Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mowing

Home Fields

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As we rolled up the driveway on Saturday after Cyndie picked me up upon my return to the Cities, I asked her to stop at the barn. I wanted to let the horses know I had returned home. The unpacking of wet things could wait a few more minutes.

Swings greeted me first from her spot against the fence rail under the overhang. She breathed in the scent of my hands and lifted her head to let me scratch her neck. It feels pretty special to have developed a relationship with these horses after all that they have been through. I moved from Swings to Light and then to Mia. The chestnuts had each waited patiently on the other side of the overhang space. They breathed in my scent and accepted a few scratches

Finally, I looked to Mix who had yet to approach. She stepped up to the gate when I looked toward her. The herd welcomed me home.

Home to our fields. Cyndie took the above picture while I was away. The horse is standing in the back pasture. Beyond the fence is the hay field and it looks very different today. Yesterday the field got cut by a neighbor who will be taking it as round bales for his cows. It looks pretty good freshly cut. I’ll have to take some pictures.

Cyndie was in that spot to capture the grazing horse because she was taking pictures of the limb that had broken off one of the old maple trees near the back pasture.

It’s nice to be home but it means I have to get to work using the chainsaw first thing. After I finish mowing, that is.

Something tells me I’m not on vacation anymore.



Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2022 at 6:00 am

Looking Good

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I’m in the final countdown of days before leaving tomorrow for my annual vacation week of biking and camping with the Tour of Minnesota. I feel reasonably prepared, both mentally and physically. Yesterday, we worked on a few projects with immediate visual rewards on the landscape around our house and on our north loop trail to get everything looking good before I go.

We received notification from our county that it was time to have our septic system inspected and yesterday the tank was pumped and deemed to be in good working order. That’s always a relief to know. Cyndie and I mustered the initiative to use the occasion to clean up the overgrowth in our drain field.

I was reminded of our visit to Ian’s place in Portugal in 2010 when he and I cleared the bramble that had covered a spring he hadn’t seen in years. I uncovered an old tree stump that I had forgotten was there when we cleaned up the crazy tangle of things growing among the wild raspberry bushes since the last time we cut back the growth there.

After that was done I got out the diesel tractor and mowed down the thistle and poison ivy as well as the edges of our north loop trail. If I somehow avoid getting a rash after the wild thrashing of so much of the troublesome ivy it will be a big surprise to me.

Next, we spent time trimming branches near our backyard fire pit. I started with a pole saw that proved entirely inadequate and ultimately brought out the pole chainsaw and the big chainsaw to clear all that looked deserving. It is always interesting to discover there are more things to cut than we originally expected. Once you get in there and take out the first layer, the next obvious candidates suddenly pop into view.

While I had the main chainsaw out, I finally dispatched the last dying pine tree that was in the middle of the back yard.

Cyndie captured the shot just as the tree was falling. There is only one dying pine tree left back there now. It is on the side of the yard and doesn’t stand out as obviously so it can linger a while longer. We have already got enough branches to clean up after all the cutting that was accomplished yesterday.

Today, I will mow the grass with the lawn tractor to get this place looking its best before I leave Cyndie to deal with everything for a week.

That should be completed with plenty of time to spare for packing my things before Saturday’s departure. Despite having done this June week of biking and camping more than twenty times before, I still struggle with the decision making about what I really need to bring.

At this point, it sounds like the week is going to start out hot. That should make it easier to pack light.



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.



Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Concrete Lifted

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I successfully avoided titling this post, “Apron Lifted” but that is what happened yesterday in front of our garage. We have a plan of fixing our driveway this summer and in preparation for that, the first thing that needed to be completed was to solve the sunken concrete apron in front of our garage.

On my side of the garage, the apron has fallen almost three inches. We were warned by the company doing the work to be careful moving our cars back into the garage because the old habit of revving the accelerator to get over the bump will no longer be necessary.









The company we chose uses polymeric sand to seal the gap between the apron and the main garage slab. This was my first exposure to the material and leaves me intrigued to consider using it in other applications in the future.

The rest of the day for us was almost as productive as it was for the rapid and efficient concrete lifting crew. (They were in and out within about one hour.) I got some power trimming done down by the road at our driveway entrance, we received a visit from the farrier to trim the horses’ hooves, and I pulled out the diesel tractor to mow the back pasture.

It took me longer than one hour but I’m focused on how smoothly the whole mowing project went, all the way from getting the tractor out for the first time in months, finding the ground wasn’t too wet and soft for the weight of the big machine, and finally, finishing all the cutting without incident.

