Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snow melt

Winter Muckxtravaganza

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The daytime temperature yesterday climbed well above freezing and turned that beautiful snow we received over the weekend into a soaking slop that the horses converted into a regrettable mucky mess.

As I pulled in the driveway after work, I spotted the horses in a tizzy over a loose ribbon of fence that was blowing in the wind. It was at a spot we had barricaded last spring to separate the hay-field from the drainage alley. The horses have been showing us they want to cross at that point instead of through the usual open gate because of how wet it is.

On Sunday I had hastily opened a section for them to get through, but I didn’t permanently tie off the ribbons I had pulled back. When I arrived yesterday, two of the horses were across that opening and two were still out in the hay-field, frantically trying to pass through but turned back by the scary flailing ribbons that had come loose in the strengthening wind.

I quickly realized I should have pulled all four of the t-posts on Sunday and been done with this. With temperatures expected to drop significantly in the days ahead, I decided to pull the posts while I still could and open this whole avenue to the herd for the rest of the winter.

img_ip1858eOf course, in no time I was out of daylight and fumbling around in the dark to finish the task. While Delilah stood by patiently, I rolled up the length of ribbon fence and muscled out the posts. I hooked her leash to my pants and gathered posts and ribbon, setting off in the darkness to cross the mucky hoof-marked turf of the field and paddocks.

The footing out there is just plain miserable right now. When it freezes solid in the next day or two it will become a treacherous ankle-twisting obstacle course. It will also become much harder to keep clean with our usual routine of frequent manure scooping.

This is the point where I want a lot of snow to fall. A good 6-inches would cover everything nicely and smooth it out quite a bit.

As of last night, it was nothing but mudzilla. Mucktastrophe. Swampageddon. Mudsaster. It was a real muckxtravaganza.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2016 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Not March

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This is not the weather I recognize as occurring in the month of March in the region where I am from. That’s no surprise, since we are breaking records for both highest overnight low temperature, as well as the daytime high for March 8th.

Our back yard looked almost summery in the afternoon sun.

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No snow in sight. It felt unnatural. Thinking back just a few years, I was trying to carve drainage paths through the mounds of packed snow on the sides of our driveway in March, for water to drain away.

No such problem this year.

Just to keep us from getting too far ahead of ourselves, the landscape pond is available to remind us that spring doesn’t happen instantaneously, even when it seems like that is exactly what it is doing. There is a solid mass of ice filling the pond still.

DSCN4509eSomething tells me it won’t last much longer.

When I was a kid, the saying was, “April showers bring May flowers.” I wonder what the March showers will bring in this new climate reality.

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Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2016 at 7:00 am

Already Behind

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I recently bought a compost thermometer with an 18 inch probe to check the temperature in the center of my composting manure piles. My first test had me worried that the device was broken when the needle moved the wrong direction. I moved the probe to another spot and started to get a positive reading, so it wasn’t a total bust. I just needed to find a true hotspot in the pile.

A couple of days later I discovered why the needle moved the wrong direction. Not only was that spot not warm from actively composting, it was still snow-packed! With daytime temperatures in the 60s (F) lately, I allowed myself to be fooled about how much melting had occurred.

Only the main core of the pile really stays warm in the winter, and even that can go cold if the composting process stalls. Plenty of the accumulating pile on the fringes is mixed with snow when it gets picked up, or the entire pile gets periodically covered with new fallen snow.

DSCN2956eWhen the spring thaw begins, the visible snow is the first to go. It takes a lot longer to melt piles of snow and ice. I somehow was lulled into the assumption that our low amount of snow cover would mean a complete thaw would happen almost immediately.

The transition from winter to spring is a frustrating one for me. In some ways it seems to take a long time, but in other ways it happens faster than I can react. I noticed yesterday that the landscape pond beside our deck was more water than ice. I need to buy a new in-line filter for the water we pump up to a little waterfall.

DSCN2958eWhile walking Delilah, we came across evidence that moles have already begun their activity of tunneling in the lawn. I meant to buy some stinky deterrent to drive them off into the woods and out of our yard. Haven’t done that yet.

Even though we are drying out nicely, there is still a lot of soil moisture, which will be good when it comes to getting our hayfield to grow, but it means we can’t drive around on any of our machines without making deep impressions in the soft earth.

I would like to clean out the winter accumulation of manure in the paddocks, sooner than later, but that is a huge project and it is inviting a muddy battle to drive around pulling a heavy trailer this soon after the melt.

