Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘mud

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

Winter Muckxtravaganza

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The daytime temperature yesterday climbed well above freezing and turned that beautiful snow we received over the weekend into a soaking slop that the horses converted into a regrettable mucky mess.

As I pulled in the driveway after work, I spotted the horses in a tizzy over a loose ribbon of fence that was blowing in the wind. It was at a spot we had barricaded last spring to separate the hay-field from the drainage alley. The horses have been showing us they want to cross at that point instead of through the usual open gate because of how wet it is.

On Sunday I had hastily opened a section for them to get through, but I didn’t permanently tie off the ribbons I had pulled back. When I arrived yesterday, two of the horses were across that opening and two were still out in the hay-field, frantically trying to pass through but turned back by the scary flailing ribbons that had come loose in the strengthening wind.

I quickly realized I should have pulled all four of the t-posts on Sunday and been done with this. With temperatures expected to drop significantly in the days ahead, I decided to pull the posts while I still could and open this whole avenue to the herd for the rest of the winter.

img_ip1858eOf course, in no time I was out of daylight and fumbling around in the dark to finish the task. While Delilah stood by patiently, I rolled up the length of ribbon fence and muscled out the posts. I hooked her leash to my pants and gathered posts and ribbon, setting off in the darkness to cross the mucky hoof-marked turf of the field and paddocks.

The footing out there is just plain miserable right now. When it freezes solid in the next day or two it will become a treacherous ankle-twisting obstacle course. It will also become much harder to keep clean with our usual routine of frequent manure scooping.

This is the point where I want a lot of snow to fall. A good 6-inches would cover everything nicely and smooth it out quite a bit.

As of last night, it was nothing but mudzilla. Mucktastrophe. Swampageddon. Mudsaster. It was a real muckxtravaganza.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2016 at 7:00 am

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Forest Cleaning

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DSCN4504eIt wasn’t too muddy beyond our trails, among the leaves carpeting our woods, so we took advantage of the favorable weather and did some “forest-keeping” yesterday. Since we were already picking up the branches I had pruned from trees, we got inspired to keep going and clean up some of the years of accumulated fallen limbs and dead growth.

It’s like magic. Once you decide to start picking up branches, there suddenly becomes more branches deserving to be picked up.

We collected a wide variety of them into piles at the side of our trail, to make it easy for chipping later. We can grind them up right where they lay and spread them out to pave the trail for better footing during the muddy season.

DSCN4505eWouldn’t it be nice if we could bring the tractor in there now? But the ground is too soft for the time being.

Timing is everything.

While picking up some branches that had lain there for years, I found myself wondering how I would know when enough was enough. It looked really good in the areas we had cleared, but I felt a desire to avoid trying to make it too pristine.

Cyndie agreed with me that we should seek a good balance of making it look well-tended, while maintaining a certain amount of natural character from the few oddities of limbs or saplings that grow askew or have reason to fall.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2016 at 7:00 am

Good Footing

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It’s the time of year again when the thawing ground turns to mud, especially in areas where the horses walk. The first couple of years after we moved here were extremely wet in the spring, so we got a thorough lesson in worst case scenarios. The best thing that came from that was a recommendation for using limestone screenings in our paddocks.

I was unsure, at first. The searches for information we conducted tended toward extensive projects involving removal of all topsoil to some significant depth, and then installing expensive plastic grids and laying down thick layers of sand or crushed stone.

We opted for the least complicated idea, as a first test. We simply spread a thick layer of limestone screenings over the existing soil. The first time it rained, I figured we had made a big mistake. The lime screenings took on the water and became like thick, wet concrete. The horses sank right down in it. If it got below freezing overnight, the endless craters of their hoof prints would create an almost unnavigable landscape until the next thaw.

All it took was added time for the screenings to cycle through being packed down by the horses and baked by the sun, to set into a firm base that could support the horse’s weight. Other than the setbacks of losing a lot of material when heavy downpours created deep rills and washed screenings away, the overall result was proving to be worthy.

We simply ordered more limestone screenings and filled in the voids. So far this year, the surface is holding. Look at the dramatic difference from the areas we haven’t covered yet:

IMG_iP1148eIMG_iP1154e.

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We definitely need to order more, as we have yet to cover the critical heavy traffic areas around, and through, gate openings. The big challenge with bringing in more loads of screenings is the damage caused by the trucks delivering the heavy weight. We need to determine the right compromise of cost per benefit. A smaller truck would do less damage, but having smaller loads delivered drives up the cost a huge amount.

I find it hard to decide how to calculate the cost of damage that the full-sized truck does. Mostly, it costs me peace of mind, as it bums me out to break up more of the asphalt or get deep compressed ruts on our land. We figure the driveway is already a lost cause, so it becomes a matter of tolerating the additional damage until we take on the project of resurfacing it. Getting rid of the deep ruts hasn’t been a piece of cake, either, and who knows what damage it is doing to roots or my buried drain tubes.

For the most part, we plan to confine dump trucks to our driveway, and we will just have to move the delivered loads to any final destinations using our tractor.

Here’s a shot of Hunter showing how nice and dry the footing is on the well-set limestone screenings up near the barn. Niiiiice.

IMG_iP1147eNo complex process of soil removal and inorganic sub-surface installation. Just limestone screenings dumped on top of the existing surface and spread out to a depth of 6-8 inches. Oh, and time. About a year of horse traffic, hot sun interspersed with soaking rain, more limestone screenings to replace what runs off, more sun, and more packing. Walaah. Good footing.

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Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2016 at 7:00 am