Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘power trimmer

Trouble Starting

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Despite the ongoing dry state of our soil, we’ve got areas of grass that well deserved to be mowed over the weekend, but I never got the chance. The ol’ Craftsman lawn tractor wouldn’t start. Actually, it tried to start several times until it stopped rotating the flywheel and just made a whiny sound. That set off days of trial and error troubleshooting. I thought it was the solenoid, but I was wrong. Then I wondered if it had something to do with the battery. That didn’t appear to be the case.

Next, I wondered if the Kohler engine might be seized, because I couldn’t move it. Then I removed the starter and discovered the engine wasn’t seized. The starter seemed okay, so I mounted it back in place, and lo and behold, the engine spun again. Twice, in fact, before it resumed doing nothing but whining.

Now I have a replacement starter on order.

Since I couldn’t mow with the tractor, I switched to the Stihl power trimmer and headed for the labyrinth.

Once again, we are finding that the earth is slowly swallowing the stones we placed to mark the pathway. Even with the ground hard and dry, the rocks seem to settle ever-deeper, and the grass gladly works its way to cover their edges, pushing them down even more.

The horses are doing their part to keep the paddock grass beautifully mowed.

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It crossed my mind that I could use their expertise on the runaway growth of grass between the barn and the chicken coop while the mower is waiting for its starter.

In the amount of time it would require to install temporary fencing around that area, I could take care of things using the power trimmer. If the ordered part doesn’t arrive on the day advertised, I just might do that.

The starter will be here about the same time the weather is predicted to possibly bring rain. It’s frustrating because we really need the rain, but, at the same time, I really want to get the grass cut.

I may not have trouble starting, at that point, but I just might run into trouble finishing.

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Trimmer Replaced

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Much as I wrestle over making purchasing decisions, this one was easy-peasy. When Cyndie received the call from the hardware store service desk, the list of damaged parts was so long, she couldn’t remember them all. Cylinder, piston, shaft… Can you say, ‘catastrophic failure?’

She asked what the cost of repair estimate was. She asked what a new trimmer costs.

It was cheaper to buy a new one.

They didn’t have any stock of the exact replacement model, which is on backorder with an unknown date of arrival. However, there was exactly one unit in stock of the next model up. The additional cost put things equal to trying to rebuild the old engine.

The decision didn’t get any harder to make.

Cyndie had them put our name on that trimmer and hustled her way to River Falls to pick it up.

In the nick of time. We are already behind in keeping up with the runaway spring growth of grass in the labyrinth, along our trails, and under our fences. Unfortunately, he or she who isn’t the one using it has to suffer the endless droning of the precious small gas engine.

If I time it right, I can be under ear-muffs and mowing on the lawn tractor while Cyndie is trimming.

Of course, the glorious quiet when we finally stop the engines is always a little sweeter when the moment arrives. That adds incentive to trim quickly and make short work of the miles in desperate need of being cut.

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Never Mind

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You may disregard the rant I posted yesterday. The trimmer must have been flooded on Saturday when I couldn’t get it to fire. Yesterday morning, before driving to buy a sparkplug, I tried to start it one last time, just in case.

Sure enough, it sputtered on the third pull. There was a fair amount of hesitancy, but eventually, I got it up and running enough to go through a full tank of gas while trimming our trails. So, I didn’t need any professional help to get the engine started after all.

However, in an ironic twist, after refilling the tank with fuel and resuming my trimming task for about 5-minutes, the engine made an odd sound and instantly shut off. Something broke and now the pull cord won’t move at all.

All I can think is that the trimmer must really want to pay a visit to the service department of our hardware store. At least the blow to my confidence about dealing with small gas engines carries much less sting with this situation. It’s not that I just can’t start it, there is something noticeably wrong with the machine.

I can live with that, not counting the suspected higher expense likely indicated by needed repair. We are considering the possibility the cost of repair may exceed the value of the well-used (well-worn) trimmer as a whole.

A quick check of the replacement options reveals that the unit we bought roughly eight years ago is already obsolete. I would be glad to replace the gas-powered machine with an electric one, except for the fact we have so many uses that involve extended hours of operation, present battery capacity is insufficient.

One thing I remember being told by the salesman who helped match our needs with the most appropriate trimmer when I bought this one was that I could run this engine non-stop, all day long and it wouldn’t be a problem. At the time, I assumed that would be more use than we would likely ever approach.

We’ve yet to use it all day, but there are enough areas to be cut that we could. When I’ve been cutting for hours on end, I’ve found comfort in the salesman’s words assuring me that the machine is up to the task.

There are over a mile of fence lines where we use the trimmer to cut the growth beneath the wires and around the posts, also the many trails around the property, the circuitous path of the labyrinth, and the edges around obstacles in our mowed lawn.

We don’t cut these every day, but every day there are areas where the growth has gotten long enough, they deserve to be trimmed.

See why I feel a little apprehensive about not having a stronger grasp of the mastery of working with small gas engines?

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Engine Failure

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When we first made our move from the tiny suburban lot to our acres of rural property, one of the concerns I had was the reality that I would need to deal with small gas engines. I’ve never had a knack for mastery over the secrets of gas-oil mixed fuel, filtered intake air, carburetors, and electric sparks. If an engine doesn’t start on command, I am basically stumped.

There’s always the old “It’s flooded” explanation. When and why that phenomenon occurs evades me, as does the trick of not simply flooding it again on subsequent tries. I can pull the spark plug and pretend I know what it tells me, but that didn’t produce any desired results yesterday.

For the first time since we started buying gas-powered equipment after moving here, one of the machines foiled my plan to trim the growth on our trails by not starting. My original concern was finally realized.

I’ll try a new spark plug, but if that doesn’t bring it to life, I will be paying real money to have a professional service the trimmer.

It is a special blessing every time one of our engines starts without hesitation in the moments we seek to use them.

This makes me long for the ability to use a manual push reel mower to cut our grass. That was a machine that I understood.

After I was well frustrated by being foiled in my attempts to get that dang engine to fire, I decided to go stand among the horses. That is a priceless antidote for what ailed me. Cleaning up manure and turning the compost pile aligns much better with my abilities.

The horses continue to seem increasingly comfortable with their accommodations. Even the skies appeared to reflect how idyllic it is around here lately.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2021 at 9:08 am

Focus Shift

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I started the day yesterday with our Stihl power trimmer working primarily along the hay-field fence line out by the road. With the field freshly cut, the strip of tall grass along the fence stood out in obvious need of attention. It looks so nice when that is cleaned up.

After the first tank of gas was used up, I walked back to the shop to stretch my legs out and refill the tank. While there, I took a little break to answer nature’s call at the base of a pine tree and noticed a vine growing up from deep inside the tangle of branches. Thinking I should tend to the situation in the moment instead of waiting until it was out of sight/out of mind, I fetched a saw from the shop and braved the thick web of poking limbs, slithering into the shadow world beneath the tree.

From that vantage point, I discovered there were many more than just the one obvious vine growing into the heights. As I worked my way around the circumference of that tree, I came to another right beside it with even more unwelcome intruders climbing up its branches.

After the second tree, I moved on to a third, and a fourth, soon recognizing that this side project could consume the rest of my day if I let it.

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The remaining trees can wait. I went back to trimming the tall grass along the edges of the hay-field.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

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