Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mud

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

Trail Inspirations

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After a second visit on Saturday for pure maple syrup and pancakes, Cyndie enlisted the artistic energies of visiting Williams girls, Ella and Sarah, to decorate some of the new blocks before we placed them on the trail.

It’s a bit of a shame that their designs will all too quickly be subject to the abuses of plodding muddy boots and paws, but that won’t stop the creative exclamations from still offering glimpses of inspiration to passersby.

The 60 new blocks paved another 8.5 feet of sloppy trail, but we’re still going to need a lot more pallets if we want to cover the length of perpetually wet ground down there.

The picture I used yesterday to show the blocks on the trail was from October of 2016. Yesterday, Cyndie took a picture with the newest blocks in the foreground, which is actually viewing in the opposite direction from the first image.

It’s not an exact comparison, but I like seeing one next to the other.

Can you see how far in the distance the old blocks run in the picture on the right?

2016

2018

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Reminds me a little of the yellow brick road. Oh my!

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Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Working Through

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Some chores don’t wait for nice weather, so we ventured out into the constant drizzle on Sunday to open space in our compost area, despite the inconvenience. Cyndie had moved the horses indoors out of the wet on Saturday night, which resulted in soiled wood shavings in their stalls at a time when we didn’t have space in the compost area.

Luckily, there is a spot next to the barn where we’ve been using composted manure and old hay to fill in a drop in the landscape. The area had been a too convenient runway for water drainage that was problematic. Bringing it back to level with the surrounding area will spread and slow water flowing from above.

Out came the Grizzly, after putting air in the leaky front tire, and the metal grate trailer for an increasingly muddier series of loads from the compost area. Very similar to working on moving innumerable bales of hay, as time goes by, the loads seemed to get heavier and heavier and I started to move slower and slower. Cyndie pushed back against my increasing moments of pause, with a goal of getting the job done as quickly as possible so she could get in out of the cold and wet.

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When she proclaimed we were down to just two loads remaining, I corrected her with the estimation of four loads. After I tried to take out a small load to assure my estimation would win, she suggested we could toss some of the last bits into the woods around the compost area, leading to an outcome of three loads completing the task. It was declared a tie.

We were wet, it was muddy, but we had worked through the nasty weather to accomplish a necessary chore. We now have open space for composting again.

And not a moment too soon.

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2017 at 6:00 am

Roost Achieved

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I was all excited to check the image card after another overnight on the trail camera, but there was nothing there. I think the batteries expired. If any new prowlers showed up on the second night, we’ll never know.

In a strange result of nature, we received a quarter of an inch of rain yesterday before I got home, but the grounds looked like five-times that amount had fallen.

There’s almost nowhere to step that doesn’t turn out muddy when you move off the pavement or wood chips. Delilah jumped up on Cyndie in a fit of excitement and painted a wonderful image with her dirty paw. It’s time to pull out her kiddie pool and park it by the front door so she can wash her feet each time we enter the house.

On my way home from work yesterday, I stopped in Hudson to pick up some accessories to improve our electrical hook-up to the coop. It’s just extension cord for the time being, but at least it can be more soundly secured extension cord while it’s there.

I’m working toward properly burying a supply wire from the barn and securing it per electrical code guidelines, but the chicks needed heat much sooner than I could execute the necessary steps to wire it right the first time.

Later in the evening, when we walked down to reset the trail camera with new batteries and a cleared image card, we found one of the Rhode Island Reds had made her way up onto one of the two parallel roosts that offer the highest perch in the coop.

I have wondered whether having the roosts set right at the level of the large window would be a drawback for them, so seeing a bird on the roost was a big deal for me. I felt good that she didn’t panic or jump down when I came all the way up to the window.

I’m not confident they will be so comfortable when it is a large cat that shows up to look in on them.

If it proves to be a problem, I can easily add a board to provide increased privacy for them. While we were lingering there, one of the Buff Orpingtons joined the Red up on the roost. It won’t take long for the rest of the copy cats (chicks) to follow suit, I’m sure.

Remember, our chickens are brilliant.

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

Mud Happens

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It’s that time of year. One good reason we want woodchips for our trails is the mudfest we are faced with in low areas and avenues where ground water makes its way down to these lower areas.

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There is a trick to getting the woodchips, though. You need to get to the piles of branches without getting stuck in the mud!

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The ground looked innocuous enough, subtly covered with turf. Beneath that facade of grass hid a soft soup of mushy mud that pulled the tractor tires ever-deeper with each attempt to move either forward or back.

Ultimately, Cyndie and I outsmarted the soft soil with precisely placed scraps of wood fence posts behind the tires while I manipulated the loader bucket to push the tractor backwards.

I think it’s going to take a long time to replace the divots along that stretch. It’s going to need to wait until the mud gets a lot less soupy for real repairs to take hold.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2017 at 9:16 am