Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘poison ivy

Looking Good

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I’m in the final countdown of days before leaving tomorrow for my annual vacation week of biking and camping with the Tour of Minnesota. I feel reasonably prepared, both mentally and physically. Yesterday, we worked on a few projects with immediate visual rewards on the landscape around our house and on our north loop trail to get everything looking good before I go.

We received notification from our county that it was time to have our septic system inspected and yesterday the tank was pumped and deemed to be in good working order. That’s always a relief to know. Cyndie and I mustered the initiative to use the occasion to clean up the overgrowth in our drain field.

I was reminded of our visit to Ian’s place in Portugal in 2010 when he and I cleared the bramble that had covered a spring he hadn’t seen in years. I uncovered an old tree stump that I had forgotten was there when we cleaned up the crazy tangle of things growing among the wild raspberry bushes since the last time we cut back the growth there.

After that was done I got out the diesel tractor and mowed down the thistle and poison ivy as well as the edges of our north loop trail. If I somehow avoid getting a rash after the wild thrashing of so much of the troublesome ivy it will be a big surprise to me.

Next, we spent time trimming branches near our backyard fire pit. I started with a pole saw that proved entirely inadequate and ultimately brought out the pole chainsaw and the big chainsaw to clear all that looked deserving. It is always interesting to discover there are more things to cut than we originally expected. Once you get in there and take out the first layer, the next obvious candidates suddenly pop into view.

While I had the main chainsaw out, I finally dispatched the last dying pine tree that was in the middle of the back yard.

Cyndie captured the shot just as the tree was falling. There is only one dying pine tree left back there now. It is on the side of the yard and doesn’t stand out as obviously so it can linger a while longer. We have already got enough branches to clean up after all the cutting that was accomplished yesterday.

Today, I will mow the grass with the lawn tractor to get this place looking its best before I leave Cyndie to deal with everything for a week.

That should be completed with plenty of time to spare for packing my things before Saturday’s departure. Despite having done this June week of biking and camping more than twenty times before, I still struggle with the decision making about what I really need to bring.

At this point, it sounds like the week is going to start out hot. That should make it easier to pack light.

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Big Swing

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The temperature took a big swing of over 30°(F) in one day and we went from a high heat advisory on Monday to cool and wet yesterday.

I decided to take advantage of the rainy weather and started pulling weeds. I soon found myself pulling thistle that was mixed with poison ivy. That was enough to get me to change my focus to a different area where vines are taking over. Both projects turned out to be more overwhelming than handwork can solve.

I’m going to need to bring out the brush cutter on the back of the diesel tractor to interrupt the unwelcome trends growing in these two areas. We seem to have arrived at the peak vine growing time of the year as they are showing up everywhere we turn and in greater density than either Cyndie or I recall noticing in the previous ten years.

It’s hard to know if we are making any headway in controlling the vines because previous years’ efforts seem meaningless under the current onslaught of multiple climbing species showing up far and wide.

Speaking of big swings, I snapped a photo of Cyndie trying to interrupt a budding dreadlock in Mix’s tail while the mare was gobbling her morning feed.

 

It speaks volumes that Mix was agreeable to the annoying activity going on behind her while she ate. The horses really are allowing themselves to receive more attention from us every day. It’s wonderfully rewarding.

It’s a big swing from how they were behaving when they first arrived, a little over a year ago now.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

Danger Zone

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Green growth is bursting at breakneck speed everywhere we turn this time of year. As much as I dream of letting nature have its way to grow unhindered, experience reveals a number of ways intervention offers room for improvement. Pruning becomes a responsibility, really, to offset the alternative look of neglect.

After enlisting the professional help of tree trimmers to prune and fell trees on our 20 acres, I have an endless amount of clean-up to do in their wake. Historically, I have failed to keep up with the felled lumber that hired help has scattered around our forest floor so I am striving to change that this time.

My effort started with the large willow tree that was first on the list of trees needing attention this spring and which got pruned to a much greater degree than I expected.

