Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mud

Mud Returns

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Pick your adage: Be careful what you wish for. What could possibly go wrong? You never know how things will turn out. How much worse can it get?

It’s March. We are ready to be done plowing and shoveling snow. We are looking forward to seeing the ground again. We want the snow to melt. However, the ground doesn’t suddenly thaw out all at once. Just like it freezes from the top layer on down, it melts in the very same way.

Well, the top layer has thawed just beyond the overhang and it is now a muddy, mucky mess. The water can’t soak into the ground because the next layer down is still frozen solid. Water is just standing in hoof-sized pools.

My perpetual quest to clean up manure beneath and around the overhang promptly becomes an unwinnable battle when fresh droppings land in the pockmarked slurry of muck the horses keep walking in. It is a Sisyphean task that I nonetheless continue to wage despite the mess and my limited success.

Meanwhile, the space beneath the roof suddenly becomes an even more luxurious oasis than it usually is.

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The long day of drizzling rain was beginning to become sleet blown sideways by gusty winds when I went down to feed the horses at dinnertime. Beneath the overhang, it was calm and dry. Once again, I found myself praising the location and orientation of this barn.

The mud might be around for a long time to come in the days and weeks ahead but we are already starting to get antsy for conditions to allow me to get back to landscaping projects and Cyndie to try walking the uneven terrain down to the labyrinth. We have hopes of being able to promote World Labyrinth Day on May 6 this year if the ground dries up enough for hosting larger gatherings by then.

I’d like to offer a shout-out to friends, Patty and Steve who plan to visit us in April to experience Wintervale in person for the first time. Here’s to the gift of unexpected connections/reconnections that seem divinely inspired. Thanks for reaching out to us, Patty!

We are three days from the vernal equinox. I’m sensing spring is preparing to be sprung. Is that too much to wish for?

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2023 at 6:00 am

Getting Swampy

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We haven’t put out our rain gauges yet because the nighttime temperatures have continued to drop below freezing with annoying regularity. As a result, I don’t know how many inches of rain have fallen in the last few days but Friday some of our drainage ditches were flowing incredibly high so we’ve received a significant amount.

In deference to the conditions we are experiencing, I fixed the Wintervale logo.

We might as well call the place, Wintervale Swamp.

There is even a new lake that formed in the small paddock. I don’t know if it will show up in the satellite view, but if the DNR allows it, I think we should call it “Willow Lake” for the tree under which it formed.

For as much of a disaster the excess moisture is for the paddocks, the lawn above it is looking mighty happy and has greened up noticeably in the last few days.

For the time being, we are keeping the horses off the pasture grass to give it a chance to recover from winter before facing the heavy pressures of their hooves and voracious grazing. They can see and smell the greening and the growing and I think it is making them increasingly tired of flakes of baled hay.

I certainly don’t want to have things dry up to a crisp and turn into a drought, but it sure would be nice to move things closer to a happy medium. Any name changes to “swamp” are meant to be very temporary.

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2022 at 8:30 am

Just Wet

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Make it stop!

There is nothing particularly out of character about the April wetness we are currently enduring but that doesn’t make it any less burdensome. The periods of slushy snowflakes that don’t last very long on the ground are not as much of a problem as the spells of heavy rain we’ve been experiencing.

The frost has not gone out of the ground yet and that means the top few inches that have already softened are holding all the precipitation that falls. The slop in the paddocks is really miserable to walk in. The horses are dealing with it heroically, finally showing a willingness to spend the majority of their time under the protection of the overhang.

Unfortunately, that concentrates their urine and manure on the only ground that wasn’t already sloppy mud. It’s now stinky, messy limestone screenings.

Hopefully, we’ve only got one day left of this soaking session before a weekend of sun gives us a brief respite. I fear that won’t be enough time for the mud to dry very much before the next wave of rain moves over us again. Still, any amount of time without more rain is greatly appreciated.

April with animals becomes quite an exercise of endurance. It wouldn’t be so bad if we could hunker down indoors and wait out the days of rain snuggled in front of the fireplace. We are outside multiple times a day no matter what the weather, trudging through the muck that any sane person would unquestionably avoid.

