Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘property management

First Version

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Over the weekend, I completed a first version of the stick-fence backdrop for Cyndie’s perennial garden. The most significant accomplishment was that the thing didn’t completely collapse while I was working on it. It feels as if the whole construct is like a layout of dominoes that will fail in a spectacular cascade when any particular weak point happens to give out.

That leaves me a little timid about going back and trying to remedy some of the hollow spots that were a result of my trying to utilize existing trees for support every few yards. They complicated the simple weave I was otherwise employing.

Part if me wants the random imperfections, and part of me wants to see more consistent lines. I think the imperfections will win out, because that will allow me to do nothing more with it, accepting it as is.

Sounds like it will get a workout in the wind today, with gusts possible in the 40mph range. That should be a worthy test of the weak points.

With this phase done, Cyndie was able to begin redistributing the plants that have been smooshed up against each other all summer after the big mudslide from the neighbor’s cornfield last spring.

She made me laugh yesterday when she dug up a huge mass of something that looked like a tall grass and then wondered aloud about whether it was a “weed” or something she intentionally planted a couple of years ago.

We are into the second version of the garden now, while I am hoping a second version of the backdrop fence won’t be required for a very long time.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Avoiding Failure

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We are wet today, but before the precipitation arrived yesterday, I had a chance to dig the back-blade out of the depths of the shop garage and play around in scraping the paddocks. The blade was parked all the way in the back of the garage because I haven’t used it since the first couple of years here to clear snow.

It dawned on me that I should be making better use of the equipment we have, instead of just storing it. I’m not strongly skilled with the blade, so I haven’t been inclined to hook it up and do anything with it. I must have felt adventurous yesterday, because I didn’t really have a master plan about what I was hoping to achieve.

Things went so surprisingly well, rearranging equipment so I could get at the blade in the first place, and managing all the 3-point hitch connections so I could then maneuver around obstacles to get out of the garage, it inspired my further earth-grading experimentations.

Starting with the gravel driveway around the barn, I made a few practice pulls, dragging the surface to pull settled material back uphill. That went well enough, I felt confident to try doing some of the same inside the paddock fence.

I was on a roll. As long as that was progressing nicely, I temporarily changed focus and worked on pressing down on fence posts with the loader bucket to push them back to the level they originally were, before the freeze/thaw cycles pushed them six or eight inches up.

That’s a delicate process of working in increments across a series of many posts.

All along the way there are opportunities for epic failure. On this day, I succeeding in avoiding all of them.

The fence is still standing, with all boards attached, and looking like its old self again. The paddock is also in pretty good shape now. I even took an extra step and scooped some new lyme screenings onto the round high spot we are building in the large paddock.

Before I could get everything smoothed out, the rain started, so it looks a little like a project half-finished, but I’m okay with that.

We have received a steady rain for about 20 hours. Steady is good, because we don’t get it all at once and suffer all the problems of instant rivers of runoff, but the freshly moved lyme screenings are like wet cement. If the horses walk on it now, it will make a big mess.

If they will stay off it until it dries, it can get almost as hard as concrete.

I wonder if they will pick up on my momentum of avoiding failure…

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Making Peace

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It is getting to a point where I think I just need to make peace with the fact that water runoff on our property will carve its own path no matter what feeble attempts I make to direct it.

We received another short-but-robust deluge from the rain gods yesterday afternoon, which generated eroding runoff flow digging ever deeper into all the existing rills and washouts that had already evolved from the last few downpours this summer.

While standing on one of the spots inside the small paddock where our insufficient attempts to establish a direct route to the drainage swale had long ago spectacularly failed, I tried to envision what a successful solution might look like.

I picture a much more assertive effort along the lines of what you would see done to create a drainage ditch along a roadway. If we dig an unmistakable ditch, we could dump the material we scoop out of it to fill the washouts we’d rather not have.

The big challenge with a serious excavation is getting planted grass to sprout and hopefully hold soil in place before rainfall gets a chance to wash it all away. If money were no object, maybe we could line the ditch with enough river rock to form a creek bed.

Aw, heck, why stop there? Let’s just line it with a rubber pond skin first, and then pour on the rock. Wouldn’t that make a sharp-looking dry creek that’s always ready for a flash flood. It’s called Rainscaping.

There are a lot of images out there depicting some incredibly artistic solutions along these lines. Fifty dry creek ideas right here! But there is one thing missing from all photos I saw: weeds.

If we tried any of those solutions, in a very short time, you wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful rocks through the 3-foot tall weeds that would happily take root.

Maybe there’s a happy medium in there somewhere. I’m thinking I need grass to grow to hold soil in place, or rocks. How about grass and rocks?

It would be a hassle to mow, though.

Back to reality. The rocks to cover the distances I need would be an awful strenuous effort to accomplish, in addition to the cost of having them delivered. Grass seed is something I can afford and plant easily myself.

It doesn’t cost anything to dream. I like picturing the possibilities. In the mean time, I am stuck looking at the ongoing and frustrating erosion that has had the better of me for the last five years.

I want to work on making my peace with that.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Inviting Portals

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When it comes to forest bathing, we have a wide variety of enticing portals inviting one to dip a toe…

It’s enough to make a person want to dive right in to breathe the immunizing forest air.

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Can you feel yourself inhaling deep at the sight?

We also have portals leading to open and airy trails along the borders of our fields.