On top of these concerns is the always possible threat that we could yet receive a significant wallop of a winter storm. The example I repeatedly refer to now is the 18 inches we received on May 2nd in 2013. So even though I feel like I am already behind in being prepared for spring, the possibility for additional doses of winter weather still has a high potential to occur for another 6-weeks or so.

It’s crazy-making. Luckily, we have a trip to visit the Morales’ in Guatemala very soon. That ought to take my mind off the concern of lingering snow events for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2015 at 6:00 am

Melt Begins

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In a short few days we have moved from below-zero bone chilling cold to above freezing high temperatures. On Friday I removed the blankets from our horses and brushed out their shedding coats. The prediction is for a string of days with high temps in the 50’s° (F) this week. For each day that new bare ground becomes exposed due to loss of snow cover, the odds improve for the air temperature to increase.

That snow on the ground acts as a natural cooler, so even though the sun shines bright, the breeze flowing across the white landscape remains chilly. Once the snow is gone, the ground warms significantly and the air then follows suit.

DSCN2934eThe horses were quick to soak up the direct rays after their blankets came off, which put them in serious napping mode. I think Hunter was planning on getting a drink, but then just fell asleep when he got to the waterer.

Our friends, Barb and Mike arrived Friday afternoon for a sleepover visit, making the weekend feel like a holiday to us. We consumed massive amounts of all too sweet calories (think, Cyndie’s gooey caramel rolls and puppy dog tails, along with some birthday cake and chocolate covered strawberries), walked the labyrinth and wooded trails in the moonlight, communed with the horses, and enjoyed an extended visit with neighbor, George Walker.

We wanted to connect George with Mike so they could talk “flight-speak.” George is working on getting his pilot’s license, when not trimming horse’s hooves or tending to their CSA farm. To the rest of us, much of their conversation sounded like a foreign language with the acronyms and specific phraseology.

DSC03573eI was able to enlist Mike’s adventurous energy to help work on cutting down a long-dead tree limb that was hung up in the “Y” of an adjacent tree. We got most of the easier portions down, but the main trunk turned out to be too much for the rope-saw I was trying to use.

When George heard about our plan, he suggested we borrow his friend’s “state-fair chainsaw.”

Huh?

He said it is a “chainsaw on a stick.”

We couldn’t get the rope-saw to orient over the trunk correctly, teeth down, and in our unsuccessful effort to forge ahead with hope it would eventually get a bite and right itself, the connecting cord between the chain and the one handle began to fray. All we did to the tree was rub the bark off that spot.

I went to get my pole-saw and we took down the smaller branches we could reach, leaving the main trunk for another time. Probably a time when I talk to George about borrowing that state-fair chainsaw.

Today we are off to visit Elysa’s house to help with a bit of spring cleaning. I won’t be around to witness how the second day of big melting progresses. I expect to be shocked at how much ground becomes exposed, though that will be thrilling, too. I need the ground to warm enough to thaw out the drain tile we had buried last fall.

That has my full attention this spring, in hopes of learning whether we will achieve the improvements we seek.

Happy (grumble, grumble) Daylight Saving Time day.

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Written by johnwhays

March 8, 2015 at 8:48 am

Hay Thoughts

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We experienced a distinctly different sky Monday from that which we enjoyed on Sunday. In fact, we even received a short burst of heavy snowfall for a few minutes from the gray clouds overhead. However, the above freezing temperatures of the middle portion of the day sufficiently evaporated the fresh snow cover off of any surface that wasn’t already a snow base.

DSCN2736eThe cloudy sky kept things from being very melty, but didn’t completely stop the loss of snow cover. The ground is peeking through in multiple places, especially where I had plowed a path for walking around the back pasture fence.

At this time last year, there was so much snow on the ground that I don’t think I would have been able to keep that path open. This year has been quite a different story. I am itching to find out how our new drain tile installation will work for us in the spring. If the winter ends with below-average snow levels, I am expecting to see noticeable improvement in how the paddocks dry out. Although, it will be hard to judge how much better the drainage is when basing it on a reduced amount of melting snow from this year.

Not that I’m complaining. After the amount of wetness we endured during the first two spring seasons that we lived here, we are due for a break this year. If a dryer spring happens in 2015 and we don’t get a real test of the new drain system, so be it. I’ll welcome the break.

One of the things that would be a nice change is a chance to cut hay sooner. Our hay crop was far from pristine, as our field is long on weeds and short on desirable grasses, but our horses seem to prefer it to the bales I purchased from a farm to the north of us.

(Jack and Joanie, if you are still reading: I recently found a few bales of your hay left over that we had stowed inside the barn, instead of the hay shed. Our horses really liked your hay! We were able to feed it to them during the severe cold nights.)

