Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘property management

Full Day

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I didn’t set out to put in such a long day yesterday toiling away on big accomplishments, but circumstance allowed and I achieved much more than I thought possible. Cyndie was occupied in the kitchen canning jam with the help of her mother in the morning so I was on my own working outside. Since I got home from my bike trip I’ve intended to take the chainsaw to the large limb that broke off a big maple tree beside the back pasture.

I was eyeing that task while walking Delilah in that back pasture and pulling weeds that were getting tall. The dew point temperature was high and it was going to be a sweaty day in the great outdoors. Delilah likes being out with me so I picked the weed-pulling for her benefit before it got too hot. While walking the field, I sensed it would be mowable if no additional rain fell during the day.

That left me with two significant projects competing for my attention. I decided to start with the chainsaw on the downed limb. It was one of those cases where the more branches I cut and pulled out, the more branches it looked like remained. By the time I found myself soaked in sweat and exhausted, I had a mess of tree shrapnel, cut logs, and limbs for chipping to clean up. I began to think I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

Time for a lunch break in the air conditioning!

That renewed my energies and I immediately set out to finish and clean up my lumberjack work. Without a moment’s hesitation, I brought out the diesel tractor to take on the pasture mowing project.

Starting very slowly along the fence, I completed the full circumference before kicking up the speed to see if I might be able to cut the entire pasture before rain or darkness stopped me.

I made good progress navigating the Ford New Holland around the corners and recesses. Cutting at a different angle than the last time to improve results, I triumphed within minutes of the dinner hour.

Two large tasks knocked off the to-do list in one day, with credit given to Cyndie for being able to take on the afternoon horse feeding and dog walking that allowed me to mow uninterrupted to the end.

Color me extremely satisfied this morning with such progress achieved in just one day.

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Written by johnwhays

July 9, 2022 at 9:41 am

Home Fields

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As we rolled up the driveway on Saturday after Cyndie picked me up upon my return to the Cities, I asked her to stop at the barn. I wanted to let the horses know I had returned home. The unpacking of wet things could wait a few more minutes.

Swings greeted me first from her spot against the fence rail under the overhang. She breathed in the scent of my hands and lifted her head to let me scratch her neck. It feels pretty special to have developed a relationship with these horses after all that they have been through. I moved from Swings to Light and then to Mia. The chestnuts had each waited patiently on the other side of the overhang space. They breathed in my scent and accepted a few scratches

Finally, I looked to Mix who had yet to approach. She stepped up to the gate when I looked toward her. The herd welcomed me home.

Home to our fields. Cyndie took the above picture while I was away. The horse is standing in the back pasture. Beyond the fence is the hay field and it looks very different today. Yesterday the field got cut by a neighbor who will be taking it as round bales for his cows. It looks pretty good freshly cut. I’ll have to take some pictures.

Cyndie was in that spot to capture the grazing horse because she was taking pictures of the limb that had broken off one of the old maple trees near the back pasture.

It’s nice to be home but it means I have to get to work using the chainsaw first thing. After I finish mowing, that is.

Something tells me I’m not on vacation anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 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. 🙂

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Intentional Neglect

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After my recent effort mowing the back pasture to control weeds and improve grazing for the horses, walking past the grass field in the area we call our north loop has me wondering what to do there. We don’t graze the horses there but it has been cut for hay the last few years.

It’s possible the person I’ve offered the main hay field this year will also be interested in baling the north loop again, but not a certainty. Whether he wants it this time or not, I’ve been wondering about a longer-term plan for that area.

My first preference would be to allow it to become an untended natural field of native growth, something I tend to think of as intentionally neglected growth. The challenge for me is becoming well enough informed about what is desirable native growth and what is invasive and problematic. That foils the part about neglect.

Honestly, I wish we didn’t need to intervene in any natural growth on our land. It would be a lot less work. My dream is to manage our fields and forest in the present so that they get healthier and require less effort in the future. Admittedly, neglect isn’t the correct term for my intentions, but it’s more dramatic than saying “do less work.”

I like having some treeless fields to complement our wooded acres but planting trees comes more naturally to me than nurturing a meadow. At the same time, it is fun to pop out of the woods on a walk with Delilah and cruise down the path mowed in the tall grass.

Since my neighbor to the south is one to mow a larger and larger majority of his land, having some natural grassland on our acres for the benefit of the wildlife it supports feels like it holds added merit.

I intend to neglect taking any immediate action, mainly because I can. I’ll keep thinking about the fields’ future while walking along the grass path and enjoying it as it is today.

