Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘power trimmer

Beyond Mowing

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The time of mowing is upon us in multiple ways. Beyond the usual routine of cutting our lawn grass, the big tractors are finally hitting the local fields to cut hay. The neighbors who are renting our fields knocked down the tall grass in opposite corners of our property recently, leaving a very noticeable line of uncut growth along the fenceline that Cyndie tackled with our power trimmer.

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Despite all the mowing going on, Cyndie continues to pull off a heroic amount of raspberry picking which naturally led to canning jam. Since she was going to be in that canning mode, she also made a trip to a local strawberry grower to pick a bulk of that jam favorite, as well as a stop at the grocery store for a couple of bags of cherries.

Even though canning jam deserves to be a single focus task, Cyndie chose to merge it with preparations to drive to Northfield, MN, for a mini-reunion with visiting Hays relatives. There, we uncovered a treasure trove in my sister Mary’s files of family newsletters from the days before the internet took over communication.

I don’t remember writing all those annual reports detailing our children’s school years, but reading back over those missives now gives me the impression I have been writing the equivalent of this daily blog for longer than just the ten years I’ve been posting here on Relative Something. In fact, the old family newsletter was called, “Relatively Speakin’.”

Seems to be a certain congruency there, no?

Who knows what lies ahead for this relative crew? It won’t surprise me if it ends up involving less mowing, but I doubt I will ever stop writing about whatever is happening in all of our lives.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2019 at 9:55 am

Trimming Trail

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Our property has been getting spruced up in preparation for a workshop Cyndie is hosting today. In the middle of my workday yesterday, I received a message from Cyndie that there was a tree leaning across one of our trails that she wanted me to clear when I got home.

Oh, yeah. I remember neglecting to take care of that for the last three weeks.

The tree was actually small enough that I decided to use a hand saw to bring it down the rest of the way. It just took enough forethought to finally have a saw in my possession when I walked deep into the woods.

The walk to get there was difficult enough through areas of the trail that were getting overgrown that I switched tools after the trees and branches were dispatched and got to work with the Stihl trimmer.

It brought to mind that moment six years ago when I was shopping for that trimmer with very limited knowledge about what I wanted to buy. I suddenly realized that I had lucked into a salesperson at the hardware store who was less into selling and more into how things worked.

I was talking to the mechanic who fixes equipment, not some kid who works the cash register and helps people find things in the store. I remember telling the guy about the property we recently moved to and how that quickly led him to the size trimmer we should have. I took his word for it.

He said we would be able to run this motor full speed all day long and it wouldn’t suffer one bit. I didn’t imagine we would ever need to push a tool that hard.

Now, when we spend hours upon hours running that trimmer at full tilt, I understand where that mechanic was coming from. He steered me to the right machine for our needs.

When it was new, that guard piece was bright orange. Not so much anymore.

As too often happens, I was within about ten yards of the end of one trail when the trimmer engine ran out of fuel. I took a break for dinner.

It’s not easy to discern the vast level of improvement in this shot of one section I completed, but after Cyndie and Delilah took a walk toward the end of the day, I received a pretty good rating about the freshly cleared pathways.

I’ll take that as a win.

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Demanding Attention

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All I can do is what I can do today. Mentally, tasks pile up beyond my ability to execute, often resulting in my getting even less accomplished than I otherwise could. Just like excessive heat will sap strength and endurance, the visualized burdens of work that should be done drains my energy and motivation.

This summer, there are signs of neglect at every turn that have me on the verge of choosing to simply ignore them in hope of recovering at least enough impetus to accomplish one deserving chore per day. The problem with that solution is that my gift of intentional ignorance is susceptible to getting out of hand. 

It would be far too easy for this place to take on the appearance of neglect run amok.

Might be time again to make a list and establish priorities. I’m more inclined to allow tasks to grab my interest as I’m treading from one thing to the next, but working a prioritized list does help keep me from completely ignoring things that shouldn’t be neglected.

