Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘splitting wood

Please No

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Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.

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Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Happy Splitting

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With additional flurries making their way across our region overnight, I didn’t waste time yesterday cleaning up the random inch or two of snow that had accumulated over the previous week. That will be today’s project.

Instead, I made my way back to the wood shed to put in some quality time splitting firewood.

Hoping to keep me from wandering off to some other more enticing opportunity, in case the splitting didn’t turn out to be rewarding enough, I decided to build a fire.

It helped to create an inviting atmosphere and an occasional distraction which enticed me stay on the task for most of the day. Working alone, my momentum wasn’t very consistent, so the day-long effort only produced a fraction of a day’s result, but it proved to be mentally rewarding.

Any progress is good progress.

Throughout the process of trying to make piles of logs disappear, it occurred to me how our focus changes depending upon what we are trying to achieve. When cutting limbs and branches of a fallen tree, the goal is to get the wood into manageable pieces, working at whatever angle is available. The focus is on not getting the saw pinched or having a limb fall on you.

When my focus shifts to splitting, I want logs with a flat, square cut that will stand nicely on the base of my splitter. It would be great if I had avoided leaving a joint right in the middle of the piece, too. When splitting, I quickly discover the cutting involved a very different focus.

The same thing happens when I’m plowing snow. In the winter, the goal is to get the snow removed from the driving surfaces. Sure a few rocks might get pushed into the grass. It just isn’t enough of a priority to matter that much.

In the summer, when we are trying to rake all the rocks out of the grass to facilitate mowing, the focus is very different. Suddenly I care a lot more about that detail.

Similarly, when I am stacking wood in the wood shed, I just want to fill it to the top, grabbing whatever odd pieces are in reach and plopping them on the row. As the wood dries, it shrinks. The stack shifts. The wind blows. The stack leans. Eventually, the stack topples over into a messy jumble.

As I am re-stacking the firewood, I always question why I couldn’t take the time to split the logs cleanly so I could stack the pile sturdy enough to hold up.

Pay for it now, or pay for it later.

I wonder what I’m neglecting to appropriately pay for today, that will show up demanding collection later. Gosh, it’s almost like a life lesson.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2017 at 9:35 am

Venturing Out

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Maybe it was the calmness of the morning, or the fact the temperature didn’t drop significantly overnight, but the chickens wasted little time in venturing out from the confines of the coop for me yesterday morning.

Midway through the day, I stopped back to check for eggs and found two of the hens, almost on top of each other, squished into one nesting box. I decided not to bother them, closing the side door and heading off to another project.

With Delilah leashed to the double swing nearby to supervise, I spent some quality time at the wood shed. First, I needed to re-stack the majority of the last row that had blown over in the recent high-wind event. With that under control, I started into splitting some of the newest wood from the tree cut down last weekend.

I think the fact the wood was now frozen helped the logs to snap in two with relative ease. When Delilah’s interest in watching me work came to its unsurprising end, I dropped her off in the house and headed back to the coop to pick eggs.

The Buff Orpington was still sitting in the nest box, but I invaded her space to grab three eggs she was resting on.

After lunch, I headed out to turn two different piles of compost that are still cooking nicely, despite the arrival of the frozen season.

It seems as though the animals have quickly adjusted to the return of “my” routine of care. Intensified time with Delilah and the horses brings me back to my year sabbatical from the day-job when I managed the ranch full-time while Cyndie was working the Anoka-Hennepin contract.

It’s a very fond memory. It’s satisfying to see how quickly the animals seem to recognize the methodical way I do things, easing into the orderly dance of meal time and clean up with me.

Today, the chores have increased in number, as an overnight snow dusting has added to the previous paltry amount, making it hardly worth a plowing, but a messy nuisance if I don’t.

At least I know Cyndie will be sympathetic. She went to D.C., where they’re getting their own dose of snowfall today.

Happy winter!

