Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘property management

Weekend Alone

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Cyndie is out of town with her parents this holiday weekend, so I am the sole pet guardian. Was this supposed to be easier after we no longer had horses? A certain high-energy dog has shown no problem filling in the space. The invisible protective border we need to maintain between her jaws and our flock of free-ranging chickens complicates my including Delilah as a companion for many of my projects around the property.

I let her tag along when venturing to the far side of our land with a wheelbarrow (we haven’t replaced the ATV trailer yet) to fetch some black dirt from a pile left over from the first year we moved here and had fence work done. I have been mixing dirt with composted manure to fill some holes in the yard. One was started by burrowing rodents and the other by spinning wheels of the New Holland tractor, both voids then expanded by rainstorm flowing runoff.

I need to leave Delilah behind when collecting compost because that task is a chicken magnet. They love helping when worms and other crawly critters might be involved.

Heading deep into the western woods is far enough from chicken territory that I’m comfortable hitching Delilah’s leash to the wheelbarrow, half hoping she might consider helping to pull in the desired direction. We hauled more pavers to the ever-expanding length of our trail that is messy mud.

Originally, I laid it out with a wider spread, but after walking on it and navigating the ATV on the trail, I’ve changed to more of a single file pattern. Simple stepping stones is all that’s needed in keeping up out of the sloppy muck.

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Do you see how nicely the moss adorns blocks that have been there a while?

All these small projects were diversions from mowing grass, hoping that waiting a day might allow a small fraction of drying to occur. That is despite my knowing from experience that it takes more than two days for the slow flow of excess groundwater to trickle down and out of here.

The sun can be shining bright for two days after a spell of rain and that’s when the low areas will be at their wettest. If we are lucky enough to have two more dry days, the footing starts to firm up again. Too bad that won’t be the case this week.

Delilah will be stuck in the kennel again. I gotta mow today.

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Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2019 at 8:28 am

Big Changes

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Last Sunday, Wintervale declared a “Snow Emergency,” restricting any parking on either side of our driveway until June, but it looks like that will be rescinded very soon. The weather has changed in a big way, from cold and snow, to chilly rain.

The liquid precipitation yesterday made short work of the snow that had collected on tree branches, instantly changing the landscape views. The woods now have an incongruous appearance with so much snow still on the ground, but the trees all wet and dark.

At this point, the deep snowpack is absorbing the bulk of the water that is falling from the sky, but the situation should get interesting after a couple days of increasingly intense rain.

After the saturation point is reached, the water will start the great migration that ultimately takes it to the Gulf of Mexico. Can you say, “flooding?”

The glacier on the front side of the barn already has a lake forming on top, and the piles of snow on either side look like they aren’t going to offer an outlet any time soon. I may resort to a little creative drainage engineering to avoid the water choosing its own alternative route through the inside of the barn.

Up by the house, on the hill where I boasted about not worrying about flood concerns, I noticed the water running down the gutters wasn’t flowing out the end of the ice-packed downspout.

As a result, it isn’t directed away from the house, finding its way, instead, right where we don’t want it, along the foundation.

That situation shouldn’t last long, but in the land of freeze and thaw, I never like seeing any water pooling where it isn’t welcome.

Funny, how the landscaping which used to slope away from the house in November, takes on a variety of gradients after months of settling, being heaved by frost, and burrowed in by rodent pests. The results are rarely favorable.

Meanwhile, it is refreshing to have this glimpse of the next season making its rapid appearance. It’s WAY too early to expect such luck, but I would be thrilled if don’t have to plow again until next year.

On that note, I should probably make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp and ready to go.

Big changes are underway!

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Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Inescapable Icecapades

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Winter conditions on our land have devolved steadily ever since the combination of that day-long rain, followed by a hard freeze. This is despite last weekends’ several days of above freezing temperatures. The melts and re-freezes just seem to compound the disasters of ice that are building up in so many places.

The driveway around the barn is barely navigable.

The paddocks have become practically skate-able.

As I crested the last hill approaching our driveway on my commute home from work yesterday, I noticed debris in the road, but before I could react, I heard the “pop” of glass breaking.

I spent the next half hour with a push broom, trying to clean up the remains of a broken bottle that was scattered across several yards in front of our property, muttering to myself over what goes through a person’s mind that they are willing to toss their trash out the window.

Especially, in front of our beautiful land!

Our weather forecast is suggesting another few days ahead with temperatures expected to climb above freezing. Even with the promise of some partial sunshine, it isn’t clear whether the mild trend will add more treacherous ice to our low spots, or shrink our several skating rinks.

At this point, I think what we truly need to improve conditions is a significant amount of snow to fall. Seems a little reversed logic, doesn’t it?

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Written by johnwhays

January 10, 2019 at 7:00 am

Red Marks

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For months now we have been walking past trees in our woods that are marked for removal with a red spot. It was more subtle when the forest was lush and green. Now that there aren’t any leaves on the trees, those red marks are impossible to miss.

When our local DNR agent responded to our invitation to walk our woods, we learned our most valuable trees are the oaks, and that they will be kept healthiest if we remove competition growing directly beneath their canopy. I mentioned it would be a challenge for me to identify what is good and what is bad.

You know how much of an aversion I have to cutting down live trees.

He was quick to volunteer to return later and mark trees for removal. Most of them are relatively small diameter and will be easy to bring down. Cyndie and I decided yesterday was a good time to start on the project.

