Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘projects

Stacking Wood

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I’m a little behind where I prefer to be with staging firewood for a year away, so today we took a hint from the snowy weather and gave the shed some overdue attention. First, we started by stocking the wood rack on our deck with this year’s firewood, which cleared out the last of the space on the left side of the wood shed.

That allowed me to put new pallets in for a floor where I had previously used wood blocks. After digging out the old blocks, and pulling similar ones off the new pallets, we hauled them down to the woods to use on our trail.

As far as projects go, these were pretty small steps, but accomplishing them provided a large psychological boost. It paves the way for me to focus exclusively on splitting and stacking firewood to fill the rest of the shed.

Achieving that is a goal I’d like to complete in November.

Somebody remind me in about a month that I wrote this here.

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

Odd Behavior

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After setting out a pan of feed for each horse after work yesterday, I walked down to close the gate to the hayfield, passing by the raised circle I had covered with lime screenings just over two weeks before. It’s a little surprising to me that the horses had, for the most part, stayed off the new covering. There were just a couple of light hoof prints from one horse where it had tested a small portion that had been tamped down by my feet.

The majority of the circle had been left to cure naturally in the rain and sun, because I didn’t have the time to press the rest of the area out, one little boot print at a time. Suddenly, I felt moved to spontaneously pick up where I had left off.

While they munched on their feed under the overhang, I meticulously began a ridiculous dance of baby steps across the circle. Occasionally, I would resort to hopping up and down in order to put increased pressure on spots that seemed to need it.

Always curious about every project we get involved in, the three chickens quickly arrived to investigate the scene. The flat lime screenings didn’t appear to harbor any crawling creatures, so they busied themselves with the dirt around the perimeter.

A few blinks later, I gained an audience of horses, apparently just as curious with my mysterious project. Luckily, they also maintained a cautious step away from interfering with my gyrations. At about ten times my weight, they would easily cause more disruption than compaction to the relatively new surface.

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If they can stay off of it until the freshly pressed screenings have another chance to bake in the sun for a few days, there is a chance it will support them without getting all pockmarked. Actually, what would be really nice is, if they would lay down and roll around on it.

That’s not too far-fetched a possibility. I’m guessing it will look like an attractive option, once they are convinced it’s safe to walk on.

Eventually, the horses and chickens left me to my odd behavior. I hopped and baby-stepped until the entire circle had been compressed by what little force I could generate from my small frame.

A little victory in the grand scheme of things deserving attention.

Add to that, getting the windows re-installed on the chicken coop, and taking down the tarp that covered the gazebo, and we are starting to round the final turn in the slow race of preparation for winter.

For those keeping score, we are expecting some snow will be mixed in with rain that is due to visit us tomorrow and the next day.

Now that I think of it, I guess that circle won’t really be getting baked hard as cement any time soon.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2017 at 6:00 am

Finishing Something

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Far be it for me to stay on one project all the way to fruition. Instead of finishing the fence we started on Friday, I let the weather move my focus to something else. Luckily, the change of direction let me toward the completion of wiring AC power to the chicken coop.

Like so many other occasions, after accomplishing the hardest part of the job – like getting the wire buried between the coop and barn– I have a tendency to lose momentum. That initial dose of job-satisfaction can be enough that my sense of urgency to complete tasks dissipates.

Just when the end of a tunnel is in sight, I discover a side route that hijacks my attention.

This day, I headed back down the primary path in the tunnel of electrifying the coop.

First, I removed the panel of the circuit breaker box and made connections to a GFI breaker.

Next, I set about getting the electrical box mounted in the coop. This only required two extra trips back to the shop for tools, hardware, and a modification to the box.

Things were progressing slower than I wanted, but without any insurmountable problems. The one big interruption I needed to work around was the unplanned arrival of a chicken.

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It was late enough in the day that I assumed I wouldn’t be a bother to the chickens while I worked, but our Buff Orpington proved me wrong. She puttered around in the nest box right beneath where I was working, so I just kept at it, hoping she wouldn’t be bothered by me.

After she started to stress out a bit, I took the hint and agreed to take a break, closing things up enough to give her all the privacy I thought she might need.

For whatever unknown reason, that wasn’t enough. After watching the last quarter of the Vikings game, I came back to take my project across the finish line, only to find the hen still in the nest box. Really.

Not to be deterred, I assembled a few objects into a barrier for her so I could forge ahead with my work. It is the first time I ever listened to a chicken lay an egg.

Before the day was over, the coop outlet was live, everything was buttoned up, and all tools were put away.

Yes, finished. That’s a special level of satisfaction.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2017 at 6:00 am

Multiple Designs

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My poor little brain is getting a workout lately with a mixture of simultaneous design projects outside of my realm of experience. I want to build a bridge over a ravine, buy and install a signal booster for voice and data, and make a chicken coop out of found material.

At the same time, we still need to purchase and transport more hay for the winter, clear downed trees, cut and split firewood, keep the lawn and labyrinth mowed, and turn the composting manure piles.

All these latter tasks are the reason the design projects tend to get put off until later. I already know what to do to accomplish them, so I’m more comfortable filling time making progress on familiar work that needs to be done.

