower back in the garage.

When I tried traversing the recently re-landscaped dip where Cyndie and I had rolled up the sod to dig out accumulated dirt, the tractor became hopelessly wedged in the muddy turf. I was stuck.

I was also in a hurry because a few drops were starting to fall again. I hiked around behind the barn, past the empty chicken coop, around the back pasture to the labyrinth where Cyndie was rearranging sunken stones and pulling weeds. She happily obliged my request for assistance.

Then, the woman who asks me to use my superior strength to open jars for her in the kitchen proceeds to pick up the back end of the tractor and move it over so my push from the front can roll it around the rocks bordering her perennial garden.

In my whiny sad voice, “Honey, can you come lift the tractor out of the mud for me so I can keep mowing in the rain?”

I know who the strong one is around here.

I’m pretty sure she lets me open jars just to prevent my ego from starving to death.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2021 at 7:00 am

Last Cut

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I know this cat named Pequenita who is highly skilled at showing up for scratches at the precise time that I want to use both of my hands to type on my laptop computer. She seems to know that I can’t resist her demands for attention.

Today, we head to Edina for the weekend to participate in Friswold family activities surrounding a graveside memorial service for Fred on Saturday. Please keep Cyndie and her family in your hearts and beam your love when you think of them.

In preparation for being away from home for the weekend, I jumped on the lawn tractor as soon as I got home from work yesterday afternoon to tackle the project of cutting the grass shorter than normal for the late-season mowing session. The short cut left a lot of grass clippings behind that I am going to need to sweep up.

In addition to the excessive clippings, the early cold snap and noticeably shorter daylight hours brought on dew that had me cutting some wet grass before I was through. The amount of grass stuck to the bottom of the mower deck was epic. I disconnected the mower from the tractor and struggled mightily to lift the deck for cleaning. It weighed a ton!

The whole project was a little too much for the short time I had available, so the finishing touches will come later. I still may end up needing to cut some areas another time before winter, but I’m hoping most of the mowing is now done for the season.

I’m at that point of wanting to use up the last of the gas in the mower before parking that tractor for the winter.

When I was cutting down by the labyrinth, I had to work around a couple of rocks that had tumbled from one of my recent precarious balance installations.

It’s all good fun until you neglect to pick up the fallen rocks. Those two have returned to ground level and interfered with grass cutting in the vicinity. Far be it from me to stop and get off the tractor to move them. I just forged ahead, cutting around the obstacles to keep going uninterrupted.

During our work down at the labyrinth last week, I took a picture of the center boulders and the miscellaneous additions scattered around them.

It wasn’t getting much attention during our sessions of adding rocks to the path borders, but it is the center point destination of the journey inward, after all.

The future star of the labyrinth garden, that maple tree we transplanted to the middle, will someday, long after I’m gone, tower over the paths.

Maybe by that time, the shade it will provide can dissuade the grass from growing so fast beneath its branches.

I will be happy if we’ve already made the last cut of labyrinth grass for the season. We will be making tracks in snow down there again before too long.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2020 at 6:00 am

Paddocks Reclaimed

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Mission accomplished on Sunday in my effort to reclaim the paddocks from the unchecked growth of grasses and weeds, some of which had risen to over a meter tall since the beginning of this year’s growing season.

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I got in there with the big diesel tractor pulling the brush cutter and successfully avoided destroying any fences while maneuvering in the confined spaces.

Before the cutting started in earnest, Cyndie and I made a pass through, digging up “sour dock” weeds (that’s the local name for Rumex Crispus or some variation thereof) in hope of reducing their propagation.

We used to get sour dock mixed in bales of hay we bought for our horses and they were not fond of it. Ever since, we’ve framed it as an undesirable weed, despite evidence there are some medicinal and edible features to it.

Then it was off to the mowing races.

It’s always a little unnerving to be mowing blindly over such thick and tall growth, not knowing if I might run over a misplaced tool or any variety of wild critters that may have made themselves a home there. As it was, while walking through the higher-than-my-waist jungle of growth I figured I was wandering in a snake pit, much to my discomfort.

Luckily, no snakes were encountered over the entire duration of this project. A lot of toads and a couple of field mice were about the extent of sightings.

At one point in my hunt for stalks of sour dock hiding among the tall grasses, I came upon a bird’s nest with a lone egg in it. With a total absence of any upset flyers winging their way overhead, I concluded this poor egg had been abandoned.

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Now there is a blanket of cuttings covering the ground in the paddocks. That’s enough for hundreds of nests.

I noticed the three hens wandering around in there right after I finished mowing, picking at the wealth of opportunity, but I don’t think they will make a dent in cleaning up all the deadfall.

