Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trail maintenance

Trimming Trail

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Our property has been getting spruced up in preparation for a workshop Cyndie is hosting today. In the middle of my workday yesterday, I received a message from Cyndie that there was a tree leaning across one of our trails that she wanted me to clear when I got home.

Oh, yeah. I remember neglecting to take care of that for the last three weeks.

The tree was actually small enough that I decided to use a hand saw to bring it down the rest of the way. It just took enough forethought to finally have a saw in my possession when I walked deep into the woods.

The walk to get there was difficult enough through areas of the trail that were getting overgrown that I switched tools after the trees and branches were dispatched and got to work with the Stihl trimmer.

It brought to mind that moment six years ago when I was shopping for that trimmer with very limited knowledge about what I wanted to buy. I suddenly realized that I had lucked into a salesperson at the hardware store who was less into selling and more into how things worked.

I was talking to the mechanic who fixes equipment, not some kid who works the cash register and helps people find things in the store. I remember telling the guy about the property we recently moved to and how that quickly led him to the size trimmer we should have. I took his word for it.

He said we would be able to run this motor full speed all day long and it wouldn’t suffer one bit. I didn’t imagine we would ever need to push a tool that hard.

Now, when we spend hours upon hours running that trimmer at full tilt, I understand where that mechanic was coming from. He steered me to the right machine for our needs.

When it was new, that guard piece was bright orange. Not so much anymore.

As too often happens, I was within about ten yards of the end of one trail when the trimmer engine ran out of fuel. I took a break for dinner.

It’s not easy to discern the vast level of improvement in this shot of one section I completed, but after Cyndie and Delilah took a walk toward the end of the day, I received a pretty good rating about the freshly cleared pathways.

I’ll take that as a win.

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Trail Inspirations

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After a second visit on Saturday for pure maple syrup and pancakes, Cyndie enlisted the artistic energies of visiting Williams girls, Ella and Sarah, to decorate some of the new blocks before we placed them on the trail.

It’s a bit of a shame that their designs will all too quickly be subject to the abuses of plodding muddy boots and paws, but that won’t stop the creative exclamations from still offering glimpses of inspiration to passersby.

The 60 new blocks paved another 8.5 feet of sloppy trail, but we’re still going to need a lot more pallets if we want to cover the length of perpetually wet ground down there.

The picture I used yesterday to show the blocks on the trail was from October of 2016. Yesterday, Cyndie took a picture with the newest blocks in the foreground, which is actually viewing in the opposite direction from the first image.

It’s not an exact comparison, but I like seeing one next to the other.

Can you see how far in the distance the old blocks run in the picture on the right?

2016

2018

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Reminds me a little of the yellow brick road. Oh my!

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Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Pallet Reuse

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You may recall that I built our chicken coop using wood predominantly gathered from pallets I salvaged at my workplace. Even though our coop is complete, the pallets keep coming. At the day-job, equipment arrives mounted to brand new pallets that the manufacturer doesn’t want returned.

I hate to imagine the wood pallets getting discarded after just one short shipping journey, so I continue to look for ways we can use them on the ranch.

One immediate need is in improving the footing on our trails where the surface is frequently such a muddy mess that you could lose a shoe if not careful.

The pallets I bring home from work have four blocks nailed on top which make it difficult to stack things on them, like bales of hay. Since that is a primary use for the pallets, my first project in reuse involves removing the blocks.

The pallets almost always arrive in sets of three, and my knack for procrastination plays out in a tendency to wait to remove the top blocks until some later time. Yesterday, being warm and sunny, turned out to be one of those later times.

Turns out our collection of pallets had grown to 15. That just so happens to mean 60 blocks, all power-nailed to the planks on the pallets. My right arm got a decent workout swinging the 3-pound hammer against the pry bar.

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Today we hope to extend the “paved” portion of muddy trail with the newly harvested blocks.

After that, the plan is to put up the temporary protective fenced courtyard around the chicken coop in preparation for the chicks first ventures out on real earth.

I wonder if a certain fox will be spying on us while we work…

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2018 at 10:09 am

Stacking Wood

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I’m a little behind where I prefer to be with staging firewood for a year away, so today we took a hint from the snowy weather and gave the shed some overdue attention. First, we started by stocking the wood rack on our deck with this year’s firewood, which cleared out the last of the space on the left side of the wood shed.

That allowed me to put new pallets in for a floor where I had previously used wood blocks. After digging out the old blocks, and pulling similar ones off the new pallets, we hauled them down to the woods to use on our trail.

As far as projects go, these were pretty small steps, but accomplishing them provided a large psychological boost. It paves the way for me to focus exclusively on splitting and stacking firewood to fill the rest of the shed.