Yesterday, I worked to finish cutting up and splitting the last of the large branches scattered beneath the tree after the pruners were finished. The closer I got to completing the effort of clearing the tangle of branches and limbs laying around the trunk of the tree, the more obvious it became that I was working in a danger zone of poison ivy.

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The shiny leaves of three with a tinge of redness in the early period of sprouting were everywhere beneath this willow. Everything that I picked up had a high probability of having been in contact with the dreaded rash-inducing plants but I was knee-deep and hours long into the project so I decided to just keep going.

With extra consciousness to quit reaching my gloved hands up to my face, I forged ahead cutting, splitting, and stacking limbs in the woodshed for drying.

It felt a little insane to be plodding back and forth in growth that was filled with so much poison ivy but I decided it was a risk I needed to face to complete the bigger task at hand. It feels great to have the ground around the tree entirely picked up after the pruning. Now I only have twenty or thirty others left deserving similar treatment.

Thankfully, there aren’t any others surrounded by as much poison ivy as this willow.

At the end of my many outdoor projects, I carefully got out of my clothes and piled them in the basement to be laundered and then hit the shower with special oil-busting soap that I lathered and lathered in hopes of surviving the danger with minimal reaction.

I can hope that I wasn’t breathing aerosolized particles of the oil during the tree branch cutting and clearing efforts. My body doesn’t have a good history of inhaling the irritating essence of poison ivy.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2022 at 10:08 am

Leave It

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There are multiple meanings to the title, Leave It. There is always a little sadness in needing to leave the lake place, but today that is what we will be doing. There is also the old adage about poison ivy: Leaves of three, Let it be. Lastly, leaves are the theme of images for today’s post.

Starting with a sprout of poison ivy in a very inconvenient location.

A leaf shadow that seems about as perfect as the leaf itself.

There was an old oak leaf stuck to the side of this aging stand-up paddleboard.

Finally, a frame-filled immersion in the wonderful patterns of hosta leaves.

I’m going to leave it at that.

Happy Memorial Day to readers in the U.S. We will spend the day driving home and hopefully transplanting a few trilliums after we arrive.

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2021 at 6:00 am

Spot It

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Can you find the secondary features hiding in plain sight in these images captured throughout my day yesterday?

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How many did you identify?

That was purple-tinted trillium alright, but did you notice the poison ivy directly beside it on the left?

There was some complex chirping coming from the pine tree. Is that a nuthatch? You tell me. I didn’t have a long lens.

The coiled-up young fern was the focus and I didn’t notice the mosquito until viewing the image on my computer.

What was that lurking beneath the water, obscured by the wavy reflections? The old snapping turtle hanging out on the boat lift.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2021 at 9:08 am

Holding Out

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Turns out, our adult Golden Laced Wyandotte layer hen has been holding out on us. Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom, Marie, along with Sara and Althea, stopped by to see the new chicks on their way home from the lake place. While they were here, the group took a stroll to find the three adult hens free-ranging away on the property.

When they heard the Wyandotte cooing in a thicket of growth, closer inspection revealed she was sitting on a batch of seven eggs!

Why that little stinker.

When I got home and Cyndie shared some pictures of the scene with me, the thing that stood out more than the eggs was the appearance of poison ivy leaves around the spot.

That chicken really doesn’t seem to want us to take her eggs.

For that matter, I suddenly have very little interest in handling that hen! Her feathers are probably covered in poison ivy oils. I start to feel phantom itches all over just thinking about it, and I didn’t even touch any of the hens or eggs yesterday.

I touched a lot of cute little “henlets,” though.

Whose idea was it to allow our chickens to free-range around here, anyway? A fenced run off the coop would be a lot simpler than all the risks due to predators and the hens’ creativity with laying locations.

Speaking of predators, I believe there is now one less fox we need to worry about. Yesterday morning, just as I turned off our street on the way to work at the crack of dawn, I saw a roadkill fox in the oncoming lane.

I’m a little surprised no other marauders discovered the pile of eggs free for the taking from the ground in the last week. Maybe that bodes well for the chances of continued good luck for the last three surviving hens from our 2018 batch.