We’ll simply leave it to dry up and break down where it lays.

Maybe that covering will slow new growth so I won’t have to mow it more than one more time by the end of the summer. I don’t enjoy operating the diesel tractor so close to fences, especially inside the corners.

The paddocks almost look like we have horses again!

That’s so much better an impression than the neglect all that wild growth has been emanating.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Wondering

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What would really happen if I didn’t listen to the sales pitch of every slick promotion? What if I didn’t have an answer for every question that I could possibly imagine? What if wearing a face mask in public was easy to do? Oh, wait. I know the answer to that one.

I wonder how many businesses, especially restaurants, will never reopen again after the shutdowns. Are we on the verge of economic calamity, or not? It’s hard to conceive of how much worse it will get before it starts to get better.

Does anyone really question the fact there are “haves” and “have nots?” In the face of that, think about how many times we can find ourselves a member of either one of those two designations for a variety of given situations.

Nothing is so simple that it can’t be seen in more than one way. There is nuance in everything.

I am pondering the possible difference in amount of work required if we would have cut the growth in our empty paddocks sooner and more often, versus waiting until now, when the growth is tall, thick, and laborious to bring down.

I am using the trimmer to provide plenty of clearance around our fences in order to simplify mowing the rest of it with the brush cutter behind the diesel tractor.

All the while, I am remembering how the horses were easily able to keep growth in these spaces reduced to almost nonexistent.

We could have horses and all the work that comes with caring for them or we have unbelievable growth of grass and weeds that I need to mow.

Honestly, we definitely prefer to have horses.

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2020 at 9:55 am

Restorative Return

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We slept in our own bed again last night. It had been almost a week since Delilah had seen Cyndie and the reunion aligned entirely with the hypothesis that dogs perceive absence to be the equivalent of death and if a pack-mate returns, it is a miracle.

Cyndie reported that her gardens looked so thirsty for water that a few plants appeared within inches of demise. The labyrinth is a jungle. That will be our first project this morning. It deserves a double-team effort. I hope to get the rest of the grass mowed before predicted afternoon thunderstorms.

One highlight of yesterday was a call from our log home company announcing their plan to arrive tomorrow to begin preparing to reseal our logs.

Thank goodness.

We have seized the moment to eat breakfast in bed, catch up with our online accounts, and take in some favorite Sunday morning TV before setting out on our labors of the day.

Both the obituary and feature article for Cyndie’s dad made it into the Sunday StarTribune newspaper and she and her brothers continue their efforts to fill in the pages of the memorial website for Fred.

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fredfriswoldmemorial.com

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The beginning of life-after-Fred is unfolding with not-unexpected fits and starts, but we are underway as best as we are able. Not doing too bad, if I do say so myself.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2020 at 9:17 am

Small Projects

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The weekend just passed consisted of many small tasks chipped off the ol’ to-do list, primarily addressing the first-impression appearance of the place. After getting the grass mowed and the landscape pond fixed my attention shifted to whatever miscellaneous project caught my eye, particularly if they had been staring me in the face for more than a year.

I finally got up on the roof to address the wind vane that came apart so long ago I’ve forgotten when. I ended up removing the base entirely to see if repairs on the ground are possible. I may, or may not, put it back up someday.

The kids stopped by on Saturday and Julian helped me quickly dispatch a dead pine tree located right in front of the approach to the house garage doors. Yesterday, I pulled out the chainsaw again and removed dead limbs from the next tree over, some version of a flowering decorative. I think that one is a form of lilac, but seems to have climbed to heights that exceed my perceptions of lilac.

While the chainsaw was out, I hoofed my way down to the woods behind the labyrinth to cut up a dead tree that fell across one of our small side trails. At the labyrinth, I removed the stakes that secured the transplanted maple now that it seems to have established itself. There, I discovered the deer have been feasting on the hostas by the peace pole.

I hope they had a very peaceful meal there while the angel’s back was turned.

The driveway got some attention in the form of lime screenings packed into a low dip that was becoming quite a bump in the road. The last time a UPS truck delivered a package, I heard everything bounce in his truck when passing over that spot a little too quickly.

Julian and I started removing anything attached to the side of the house in preparation for a resealing of the logs that will hopefully happen sooner than later. We have enlisted the services of professionals and they have teased us that we are next in line when they finish the current customer.

That’s another one of those weather-dependent projects that end up being hard to plan start and finish dates.

That brings to mind the hay fields. Things are growing so fast right now that our fields look ripe for the mowing. I don’t know what the farmer who is renting our fields this summer is planning, but I hope he is able to get enough dry days in a row to be successful this year.

The only thing I didn’t get to before time ran out last night was in fulfilling Cyndie’s wish to get the hammocks up.

