Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘power trimmer

Trimming Minutiae

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There is no drama about our activities yesterday and little in the way of specific goals. The hours passed as the earth rotated and shadows moved while Cyndie and I toiled on a variety of rewarding tasks.

I made the dreaded trip to buy gas for all our small engines and the diesel tractor. Ouch. That’s a burden on the pocketbook.

One way I reframe the harsh rise of the cost of fuel is to remember the time we had been shopping for a while and Cyndie grabbed a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina water at the checkout counter. It added the paltry amount of $1.68 to our over $500 bill at Lowe’s. It was a purchase of convenience, for sure.

That price for 20 ounces of water is equal to $10.75/gallon. Think about that.

With all gas cans full, I was able to resume using the power trimmer. I had completed all our fence lines over the weekend so the next crucial need was the labyrinth. It didn’t give in without a fight. The stones defining the pathway wreak havoc on the nylon line of the power trimmer.

One technique I attempt to employ to reduce the abrasion of the line against the rocks is reducing the speed of rotation. Maximum speed is not required to achieve an adequate cut. Still, the spinning will deplete line and require the bounce against the ground to advance more length. I can’t count how many times I would release more line and almost immediately the trimmer would catch an edge and torque right up to a rock and eat the new line I just bounced out. Aaarrrrgh.

Just when things are going smooth, the engine runs out of gas. At least I was wise enough to bring the can of gas along this time. I also had a spare spool of line with me, just in case. I needed to use both.

The challenge always seems to be coming out even in completing the intended cutting goal before running out of either line or fuel. When I finished the pathway of the labyrinth, I moved on to the firepit next to the labyrinth, as long as I still had both line and gas. After finishing that, I decided to hit the trail in the woods for as long as the trimmer would run.

It lasted a lot longer than I expected. I cleared a large section of the perimeter trail where the grass had gotten very tall. A bonus accomplishment I didn’t anticipate achieving.

After too many days in a row of trimming for hours, my throttle hand was letting me know it had had enough. That’s a good reason to stop using that tool for a while. Today my hands will be on the lawn tractor steering wheel.

We are in the month of never ending mowing, which is putting the job of never ending sawing and wood chipping on temporary hold.

Somewhere between those two, I keep intending to add never ending bike rides, but that keeps failing to happen.

Could someone slow down the earth’s rotation a little bit, please?

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

That Close

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I knew I might not finish trimming the grass along the fence line before the gas ran out but the closer I got, the more I hoped I might make it. My decision to leave the plastic gas can behind probably doomed my chances of not needing it.

There were one and a half lengths between posts left to cut out of the entire distance of our fencing when the motor sputtered out on me. Nothing to do but walk back to the shop garage and bring the gas can back with me.

We haven’t always been proactive about trimming the grass along the fence before it gets problematically tall, especially during the time when there were no horses on the property and we didn’t need the electricity activated. When the fence is electrified, contact with the growth around it puts a load on the circuit that pulls down the voltage.

The first time I used the power trimmer along the fence line, there were several areas where woodier stems of some plants would break the plastic cutting line. This time, around the entire length of our fences, I did not run into anything that the plastic line couldn’t cut. It was very rewarding to discover that we’ve been cutting it enough times now that there is no longer anything robust trying to grow under there.

It fits with what I was writing yesterday in that the job of keeping the growth off the fence is getting easier to manage over time. It would be just fine with me if eventually, nothing tried to grow beneath the fences and I didn’t need to cut it anymore.

I could intentionally neglect it. đŸ™‚

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Dandelions Anyone?

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It is peak dandelion season and we appear to have a bumper crop. It is also itchy rash season again from nettles and poison ivy. Every day the look of our landscape changes as plants and trees sprout leaves. Some of our varieties of grasses double in size every day. I have been using the power trimmer to clean up the edges of the hay shed and barn as well as areas of grass that were too wet to mow with the lawn tractor.

I am thrilled with how the transplanted maple tree is thriving at the center of the labyrinth.

With some precision trimming last year I have successfully encouraged a favored branch to become the leader and it is growing perfectly.

One day later, the dandelions appeared to be swallowing the labyrinth with their multiplying number beginning to cover some of the rocks defining the pathway. Yesterday afternoon I slowly walked the entire labyrinth with the power trimmer to restore order.