Heck, I can’t drive the tractor anywhere yet, so we may as well create piles of branches to be chipped at a later date.

About those red marks… When you get a chainsaw in your hands, suddenly trees with red dots show up at every turn. Maybe that is because I just chose to start with the trees right below the driveway. Some of our biggest oaks are right there (hence the thick carpet of leaves that land on the yard) and that meant a lot of trees to be culled all the way around each of the large oak trunks.

I took some solace in being able to see visible evidence of just the problem our DNR forester described. Oak trees stop feeding lower limbs when other growth begins to encroach from below. That can lead to a lopsided or top-heavy oak.

When we pulled down the smaller trees, it was easy to see the number of bottom oak branches that had already been left for dead.

Unfortunately, we grew weary after just a couple of hours of cutting up and piling branches of the easiest trees felled. Several substantial sized red-marked trees remain. That will be a project for another day.

I may just move on further into the woods where I know there are a lot of small (easy) red-marked trees, before returning to take down the larger diameter encroachers by the driveway.

That project will be delayed a little bit now, though, as the more immediate pressing need is for plowing and shoveling snow. We received a decent amount of sticky flakes yesterday afternoon and overnight.

So much for easily spotting those red marked trees…

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Six Years

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Somehow, six years have passed since we moved from our home of twenty-five years in a suburb of the Twin Cities to this amazing property in western Wisconsin.

Happy 6th Anniversary, Wintervale!

What an amazing time we’ve had figuring out a completely different life from the one we had previously known.

Looking back on our arrival here, we now laugh about the week-long struggle we endured to accomplish the actual closing on the property, while being granted access anyway by the sellers and moving our furniture in as if it was already officially ours.

We put our trust in a local fencing company to help design a layout for our paddocks and pasture fences and were rewarded with a much-loved result. They also helped us accomplish the addition of the hay shed, overcoming repeated weather delays caused by one of the wettest springs locals had experienced.

Five years ago September, our horses arrived and really brought this place to life. That started an ongoing lesson in the art of composting manure, among many other more romantic attractions of owning horses.

This time of year, we are probably composting as many leaves as we are manure.

We are in our second year of having chickens around to control flies and ticks, while also enjoying the secondary benefit of unbelievably great eggs.

We have learned a lot about baled hay and forest management.

We dabbled a little in trying to launch a business.

We’ve stumbled through trying to train our first dog, while simultaneously working on keeping one of two house cats we adopted from a rescue organization.

Every time the leaves fall from our trees and cover the trails six inches deep, it throws me back to that first year when we arrived.

That leads to thoughts about all the things I’ve listed above and gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the number of things we have accomplished since moving here.

I also have a tendency to contemplate what life might have been like had we not made this move. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be in as good of shape as I am now. Caring for animals and managing many acres of hilly fields and forest has a way of keeping a person off the couch for long stretches of time.

I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s been a great six years.

Here’s to diving into our seventh with wonder and glee over whatever adventures it may bring!

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

Early Success

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Part of me is hesitant to claim success about a recent transplanted tree, well, trees, but we have decided to enjoy it while it lasts. The truth really won’t be revealed until next summer, as to whether the four oaks we hastily decided to dig up and move out in the open field beyond the paddock ultimately survive the transplantation.

In the weeks since we moved them, these four oak trees have barely showed a symptom of shock. Now they are displaying the best of fall color, just as if nothing had happened to disrupt normal routine.

I don’t know if this apparent good health is a valid indicator of the overall success of our bold plan. I am prepared to discover otherwise next spring, but for now, we are tickled to see the normal fall behavior playing out.

If these work out, I will definitely be emboldened to do more of this to expand the range of oak trees on our property in the years ahead. There are so many little volunteer sprouts that show up every spring where they aren’t wanted or can’t be allowed to grow to maturity, we always have many opportunities from which to choose.

It is part of a long game, dreaming someday of tall trees that will provide natural cooling shade under which our horses can benefit.

It all starts with acorns and involves a little effort to nurture young trees in new locations.

Here’s hoping for success.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

Temperature Driven

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Some chores don’t wait for a time when I actually feel like doing them. Draining hoses is one of those chores. Of course, who decides to coil up their garden hoses when it is warm and sunny outside? Not me.

It would be a treat to do it while the hoses were still pliable. That’s never been my experience. More often than not, I let the chore wait until the forecast suddenly predicts sub-freezing temperatures for the coming night.

Yesterday, that led to my needing to wrestle stiff coils in the damp and chilly fading daylight after I got home from work and tended to the animals.

Can you say, long day?

Delilah was very patient and stayed out with me while I worked, even though it pushed back her dinner to a later than normal hour. It demonstrates how much she treasures being out with us on a task. It is distinctly different from going for a walk.

She totally understands we are ‘working’ on something. We walked to the different locations where the hoses were being used, and after dragging each one back to the shop, she would look up at me to determine if it was time to go in the house, or if we were setting out after another hose.

After letting her in the house to have dinner, I stepped back out before it got dark to bring the air compressor up so I could blow out the buried water line that runs down to the spigot at the labyrinth garden.

With that chore accomplished, the only task left in preparation for serious freezing temperatures is to pull the pump and filter out of the landscape pond. I’m not worried about that for this first freeze tonight, because that water is moving and is unlikely to lock up with this first, brief dip below 32°(F).

For this night, we are now prepared to experience the possible freeze worry-free.

I think I’ll be a little disappointed if it doesn’t end up actually happening.

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Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2018 at 6:00 am