I am still hoping that we will gain ground on improving our hay simply by cutting it regularly. If we can get on the field to cut it before it gets too long for a first cut, and early enough to give us a good shot at getting a second cut later in the summer, I believe, based on the yield we got last year, we can put up enough of our own hay to feed our herd through a winter. That would be a real special success.

It would be just like we planned it, back when we didn’t have a clue about any of this.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2015 at 7:00 am

Big Meltdown

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The weather has taken the predicted turn toward warm, foggy, and wet. I didn’t take a picture this morning, because it would just turn out gray. Our visibility is at about 12 feet. It’s not like we lost a lot of snow. November brought us a couple of plow-able accumulations, but we never had more that 4 or 5 inches on the ground, excluding a few drifts that made it to twice that depth. But there isn’t much left in the way of snow anymore.

The mid-40s (F) all day yesterday and overnight last night have softened the once-frozen ground and turned the paddocks into their classic spring mud messiness. It is hard to judge the effectiveness of our drain tile with the current situation, because the ground seems frozen in some places and not so in others. I’m confident that our changes have helped to some degree. Ultimately, what the drain tile is expected to improve is the time it takes to dry out after the source of moisture ceases.

This situation is temporary, as it will return to freezing in a day or two. That will give the horses a break from the sloppiness. I don’t know if it bothers them as much as it does us, but it sure looks and sounds miserable when they trudge through the muck.

This morning they seemed particularly jumpy, I assume from the thickness of the fog, and it had them doing some dramatic running with gusto. When it is muddy, that kind of running kicks up quite a mess. Maybe they actually like that effect.

I took a picture of the drainage swale doing its thing yesterday. Here’s a before and after view of the big meltdown:

DSCN2584eIMG_iP0713e.

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Written by johnwhays

December 14, 2014 at 10:38 am

Inspiring Flow

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IMG_3622eWell, the threatened blast of a winter storm did deliver as predicted overnight Thursday and into Friday morning. We awoke to a white scene-scape with clouds continuing to unleash serious amounts of new snow. I cleared off the front steps first thing, so I could tell how much more we were getting during the daylight hours. Another inch fell in the morning, bringing our total accumulation to 10 inches. As soon as falling snow started to let up, I headed out to plow.

With temperatures following the storm predicted to rise well above freezing, all I needed to do was clear a path down the middle of the driveway. The sun would take care of the rest. Unfortunately, that simple task was made more complicated by how heavy and sticky the snow was.

IMG_3620eAnother unfortunate thing about the snow is how exponentially more muddy it has made the paddocks. It’s getting to be quicksand-like mud out there. I expect to be working on re-forming and re-opening a lot of drain channels today.

I opened the one on the back side of the barn yesterday, which involves shoveling out the slushy snow that causes the melt water to stand in place. Once the water has an open channel, it really starts flowing. In a major coup of drainage improvement, the water was not only traveling past the paddock, but even beyond the round pen before heading down toward the main drainage path. That is a great sign that my hopes for minimizing the water from above which previously drained into areas we don’t want it, can be realized. I didn’t think that was possible without more significant re-landscaping.

As good as that was, it wasn’t the highlight of my day. We have rigged one other trick to manage water runoff, and yesterday was the first time it was truly put to the test. We have placed one of our 100 gallon oval watering troughs beneath the downspout of the new gutter on the paddock side of the barn, and attached a garden hose to drain the tub. The hose is long enough to reach about three-quarters of the length of the paddock, where I have placed it into that flow channel from behind the barn.

It is working as well as I wished it could. Maybe even better. Now all the water from the barn roof that used to end up passing through the paddocks is going to be diverted around. That is a huge amount of water and will really help improve the condition of our paddocks. It’s inspiring!

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Written by johnwhays

April 6, 2014 at 6:00 am

No Rest

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IMG_3596eWe are now in the season of mud and ice. In the mornings, everything that was squishy and flowing the night before ends up frozen solid. Morning is the best time to get certain things done that require traffic in our wettest areas. After the sun shines on the ground for any length of time, travel around here gets pretty sketchy. I don’t know how the horses put up with it.

Well, actually, I do know one way they deal with it. They lay down and roll in the mud. Shortly after being brushed yesterday, 3 of the 4 laid down and massaged their backs with the manure laced mud. It does wonders for Legacy’s light complexion.

Yesterday was a day of chores for us, and we were blessed by a visit from Elysa and Anne, who helped out with several tasks. In addition to brushing the horses and helping Cyndie clean part of one paddock, they joined us up on the hill of the big field where we took early action on the recently exposed ground.

