Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mowing

Same Result

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Last fall I bought a new yard tractor to mow grass. It’s a level up from the model we took on from the previous property owners, with a much sturdier mowing deck and improved steering. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to use it a couple of times, I’m able to judge its worth.

Performance is improved in all areas except one. Despite the inclusion of hose fittings to wash the underside of the deck with water, it collects grass and needs cleaning just the same as the previous one.

Since it was new, I decided to give the suggested water cleaning steps a chance, despite everything I’ve heard debunking the method. It just seems wrong to be getting the nooks and crannies of metal parts wet.

The results were as underwhelming as I’d expected.

Having mastered removing the deck for cleaning on the old mower, I figured it would be just as easy on this one, allowing me to turn it over to see the results directly.

In total neglect of checking any instructions, I boldly forged ahead to remove clips at the attachment points. Right away I realized, there was no handy lever to release tension on the belt. That didn’t stop me from getting it apart, but I knew it was going to complicate getting it all hooked up again after I was done.

Flipping the deck quickly revealed the gross limitations of the water method for cleaning. That might work if all you did was cut a short length of grass blades from a lush lawn. My reality involves a lot more weeds, small branches, dirt, and dust, combined with occasional areas of thick, too-long grass which packs on a complex brick of debris to the underside of the deck.

The sprayed water didn’t come close to being effective enough.

When it came time to reattach the deck, I made multiple futile attempts before finally wrestling all the clips in place at all the attachment points. All that remained was to get the belt over the pulley.

No matter what contortion of positions I tried, I didn’t have enough hands or leverage to muscle that belt in place. I knew there must be a logical procedure I wasn’t figuring out.

Yeah. This is the part where I went inside and consulted the manual again.

Surprise! There is a little square hole on the arm of the tensioning pulley intended for the post of a ratchet driver that would allow for enough leverage to get the belt over the engine pulley. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

I also learned that I had removed two clips too many, which complicated the task unnecessarily.

So, cleaning the deck ends up being the same result as the old yard tractor, but properly informed, it will ultimately involve an easier process of removal and re-attachment.

Overall, I’m happy to report being very satisfied with the upgrade!

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

Two Masters

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There are currently two different masters vying for my time, excluding the myriad other commitments, like the day-job, commuting to the day-job, a decent night’s sleep, doing my plank exercises, and some longed-for idle down time to give my weary head a break.

Those things are all secondary to the two essential priorities at present: time on the bike, and mowing the lawn.

I’m pretty sure Pequenita would add, lavishing her with non-stop attention, but she doesn’t get to vote.

The afternoon weather was warm yesterday, but otherwise perfect for both mowing and cycling. Despite my idea of riding every day for the month leading up to my week-long trip, I chose to start with mowing. The grass was just growing too fast to wait another day.

Now that I have the new lawn tractor all figured out, the task of mowing has gotten downright pleasant. However, to be fair, the credit for pleasantness isn’t solely due to the tractor. The weather since snow stopped falling has provided growing conditions drier than any other spring since we moved here.

We’ve had some rain recently, but no gully washing downpours (yet). Precipitation has fallen gently and slowly, giving everything a good drink, but not too much, which has allowed the soil to dry up nicely afterward.

That has pretty much made mowing a hassle-free endeavor.

After finishing all the areas that needed cutting the most, I cleaned up the mower, parked it, and looked at my bike. I had no intention of putting on all my gear and heading out for a real ride, but it struck me that I could, at the very least, see how my butt felt against the seat.

I hopped on without the right shoes and pedaled up to the house. My backside didn’t feel as bad as I thought it might, especially given the un-padded regular shorts I was wearing.

I rolled down the driveway and pedaled my way back up. Then I did it a second time, to log about a mile, just for the record.

That was good enough for me. I’ve now ridden three days in a row.

I also served both masters within a precious short few hours at the end of a work day.

I wonder how long I will be able to keep this up.

Time will tell. Stay tuned…

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Mowing Again

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Last Tuesday, my 2018 lawn mowing season officially began. I had a little time, it was between rain showers, and it was dry enough that I was able to do a brief test cut on the small patch of grass on the south side of the barn. The grass there seemed to have a serious head start compared to everywhere else.