Stepping through this last opening brings you to the entrance to our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, a large 11-circuit Chartes labyrinth. It lies just out of sight to the right of the opening, which I think makes this portal the most enticing of all.

Plus, the labyrinth is tucked up against the edge of our main forest, so walking the circuitous path provides an added side-benefit of breathing the health emanating from the trees.

Our paradise beckons with irresistible enticements. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to figure out I’m not dreaming.

This morning, the trees are silent in the calm, moist summer air. Out our open windows and doors I hear the mesmerizing music of the pond waterfall, singing birds, and chirping insects. Most importantly, that is all I hear. There is no sound of traffic. No planes, trains, or automobiles.

Mornings like this are priceless.

It’s not that we are immune to the sounds of mechanization. We do experience the occasional passing of small planes. Warm weekends might offer up the roar of a passing train of motorcycles buzzing along County N toward the El Paso Bar and Grill. The neighboring fields get plowed, planted, and harvested by large farm tractors as the season dictates.

Finally, if it’s not the neighbors, it’s our own doing to be shattering the bucolic ambiance with the droning whine of small gas engines with a trimmer, chainsaw, or lawn mower.

It’s a necessary evil of creating and maintaining the inviting portals that grace our little nook in the beautiful countryside of western Wisconsin.

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Better Sense

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It looks as though my shadow has better sense than me about taking a much deserved break in the midst of toiling over non-stop things to do.

After work yesterday, it was another trip in the pickup to fetch 45 more bales of hay. Tossing them off the truck and then hefting them back up, stacked high in the shed, was a little more exercise than I was planning to do.

Of course, the stacks get higher as I grow more exhausted, so I out-smarted the task by placing the last half-dozen on the lowest level for now.

I do have better sense than to over-tax my weary body on one particular activity.

I’m better off spreading the exhausting efforts across several days-worth of projects. After that, my body can catch up to my shadow and take a well-deserved rest for a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

About that time, it will be the beginning of another week and I’ll get to start the process all over again.

Luckily, the rewards for our efforts are plenty, and we are richly blessed in this paradise we endlessly tend.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Dust Bathing

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While I was busy sprucing up the property, the chickens were sprucing up themselves with a rousing dust bath yesterday afternoon. Apparently, two of them had simultaneous interest in the exact same spot of sandy ground. If it hadn’t been for their two different colors, I wouldn’t have been able to tell where one left off and the other started.

The three of them were pretty cute in their companionship earlier in the day when I was turning the piles of compost. They would climb up on the pile I was working on, startling a little bit each time I tossed another scoop on the heap. Not intending to alarm them, I would switch to a different pile to work, after which they would migrate over to help me on that pile.

After a few hours of compost management, I pulled out the Grizzly with our towable grader/rake and did some laps in the round pen to disrupt the uninvited weedy grasses that love taking root in the sand. Maybe the chickens will take a liking to the newly raked sand over there.

Finally, I cranked up the lawn tractor to mow the yard and all the nooks and crannies from the house to the road.

I feel ready to return to the day-job. The next big task demanding attention is the labyrinth. With Cyndie reduced to one working arm, that garden has been mostly neglected. It is something I can probably do after work one of these nights, if I have any energy for the project. The grass and weeds have gotten tall and thick, so it won’t be a quick and easy job.

When that is completed, I need to get after the north pasture, where Cyndie has already removed the fence webbing. I want to pull the T-posts that remain standing and then knock down the shoulder-high growth with our brush cutter. That will be an adventure in mowing what you can’t see.

Sure hope the chickens stay out of that field.

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My Battle

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It’s Saturday. It’s the first day of July. It’s a holiday weekend in the U.S. and Cyndie and I are up at the lake. We brought Delilah with us, our trusty canine who has gotten car sick on the last two drives to Hayward. I negotiated a delayed departure from home to give me time to mow the hay-field a second time with the brush cutter before we high-tailed it for the lake.

The horses are being well cared for by Shelby, a local college student who has been helping Cyndie since the shoulder surgery. As we drove past the arena on our way out, Dezirea was gorgeously trotting laps around Shelby on the lunge line. I tend to perceive Dez as the least athletic of our herd, but she was showing no sign of any physical limitations yesterday.

After my vacation week of cycling and this long weekend away at the lake, I’m discovering an ongoing battle simmers in my mind over work to be done on our property and my precious few hours away from the day-job. As I pedaled through the countryside a couple of weeks ago, some of the prominent scenes that repeatedly caught my eye were the lawns and farm fields being mowed.

“I should be doing that,” was my first impression.

Yesterday, after extended hours of bouncing on the tractor seat over the rolling hill of our hay-field, the accomplishment was satisfying, but only served to reveal the remaining acres still needing attention. Yet, here I am at the lake while the grass at home continues to grow.

While I was on the hay-field, Cyndie worked –one-armed– to remove the webbing from fence posts around the north pasture. We are going to pull the posts, since we aren’t grazing the horses up there anymore, as this will simplify the maneuvering necessary when mowing the area. The grass there is so tall right now that it is hard to see where the posts are with the webbing removed.

My negotiations with Cyndie will resume after the 4th of July games and community dinner are over up here, to see if I can get home with hours to spare for mowing the lawn before the short work week lays claim on my time again.

I’m here, but my mind is mulling the chores needing attention at home. Nature doesn’t take a break when we decide to go on vacation.

It’s a battle.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2017 at 8:15 am