If it weren’t for the occasional random incursions of passing bands of coyotes, our regular number of free-ranging adults might increase from the usual three that we always end up with toward the end of their productive egg-laying years.

When we were in this same situation two years ago, with 3 adults and a new brood of twelve young-uns that we expected would need merging together, the adults all got taken by a fox over a series of a few days. Sad as that was, it saved us the hassle of introducing the different aged birds to each other.

This time, I may need to actually follow through on a plan to remodel the inside of the coop to add a barrier that will provide shared-but-segregated accommodations for some period of introduction.

We never run out of new things to learn around here. Particularly, how to outsmart a hen that decides she’s too good for the silly nest boxes in the coop for laying her precious eggs.

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Another One

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We have been very lucky recently that the most violent of the stormy weather passing through our region has been missing us. Instead of 4 or 5 inches of rain, we have had 1.75 inches. Despite the wild panic Delilah has demonstrated over rumbles of thunder that occurred, no lightning strikes have hit nearby. Most worrisome for me over the weekend were reports of 70 and 80 mph wind gusts combined with golfball to baseball-sized hailstones crashing down.

That never materialized here. Still, for some strange reason, we continue to experience falling trees. On Saturday, I posted about the tree that fell on Friday, even though I wasn’t aware we had experienced any storm. By the end of that same day, there was another even bigger busted tree hanging across that same trail.

We didn’t hear that one, either.

It’s becoming an obstacle course to navigate that trail through the woods. Cyndie was away all weekend, so I respected our agreement to avoid using the chain saw when I’m alone and left the three downed trees across the path for the time being.

It’s probably only marginally safer to use the wood chipper, but I elected to work with that yesterday morning while I waited for the overnight dew to evaporate from the really long lawn grass. Mowing the lawn became the afternoon project.

The professional crew we hired to bring down that big oak that toppled, cut it up and left everything lay right where it was, which saved us a lot of money. Now I’m having second thoughts about those savings. Wrestling the branches to get them into and down the chute of the chipper is a real chore if the “Y” junctions aren’t trimmed.

It is a “pay me now or pay me later” process. I don’t want to spend time cutting every last branch, so I spend the time instead, trying to force the branches far enough down the chute to where the chipper will grab and break them.

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Most of the cut logs are so big I can’t lift them. They will get rolled downhill to where I can get them in the ATV trailer to be moved up by the woodshed for splitting.

The chickens seem to like scratching through the pile of wood chips. I have no idea what they were finding in there.

I will be very surprised if I don’t end up with a poison ivy reaction after that exercise. Right where I stood to feed the chipper, there was a known patch of poison ivy. I expect it was getting on the branches I was grabbing, it was probably getting atomized by the chipper, I was likely breathing it, and wiping sweat off my face with gloves that handled it.

I washed down thoroughly afterward, but time will tell whether I was being stupidly careless, or that my previous recent exposures with sequentially reduced reactions were an indication that my sensitivity is fading. I should know in a day or two.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

Feeling Summer

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I like the simple designation of meteorological seasons by month, over the astrological solstice and equinox markers. My brain senses the longest day should mark the middle of summer and the shortest day, the middle of winter. By meteorological reference, summer happens in June, July, and August.

It sure felt like summer on the second day of June this year. Last night, as we tried to cool the house by opening windows to the evening air, the enticing sounds of heavy, distant rumbling thunder rolled slowly closer and closer. Eventually, we enjoyed an almost gentle thunderstorm that this morning has left barely a trace of its visit.

Except for the amazing response of growing things. Our landscape is under siege.

Just beyond our deck, the previous prominent low spruce is getting swallowed by ferns from behind and volunteer cedar trees from the front. The clematis on our trellis is being crowded out by a volunteer maple that decided to make itself at home there.

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I don’t understand why the scotch pine to the left of the trellis is so anemic. Everything around it is growing fast and furious. It is possibly being hindered by the same affliction taking down so many of our long needle pines.

