Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘paddocks

Drainage Tweak

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Before all that sloppy snow fell yesterday, I spent some time on Friday refining a drainage path in the paddock. The horses took immediate interest, more so because I was working near a gate they hoped I would open. I had no intention of giving them access to graze in the arena at the time, but they eventually charmed me into allowing it.

Unfortunately, Cayenne violated my trust and stepped through the web fence out there and spoiled it for everyone.

I had to stop what I was doing to go into the barn for a halter and then march out after her in order to walk her back into the paddock.

I was not happy about the interruption.

We have not had much luck keeping a path open to drain that side of the paddock because the perpetually wet soil there is constantly disrupted by hoof prints in the mud. I’m trying to create a wider swale with a lip on each side, knowing that it will still require repeated maintenance to prevent hoof traffic from plugging it up.

In the long run, I’m hoping to shape the lay of the land enough that their normal activity doesn’t interfere with the way it drains. Water will always flow down the easiest route available.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the initiative shown by Cayenne to venture astray on Friday has any relation to the behavior I noticed yesterday under the overhang. Is she taking on a leadership role in the 3-horse herd?

Look how they lined up behind her to wait until she was done eating.

Gives the impression she is the one in charge. Time will tell whether this settles into a new normal among the three of them.

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Written by johnwhays

November 5, 2018 at 6:00 am

Early Success

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Part of me is hesitant to claim success about a recent transplanted tree, well, trees, but we have decided to enjoy it while it lasts. The truth really won’t be revealed until next summer, as to whether the four oaks we hastily decided to dig up and move out in the open field beyond the paddock ultimately survive the transplantation.

In the weeks since we moved them, these four oak trees have barely showed a symptom of shock. Now they are displaying the best of fall color, just as if nothing had happened to disrupt normal routine.

I don’t know if this apparent good health is a valid indicator of the overall success of our bold plan. I am prepared to discover otherwise next spring, but for now, we are tickled to see the normal fall behavior playing out.

If these work out, I will definitely be emboldened to do more of this to expand the range of oak trees on our property in the years ahead. There are so many little volunteer sprouts that show up every spring where they aren’t wanted or can’t be allowed to grow to maturity, we always have many opportunities from which to choose.

It is part of a long game, dreaming someday of tall trees that will provide natural cooling shade under which our horses can benefit.

It all starts with acorns and involves a little effort to nurture young trees in new locations.

Here’s hoping for success.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

Triple Fenced

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The heat and humidity have broken and it finally feels a little more like September now. We were expecting the transition to involve a lot more rain than showed up yesterday. The line of precipitation slowly moving west is doing so at an angle that is sliding from the southwest to the northeast and for some reason, most of the rain moved around, rather than over our region.

Ironically, now I am wishing we would actually receive a heavy dose of rain, because last Friday we put a lot of energy into shoring up the silt fence at the property line adjacent to our neighbor’s corn field. In fact, we turned it into a bit of a terrace with three-tiered layers of silt fence.

The first two are short sections to slow the flow before it reaches our long fence. Between the top two sections there is the skeleton frame for a berm, in the form of piled dead pine trees. The soil runoff will accumulate around the branches and hold them in place. Eventually, weeds and grasses will grow through the branches and that forms a nice natural barrier that will hold soil in place but allow water to flow.

We have added support to the fabric fence by using old hay bales that we can’t feed to the horses because they have gotten moldy.

If I am able, I hope to trek out there in the middle of heavy rain to observe the action as it happens. At the very least, I now know that we need to check it after every big rainfall and remove excess soil if it accumulates.

I don’t know why I originally assumed the soil fence wouldn’t need regular maintenance, but after the soil conservation consultant pointed it out so very matter-of-factly, digging out accumulation makes total sense to me now.

If our enhancements work to mitigate the mud overflow messing up that area, we will be one step closer to being able to enjoy a good cloudburst when it happens. There still remains a problem in the paddocks, where a terrace or silt fence is not an option.

We plan to do some digging to create a couple of better defined routes directing runoff straight to the drainage swale beyond the wood fence, hoping to reduce the amount of flow traveling to one spot with energy that washes away our precious lime screenings and creates a deep canyon of a rill.

It’s fine if a little flow goes that way, but it is currently a problem because most all of the flow is combining to rush sideways along the fence, instead of straight under it out of the paddock.

The trick in the paddocks is, our solution needs to be horse-proof. Their heavy hooves have a way of disrupting all of the simple spade-width channels I’ve created in the past, causing runoff to flow every which way, and ultimately not where we really want it to go.

The next version we have in mind will be scaled up. Maybe I should triple-size it.

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Written by johnwhays

September 26, 2017 at 6:00 am

Last Thing

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There was one last thing I’ve been wanting to do in the paddock before the winter weather sets in for good this season. When we had the fences installed to create our two paddock spaces, the smaller side encompassed two trees. There was a gorgeous willow tree with a cottonwood close beside it.

It didn’t take long for both trees to show evidence of not being entirely happy about the new arrangement, but the willow has at least continued to show signs of life. The cottonwood gave up in the first year. It has been standing dead for quite a while now and the small branches from it have started to litter the ground with increasing frequency.

The tree makes a convenient scratching post for the horses, so I have no interest in cutting it down. I just wanted to cut off the branches and leave the snag for birds to perch on and horses to rub against.

Mark this one off as “Done.”

