Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘property management

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

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

Building Antibodies

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Not being one to wait around for possible illness symptoms to show up, yesterday I joined Cyndie in a significant landscaping project just minutes after receiving my second vaccine shot. The amount of physical exertion we undertook pretty much guaranteed we would feel sore joints and muscles today. It makes it difficult to discern what percentage of my achiness this morning is due to my body being busy developing protection against COVID-19.

The slightly elevated temperature provides a clue that my stiffness isn’t exclusively confined to the contortions I put my body through to dig out a drainage ditch yesterday and move the dirt to the far side of the barn to fill an area that showed renewed settling this spring.

The surface grade between Cyndie’s perennial garden and our driveway had risen every year due to soil flowing downhill from our neighbor’s cultivated field. It had reached a point where runoff wasn’t making it to the drain culvert anymore and would instead flow across the driveway.

I devised a plan to cut into the sod and roll sections back, allowing us to dig the level down multiple inches. We could avoid leaving a dirt swale that would require seeding by simply rolling the sod back down after lowering the level.

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The methods changed and evolved as we took turns digging, hauling, dumping, shaping, and cutting sod, but the end result was wonderfully effective.

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This project provided one of my favorite rewards in tasks around the property in that we achieved two goals simultaneously. Ticked two lines off the to-do list all at once. Being able to pass these two locations as we go about our activities and notice the ditch beside the driveway is fixed to provide flow to the culvert and the dip in the turf above the paddocks is filled up again brings recurring joy and satisfaction.

Compare that to the ongoing grief of seeing the problem growing daily for the last few years. I finished the day giddy with delight.

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By removing the high spot in the drain path beside the driveway, we are building “antibodies,” so to speak, to fight off water flow problems on our land.

I have no concerns if it rains today. The drainage ditch could use some washing of leftover dirt and I plan to give my body the day off to rest. We got two things done at once yesterday. We deserve a day off!

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Clearing Branches

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For almost a year the branches lay in the section of woods beside our driveway, between the house and the barn. They were from a large oak tree that was already misshapen by previous storm damage. The lopsided section that had mostly survived the first incident many years before, tipped over about two stories high and required professional help to bring down the rest of the way.

I had the tree service do the minimum work of bringing the tree to the ground, but nothing more. We could do the rest.

Talk is cheap.

There was a lot of work left to be done, which is why it has taken almost a full year to come close to finishing the dispatching of all those logs and branches away from the scene. Yesterday, in the last days before the woods will become thick with green leaves, Cyndie and I finally cleaned up the area where the debris was spread.

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And we are not even done yet. There remain many standing trees with red paint on them which the DNR forester marked as threatening to the health of larger oaks around them.

Today’s inspiration is to cut those down and use the biggest sections to replace the creosote-soaked fence posts in our garden terrace walls. It will mean the wall won’t last as long since the tree trunks will rot sooner than the fence posts, but we think they will last long enough to allow collecting rocks for reinforcement over time.

I know cutting more trees down will create a lot more branches that need to be dealt with, but while we are in that mode I’m hoping momentum will keep progress flowing and not leave them laying in place for a whole year.

The challenge will be in splitting time between working on the garden terraces and clearing the new piles of branches created.

This will not be a one-day project, we know that much.

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2020 at 8:57 am

Bridge Built

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It hasn’t started raining today yet, but precipitation is on the way. Knowing that, yesterday I made it a priority to finish the bridge I started a week ago. I wanted to get it done while the weather was nice. I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story:

Once the frame was complete, I used the cut pieces (previously employed as shims to level joists during assembly) for reducing friction when I single-handedly dragged the base across the gorge. It was heavy!

For now, there will be a step up onto the deck, but at some point in the near future, I plan to dig down so the ends will be at ground level so the lawn tractor can roll smoothly up and over.

I wonder how heavy it is now.

If we get too much water flowing, the whole thing will get pushed out of position. However, if that happens, we will have other flood-related problems to deal with that will make the shifted bridge a minor concern.

I’m going to bank on the likelihood that’s not gonna happen.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2020 at 9:23 am