The reason it was a ‘test’ cut, is the mower. You may recall I bought a new yard tractor to replace the old Craftsman that was giving multiple end of life hints. When the new one arrived last fall, I barely had time to run it before winter took over. I hadn’t taken time to read the manual, so for the maiden voyage I couldn’t figure out the interlock to keep the mower blades spinning when backing up.

I just kept restarting to hastily finish the back hill before it got dark.

When I finished, I looked through the manual and learned the yellow triangle warning symbol was also a button to be pushed. D’oh!

This brings me to Tuesday, when I was doing horse chores and walking Delilah, but not prepared to mow. Except, the grass was so long out there and the rain seemed to be holding off. What the heck, I decided to go for it.

I didn’t actually remember how to keep the mower on when backing up, but I remembered that it was head-slap simple when I discovered the trick in the fall, so that was my primary focus. The other issue was seeing if it would start easily, after sitting so long with old gas in it.

I clipped Delilah’s leash to the railing and opened the garage. She had no idea what I was up to.

After topping off the tank with some less-old, but not necessarily fresh gas, I was ready to try. But, this new tractor doesn’t have a separate choke control like the old one. The throttle was all the way up, so I just turned the key and hoped.

Somewhat begrudgingly, it coughed to a start. I figured a little black smoke and rough run was a reasonable response after the long winter, so I forged ahead, proud that I quickly figured out the interlock for backing up.

I mowed for ten minutes or so, hoping the engine would warm up and settle down, but it seemed to chug the entire way through. After finishing the small area, and before the rain started to fall, I rushed the tractor back to the garage.

Since it was still running rough, I decided to pull the throttle down to a slow idle and then ramp it back up, to see how it might respond before shutting it off.

As I pulled the lever down, it popped out of the choke position and into the normal operating range and the engine purred like brand new.

I found the choke control. I had just mowed with it on the whole time.

D’oh!

At least the rain is bringing spring flowers.

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2018 at 7:57 am

Trusting Intuition

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Yesterday, I wrenched success from the jaws of failure after I reacted thoughtfully and purposefully to the engine failure of our lawn tractor in the middle of mowing the hill of our back yard. With barely a minute of pause to simply sit and contemplate the predicament, I decided to spring into action. I was racing the weather.

After a quick test to see if I could push the tractor uphill, I went to get the ATV and a nylon tow rope. It was possible that the mower was just low on gas, but it was way too soon to have used the entire tank, based on previous experience. I was concerned that maybe the engine was working harder than usual and burning more fuel. That deserved attention.

There was evidence to support this possibility. You see, I was in a hurry to beat the coming rain, so I started early enough in the day that the dew had not dried off the grass. There were sticky wads of wet cuttings littering the lanes where the mower had already passed. It was likely the bottom of the deck had become caked with dirt and grass that was severely hampering the efficiency of the whole operation.

Despite the time pressure of impending precipitation, I disconnected the deck to pull it out and flip it over to clear the debris. Working quickly, I did a perfectly imperfect job of sufficiently completing that task. With the deck out, I wanted to grease the three spindles, but remembered I hadn’t reloaded the grease gun last time it sputtered out on me.

What better time than right then. Usually, for this kind of task that I rarely deal with, I struggle to recall how I did it last time, and make six mistakes before figuring out the simple technique. Yesterday, my intuition was strong, and I got it right, first try.

About then, Cyndie arrived to report the line on the power trimmer had run out. I popped off the spool for her, grabbed some remaining lengths of nylon line I’d been wanting to use up, and wound both the upper and lower spools without my usual mistake of starting with the wrong one first.

Since I had the nozzle on the compressor hose to blow off the mower deck, I also blew off the business end of the trimmer for Cyndie and sent her on her way before finishing the task of remounting the deck under the tractor.

We were both back to work after minimal delay and the lawn tractor worked like almost new.

Honestly, the smooth sailing I experienced was in sharp contrast to the norm of multiple struggles to make minimal progress. Tasks certainly do get incrementally easier with repetition.

Despite the unplanned delay right in the middle of mowing, I squeaked out finishing the entire job just as the first drops of rain arrived.

Now, if only this run of success will carry on into figuring out why the pond pump doesn’t turn on again after Cyndie shut it off to clean the intake filter.