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Written by johnwhays

June 5, 2022 at 10:29 am

Trees Trimmed

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It was a lucky Friday the 13th for us yesterday. The professional tree trimmers we contracted with finally arrived to spend a day felling and trimming multiple large trees. When the job was quoted, it was easier to see the many trees in our woods that had tipped and become hung up on surrounding branches. Now there is just enough greenery beginning to sprout that the views are a little more obscured.

When the two-man crew arrived, the horses were highly curious about the mysterious-looking machinery that rolled over the first hill of our driveway.

They just as quickly came to accept the racket made by dueling chainsaws as no big thing, even though the bucket mechanism the guys were using looked a little creepy.

That big willow looks so much less neglected today. That’s one tree species that prodigiously sprouts random new branches every which way along the full length of its trunk.

Two of the largest and oldest maple trees that have been slowly dying received a different bit of serious pruning as we strive to prolong the glory of their stature on our landscape.

It’s getting to the point there isn’t much left of them. One large limb broke loose last year and landed on the equally large limb just beneath it. I’ve been yearning to take that extra weight off the lower branch but the job was beyond my capacity. Work like this, since there were plenty of other tree issues that deserved attention as well, made it easy to justify bringing in the professionals.

One of the other things we focused on was bringing to the ground any trees that had tipped but didn’t make it all the way down. Nicknamed “widow makers,” they can be tricky to deal with since the entanglement above can lead to unexpected movements of the tree being cut. I was more than happy to leave the stress of that challenge for someone other than me.

As long as they were here, I gave them full permission to cut down any tree that had been marked with red by our DNR Forester who paid a visit several years ago. There were so many marked trees that I haven’t been able to put a dent in the number. Watching how much work it took for a professional to cut them all in one particular section helped me to justify why I haven’t cut them all myself.

Also, it leaves a monumental amount of work to ultimately clean up off the ground, which I chose not to pay them to do. We have an endless supply of chip-able sized trees littering the forest floor now.

There is work enough to keep me busy in the lumberjack role full time. Too bad that I am also the lawn groundskeeper, fence mender, equine fecal relocation specialist, dog walker, home maintenance amateur, hay bale hauler, horse feeder, labyrinth tender, and Stihl power trimmer user extraordinaire.

I only get to do the lumberjack work in my spare time.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2022 at 9:04 am

Thinking Thinks

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Some thinks I was thinking while walking the dog recently.

  • Of all the great things in this world, think about a time when you blinked your eyes and they failed to open again for an awkwardly long time as sleep was trying hard to bring you under its spell. When this happens and you are free to give in without a care, it is just the absolute best. Let sleep win.
  • With the wind blowing rather fiercely as I walk along the slippery, muddy trail, my eyes are fixed on picking a place for each step. High above me, I could hear the dramatic clacking of branches smacking into each other out of my view. Unnerving, to say the least.
  • I have been seeing the tiniest hints of spring growth becoming evident throughout our forest. It seems like it takes a long, long time to reach this point, and then it seems like the growth explodes in a matter of days. That is the point when I wish I had accomplished more pruning in advance.
  • No matter how much control I think I have over managing our landscape, the natural world is infinitely more complicated in its functionings. I cut and prune and sometimes plant things anew, but everywhere trees and plants are growing and dying in innumerable ways beyond my comprehension. We have a variety of new mosses growing on our pathways this year.
  • I estimate we are just days away from being able to give the horses access to the back pasture and front hayfield for grazing. It’s a week later than we opened those gates last year. I wonder if the horses will run like they did that time.
  • I’m contemplating the “No Mow May” campaign to help pollinators coming out of hibernation but I can’t imagine how my mower will cope with how tall and thick the grass will be by June if I participate. I also wonder if I can stand the appearance of neglecting our property. I take pride in keeping things looking well kept.
  • It’s only been one week since Cyndie’s surgery but I’m deeply missing her company when walking Delilah. Cyndie would share her viewpoints on tending to property issues and possible improvements which helped direct our attention to what we should do next. I definitely miss splitting the jobs of feeding and cleaning up after the horses twice a day. I feel bad she doesn’t get to watch from up close the growth explosion of new buds and opening leaves. Our landscape will look so completely different by the time she starts walking outside again.
  • If it wasn’t for Cyndie’s surgery, I probably wouldn’t be having so many solo thinks while walking Delilah. I would have to come up with something else to write about. Hee!

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Tending Growth

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Without firm plans about what we would accomplish yesterday morning, I gassed up the big chainsaw and charged the battery on the hand trimmer chainsaw for a walk through the woods. We had a general goal of bringing down the most obvious trees that have tipped but then got hung up on surrounding limbs, but whatever caught our eyes was fair game.

