Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘property management

Digging Out

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I’m not confident this is the final chapter of our woodchuck pest, but yesterday I dug out the window well to reclaim our egress space for the basement bedroom. You may recall I posted this image of the early evidence of a burrowing invader making a mess outside the window.

We did eventually enlist the services of a professional with wild animal extraction expertise, but the results weren’t exactly what we had in mind.

Initially, he set a trap across the opening of the hole. When that didn’t do the trick and the displaced sand filled over half the height of the window, he came back and added a second baited trap.

Days passed with little evidence of activity, but one trap tripped. The trail camera he added captured one image of the critter going under the little opening beneath the plastic cover over the window well, so he suggested we block that with a piece of wood.

The plan was to reset the trap one last time with the opening blocked. If there was no activity, we could assume the pest was on the outside and would no longer have access.

While he was setting things up for that last time, Cyndie warned him to be careful of the wasps showing up nearby. He spotted the ground nest a few feet away and offered to take care of it, at a discount, since he was already on site.

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Ultimately, those ended up being the only pests he visibly dispatched.

Yesterday, we noticed he had removed his traps, as planned since there was no additional activity. That was my cue to dig out the well and replace the cover.

I sure wish I could put all that sand back where it came from, but hardly any of it fit back into the hole in the corner. The rest had to be hauled away for use filling various washout voids around the yard.

In the absence of an actual capture, I will not be surprised if new burrowing shows up someplace else around the house.

It’s becoming pretty much the norm around here.

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Written by johnwhays

September 21, 2019 at 10:05 am

Trailer Appreciation

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Boy am I ever glad to have a trailer for the ATV again. This weekend I put it to good use hauling logs out of the woods and cleaning up failed attempts at round bales in our fields.

The neighbors who rented our fields this summer did not have much success trying to get bales out of it. I feel for them. There never seemed to be enough consecutive dry days to finish the job. Instead, the cut hay got soaked by rain. They tried raking it out in hopes of drying the cut grass, but then it rained on the windrows.

Eventually, they enlisted a beef farmer to claim the wet hay, because cows are a lot less picky about moldy hay. He created some relatively ugly looking round bales, maybe since he was working with old, wet hay. By the time he finally tried picking up the bales and hauling them away, five of them fell apart. He just left those where they lay, creating dead spots in our fields.

I guess that is the land owner’s responsibility.

My first challenge in removing the old piles was forking the heavy, wet, moldy hay into the trailer. The second challenge was figuring out what to do with it. I generally use old hay as natural fill, but none of the many spots where we could use fill are easy to reach.

The worst spot was along our property line behind Cyndie’s perennial garden. Instead of being able to dump the load all at once, I needed to empty the trailer one pitch fork-full at a time, carrying each about 35-yards through an obstacle course of low hanging branches and a single fence wire I needed to duck under.

I only bumped my head about 3-dozen times while making repeated trips in and out.

It is super to have the trailer again, but it doesn’t fill or empty itself automatically and it can’t navigate the obstacle course behind the garden. I guess I wasn’t thinking about how much work I have to do whenever I endeavor to use the trailer.

It has me thinking I should have given more thought to that desire to replace the one Cyndie sold.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

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