I’m always nervous about operating the heavy equipment around our fences. It will be much easier to wield the power trimmer to clean up the last remains of tall grass that is growing underneath the fence, especially after I remember to turn off the electric jolt pulsing down the wires.

I don’t know why it is so hard for me to remember to shut that off in advance.

When I was all done mowing the back pasture I discovered a bumper crop of dandelion seeds had piled up on the brush cutter behind me.

Better they landed there, I guess than out on the ground. Not that there wasn’t an equal amount blowing around every which way around me as I mowed.



Long Grass

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Five days away from home this time of year resulted in some really long grass waiting for us upon our return. Before I could start with mowing, we needed to plant some trillium that I had dug up in the woods of our lake place before we left.

After pulling out wildflowers and native growth from the pathway of our little labyrinth in the woods at the lake, I switched to digging batches of trillium for transplanting to home. We decided to plant them next to two existing groups of trillium that are looking very healthy after previous transplantations.

After that, it was time to mow. The job was made more complicated by the tall height of the grass and basically required an additional half pass for each full width of cut. Despite the extra work, I was able to complete the job by dinner time and made it look like someone lives here again.

The horses had been separated into groups of two while we were gone, making the job of feeding them a little simpler for our sitter. It was her first time staying in our house alone and caring for all the animals and she did a fabulous job during our extended weekend of over five days! We are very grateful to have found her.

While I mowed, Cyndie opened up all the gates so the four horses could romp together and wander anywhere they wanted to go. I enjoyed watching them move around together whenever I looked up from the ground in front of me. They moved around a lot and looked like they enjoyed the return to shared wide-open access to all the fields.

Everywhere they walked there was long grass surrounding them. In fact, the back pasture is in need of mowing because there is some thistle sprouting that we plan to eradicate by cutting. The really tall grass of the pasture will not be a problem for the diesel tractor pulling the big brush mower behind it.

At the same time, the grass along the fence lines also needs to be cut using the power trimmer.

It is definitely the long grass time of year.

Happy June 1st!



Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2022 at 6:00 am

Dandelions Anyone?

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It is peak dandelion season and we appear to have a bumper crop. It is also itchy rash season again from nettles and poison ivy. Every day the look of our landscape changes as plants and trees sprout leaves. Some of our varieties of grasses double in size every day. I have been using the power trimmer to clean up the edges of the hay shed and barn as well as areas of grass that were too wet to mow with the lawn tractor.

I am thrilled with how the transplanted maple tree is thriving at the center of the labyrinth.

With some precision trimming last year I have successfully encouraged a favored branch to become the leader and it is growing perfectly.

One day later, the dandelions appeared to be swallowing the labyrinth with their multiplying number beginning to cover some of the rocks defining the pathway. Yesterday afternoon I slowly walked the entire labyrinth with the power trimmer to restore order.

I think we are going to need bigger rocks.

The diameter of the labyrinth is so large there are several different micro-climates. The back half that is shaded in the afternoon is dramatically different from the front that receives sun all day long. Actually, the main change is in how much grass there is. The weeds are pretty consistent throughout.

There is a sumac tree that appears to really want company because new sprouts were turning up very frequently for about 5 rows of the back quadrant near the mother tree.

Maybe the sumac tree can make friends with all the dandelions instead.

There are more than enough available.



Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

Last Last

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Honestly, even if the grass continues to grow, I refuse to mow in November. Yesterday will be the last “last time” that I mow this season. I’ve already mowed for what I hoped was the last time this fall three other times. Admittedly, the first “last time” was hopeful thinking that didn’t pan out. The rest could’ve/should’ve been the end of growing blades but warm sunshine and some rain have kept the grass happy and active.

Yesterday, I almost wasn’t able to finish what I started. Just after I got done cutting the front yard and was working my way around to the back, the mower shut down on me. I wondered if it was making a statement about also wanting to be done for the season. It was certainly the coldest air temperature I’ve been out mowing in –mid 40s(F)– so I wouldn’t blame the tractor for not liking it.

Turned out that it was a fuse that didn’t want to be forced to work on Halloween.

Now it’s November and that means deer hunting season is near. Already, the sound of gunshots is an almost daily experience as neighboring farmers are adjusting their sights and perfecting their technique in preparation for the big day. Delilah is ferocious about wanting to defend us from the sound of a rifle “carrrrack!” She rushes toward the sound until her leash abruptly hits its limit, barking all the way.