I do have a default priority of seeking to at least maintain an ‘appearance’ of fastidiousness here, by maintaining the landscape by the road well enough to fool passersby. The recent coarse shredding of growth along the right-of-way has left a gaping mess that I hope to improve, but for now is nothing but an eyesore.

Yesterday, I dipped my toes into the project and was disheartened to discover how much work it will be to get it to the state I would like to see. That machine they use twists and shreds the branches into a tangled mess, and there are a lot more of them left lying there than I was aware.

In addition to pulling out and disposing of those, I need to cut off all the sharpened short spikes of growth left behind where the operator didn’t cut all the way to the ground. Some are small enough to be snipped with a lopper, but others deserve the chainsaw.

There is plenty of debris that could be run through our chipper, but I’m inclined to haul it the short distance to my project of a border wall of branches creating a hedge barrier to the cornfield just to our north.

The rest of that hedge wall needs to be trimmed, as well.

The diesel tractor needs an oil change before I put it to work on a big project.

The diesel tractor is needed to mow the dry creek drainage along our southern border.

Also need to move lime screenings to the paddock.

Want to blade the gravel drive around the barn.

The trail along the outside of our fence needs to be cut back with the power trimmer.

The fence line needs to be trimmed.

The trails need to be trimmed.

Dead trees recently fallen in the woods and on one trail need to be cut up.

Standing dead trees could be cut down, too. Would help look less neglected around here.

The arena needs to be mowed.

The round pen needs to be raked and grass around gazebo mowed.

The back up generator needs an oil change.

That’s what needs to be done today. I’ll start tomorrow’s list later. Right now I need to go out and see what grabs my attention to work on so I can avoid everything else that is on today’s list of chores demanding attention.

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Making Decisions

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With everything around here growing at warp speed, now would be a really bad time to lose the services of our Stihl power trimmer. Isn’t there a law of probability about this?

While Cyndie was making headway against the grass jungle taking over the gazebo on Monday, the trimmer became “wobbly.” She discovered the main drive shaft tube had suffered a metal-fatigue fracture.

That’s not good.

I dropped it off for repair in the evening, but their backlog of work is running at two weeks. It’s scary to imagine not being able to trim for that many days.

Cyndie thinks we should buy another one, and I am hard pressed to argue. There have been many times when we both could be trimming at the same time.

Pondering this. Something about it doesn’t feel right. I’m driven to balance the logic of a cost-benefit analysis, a crystal ball vision of what our future is here, and that unsettling gut feeling about the expense. Then I need to deal with the fact there is no right or wrong answer in the end.

You know me and decision-making. It’s not my favorite thing to manage.

One thing that I’m glad that we weren’t relying on me to decide, yesterday we got the details from our neighbor about his plan for the hay-field. It makes total sense to me now.

While he was cutting on Monday night, he was listening to the weather forecast. The outlook for rain all day Thursday was holding strong, so he smartly stopped cutting any more than he thought he could get dried and baled by the end of today.

We received encouraging news from him about our fields. He said the grass is real thick underneath, likely due to the mowing we did all last summer. In addition, he clarified that the tall grass going to seed was not Foxtail, as Cyndie feared (which is not good for our horses’ mouths), but the premium horse hay staple, Timothy.

We still have a long way to go in our transition from suburbanites to Ag-wise country folk.

(Brings to mind my stuttering pause into the phone when I was asked what kind of cows were trampling our property a couple of weeks ago. Um, big ones?)

Amidst the angst of dealing with equipment failures, it is refreshing to learn some good news about the outcome of our efforts to improve the quality of what is growing in our hay-field and pastures.

Despite all the challenges that continue to arise (and decisions thus required), Wintervale continues to evolve in an encouraging way for us.

Hurrah!