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Bringing all those branches down created quite a pile that needed to be dealt with. I tend to overlook that detail when I get all fired up to trim our trees. Cutting branches down ends up being a small part of the whole project.

Luckily, George was available to help and I opted to try chipping them without delay. The other option was to move the pile somewhere and save the chipping for a future opportunity. That could lead to a lot of chances for procrastination, so I felt pretty good about taking quick action on this occasion.

I cranked up both the ATV and the diesel tractor, attached a trailer to the former and the chipper to the latter and away we went. Parking the trailer beside the chipper allowed us to fill it directly from the chute and save any extra handling to convert a pile of branches into chips unloaded in our convenient storage location by the labyrinth.

That leaves me about as ready as I’ve ever been for freezing temperatures and oodles of snow to arrive for winter. Unfortunately, the weather continues to run warmer than normal and the precipitation we are getting is all rain.

Do they make galoshes for snowshoes? I might have to get me some of those so I can do some trekking in all this rain.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2016 at 7:00 am

Rainy Results

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One day later, with the sun shining brightly, I surveyed the results of our crazy mid-summer type of thundershower in October. As I drove in the driveway after work, I could see right away from the car that the grass was laid flat below the culvert.dscn5320e

There was a clear impression of how wide the little runoff river rose after the deluge.

Our rain gauge collected over an inch from Monday night’s dramatic evening cloud burst, and that was on top of a previously accumulated inch that Cyndie had dumped out of the gauge after a drenching earlier that same day.

When we moved to this property, which happened exactly 4 years ago this week, we had no idea the warming climate was going to start dishing out the kind of gully-washing downpours that we have witnessed with increasing regularity each year since.

We have tried a variety of ways to manage the flow —or with regard to the sub-soil, the lack of flow— of water across our land. One trick to reduce the muddiness of our paddocks was the installation of drain tile to help dry out the soil in the springtime, but that didn’t do much to help with the immediate surface runoff of heavy downpours.

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Pouring rains rush down our slopes and carve a multitude of rills around the paddocks below the barn. Dezirea surveyed the sad scene with me yesterday and agreed it kinda sucks.

The geography of our property makes this a difficult thing to prevent, especially since both the frequency and intensity of rainfall have continued to increase since we arrived.

Water will always find a path downhill. The hilly features that we adore so much about this property are also the cause of our erosion problems. We want water to drain from our land, but we would like it to depart with a lot less energy, …preferably leaving all our precious lime screenings behind.

That’s hard to accomplish when the clouds repeatedly unleash inch amounts in spans as short as mere minutes.

Maybe we should look into terracing the paddocks and turning them into rice paddies. Do they make rubber boots that fit horses?

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Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2016 at 6:00 am

Adding Oxygen

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A sure sign of spring being in full swing is when we finally start dealing with the piles of manure that accumulate in the paddocks over winter. Yesterday, I dug into one of the two big ones.

IMG_iP1374eWe generally build up the piles in the paddock and then ignore them. As a result, they don’t make stellar progress in breaking down. However, over time they do settle noticeably. Seeing them get flat is usually a trigger for me to take action to turn the pile.

Since the pile yesterday had been left untended for weeks, it made for a vivid example of the transition possible when putting in the effort to turn it over, reshape it and add air.

The micro organisms that do the composting will use up all available water and oxygen in the pile. If it isn’t replenished, the process stalls. In the case of this pile, the neglect had foiled things before all the moisture was removed, so it was still wet enough, but it needed some air get the process going again.

In the image you can see the old, dry, flattened portion on the right, and the freshly turned, taller pile I was turning it into on the left.

While I was working, Hunter sauntered over to visit. I acknowledged him, but didn’t stop what I was doing. He didn’t move as I maneuvered the pitch fork to toss the pile without hitting him, but only narrowly missing him. He kept inhaling loudly, absorbing the earthy smells emanating from the newly oxygenated mass.

I breathed heavily, right along with him as I worked. Soon, I noticed his eyes were getting droopy. He was just chilling near me as I toiled away.

It reminded me of the time, years ago, when I was just getting to know the horses. Hunter approached me while I was raking up the winter’s-worth of accumulated manure, and he laid down next to me. I was so shocked by his action that I called Cyndie to check on the situation. She seemed thrilled by his behavior and assured me that it was an indication he was entirely comfortable with my presence and I could simply continue to rake while he rested beside me.

It’s precious knowing he still likes to hang with me like that as I work.

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Written by johnwhays

May 21, 2016 at 6:00 am

Ignoble Perch

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Last week, when the snow was rapidly vanishing in the sun, Cyndie captured this poignant portrait of Delilah perched regally on one of the manure piles in the paddock.

IMG_iP3105eCHIt must have improved her vantage point to see the property in the distance where a certain 2 dogs who keep showing up on our trail cam happen to reside.

It surprises me that Delilah can come in the house after mucking around in the mud and manure in the paddocks for hours, and somehow, she won’t smell bad. It’s like she has a natural odor barrier that wicks off stink. Well, simple stink, anyway. The time she tangled with a skunk, she smelled awful for weeks.

Of course, it didn’t help much that one of the concoctions Cyndie purchased to get rid of the skunk odor left Delilah smelling like she’d just had a perm (hairdo).

Hey, I just noticed this image also shows a pretty clear representation of how good the footing looks where we have limestone screenings compared to how bad it is everywhere else this time of year. This solution sure has worked out well for us.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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