It’s just thoroughly wet outside. I sure wish it would stop raining.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2022 at 6:00 am

Perfect Delivery

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Surely, we are not unique in mentally steeling ourselves for the typical hassles related to scheduled deliveries. Way back in January, Cyndie was told she could expect our washer and dryer delivery near the end of March. We both took that prediction with a healthy dose of pessimism.

Amid the continued supply chain disruptions and ongoing pandemic, an upright freezer we bought was delayed month after month for nearly a year. We had little reason to trust the washer/dryer would be any different.

Alas, we were pleasantly wrong.

Cyndie periodically received messages alerting delivery progress, culminating with notice of an 8 to noon block on Wednesday morning. Then she got a call that they were 30 minutes out. They arrived right on time.

The question remained, did they have the installation accessories Cyndie ordered to convert the dryer for propane gas? Yes, they did.

As noted in the delivery confirmation message, the delivery crew could not install the propane fitting. Having prepared for this, Cyndie had contacted our local plumber to make, and guarantee, all the propane connections. They predicted he would be able to stop by before the end of the day.

The delivery crew loaded up our old appliances and took away all the packaging trash from the new ones. They made all the water connections and ran the washer to verify everything was in order.

A short time later, the plumber showed up and completed the dryer installation, letting it run long enough to confirm there were no gas leaks.

From beginning to end, everything transpired as perfectly as we could possibly imagine.

Color us very happy to discover our fears of a more troublesome outcome were entirely unwarranted.

The new washing machine will have a chance to prove its mettle very soon given the muddy conditions we continue to face outside.

In the last two days, we have received periods of heavy rain, including some lightning and thunder, followed by moments of sleet and slushy snow. The temperature has been hovering at the freezing point, and the water dripping off the fence wires was beginning to form cute little icicles.

When even the slightest breeze moved the tops of trees, similar frozen drips came clattering down.

I’m looking forward to a perfect delivery of some warm, sunny spring days very soon. Is that asking too much?

I hope not.

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Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2022 at 6:00 am

Foot Work

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With a fresh glaze of wet snow covering the ground and mud reaching its peak on the trails and in the paddocks, yesterday the horses had an appointment with their farrier. Convincing the horses that they should accept a halter for a few hours even though they weren’t particularly interested in doing so became a challenging dance of slippery, muddy footsteps.

With the added help from two representatives of the rescue organization, This Old Horse, the process went just fine and the herd is good for another 8 weeks.

We already had the herd separated between the two paddocks so Cyndie just had to occupy one horse while another was getting trimmed.

The last few times these four horses have been trimmed, Light was the least cooperative about standing on three feet and only received partial service. Yesterday, she didn’t relax entirely, but she did hang in there long enough for the farrier to complete all four hooves.

I’d say they all look really great now, except for the fact it’s hard to notice because their feet are submerged in mud most of the time.

When we are done at the barn and ready to head back up to the house, it’s time for the boots on our feet to get some attention. The residual piles of plowed snow provide the perfect boot scrubber.

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Too bad the snow is disappearing so fast now that these few remaining piles will be gone long before the mud is.

The boot scrubbing brush outside our front door is an alternative, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as the old snow.

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Written by johnwhays

March 24, 2022 at 6:00 am

Bad Chemistry

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I am no chemist, but I know what transpired and the results were annoying and stinky, to say the least. This story starts in the dry days of the past summer. Days that became weeks of dry earth and high heat.

Wait, the story needs to start long before that. Skip all the way back to when we first got horses on this property in 2013. The first years we were here were rather wet ones. Put horses on wet ground and what do you get? Mud. Lots and lots of mud.

In the early years, there were several times when we were forced to put up a temporary fence around part of the gravel between the barn and hay shed so the horses could spend a little time off the mud.

The remedy to that mess came in the form of limestone screenings. Our local excavator suggested the crushed and screened limestone as a solution to the slippery mud. It worked brilliantly, although our slopes lend to a fair amount of erosion of the screenings during heavy rains.

The excavator had a solution for that, too. Keep an extra pile of lime screenings on hand to fill in the ravines. It actually worked for us. The weight of horses packs the surface and the hot sun bakes it to a solid surface that keeps the horses out of the mud.