It is a source of some conflict between Cyndie and me. I struggle to figure out in my mind how each step will proceed, hoping to establish an order of assembly and final functionality. It tends to delay visible progress for a long time. Cyndie fearlessly dives into projects, solving problems as they arise and devising creative solutions in order to get things done.

I’ve heard that opposites attract.

Meanwhile, I’m chipping away at progress on the designs. We have had a long run of very poor connectivity and dreary news reports on possible plans for service upgrades. After the recent addition of a new cell tower nearby provided no noticeable improvements, a signal booster has become our next big hope.

Last week, I timidly scrambled around the portions of our rooftop that weren’t too steep, in search of a decibel reading on my phone. I am supposed to find the spot for the directional antenna that will keep it from pointing back across the house. Then I need to figure out how to get a cable from out there into the attic. Finally, I need to determine a location for the inside antenna and get it installed to beam the amplified signal to our devices.

I wish that was as easy to actually do as it was to write out.

This weekend we cleared the last of two stumps that were in the way of our perimeter path around the back pasture. That brought us to the next obstacle, the ravine. It has bumped up our interest in having the bridge installed to facilitate foot and mower traffic around the entire circumference.IMG_iP1594e

Also during the week, I drove the truck to work so I could bring home a couple large panels from a crate we had received that I felt would make a good floor for a chicken coop. That has helped us lock in a plan on size and enabled progress on burying support posts.

Three design projects that I am uncomfortably unsure about how I will ultimately complete to my satisfaction, but which have some momentum in play. With Cyndie’s help, we’ll keep making progress despite my inclination to wait and think on them a little bit more everyday.

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2016 at 9:22 am

Hazardous Conditions

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Yesterday, while working outside for long hours in the spring wind, we exposed ourselves to enough tree pollen to cause significant irritation to our delicate tissues. I think I also successfully altered the weather to shut down precipitation here for some time.IMG_iP1213e

While my nose dripped at an ever-increasing rate, I built a barrier of old, moldy hay bales in the trees by our uphill neighbor’s corn field.

During heavy rain, the water comes off that field in a torrent and washes sediment onto our property. Lately, it has started to fill in a drainage trench beside our driveway.

Oddly enough, I actually wanted it to rain today, so I could see if my creation worked as intended, but the forecast shows no precipitation expected in the days ahead.

Given that, I guess my project worked. It has stopped the sediment from pouring into our trench, hasn’t it?

While I was working in the tangled bramble of uncontrolled growth that forms the border between our property and that cultivated field to the north of us, I decided to finally address a remnant of rusted barbed wire fencing that had been swallowed by a tree.

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The tree had long ago been cut off, leaving a stump that was about the height of a fence post. Made sense, since the barbed wire ran through the tree, it was already functioning as a fence post.

Removing the rusted fencing was made easier by the fact the tree was rotting to pieces. So much of it came apart simply by prying at it with one of the old fence posts that I found myself struggling near the end, to finish it off in the same manner. Eventually, logic, and my increasingly irritating allergic reactions to pollen, led me to hasten the task by way of the chain saw.

The area looks like it has been through a serious spring cleaning now, with the added benefit of opening up visibility to the area where water flows off the neighbor’s field. It is easier to see if the barrier I built is doing the job of keeping sediment out of our ditch.

Sneeze. Cough. Drip. Stinging blink. It’s the hazardous working conditions of spring!

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Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2016 at 8:42 am

Natural Results

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DSCN3996eDespite all our efforts to influence outcomes toward results which match the visions in our heads, the universe continues its reluctance to conform to our exact specifications.

A year ago I paid an excavating company more money than I really wanted to part with, to have a drainage swale shaped across our property. The plan was to have me plant grass in the new spillway to control erosion, but the excavation didn’t happen until too late in the year and my effort to cover it with grass was only partially successful.

Meanwhile, the earliest series of spring rainstorms testing the new swale turned out to be extreme gully washers that initiated a distinct washout crevice. The topsoil that flowed down stream from then on began filling in the swale, spoiling the plan to have a clearly defined trough to constrain runoff and drain water from our property without obstruction.

Maybe I could apply for a partial refund.

The good news is that the desired flow of runoff still seems to happen well enough, despite the deviations from the ideal we envisioned. However, I prefer to not have the growing canyon in that pasture and would like to reclaim the originally planned swale from the sediment that has accumulated.

I’m considering the possibility of digging it out myself next summer, and bringing the soil from below to fill in the crevice. I would want to wait until later in the summer, in hopes of finding a time when there is a reduced likelihood of heavy rains, but early enough that I would have plenty of time to get it covered with newly planted grass.

Another option is to leave it go to nature’s design, until such time that it fails to function as we want. It might just be an exercise I need to experience: allowing it to be a little rough around the edges and not so refined as I envisioned.

It seems odd to me that I find myself wrestling with the different extremes that I am drawn toward. On one hand, I prefer to have things be as natural as possible, so the naturally carved drainage ditch should be appealing. On the other hand, I don’t want things to look neglected here, or function faultily, so digging it out, filling in the crevice and covering the entire length with new grass would appeal equally well.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2015 at 6:00 am