Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trees

A Chance

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Have you noticed the lone lopsided tree left standing to the right of the ones we took down over the weekend? A number of people have suggested it would make sense to cut that one down, too.

There are plenty of reasons it would be a logical choice, but who am I to let logic get in the way of my emotions?

One key reason I am letting it stand is that it isn’t dead. Not yet, anyway. It has carved out its meager existence and endured despite the shadow of the larger tree. Now that it is no longer crowded out, I’d like to see how it will respond.

I want to give it a chance to take advantage of the unobstructed afternoon sunlight and the uncontested space to spread out in every direction. It is very birch-like, but I haven’t specifically identified it. Black birch, maybe.

What does it cost me to wait a year or two to find out if it shows signs of renewed vigor? Just some ongoing questioning of my decision-making process, but that’s something I can tolerate.

Cyndie and I were surveying the space left after the trees were removed and discussed whether it would make sense to transfer some of the multitudes of volunteer maple seedlings that sprout all around our place each spring.

It’s an odd little corner of our property. The primary drainage ditch that nicely defines the southern border for most of the span of our open fields takes a little turn inward and orphans a fair-sized triangle of grass up to the road. The neighbor to the south is more than happy to tend to it, and he cuts that grass when cutting his adjacent strip along a cornfield there.

Honestly, I have reasons to believe he would consider it madness to plant new trees in that spot. He once offered to come cut down trees behind our house to create a larger space of lawn for us. Our opinions of what is more valuable are in stark contrast.

If we plant new trees, we will start by placing them along, or close to, the drainage ditch. I’m happy to work slowly and give him time to adjust to our changes.

The chickens show no sign of needing time to adjust. They showed up instantly when we drove to one of our trails to distribute a load of wood chips. I think they wanted to help spread them around.

In reality, what they were really doing was, scratching away the chips to get down to the dirt below, which was comical. They could do that anywhere. In fact, it would be easier to do it where we hadn’t just laid down a new cover of wood chips. Instead, they looked as though the new chips were a real bonus.

I’ll give them the benefit of doubt. Maybe there were bugs in the chips that dropped to the dirt below as soon as the chips got tossed on the trail.

There is a chance there is a logical method to their madness.

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

Prepping Machines

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It seems like it should be simple to just cut down a couple of trees and grind the branches into chips, but there are a lot of little steps to setting up and actually executing the tasks.

After work yesterday, I set about prepping some of the equipment, in hopes of priming this morning’s start on this weekend’s logging project. The chipper attachment was stored a couple levels deep in the shop garage. I needed to do some rearranging before I could get access to it.

The back-blade was still on the big tractor, so the first order of business was to find somewhere out-of-the-way to park that.

Except, that wasn’t actually the first order of business. I decided to move the Grizzly out, to make room for fueling up the New Holland, and in so doing, ended up driving the ATV down to the barn to hook up its trailer.

After that, I was finally ready to back Big Blue out of the garage and get rid of the back-blade.

Once that was done, I hooked up the chipper to the 3-point hitch and parked the rig in the barn.

Next, I started collecting equipment I would want to haul to the work site in the ATV trailer.

Chainsaw. Check.

Chain oil, mixed gas, wedge, face shield, leg protectors, ropes, come-along, chains, pole saw, log holder, hand saw, ax, spare ear muffs/hearing protection, ladder, rake, branch pruner… and if I can find it, a kitchen sink.

Still, there will end up being a need for some item that I forgot to bring. Honestly, one goal of bringing so much down there is so that we won’t need it. I’m not above using a little reverse psychology with the universe.

My hope is to have tedious setup tasks taken care of in advance to get full benefit of volunteer help for cutting limbs of felled sections of trees, feeding branches into the chipper, and cutting trunks into logs. If we are really productive, there will be the added chores of driving loads of woodchips away and dumping them, or hauling logs up to the woodshed.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity for hearty fellowship in the great outdoors and an outcome of safe and healthy success for all bodies involved, particularly the discs of my lower back.

I don’t want to get too greedy, but some time for good-natured banter around a fire with people’s favorite beverage after a day’s physical workout would be a fine outcome, too.

I’m just sayin’.

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Written by johnwhays

December 1, 2017 at 7:00 am

Open Call

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Dear Twin Cities friends and family, if you have been longing to get out in the fresh air of the countryside to put in a good day’s work helping take down a couple of dead trees, I have an opportunity for you!

On either Friday or Saturday this week, depending on the availability of a majority of hoped-for volunteers, I am plotting to finally bring down a crown of dead branches located at a particularly prominent front corner of our property.

It doesn’t appear be a complicated project, but it has potential to be a chore that many hands will greatly ease and likely expedite.