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Written by johnwhays

December 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

Lazy Day

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I don’t drink alcohol, so I’m guessing my hangover yesterday was from the excessive consumption of calories. The day was uncharacteristically warm, so I nudged myself out the door in hopes of accomplishing some grand feat of property management.

The project requiring the least amount of mental or physical preparation awaits just a short distance beyond our bedroom window. I look at it almost every day, but it has been behind schedule for quite some time. I would like to have the wood shed filled by now, but it is barely over halfway.

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I was out there only a minute or two when the chickens popped in to join me. The climbing sun had me quickly down to a short-sleeved T-shirt while I split and stacked firewood. It was wonderfully satisfying… for about 30 minutes.

Maybe my precarious lumbar discs were a convenient excuse to take a break, but the truth is, it was the whole of me that felt out of gas.

As I pondered the situation while gliding back and forth on the double swing, the view of our horses in the sunshine of the pasture captured my attention.

When all else fails, standing among the horses is one of my favorite options. Joining the horses when I have no agenda other than being with them is so very different from visits to care for them or invite their cooperation for some task. They have total control on what happens, whether they choose to include me, or not.

I wasn’t there very long when my phone rang. Cyndie was wondering where I was and gladly chose to join me in a session of weather worship in the paddock with the herd.

In short order, with the chickens joining the party, we were all quietly communing in the spectacularly lazy November sunshine.

When I first arrived, the horses were actually spread far and wide. Cayenne was out in the front hay-field, Hunter and Dezirea were spread far apart in the middle field, and Legacy was in the middle of the paddock, eyeing the waterer.

As it became increasingly evident I was just hanging around with no agenda, the horses began to migrate back to the paddock, taking turns to greet me as they arrived.

The top of the slope, with the barn for a backdrop, is a prime spot to soak up midday sun. I noticed the two mares had positioned themselves precisely to sneak in a little nap with full broadside exposure to soak up the solar energy without blocking each other.

That was the kind of day my body was up for yesterday.

Filling the wood shed is going to happen in stages this season, it seems.

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Written by johnwhays

November 25, 2017 at 10:31 am

New Parts

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I decided to practice a little preventative maintenance on my log splitter and ordered spare parts before they completely failed. I had noticed that the nylon impact bushing was beginning to deform and one of the washers on the bottom spacer had already fractured.dscn5773e

In a quick search, I found that both of these parts were readily available to extend the life of the product, so I made the buy. In this picture, I’ve already installed the new parts and bagged the old ones, which I’ll store in the off-hand chance of future unexpected failure.

I saw in the review comments for the parts that some folks had the impact bushing fracture. It has helped me to be more aware of how my use of the splitter stresses these parts. I am less driven to pound away on a log that is obviously not giving in to the idea of my wanting it to split.

The temperature was just about to climb above freezing when I started yesterday and the frozen wood was snapping apart with minimum effort. I was thinking I should get Cyndie to record a video to demonstrate how slick this tool is. I’m glad I didn’t, because no sooner than having that thought did my luck swing and the wood changed to stringier oak. I also came to a few Y-shaped pieces. These reveal the amazing strength at that junction which allows branches to support such incredible amounts of weight in big old trees.

You need to pick your angles carefully to convince the wood to separate at the junctions where branches Y off.

When a log is particularly resistant to the intrusion of the Smart Splitter wedge, I employ the added incentive of the orange twisting wedge and some pounding with the traditional splitting maul. It makes for a lot more effort, but I surprise myself by the eventual success I’ve been able to achieve in the face of some pieces that look like they would require the power of a machine.

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I had a nice session of progress, saving a couple of the bigger challenges for later, since my energy had declined as morning turned to afternoon and it was time for some lunch. Later, on my way to another task, I stopped to muscle the last two challenges.

I have incentive to get our current piles of wood split and stacked in the shed. This coming Thursday and Friday is our appointment for the tree trimmers to come cut high branches from our old trees. I’ve instructed them to focus solely on dropping branches that are out of my reach.