There were piles of manure that needed to be spread out and broken up, sticks to be collected and removed, weeds to be cut down, and pasture grass seed to be spread. We are hoping to improve the potential of growing desirable grasses, with less weeds, so we can cut it for hay.

The highlight of the day for me was getting water to flow off our property and into the drainage ditch along our southern border. We were getting little rivers of water running from everywhere as the snow melted, but toward the lower portions of our land, it was spreading out and pooling up in the slushy snow that remained. I took a spade shovel and headed down there with Delilah.

The water was almost over my boots in some places, making it quite a challenge to navigate digging a channel out of the slush to provide the water with a straight shot into the creek of runoff that was now flowing along our property border. Because of the way water-follows-water, I like to give it a path that creates enough momentum of flow that the uphill pools get pulled down to fill the void. It’s a lot like priming a pump.

But flowing water is fickle, and if the momentum is slowed by a dam of slush that collects, the water is more than happy to pick an alternate route, or it may simply stop flowing altogether.

The last chore we squeezed into the day was painting the drywall of our new storage room. It got a coat in the morning and another one after dinner to get ready for the finishing touches by our builder this week.

It was the kind of day that leaves you needing another day of the weekend, so you can take a day off to recover. The problem with that is, if we had another day of the weekend, we’d likely end up using it to get even more chores done. There is no rest for the weary.

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Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2014 at 6:00 am

Directing Flow

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While walking through the muddy driveway in front of the barn I noticed that one of the “fixes” I tried last fall to control runoff appeared to still be doing the job this spring. Previously, the water on the barn-side of the hay shed would flow straight across the drive path into the paddock. I made a little channel at a diagonal across the driveway in hopes of directing the flow toward the far side of the paddock.

IMG_3514eWith all the snow piled up beside the driveway, there was nowhere for the water to go, so it began to pool up. I grabbed a shovel and set about remedying that situation. While I was working on it, Delilah showed up to help. She had already been racing through the mud that is beginning to appear in several places, so I guess I should be happy she likes playing in the puddles, too.IMG_3518e

When it was time to head in, Delilah was a mess. Aaaah, spring. She has already started digging up the dirt that is becoming exposed at the front two corners of the hay shed. She appeared to be trying to get as dirty, muddy, and wet as was possible in the short time she had to run free after I got home and let her out of her daytime kennel.

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2014 at 6:00 am

Day’s Difference

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Here are the images I took on Tuesday morning, after the overnight dump of almost a foot of snow. It is hard to get an exact measure of the total amount, because, it is so heavy and wet, it compacts on itself as it accumulates.

When I left for work on Tuesday, the road beyond our driveway had only been plowed one-lane wide. That made it really nerve-wracking to climb the hills, not knowing what might be approaching from the other side. Luckily, there was no other traffic at that hour.

By the time Cyndie left, the plow had made another pass, and she discovered that it blew our mailbox off its post, again. With how heavy the water-logged snow was, it didn’t surprise me one bit to hear.

Next winter, I may need to strap that mailbox down, or I may be repairing it after every heavy snowfall. The plastic platform on top of the post, which is where a mounting screw is supposed to find purchase, is showing signs of wear, after the two dramatic failures this year.

When I got home from work yesterday, I re-mounted the mailbox, and then pumped up the tires on the new trailer, putting it to work moving firewood. I hauled the last of the split wood that the sellers had left stowed under the eve of the barn, moving it up to the wood rack we bought for the deck.

IMG_2109eI took a picture of the trailer in action, which shows how quickly the snow disappears in the late-April sun. What a difference a day makes.

The water run-off was really flowing! I spotted something very interesting while inspecting how well it was running off the plowed field to the north of our property, and into our ditch, where a culvert runs under the driveway.

Just to the left of where the water was flowing in a concisely defined stream, there was a small pool that appeared to be bubbling up from the ground. I figured it was an optical illusion, and that it was just more of the flow through the grassy area.

I hopped from the edge of the driveway, through the flowing water, to get across the ditch, for a closer inspection. I moved all the grass away, to verify there was no above-ground stream feeding this flow. Sure enough, this water was bubbling up from below grade. I stuck my boot down into it, but didn’t really feel anything noteworthy.

That served to cloud up the water with the silty soil. Most revealing was how quickly that cloudiness was replaced by the very clear water that was flowing up from below. This was a classic example of what I had read about, where the spring appears when the ground in the area is saturated with water. I will keep an eye on it, checking to see how quickly after things dry up around here, the water ceases to flow from that spot.

I’m guessing it won’t be running for very long. And, if I discover that I am wrong about that, I’d be delighted.

Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2013 at 7:00 am