My plan involves using a chainsaw to cut down each of the 5 “trunks” sprouting from the common base of the first tree, and then grinding the multitude of small branches in our chipper. We will point the chute of the chipper into the bed of our pickup truck and haul the bounty to the storage nook by the labyrinth garden.

Any limbs larger than 5-inches diameter will be cut for firewood and hauled up to be stacked beside the wood shed.

When the first tree is out of the way, we will toss a rope into the second tree and repeat the routine with that skeleton.

The weather forecast six days out is looking promising to accommodate outdoor work.

Volunteers will be rewarded with food from Cyndie’s kitchen, your choice of take-home bags of wood chips or Wintervale soul-soil, and an invigorating workout in the great outdoors with bountiful good fellowship.

If you are ready, willing, and able for this one-day lumberjacking adventure, let me know as soon as you can.

Be all that you can be.

Just do it.

Advance and be recognized.

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

Eradication Season

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It’s that time of year again. The invasive Common Buckthorn becomes much more exposed in early November, when the leaves of the desirable trees have just dropped to the ground. The deep green buckthorn leaves hang around long enough to make them easy to find.

I have taken a crack at this every fall since we arrived here, and I still get surprised to discover some really tall trees in our woods that have obviously been missed.

Yesterday, Cyndie offered to do most of the strenuous work if I took Delilah and walked the woods with her, pointing out which green leaves to eradicate. It’s not a perfect science, because there is one other bush that holds leaves this late, and its leaves are just barely less green than the buckthorn.

The challenge is compounded by Cyndie’s insatiable urge to wield the pruner with reckless abandon.

As persistent as the buckthorn invader can be at taking over the understory of our oak and maple forests, I take satisfaction in the comparison between our property and the neighbor’s. I have seen no effort to clear their property, and the results just become more obvious every year.

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Those views above are from one spot on our trail. On the left, looking into the neighbor’s land, and on the right, ours.

I would say, our efforts are proving worthy.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Rare Find

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Very few people ever get a chance to see the rare skunk tree in its natural environment. I was taking a shortcut through our woods now that the leaves are down and snuck up behind this specimen before he was able to hide his stripe.

Actually, I think it may have been a Halloween costume. Ever wonder what the trees in the forest are up to when no one is around?

The woods did seem a little spookier than usual last night.

At least it didn’t smell like a skunk outside.

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Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2017 at 6:00 am

Five Years

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Happy Anniversary, Wintervale!

This week, five years ago, is when we made the big leap from the suburbs in Minnesota to the rolling countryside of west-central Wisconsin. We only moved about an hour east, but in many ways, we are a world away from our previous life.

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There is so much that I didn’t have a clue about in October of 2012 when we committed to this new adventure. Actually, that is one thing I was very certain about, …that I didn’t have any idea what would happen next.

In the five years since, we accomplished a remarkable number of things, most of them made up as we went along. There was no grand five-year plan, just a vague idea of what we thought we could do. It has really been more of a case of multiple one-year plans, each one blossoming into the next.

Honestly, we’ve had a remarkable number of successes that have fueled inspirations to take on whatever next possibility showed up in the light of each additional day.

The idea that we could even end up here in the first place was born even further back than five years ago, in September of 2010 when we traveled to Portugal to meet Ian Rowcliffe. Ian’s insights, wisdom, and initiative to nurture his Forest Garden Estate planted a seed in us that has blossomed into what Wintervale Ranch is today.

We also give a lot of credit to Tom and Sue Sherry, who helped design our layout and fencing, doing the work under their company, Best Built Fence, but becoming friends, as well. They deftly interpreted our dreams to devise a real world layout that suited us perfectly.

Honorable mention goes to nature, itself. The four seasons, the extremes of weather, and the march of time have done the most to shape this land since we arrived. From the onslaught of 18 inches of heavy, wet spring snow in the first days of May, 2013, to the flash-flooding rains of 2017, many changes are forced upon us whether we want them, or not.

The simple growth of trees becomes a striking reference of change through a span of five years.

I didn’t find an exact matching shot, but this recent picture of the mailbox with the Wintervale flag and signs caught a corner of one tree by the road that has tripled in size.

Can you spot it in the picture on the left above, to the right of the moving van backing up the driveway?

We’ve come a long way in five years, baby. Now, without a break, we are jumping into our sixth and everything is just going to keep on growing.

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Written by johnwhays

October 20, 2017 at 6:00 am

Forest Find

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While Cyndie and I were perusing our woods, collecting materials for the stick fence we are making, I came upon a very picturesque tree. Well, the remains of a tree.

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As much as we like to clean out downed branches in an effort to tidy up our woods, it’s nice to find occasional examples of nature’s course playing out without our, at times, overbearing intervention.

There is something very satisfying about seeing an old tree turning back into the dirt from which it grew.

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2017 at 6:00 am