Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trail maintenance

Big Impact

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In the end, the storm that started Sunday night with that quick downpour I wrote about in yesterday’s post reverberated throughout the rest of the overnight hours with multiple waves of thunder, lightning, hail, wind, and rain, and dumped so much water it overflowed our 6-inch rain gauges. We collected over seven inches of rain in about 18-hours. A little to our northeast, the official total was over nine inches.

That kind of precipitation in such a short amount of time tends to have a big impact. My commute in the morning yesterday passed flooded farm fields, filled ditches, and creeks flowing so far beyond their banks they looked like lakes. I precariously crawled my Crosstrek through two sections of local roads where water was flowing across the pavement and skirted around several medium-sized branches that had fallen onto one of the lanes.

While I was at work, Cyndie texted to report our power was out and water was puddling on our basement floor. The basement leak was a first in the time since we’ve been here. Time to check our gutters for clear and proper function.

News reports started to materialize depicting the significant impact of flooding in multiple communities near to us. Roads were closed, families evacuated from their homes, cars swept off the road and occupants found standing on their vehicle rooftops in the adjacent ditch. The way the valleys around local creeks flood after downpours brings to mind the historical flood I wrote about from when my ancestors lived nearby.

Surveying our woods after things calmed down yesterday, Cyndie found the boardwalk we created suffered some disruption.

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It’s just enough disturbance to frustrate us, but compared to a lot of other flood damage possibilities, not all that onerous.

I looked out the window and noticed an upturned stump I’d never seen before.

Luckily, that tree tipped away from our house and toward the woods.

Cyndie spent much of the afternoon moving furniture and mopping up in the basement. We still need to check the shingles for hail damage.

We are hoping no additional damage will be revealed and things will dry up before the next round of precipitation moves in.

A little peace and quiet would be a welcome change about now.

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Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2020 at 6:00 am

Special Report

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How many times do we have to hear the “special” announcements before we grow numb? I can’t answer that because I wasn’t counting last week when the numbness began to set in. During these “uncertain times” affecting everyone in the world, businesses that are scrambling to adjust are all issuing announcements of what they are doing to be safe, stay safe, help you, help others, unfortunately, to the point of becoming downright annoying.

It is my civic duty to assure all readers that Relative Something is striving to do everything possible to assure that all posts are maintaining a proper social distance and avoiding going to restaurants or concerts until this crisis is over. Epidemiologists are confident that reading blog posts is unlikely to pose unreasonable risks of transfer of the coronavirus, so feel free to spend extra time during your sheltering at home to visit the “Previous Somethings” archive to rediscover what the world was like before 2020.

Yesterday, in effort to clean up some of the mud-saster around here, Delilah and I –well, mostly me, she just sat nearby and stared toward the chickens in the woods– dismantled six pallets to reclaim enough lumber for extending the boardwalk on one of our trails by about seven rows.

You can see a difference one day makes when it comes to spring snow. The white stuff has melted, but that leaves behind a wet, muddy mess for trail conditions.

Actually, it was frozen this morning due to low overnight temperatures, so we hauled a wheelbarrow full of the blocks down into the woods before breakfast. The reward for that effort resulted in a special condition on Delilah’s hairy legs that I call “mudcicles.”

The doggie towels we keep at the front door for drying her feet when we come in from a walk aren’t able to wipe off all the frozen mud stuck in the long hairs on the back of her legs. That tends to slowly melt off around the house over the following hour after we come in.

Luckily, since I am home alone and am not able to host any guests during the pandemic crisis, I simply pretend not to notice how gross the house is becoming. When I try communicating with others in the world via Zoom or FaceTime, I just make sure to keep the camera pointing well above the floor.

Rest assured, despite the thin coating of silt covering every flat surface of the house, the risk of transmission of the coronavirus continues to remain unlikely.

Stay safe while washing your hands everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2020 at 9:56 am

Tree Cleared

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We took full advantage of being home on Labor Day and put in some hard labor on one of our trails in the woods yesterday. Standard procedure on a day I intend to mow involves finding something to do for a few hours in the morning while the dew dries off the grass. In this instance, it was time to remove the big tree that still hung across one of our trails.

The project required a lot of preliminary trimming of several other trees that had tipped over on our neighbor’s property. There was quite a tangled mess of branches.

At one point, when I allowed the saw blade to get pinched, Cyndie took advantage of her super-human strength to free it. While I stood grumbling and contemplating what ingenious method I was going to employ to get enough leverage to force open the cut I had started, Cyndie volunteered to push up on the horizontal tree trunk.