I think we are going to need bigger rocks.

The diameter of the labyrinth is so large there are several different micro-climates. The back half that is shaded in the afternoon is dramatically different from the front that receives sun all day long. Actually, the main change is in how much grass there is. The weeds are pretty consistent throughout.

There is a sumac tree that appears to really want company because new sprouts were turning up very frequently for about 5 rows of the back quadrant near the mother tree.

Maybe the sumac tree can make friends with all the dandelions instead.

There are more than enough available.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

Olympic Influence

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The 2020 Olympic summer games are over but after having watched daily competitions for over two weeks, the residual influence is strong. Yesterday afternoon, I was cutting the grass beneath our fenceline using the power trimmer. Beneath ear-muff hearing protection that also has a metal mesh face shield, my world gets reduced to the ground immediately in front of me and little else.

While trimming away, there was a moment where I thought I might have heard an uncharacteristic sound. I took a quick glance over my shoulder to see if there was anyone in sight and was immediately reminded of Olympic marathoners doing the same turn of their heads as they tried to check the competition behind them.

In the split second of feeling a connection to the competing Olympic runners, I had a thought that power trimming could become one of the new sports they add in the future.

There could be categories separating light trimming around features in a front yard –similar to short distance races– and thick field grass trimming under a fence –similar to running a marathon.

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Performance can be timed or judged, or probably both.

Points taken off if you nick the fence post or leave uncut tufts around them. That would be like when divers make a splash as they enter the water.

Why stop with just power trimming? All the property management chores could become Olympic competitions. Kicking manure piles in the field can be rather sporting. Changing engine oil in a lawn tractor. Sharpening a chainsaw blade. Repairing a busted fence. Oh, pounding down frost-heaved fence posts would be a good one.

Might as well expand the focus to include a competition of commuting an hour to a day job. Fastest time without speeding more than 9MPH over posted speed limits takes the gold. Must be accident-free and can receive bonus points if no other drivers are made angry throughout the entire drive.

I’m sure televised broadcasts of the competitions would inspire kids to want to become farm chore professionals when they grow up.

I wish I could take this thought exercise of Olympic comparison all the way to the part where the hard work only lasts for two weeks and then there is a great big party with fireworks and drone-shaped patterns in the sky.

Lots of laughter and selfies, maybe a few hugs from strangers.

It’s a nice distraction from reality. My reality early yesterday morning involved a certain cat who apparently missed me over the weekend. Pequenita made a point of walking up my body to head-butt my face and knead my chest starting at 3:30 a.m. and repeated the exercise again at 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, & 6:00.

I foiled her annoying shenanigans this morning by getting out of bed at 4:30 to do my planking and stretching routine before work.

Come to think of it, maybe Pequenita just forgot that I now work from home on Mondays and she thought I needed to get up that early.

She probably thinks she’s in some cat Olympics, competing in the “Manage Your Human” event.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

Happy Grazing

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Late yesterday, Cyndie captured some great shots of the horses out on the big field as the sun was low.

Mix was walking around with only one fly sock on.

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It was nice to see Mix out there with the others because she has been lingering back under the overhang for a few days whenever the others wandered out. It’s difficult to gauge her reasons so our concern rises a little bit and we watch for any indication it is health-related.

Maybe she just doesn’t want to venture very far in the heat of the day.

The other possibility might be the low value of grazing that is available during the increasingly troublesome drought.

I wondered if she just didn’t feel like walking that far, so I’m very happy to know there doesn’t appear to be any physical limitation keeping her from moving out there.

I ended the day doing some trimming along the back pasture fence line and by the time I stopped, I didn’t feel like walking any further than necessary.

We are prone to repeating an old phrase around our house with respect to how our feet feel at the end of a long day: “My dogs were barking.”

After getting covered in dog shit shrapnel from the power trimmer upon inadvertently hitting a poo Delilah had previously deposited, I had a strong interest in doing just enough walking to get myself into a shower as fast as possible.

Living a privileged country life isn’t always a glamorous endeavor.

At least our horses maintain a pretty respectable sense of decorum when they are out grazing on the big field by the road.

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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