The ornamental reeds in our little garden pond are spreading themselves well beyond the edges, giving the impression they will soon fill the space if left unhampered.

Meanwhile, the climbing vines are voraciously trying to blanket all of our trees, the unwanted grasses taking over our pastures, and poison ivy is thriving like you wouldn’t believe.

What’s a gardener to do? I tend to prefer a hands-off approach to the nature-scape, but we are finding the land inundated with invasives and trouble-makers that require decisive action. Desirables like maple trees are sprouting in places where they don’t belong, and though prized, will become problems if neglected.

I must overcome my reluctance and sharpen my skills of seek and destroy, or at least aggressively prune, prune, prune.

In the same way we wish broccoli tasted like chocolate, Cyndie and I are wishing the desired plants would simply crowd out weeds to the point all we needed to do would be a little cutting of the grass and lounging in the garden.

All you folks wanting to suggest we get some goats… it is increasingly weighing on my mind. Maybe I will try renting some for a trial run.

There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to manage the explosion of growth summer brings.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

Mixed Results

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IMG_iP1415eThere has been enough progress from my last application of organic weed killer to see where it works, and where it doesn’t. I’m getting mixed results. Close inspection of the image will reveal some remaining leaves of poison ivy that are very green and healthy. Either they are new sprouts since I sprayed, or I missed them completely.

It is possible that I missed some leaves, because there are so many other growing plants in the vicinity, it is hard to see. I wasn’t about to reach down and move things out of the way to get a better view. When I spray poison ivy, I do so at an arm’s length.

When the weed killer hits the mark, it works very well. I will just make a point of returning at the next opportunity to apply another dose. It gets easier each time to spot the leftover plants remaining. I learned last year that more than one application would be required, after new growth sprouted in place of the first batch I had killed.

I never got the chance to do that follow-up application, and instead focused on readying ourselves to make a fresh attack this summer with the new sprayer and a new gallon of concentrated citrus-based weed killer.

On another subject, speaking of mixed results, I mentioned to Cyndie that I was considering creating a custom sweet and salty trail mix to take on the bike trip this year. She had me make a shopping list of ingredients so she could pick some things up on a grocery run yesterday.

DSCN4817eWhat a bounty of choices I found on the kitchen counter when I got home from work! I concocted a bizarre combination of items, measuring each to calculate a rough sugar-grams-per-serving value so I would know what I’m getting when I dive in ravenously after a day’s ride.

When we arrive at the evening destinations, the first thing to be dealt with is finding the best spot for our tents. In that weary moment when helmets get dropped, bike shoes come off, and our baggage has been claimed, I find it an incredible pleasure when one precious friend or another shows up with something to munch on.

A primitive part of my brain is usually begging for sustenance to replenish the deficit it perceives after the day of pedaling. I don’t know why the body can’t just use up some of my extra middle inches for fuel at that point, but it never seems to work out that way for me.

It’s too easy to gobble up some new deliciousness before the body ever gets around to trimming the belly. I definitely gain fitness over the week of biking, but with all the eating we do along the way, the results are usually mixed.

An oft-used byline for the collection of folks who form the core community of this ride is… we are an eating group with a biking disorder. 

I resemble that remark.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2016 at 6:00 am

Limited Success

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We have been experiencing a significant instability in our internet connection of late. I have a suspicion that it could have something to do with all the leaves now on the trees again. It is particularly frustrating for my daily posting habit. I can’t force an upload to proceed if it doesn’t want to.

There might be a solution out there somewhere. Maybe we should invest in a signal booster.

Meanwhile, I’m inclined to not fight it and let my posts be short and simple. Wanna see what I did yesterday?

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I did some poison ivy management with the aid of our new backpack sprayer. From the looks of the banner crop this year, we’re gonna need a bigger backpack. The more infestations I treat, the more other infestations I keep finding.

Or maybe this is just a function of my finally getting around to learning how to recognize it. Now I tend to find it everywhere I turn!

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2016 at 6:00 am