Achieving that is a goal I’d like to complete in November.

Somebody remind me in about a month that I wrote this here.

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

Beyond Me

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For me, building our chicken coop was a stretch. I’d never tried any construction project of that magnitude before, and I was choosing to work from found materials and without a blueprint. It was a small miracle it turned out as well as it did.

Now, Cyndie is telling me we need to modify it to have a divider that will allow us to introduce unfamiliar birds to the existing flock of three. Today, a functional version of her vision is completely beyond me. I have no idea how I will secure all the nooks and crannies with chicken wire to a point where two unfamiliar flocks of birds will co-exist for a while in that one coop.

On to something I can do. Yesterday, I put the old F150 to work doing double duty. First, it was a road trip to the cities to pick up a load of unwanted used pavers from a staff member at the day-job. Drew was nice enough to offer them up for free if I would go to his place and make them disappear.

I had a plan to use them on one of the muddy spots on our trail through the woods. Before I could get to that step, I needed to reclaim a pile of rock that I had stumbled upon when creating a path to the new chicken coop last year. There was an old rusty box stove in the woods that I believe was used to boil syrup. It looked to be generations old, and the area around it had some old busted cinder blocks and a pile of landscape rocks.

Those rocks would serve nicely to fill a spot in the trail that tends to puddle, so before setting the new paver pieces in place, I wanted to transfer the rocks.

The chickens showed up to help, but were almost too eager to get after the creepy crawling creatures revealed when I scooped a shovel-full. They were more interference than they were helpers, but they sure are cute to have as company.

While the hours of the day vanished, one after the other, I hustled to get the pavers moved out of the truck. We had an appointment to pick up a load of hay around dinner time.

Hoping to minimize the handling, I wanted to transfer from the truck to the ATV trailer so I could deliver pavers directly to the path in the woods.

After a cursory two trips of distributing pavers, I had a good start on the trail, but needed to stack the rest up by the shop for use at a later time. The appointed hay hour was fast approaching.

Given this morning’s new assignment with the chicken coop, I am thoroughly enjoying the mental ease and physical feasibility of yesterday’s projects. New hay is stacked in the shed and pavers cover the muddy trail.

Next time it rains I’ll be excited to walk the enhanced surface of the trail at the bottom of the hill.

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2017 at 9:31 am

Mud Happens

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It’s that time of year. One good reason we want woodchips for our trails is the mudfest we are faced with in low areas and avenues where ground water makes its way down to these lower areas.

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There is a trick to getting the woodchips, though. You need to get to the piles of branches without getting stuck in the mud!

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The ground looked innocuous enough, subtly covered with turf. Beneath that facade of grass hid a soft soup of mushy mud that pulled the tractor tires ever-deeper with each attempt to move either forward or back.

Ultimately, Cyndie and I outsmarted the soft soil with precisely placed scraps of wood fence posts behind the tires while I manipulated the loader bucket to push the tractor backwards.

I think it’s going to take a long time to replace the divots along that stretch. It’s going to need to wait until the mud gets a lot less soupy for real repairs to take hold.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2017 at 9:16 am

Some Progress

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I’m pretty sure I mentioned that the cleanup from our late winter tree trimming was going to be such an extensive project it would take the full summer to accomplish. I think that under-estimates the size of the project. One reason is the number of downed branches that were in our woods before we added to it with the trimming.

As we start the process of collecting branches from the trimming, it leads to a seemingly unending supply of other downed wood that also deserves to come out. We spent most of the morning yesterday cleaning out the section of woods where I had pulled down the three leaning widow-makers last summer.

This created monstrous new piles on the edge of the trail.

After lunch, I brought out the tractor and chipper to get down to business. We started in the back yard where the smaller maple tree branches were in three reasonable piles. With so much to do, I probably was trying to go too fast. Not paying enough attention to the exit chute, I was still feeding branches in after a plug had formed.

The spinning blades of the chipper will continue to pulverize the wood into dust. The dust finds any opening to escape and a cloud starts to form around the machine. That part finally got my attention. Oops.

After a significant delay to open the unit up and remove the plug and scraps wrapped around the spindle, we got back into the groove and made reasonable progress. By the end of the day, we hadn’t made it around to the two newest piles we stacked in the morning, but we converted one of the oldest piles in the woods into a mini-mountain of chips.

As much as I’d like to have our entire property done all at once, I’m working to accept the partial progress as good enough. Getting the chips spread along the trail helps to serve as a nice reward that soothes my angst in the mean time.

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Written by johnwhays

April 8, 2017 at 8:58 am