Come on intuition, stay with me…

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Part Way

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I made it part way through doing a thorough job of re-leveling the gazebo frame when my patience for the project ran out and I resorted to doing a less-than-perfect, but good enough wrap up to call it done. Funny how the perspective changes when the limited hours in a day are slipping away and the cost/benefit assessment provides a justification for aborting a plan.

Only time will tell whether or not it was a worthy choice. In the short-term, we are well satisfied with our progress. The shaded platform is ready for use.

With that done, we did turn our attention to using the loader bucket to remove a significant portion of the oldest composting manure. These were piles that had gone cold due to no longer actively composting. Interestingly, of the three piles we tended to, two of them retained a lot of moisture and one was surprisingly dry.

The dry one proved to be suitable for rodent housing and it appeared we disturbed a momma mouse in the process of giving birth. While Cyndie was at the pile discovering that, I had driven off with a full bucket and spotted a large mouse scrambling to and fro on the mechanisms of the loader arms.

It was a little like trying to drive a car with a bee flying around you. It was pure luck that I didn’t bash into the side of the barn while backing up as I focused on trying to get the dang critter to jump off the bucket and not run up toward my position.

He skittered over to an opening at the end of one of the loader arms, so I lifted the bucket high to slide the mouse out, but I don’t know if it is actually open all the way through. I never saw where he came out, or maybe he’s still in there.

It’s the kind of mini-drama that we are growing accustomed to, and as a result, we tend to just shrug these encounters off and carry on with the task at hand.

All manner of creatures can be found taking advantage of the spaces we create. They probably see our occasional intrusions on their luxurious accommodations in a similar way we look at hazardous weather. It happens. You clean up after it and get on with life.

Mowing the fields dislodges a lot of crawling and slithering things. Last time out, the prevalent sighting was a leaping creature. Several large, long-legged frogs were disturbed by the big wheels and high RPM roar of the tractor. I’m pleased to be able to say I didn’t witness any unfortunate encounters with the whirring blades of the brush cutter.

There are still plenty of other compost piles for the rodents to take up residence. Better there than in our house. Inside, they have to deal with a storm called Pequenita. When that happens, we have to deal with watching where we place our feet in the morning.

It’s such a glamorous life we lead.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

Getting Trim

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We made visible progress on the grounds yesterday by finally cutting the middle section of pasture that hadn’t been mowed all summer.

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We haven’t even installed the tarp cover of the gazebo next to the round pen yet, which reveals the lack of workshop activity in the early season of 2017.

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That is changing now. We are cranking up preparations for a shot at accomplishing a summer’s worth of workshops in the final month. The horses have been patiently waiting. I think they are getting excited seeing the increase in maintenance of the grounds.

They can tell it’s soon time to do what they do best.

Now all we need is people interested in discovering what the horses have to offer.

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Multiple Gifts

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It may seem like backward logic, but we really view guests visiting Wintervale as a gift to us, in contrast to visitor’s thinking of it as a gift to them to be able to immerse themselves in the peaceful aura of our forest, fields, flowers and animals. We all win!

Preparing the grounds to accommodate a stroll, otherwise known as “mowing the grass,” is something that needs to be done anyway, but it is a little more fun to do when I know someone is coming soon. It is way too easy to let things slide if Cyndie and I are the only ones who are going to see it. So, expecting guests is a form of inspiration.

Of course, the other incentive is that there is so much to be done that I don’t dare neglect any one thing for too long or the whole operation would get away from us.

We have other gifts to be thankful for today. We are enjoying the gift of healing as Cyndie continues to make progress recovering function after her shoulder surgery, and I am enjoying the gift of her being able to once again handle the power trimmer.

She took it upon herself yesterday, while I was out on the lawn tractor, to start the engine and get the trimmer over her head and onto her good shoulder. I asked how she got it started.

“It was hard. I had to stand on it and pull the cord with my left hand.”

Once she has it running and in position, holding the handlebar and swaying the business end to and fro actually puts very little stress on her weak shoulder.

We will be picking up momentum now in a push to conquer the relentless growth of summer and get the property ready for a busy month of Wintervale workshops. With Dunia Morales graciously offering to come from Guatemala to help lead sessions with Cyndie, we are looking to recover some business from the shortened summer of shoulder repair.

What a gift!

We are lucky to have so many.

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Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2017 at 9:51 am