The only downside I’ve seen is the dustiness of the screenings as a ground cover. Horses repeatedly stomp their feet to shake off flies and flies are relentless, so there is a non-stop kicking up of dust.

Anyone who lives down a gravel road knows about dust kicked up when the road is dry. One trick used to control dusty gravel roads is magnesium chloride. It will absorb moisture and leave the road looking a little damp.

What the heck. We gave it a try. Lo and behold, it reduced the dust the horses were kicking up and breathing under the barn overhang.

Jump forward to this past summer when it was hot and dry for weeks and Cyndie found herself spreading more and more magnesium chloride crystals in the area around the overhang. Maybe we used too much.

Last week we received some solid rain at an even rate for many hours at a time that was more than we’ve seen for months. The limestone screenings just beyond the overhang turned into a mare-urine enhanced stinky slurry of muddy, slippery limestone mush.

I wish we could magically extract the magnesium chloride, but lacking the chemistry knowledge of what substance might absorb those molecules, I opted for covering it with more limestone. It’ll either provide more material for the mush or it will bury the stinky stuff and get packed by the horses as the ground dries and hopefully will last until the next big wet spell.

That leads to the next complication as the temperature drops. When it becomes dangerously icy in the winter, magnesium chloride crystals work well to melt the ice around that sloping area.

Maybe I need to create a concoction of two parts limestone screening and one part magnesium chloride for ice melt to avoid ending up with more magnesium than lime.

The bad chemistry is actually a mixture of horses, big slopes, and slippery surfaces. There are only two of those three that we would seek to eliminate in this case.

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Special Report

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How many times do we have to hear the “special” announcements before we grow numb? I can’t answer that because I wasn’t counting last week when the numbness began to set in. During these “uncertain times” affecting everyone in the world, businesses that are scrambling to adjust are all issuing announcements of what they are doing to be safe, stay safe, help you, help others, unfortunately, to the point of becoming downright annoying.

It is my civic duty to assure all readers that Relative Something is striving to do everything possible to assure that all posts are maintaining a proper social distance and avoiding going to restaurants or concerts until this crisis is over. Epidemiologists are confident that reading blog posts is unlikely to pose unreasonable risks of transfer of the coronavirus, so feel free to spend extra time during your sheltering at home to visit the “Previous Somethings” archive to rediscover what the world was like before 2020.

Yesterday, in effort to clean up some of the mud-saster around here, Delilah and I –well, mostly me, she just sat nearby and stared toward the chickens in the woods– dismantled six pallets to reclaim enough lumber for extending the boardwalk on one of our trails by about seven rows.

You can see a difference one day makes when it comes to spring snow. The white stuff has melted, but that leaves behind a wet, muddy mess for trail conditions.

Actually, it was frozen this morning due to low overnight temperatures, so we hauled a wheelbarrow full of the blocks down into the woods before breakfast. The reward for that effort resulted in a special condition on Delilah’s hairy legs that I call “mudcicles.”

The doggie towels we keep at the front door for drying her feet when we come in from a walk aren’t able to wipe off all the frozen mud stuck in the long hairs on the back of her legs. That tends to slowly melt off around the house over the following hour after we come in.

Luckily, since I am home alone and am not able to host any guests during the pandemic crisis, I simply pretend not to notice how gross the house is becoming. When I try communicating with others in the world via Zoom or FaceTime, I just make sure to keep the camera pointing well above the floor.

Rest assured, despite the thin coating of silt covering every flat surface of the house, the risk of transmission of the coronavirus continues to remain unlikely.

Stay safe while washing your hands everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2020 at 9:56 am

Long Haul

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One-hundred years ago today the woman who became my mother was born. Elizabeth Jean Elliott grew up during the Great Depression and as an adult served in the US Naval Reserve WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II. She raised six kids. She knew about the long haul.

I wonder what she would think today about the way people are responding to the current coronavirus pandemic.

It’s hard to grasp where we are on the curve of the immanently approaching viral outbreak, both in terms of the risk to lives and the fragility of people’s financial well-being.

There have been comparisons to both the Depression and WWII. While some talking heads are trying to convince the citizens that we’ll get over this in a matter of weeks, health experts are struggling to prepare people’s mindset for disruptions that could last months.