It’s almost comical at times because Cyndie and I approach things very differently. She is given to focusing on multiple goals simultaneously while I find myself inclined to leave some things for later and head off for the next big tree as she lingers behind to take tending to the next level.

Well off the trail, we came upon two noteworthy finds. It is always surprising to find an isolated old fence post and rusty barbed wire in the middle of the woods.

A remarkably thick and fascinatingly curling vine stem was less surprising but equally unwelcome. We pulled it out to save with visions of conjuring some artistic use for it in the future.

When we emerged from the trees, it was time to tend to the ornamental tall grass up by the shop garage. The old growth gets cut back in early spring. This year we went with an extreme cut in preparation for a plan to try digging into the biggest bundle and dividing it for transplant.

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We don’t even have a plan for where we want to transplant them to next but we’ve got enough options that it will become a challenge to decide where not to add this gorgeous grass. The first challenge will be coping with the bed of rocks the main bundle has grown through.

Good thing I am a patient man.

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2022 at 6:00 am

Maiden Grass

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Our ornamental tall grass by the shop garage is in its glory this time of year and deserves a shout-out.

These batches were here before we arrived and have never been thinned. They have become so massive we are talking about some possible locations where we’d like to see them enhance the scenery were we to transplant a portion. It will be an education as we’ve never tried transplanting something of this magnitude.

We have plenty of hosta plants successfully split and transplanted, but admittedly those are a piece of cake. This will just be a little upsized version of the process.

Initial research points out the roots are very strong and it will be difficult to dig through them. We have until spring to build up our strength because early spring is the time to transplant these tall grasses.

We’d love to have more locations of big grasses because they would be a great compliment to all our big sky views.

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Written by johnwhays

November 24, 2021 at 7:00 am

Selective Attentiveness

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What we pay attention to matters because the influence of what we let occupy our minds goes deeper into our unconsciousness than is easily noticeable. We are what we consume, or we are becoming what we consume.

Conversely, my selective attentiveness means I was too focused on my immediate predicament to notice Cyndie was hoping for my assistance to open a door. I have a tendency toward tunnel vision sometimes. Rarely when I am functioning at my best.

Yesterday, I found myself immersed in a design and build project that became an obsession after returning from the lake Sunday and two hours easily slipped away without my notice.

While I was shopping for lumber at my stash of old deck boards stacked in our hay shed, I took a moment to pay attention to what the horses were doing behind me.

It was nap time. The peacefulness was deliciously infectious.

After that, I worked for what I expected would be maybe an hour before I was jolted to reality by Cyndie pointing out it was after 2:00. This didn’t leave as much time as I planned for the afternoon winterizing projects we had on our list, but somehow we ticked off more line items than expected.

Window covers are installed on the chicken coop, the pump is pulled from the landscape pond and a leaf cover installed, and a  bonus accomplishment, all our deck furniture has been stowed for the season.

I feel like we are paying more attention to timely preparedness for winter this year. Something tells me (I do have a pessimistic streak) this might mean we won’t end up needing it.

As it is, there are sections of grass that really deserve to be mowed another time, even as the morning frost should be signalling the end of our growing season. It’s hard to know what kind of weather the changing climate is going to deliver these days.

Even when we try to pay specific attention to it.

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Written by johnwhays

October 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

Next Project

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It’s going to be another solo weekend for me as Cyndie will be at her mom’s house in Edina and that will give me a chance to make all sorts of racket with my newest wood splitting tool. It is one I ordered online last winter and had to wait to receive it until long after I had any interest in wrestling with it in the heat of summer.

I tested it on a few logs last April and quickly learned the metal-on-metal banging demands serious hearing protection. The gist of the mechanism is basically the same as my old splitter except it doesn’t glide on a stationary post, so it’s completely mobile!

It’s got two handgrips and I can take it to wherever the cut logs are piled to split them right there.

It just so happens we have several such piles after last weekend. When I cut up the trunk laying in the paddock, we also took care of a tree that was laying across one of our trails, one that was leaning against others in the woods between the house and chicken coop, and an old dead tree in the middle of the woods where I had just cleared a new trail.

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I will bundle those little logs with the chain shown in the image above –which is supposed to hold everything in place while splitting– and chop away with reckless abandon.

Then I’ll have piles of split firewood to collect with the famous ATV trailer that Cyndie bought as a replacement for the one she sold in her big barn sale, thinking we no longer needed it.

I’ll also have an upper body workout taken care of without needing to go to a gym. It’ll be a project with multiple benefits.

We’ll see if reality is able to live up to my ambitious visions.

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Written by johnwhays

September 30, 2021 at 6:00 am