That’s a good task to look forward to for starting my next spurt of knocking off small projects, whenever that moment comes.

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2020 at 6:00 am

Different Tracks

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Our grass is growing fast and the ground is saturated from recent rains so I decided to use the power trimmer to mow areas with standing water to avoid creating muddy tire tracks. While focused on the grass in front of me, I was oblivious to what was happening behind me.

As I shuffled along at a slow pace, I was leaving muddy tracks behind me. Ha ha! Oh well.

I trimmed along the paddock fence from the outside and then stepped inside to clean up around the overhang. With no horses grazing the paddocks, the grass in there is growing pretty tall.

It feels very satisfying to transform the place from looking abandoned to freshly trimmed. It’s only partially abandoned.

This morning we are abandoning the property for a few hours to attend a socially distanced graduation ceremony for Cyndie’s niece, Althea, on her family’s driveway in Edina.

I appreciate the attempt to accomplish some traditions amid the upside-down turmoil of a global pandemic and civil unrest.

In the middle of my afternoon of mowing yesterday, I claimed a block of time to watch coverage of the launch of the manned Dragon capsule as it happened. In the evening, I watched the news broadcasts of police and national guard soldiers arresting violators of the curfew put in place to quell the looting and riots that have unfolded amid the protesters who are fed up with police abuse and unchecked murder of black citizens.

Remember when kneeling during the national anthem was the attempt to express protest over police misconduct?

While I am making different tracks in our wet areas, protesters are seeing a need to use different tactics to bring a change in the unacceptable status quo of equality being professed but not enacted.

We shall overcome, someday.

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2020 at 8:00 am

Rain Ready

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It feels rather unusual to be saying we are ready for rain to fall after so many spring months through the years where we have battled managing too much rain. It could be because I finally built that footbridge over the drainage ravine that we have a dry spring. All our drainage swales are bone dry.

The exercise of mowing the grass yesterday was an exceptionally dusty one.

Our forecast paints a picture of soaking rain due to arrive later today and lasting through tomorrow. We could get up to two inches according to the weather folks. This morning will be a rush of completing as many outdoor chores as possible before confining ourselves indoors where Cyndie has plans to sew more masks. The face coverings have become a necessary accessory for being out and about in public spaces.

The inverted stump planter has a combination of geranium, lantana bandana, vinca vine, and potato vine installed and ready for watering. She transplanted some catmint from the labyrinth to surround the stump. They can spread out in the new location, where they were expanding problematically into the pathway in the labyrinth.

After felling all those trees under the two big oaks, one of which is in the background of the image above, we have two big stacks of wood to be converted to chips that Cyndie intends to use around all her new plantings. I may try to begin that process before lunch today, but from the looks of the sky already, I may run into a rain delay.

That won’t bother me at all.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2020 at 8:28 am

First Cut

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For some reason, surrounded by more simultaneous projects than I can keep track of, yesterday I decided to do something that wasn’t on the list: mow some grass. It was earlier in the year than I usually choose to mow, but it was something I could just get done while quickly making the place look better. Cleaned up the leaves nicely.

That’s just a way to not say that I’m bugged by an inability to finish taking out all the trees that have been marked for removal by the DNR forester so long ago I’ve lost track. That whole project is conflicting because I’d rather be planting trees than cutting them down. It is also daunting due to the large number of trees in multiple locations with red dots painted on them.

Compared to that extensive lumberjacking exercise, sitting on the lawn tractor while spiffing up a few of our lawn grass areas was easy picking.

Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get sidetracked after the mowing by attempting to remove several of the last piles of downed wood from Saturday’s effort, which ultimately usurped plans to make big headway on the produce garden terracing.

The intended quick effort to remove two of the heaviest sections of downed tree trunk ended up killing valuable time while I fought a losing battle with the winch cable on the ATV. I allowed the cable to unspool too far and it came off the winch. Unfortunately, I had upsized that cable because the previous cable kept breaking when used with the snowplow blade.

The bigger diameter cable doesn’t fit well in the hole of the winch spool hub, so my hasty attempts to re-secure it were repeatedly foiled. In the end, I temporarily rigged it to accomplish the immediate task after multiple iterations and we were able to move that wood into the barn. I’d like to let those pieces dry out for use in undetermined future sculpting projects.

It just took three times as long as it should have.

We think the tree was an American Hornbeam or Hop Hornbeam and may have some burl adding bulges to the otherwise muscle-looking features of the trunk.

I think it will present some interesting visuals when carved and sanded.

I’ll have a hard time figuring out where to make a first cut on that beauty when the time comes after a year of seasoning.

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Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2020 at 6:00 am