Obviously, in the attempt to avoid the sharp exponential rise in cases that would overwhelm our healthcare resources, officials are trying to accomplish restrictions that will flatten that curve to a level the hospital workers and facilities can support. If that wise goal is achieved, the flatter curve becomes a wider curve, meaning a longer duration.

This past week has been a mind-numbing jumble of stressful routine disruptions that felt like it lasted twice that duration. If one week of having our lives drastically upended was this exhausting, how are we going to deal with months more like it?

Mom would know.

I’m pretty sure she was one to practice the philosophy of taking things one day at a time. She had a way of presenting a mental preparedness for the worst possible outcome while maintaining a hope that it might end up being better than that.

It’s a philosophy I am trying to apply to the oncoming mud season. Our snow is gone except for a couple small remnants of piles that were created when I plowed the driveway. Actually, I’ll miss those when they’ve completely disappeared because they happen to be a great place to clean the mud from my boots before going back into the house.

Our front entry is a cruddy disaster between dirty boots and muddy paws umpteen times a day. (I’m pretty sure I picked up “umpteen” from Mom.)

The trails in the woods are teetering on being unusable where the mud is so ferocious it threatens to keep a boot that steps into it. Yesterday afternoon and evening we received enough rain to take things to level-two messy.

I fear the month of April is going to be a long haul in more ways than one.

Stay home and space out.

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Written by johnwhays

March 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

Makin’ Mud

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When the snow disappeared from the ground in our hayfield, the ruts from the tractor that had picked up the round bails during winter became clearly visible. Those tire tracks weren’t a concern for me until I could see the drainage swale water was following them instead of flowing straight in the direction we want.

Then I had an “aha moment.”

If the water was following tire tracks, I just needed to make some new tracks.

I decided to try using the ATV. Knowing it wasn’t as heavy as a big tractor, I accepted the chance it might not make the impressions I wanted, but it was safer than bringing out the diesel and getting it stuck in the mud. The surface is already too soft to be in the field with the big tractor.

With the plow blade still on the front, I added cement pavers to the basket on the back for added weight and headed into the field. Back and forth I drove, working to re-establish the track we want the water to follow.

The ATV, plow blade, and I got splattered with mud, even though the path was grass-covered, but I think I succeeded in creating a new preferred route to the curving ruts left by the hay bale tractor.

Now we just wait for the next dose of precipitation to see it work.

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Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Lucky Eight

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It is such a treat to open the access door to the nest boxes in the afternoon and find fresh eggs. Our lucky eight surviving hens seem as happy as can be with the hints of spring that have flashed for brief moments between blasts of foul weather. Yesterday, they rewarded us for their good fortune by providing the maximum eight eggs.

The chickens are a far cry from having horses, but they are now the primary distraction filling the horse-energy void. The warm, sunny day yesterday had them actively scouring the grounds in a circuitous, wide-ranging meander.

I generally walk Delilah in a direction away from where the hens happen to be hanging out, but it gets harder to do when they are moving around to so many places, in so quick a span of time.

The dog and I made our way to the high spot by the driveway and messed around in some of the last remaining dirty snow.

She likes to rub the sides of her snout in the snow to scratch a nagging itch. The cold temperature is probably soothing, as well.

We are headed for a run of days with temperatures above freezing, so the rain moving in will likely finish off the dwindling patches of snow that have lingered. Hopefully, Delilah won’t switch to rubbing her face in the mud.

Cyndie is flying to Florida for a few days again this week, so it falls on me if Delilah needs extra grooming. My methods tend to involve avoidance of hazardous areas, to ward off the need for putting in any extra clean up effort.

Our walks yesterday were strictly confined to areas where mud was at a minimum, but that worked because there happened to be a few areas that weren’t soaking wet. That ends as soon as the rain arrives.

She may end up confined to the driveway pavement for the next few days.

At the same time, since it’s not supposed to be freezing overnights, I could always pull out the kiddie pool. Yet, I’m just a little hesitant about testing fate like that, because with my luck, that might trigger another spring snow storm.

You know, I think the chickens are actually easier to tend to than our dog.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2019 at 6:00 am