I will cut and split, or shred with the chipper, all the wood that comes to the ground so they don’t end up wasting any precious time (or our limited funds) on something I can do later. I think that cleanup project has the capacity to become an ongoing chore that will last me for the rest of the year.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2017 at 10:42 am

A Saturday

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Yesterday was another warm winter day for us. There was a hint of fogginess out the window when morning darkness faded, which suggested that moisture was breaking loose from the confines of ice and snow. Cyndie gifted me a chance to linger in bed by tending the morning routine of taking Delilah out and feeding the horses.

I was able to return the gesture after I got up, as she laid back down to read and put herself back into sleep mode, falling into a late-morning nap. I cleaned the kitchen of the tools she had used to whip up a delectable batch of fresh blueberry muffins, and then took Delilah outside where I was planning to play lumberjack.

It was warm, and the hint of fogginess was becoming just plain fog. I had chosen an over-shirt instead of a jacket, but it was too much for me at the get go. I even opened the front of my flannel shirt to cool down as I carried the chainsaw from the shop to the woods behind the house. I was going to cut up more of the limbs of broken trees that litter the hill below the wood shed.DSCN2758e

Cyndie has asked me to refrain from using the chainsaw when I am alone during the week, so Saturday becomes my first chance. Despite the likelihood I was about to shatter her nap, I wanted to take full advantage of my opportunity without further delay. The morning was quickly fading.

The fog was beginning to fade, too. I glanced up from my labor to catch the sun beginning to appear, looking a lot more like a typical view of the moon.

Eventually, Cyndie came out to join me and help process wood that has remained piled here for a couple of years. I now have plenty of wood ready for splitting, a chore I have permission to do when I am home alone.

DSCN2738eBy early afternoon, the air had cleared and there was so much sun and blue sky that I had long since shed the flannel shirt and the horses were laying in the snow. I got the impression they were too hot to exert themselves with any effort, and the cool snow felt good against their bodies.

It felt like a perfect Saturday scene. One that I will remember and revisit when I get back to toiling away at the splitter during the week ahead.

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Written by johnwhays

January 25, 2015 at 10:34 am

Pesky Procrastination

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Yesterday we finally got a break from the bitter cold. For two nights in a row now, we have been able to leave the horses outside all night. That means, I didn’t need to clean out their stalls during the day. Yahoo! They seemed to accept the return to their previous routine without concern, and I gained some flexibility in choosing what to do with the middle of my day.

DSCN2698eI opted for splitting wood. I have been negligent in keeping after that chore. My goal was to have the wood shed filled to the brim this winter, but I’ve yet to make that happen. It’s just too easy to let it slide. Between the December and New Year holiday events, and the extreme cold, there have been plenty of reasons to delay working on it. Particularly, because the wood being stacked now is for burning next year and beyond. I probably already have more than enough for next winter, so some of what is stacked won’t get burned until a year after that.

It isn’t going to make a big difference whether I finish soon, or in another month or two. That is challenging for a person who is more than happy to procrastinate when opportunity allows.

DSCN2700eI clipped Delilah’s leash to one of our glider swings while I worked and after thoroughly scouting her perimeter, she settled down to keep an eye on the horses barely visible through the trees. If your eyesight is good, you just might be able to make out the silhouette of one of the blanketed chestnuts in that image. Delilah certainly had a bead on them.

I wonder if she was pondering why they get to free-graze out there while she is stuck tethered by a leash. She is still a flight risk. She recently failed two brief tests when given freedom to meander.

On Tuesday, while I was clearing the drifted snow off our deck, she got out of sight around the house and set me to whistling and hollering for her. Happily, she returned after not too long, but she had taken advantage of her brief freedom to go find the nastiest velcro-like burrs possible and made sure they got well tangled into her thickest fur beneath the outer hairs of her coat.

I spent much of the rest of that day in damage control, pushing the limits of her tolerance while trying to get them all out. Makes me wish I hadn’t procrastinated pulling up all the weeds that grow burrs last summer.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2015 at 7:00 am