I told her she was welcome to try, but that it was probably a couple of hundred pounds more than we could lift. Luckily, she had no clue how heavy it would be, so she had no sense that it wouldn’t be worth a try. I was sure it weighed more than I could lift, so I didn’t even make an attempt.

Cyndie pushed on the trunk and it shifted just enough that I was able to pull the saw free.

It seems to me that I could probably benefit from being a little less certain about what I think I already know.

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By noon we had the trail cleared and I was able to move on to mowing grass. I wish I could say that would be the last time I mowed the lawn this season, but I fully expect growth to continue throughout the month. Maybe, at the very least, the amount of time between mowings will expand so I don’t have to deal with it every seven days.

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Written by johnwhays

September 3, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Hand

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Circumstances had me home alone again last night, so I talked Delilah into helping me clear some of the smaller trees that had fallen across our trails, doing the sawing the old fashioned way: by hand. I will try not to hurt myself, patting my own back in pride over once more resisting the urge to use the chainsaw when no one else is around.

Work safe!

The first tree we came upon seemed to be in an advanced state of decay, so I hoped it would be a quick cut. Yeah, …that didn’t come true. The outer circumference was very spongy, but the inside was totally solid wood. Delilah was very patient while I took several breaks to rest my arms.

The second tree was higher off the ground, so that offered a chance to stand up while sawing, but it also had a lot of branches that ultimately led to more cutting.

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Delilah was a great help, standing guard up the trail to make sure no one entered the work area while I was cutting. Using the hand saw, I was able to clear three trees and turn a 10-minute job into an hour-long project. My helper didn’t even complain that our lumberjacking expedition cut into her regularly scheduled evening meal time.

She probably appreciated the greatly improved look of the trail so much that a little food delay was easily accepted.

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The big tree that remains across the trail is high enough up, it gives an appealing impression of an intentional arbor. Maybe I’ll leave it there for a while. I could let the vines that are growing hog-wild everywhere cover it up for increased aesthetic value.

Cyndie and I are short enough that neither of us needs to duck to pass under it, but people taller than us might feel it is a little too low to have left where it fell.

If anyone complains, I’ll just say it was too big for my little folding hand saw.

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Written by johnwhays

July 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Another One

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We have been very lucky recently that the most violent of the stormy weather passing through our region has been missing us. Instead of 4 or 5 inches of rain, we have had 1.75 inches. Despite the wild panic Delilah has demonstrated over rumbles of thunder that occurred, no lightning strikes have hit nearby. Most worrisome for me over the weekend were reports of 70 and 80 mph wind gusts combined with golfball to baseball-sized hailstones crashing down.

That never materialized here. Still, for some strange reason, we continue to experience falling trees. On Saturday, I posted about the tree that fell on Friday, even though I wasn’t aware we had experienced any storm. By the end of that same day, there was another even bigger busted tree hanging across that same trail.

We didn’t hear that one, either.

It’s becoming an obstacle course to navigate that trail through the woods. Cyndie was away all weekend, so I respected our agreement to avoid using the chain saw when I’m alone and left the three downed trees across the path for the time being.

It’s probably only marginally safer to use the wood chipper, but I elected to work with that yesterday morning while I waited for the overnight dew to evaporate from the really long lawn grass. Mowing the lawn became the afternoon project.

The professional crew we hired to bring down that big oak that toppled, cut it up and left everything lay right where it was, which saved us a lot of money. Now I’m having second thoughts about those savings. Wrestling the branches to get them into and down the chute of the chipper is a real chore if the “Y” junctions aren’t trimmed.

It is a “pay me now or pay me later” process. I don’t want to spend time cutting every last branch, so I spend the time instead, trying to force the branches far enough down the chute to where the chipper will grab and break them.

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Most of the cut logs are so big I can’t lift them. They will get rolled downhill to where I can get them in the ATV trailer to be moved up by the woodshed for splitting.

The chickens seem to like scratching through the pile of wood chips. I have no idea what they were finding in there.

I will be very surprised if I don’t end up with a poison ivy reaction after that exercise. Right where I stood to feed the chipper, there was a known patch of poison ivy. I expect it was getting on the branches I was grabbing, it was probably getting atomized by the chipper, I was likely breathing it, and wiping sweat off my face with gloves that handled it.

I washed down thoroughly afterward, but time will tell whether I was being stupidly careless, or that my previous recent exposures with sequentially reduced reactions were an indication that my sensitivity is fading. I should know in a day or two.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

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