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Getting Orange

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Things are growing more orange around here. Yesterday at breakfast, Cyndie called me to come look at the difference in color of our eggs, compared to the ones purchased at the grocery store. Looks like the free-range diet of our three chickens is producing deep color in the yolks, seen on the right, below.

We spent the Labor Day holiday doing a lot of work, for a day off. Starting with a couple of hours cleaning out the compost area, using the loader bucket on the diesel tractor. There’s now plenty of room to store a winter’s worth of manure, just in case winter gets around to showing up.

Then we split up and Cyndie used the power trimmer in the labyrinth, while I entered a race against time to get the hayfield mowed before it rained.

Looking back toward the horses, I spotted another splash of orange color erupting from the green of our tree line.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like September.

At the end of a long day’s effort, we put our tools away and headed for the house under the drops of a perfect late-summer rain shower.

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Written by johnwhays

September 5, 2017 at 6:00 am

Trusting Intuition

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Yesterday, I wrenched success from the jaws of failure after I reacted thoughtfully and purposefully to the engine failure of our lawn tractor in the middle of mowing the hill of our back yard. With barely a minute of pause to simply sit and contemplate the predicament, I decided to spring into action. I was racing the weather.

After a quick test to see if I could push the tractor uphill, I went to get the ATV and a nylon tow rope. It was possible that the mower was just low on gas, but it was way too soon to have used the entire tank, based on previous experience. I was concerned that maybe the engine was working harder than usual and burning more fuel. That deserved attention.

There was evidence to support this possibility. You see, I was in a hurry to beat the coming rain, so I started early enough in the day that the dew had not dried off the grass. There were sticky wads of wet cuttings littering the lanes where the mower had already passed. It was likely the bottom of the deck had become caked with dirt and grass that was severely hampering the efficiency of the whole operation.

Despite the time pressure of impending precipitation, I disconnected the deck to pull it out and flip it over to clear the debris. Working quickly, I did a perfectly imperfect job of sufficiently completing that task. With the deck out, I wanted to grease the three spindles, but remembered I hadn’t reloaded the grease gun last time it sputtered out on me.

What better time than right then. Usually, for this kind of task that I rarely deal with, I struggle to recall how I did it last time, and make six mistakes before figuring out the simple technique. Yesterday, my intuition was strong, and I got it right, first try.

About then, Cyndie arrived to report the line on the power trimmer had run out. I popped off the spool for her, grabbed some remaining lengths of nylon line I’d been wanting to use up, and wound both the upper and lower spools without my usual mistake of starting with the wrong one first.

Since I had the nozzle on the compressor hose to blow off the mower deck, I also blew off the business end of the trimmer for Cyndie and sent her on her way before finishing the task of remounting the deck under the tractor.

We were both back to work after minimal delay and the lawn tractor worked like almost new.

Honestly, the smooth sailing I experienced was in sharp contrast to the norm of multiple struggles to make minimal progress. Tasks certainly do get incrementally easier with repetition.

Despite the unplanned delay right in the middle of mowing, I squeaked out finishing the entire job just as the first drops of rain arrived.

Now, if only this run of success will carry on into figuring out why the pond pump doesn’t turn on again after Cyndie shut it off to clean the intake filter.

Come on intuition, stay with me…

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Partial Trim

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The weather yesterday after work wasn’t conducive to getting a lot of mowing done with the tractor, as storms bobbed along in the thick atmosphere and brought frequent rain showers to the region. As a result, I opted to get out the trimmer to clean up some fence line because that tool is quick to start and easy to maneuver if/when precipitation arrives.

I barely made it through one tank of gas when rain clouds interrupted my progress, which left the back pasture fence line only half done.

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Getting caught up with all the mowing and trimming that needs to happen will occur in small steps this week, between occasional showers and thunderstorms. My plan is to take advantage of short blocks of time by doing a little bit of work whenever I can fit it in.

Oh, and to also stay home all weekend to maximize my availability for getting things done.

Even if it is only partial progress, it is better than none at all.

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Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2017 at 6:00 am