Then she barks some more. As in, over and over again, ad nauseam. Poor girl almost barked herself hoarse yesterday.

With the majority of our trees now void of their leaves, the sound of gunshots travels from miles around us, so it’s not just the next-door neighbors we are hearing from.

At least Delilah quieted down enough while on a walk that we were able to sneak up on a flock of turkeys that were hanging out in our field near the road. They initially thought about running away and then took to the air toward an unplanted field to our north, offering a gorgeous display of the emergency version of wild turkey flight.

The turkeys were probably loving that I had cut the grass short down by the road.

In case they are wondering, that’s the last “last time” I’m going to do that this year.



Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

October Realities

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There is a feast underway over the decaying roots of the tree we recently removed from the small paddock.

If any of those mushrooms are edible, I don’t think they interest the horses. Our horses chew wood, but not so much the squishy fungi that feed on wood.

We are enjoying a summery October so far. I tried mowing the grass one last time yesterday. That’s the second time this fall I hoped I was cutting for the last time.

It’s a pain because I want to cut the grass short in preparation for the coming snow season but then it keeps growing and gets so long it is hard to cut short again. I took extra time to avoid excessive clippings laying around and also cut at an odd angle to offer the turf a break from the natural ruts forming where the tractor repeatedly rolled throughout most of the cutting season.

It looks pretty good today. Now if the growth would just go dormant, that’d be just great.

Just to push the universe in that direction, I drained the oil from the engine after I was done mowing. I’d love it if I could also drain the gas and park the machine until next spring.

I was hoping to be fastidious about the oil change and was very pleased to be able to drain it while the oil was hot. With pan in place, I attached the extending hose to the not-very-reliable plastic drain apparatus and pulled the piece open. A little oil leaked onto the frame and then the extending hose came loose and dropped into the pan of hot oil.

While rushing to try getting the hose reattached, the entire plastic piece pulled off and oil got all over the frame and ran along the edge to drip almost beyond the pan below. That had me racing to wipe oil while adjusting the pan while inadvertently getting the rag in the primary stream of draining oil.

Fastidious, it was not.

It didn’t really wreck my mood because that had already been smashed by having gotten the rubber clipping deflector on the end of the deck caught against a fence post on an incline and wrenching it out of position. If I would have simply stopped to get off and reposition the tractor, calamity could have been averted. But, no, I forged ahead and suffered the consequences of my bullheadedness.

Maybe all the bullheadedness of so many people refusing to accept reality is rubbing off on me.

I’m going to be able to clean up spilled oil, I’ll figure out a way to fix the clippings deflector, and I will strive to be open-minded about the possibility our grass will continue growing in October 2021.



Getting Bolder

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Even though the number of trees around us that are starting to show some colors of autumn is few, a couple took a jump yesterday toward premium brilliance. Those spots of bold color are particularly eye-catching.

That dot of redness stands out distinctly against the green around it. When this happens, I imagine what that tree would look like if all the leaves changed to the same degree at the same time.

Around the corner from that area is a maple tree turning orange.

I hope this is an indication of fall color intensity we can look forward to seeing more of as the month progresses.

I heard that the ever-changing sunrise and sunset times are moving 3-minutes per day about now. That’s a loss of 21-minutes of daylight this week. Could less sunlight mean slower grass growth finally?

I’m ready to be done mowing for the season. I suspect we still have a ways to go until I can park the mower for the winter.



Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Equine Companions

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The best part of mowing yesterday after getting home from the day-job, besides the fact there was a pleasant breeze that kept the temperature from feeling uncomfortably hot, was seeing the horses choose to come over the hill toward the road to graze near where I was working.

I had started the project by cutting the longest grass around the perimeter of the paddock fence and the horses hung around calmly, as opposed to getting riled up by the noisy tractor and running off. I took it as a good sign they were growing ever more comfortable with us and their surroundings.

When I moved on to the area by the road and the horses followed me up there, it was even more affirming. I think maybe the horses were enjoying the smell of fresh-cut grass.

I enjoy that the horses are behaving more and more like our companions as we move into our fifth month of them living with us.

That might be tested come Monday when the vet shows up for an appointment to file their teeth.

Maybe they will understand that we are doing it for their own good, but who ever likes having their teeth worked on? They have shown significant difficulty eating the pellets of their morning and afternoon feed, so we are hoping a little dental treatment will make chewing a little easier for them.

If we get that issue taken care of, all that is left to do for them is get a farrier to show up for their next hoof trimming appointment.

It’s what you do for equine companions.



Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2021 at 6:00 am