Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trimming

Reclaiming Space

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Picking up where we left off over a month ago, this past weekend we resumed cutting away at the tangle of growth along the hedge wall of our north property line.

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It’s rewarding work, despite how frustrating it is to deal with so many twisted branches locked together by vines. I am forever baffled by how much resistance the littlest of branches offer against attempts to pull them apart.

Usually, the key is to push them further together in order to reposition the catch points before pulling them apart, but that is counterintuitive to the goal of separating them. The natural inclination is to try pulling harder in the assumption that arm muscle is significantly more powerful than the spindly twig junctions.

Now our perimeter walks around the property with Delilah can follow right beside the old barbed wire fence on that length of our north loop.

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Written by johnwhays

November 9, 2020 at 7:00 am

Trimming Time

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dscn5609eAfter last week’s extremely cold weather, the swing of about 60° in the direction of warmer yesterday made our decision of waiting until this week to trim the horses’ hooves seem like a brilliant one. I thought Legacy looked particularly more limber than his usual self and credited it to the warmer temperatures.

Who doesn’t feel less tensed up when first day of winter turns out to be a melty, well-above freezing temperatures day?

Unfortunately this warm up comes with a threat of rain and some thunder in the days ahead, and for some areas near the Mississippi river, a flood warning!

What will they think of next?

George made quick work of the 16 hooves and Anneliese helped me finish the housekeeping in the space beneath the overhang. We were done before the sky turned dark. Pretty impressive for the shortest day of light.

dscn5614eFrom here on through winter, the days will be getting longer. I don’t know about warmer or colder, but they will definitely be getting longer.

Hopefully, they won’t get colder right away. Something is up with our geothermal heating system such that it doesn’t seem to be able to reach the set point.

During the cold snap, it was logical that it couldn’t keep up, but now that it has gotten so much warmer outside, the furnace shouldn’t have to work so hard.

Desirea shows off her new hoof-icure while munching from the slow feeder.

I think the horses are happy to have their blankets off. We’ll see what they think in a few days when rain, not snow, comes down from the sky.

Happy winter!

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Written by johnwhays

December 22, 2016 at 7:00 am

Unchecked Growth

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It had been a while since I made it down to trim the fence line along the south border of our back pasture where it runs through a grove of trees. Some of the weeds were as tall as me. Yesterday, I made it back down there to finish what I started on Friday, before being interrupted to get hay.

The task was made a bit more tedious than I wished by the presence of some monster thistle stalks, which defy the nylon line whipping away at it. More times than I can count, I had to stop and remove the spool from the trimmer to re-feed the line.

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When I made it through to the end of those trees, it was time to mow the lawn. I didn’t want the growth in the yard to get out of hand. However, there were other influences at play which hampered my completion of the job. The mower engine began to balk. Instead of trying to analyze that situation, I parked the mower and returned my attention to the unchecked growth along the far fence line.

I pulled out the diesel tractor with the brush mower to cut down pasture weeds and then moved to the stressful task of mowing between the fence and a drop off to the drainage ditch, a space that is barely wide enough to fit. I also needed to navigate driving down into that ditch without tipping the tractor in order to knock down the growth that can obstruct the runoff we have worked so hard to facilitate.

Succeeding, with only a couple scares where my weight was shifted to the brake when what I really wanted was the clutch under the other foot, I had the worst of the runaway growth on the far fence line knocked down and the ditch opened up just in time for last night’s wild, windy and rainy thunderstorm.

There are leaves and tree parts shrapnel scattered everywhere this morning!

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2016 at 9:46 am

Gorgeous Here

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It is absolutely gorgeous here right now. Among the reasons we chose September for our wedding, the biggest one for me is, it is my favorite time of year. The humid heat of summer is breaking, and the air is crisp, with cool nights and warm days. When the sky is clear, the blueness is exquisite and it’s no longer so necessary to avoid the toasty sunshine. In fact, it practically begs a person to pause and soak it all in.DSCN3968e

The challenge is, there is barely a moment for pause. The daylight grows short and preparation for winter weather requires new projects be added to the list of others already underway or planned. This year, I am feeling as though the growing grass didn’t get the memo about the arrival of September.

It is hard to get ready for winter when summer won’t back off and make room for fall.

I spent most of the afternoon mowing lawn yesterday, after filling that dang right front tire on the tractor with a green slime leak sealant.

Today I face the need to work the power trimmer to knock down the robust growth along edges and fence lines. It’s a chore that resonates of mid-summer responsibilities, with one improvement:

That crisp and gorgeous September air doesn’t cause it to be such a sweaty, sticky job.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2015 at 9:10 am

Many Projects

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It was getting to be about lunch time yesterday when Cyndie disappeared to get some refreshments. I continued to work in the hot sunshine of the paddock, once again choosing to use hand tools and a wheelbarrow to do a job that deserved the tractor. I get rewarded for that because I enjoy the manual process and I get better results than when working a machine.

Not that I don’t sometimes give in and let our machines do some of the work. After lunch, I cranked up the Grizzly ATV and filled the trailer with assorted tools for some trail maintenance in the woods. I used the chainsaw to cut up a fallen tree on one of our trails, and I revved up the power trimmer to clear the rest of that trail.

DSCN3736eCyndie returned with a picnic lunch which we ate beneath the shade of the gazebo, overlooking the newly sanded round pen, to christen the new viewing station. It will work well for the training Cyndie plans to do there. It is rewarding to finally have arrived at the physical reality of something we have been talking about and envisioning for years.

It was Cyndie’s brilliant lunch-time suggestion that moved our attention to the trail in the woods, in order to get a break from the heavy sweating effort we had been putting in to spread the second pile of lime screenings in the bright sunlight.

I finally broke open the plastic cover on a new pole saw and branch trimmer that I bought for some perceived frantic need a month or two ago. The only use I had put it to up until this day was as a tool to remove a fast-growing wasps nest. It worked well for that, too.

DSCN3737eWith the new branch trimmer I was able to make that trail into a thing of beauty. I have learned that a simple trick to give the trail a superb visual appearance is to trim the branches that lean across the trail, as high up as I can reach. When I finished, it looked like a hallway in a cathedral.

Next, I was back on the power trimmer and cleaning along the fence line. It became apparent to me that we have more than enough forage for our 4 horses to graze. They aren’t keeping up on their portion of the mowing. I am going to need to cut parts of the pasture again because they aren’t eating enough of it.

After I emptied a second tank of fuel on the trimmer, I switched projects again, and DSCN3739emoved back to the pile of lime screenings. It was in the shade at that point, and I wanted to get that pile out of the way for the horses. They don’t actually seem to mind it during the day, and someone has been putting hoof prints all over it when we aren’t around, so it seems to me they see it as some kind of jungle gym.

It’s day-2 of the weekend, and we will pick up where we left off last night. More spreading lime screenings, and more fence line trimming. Who knows, maybe even another picnic lunch under the shade canopy.

Happy August, everyone! One day late.

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Written by johnwhays

August 2, 2015 at 6:00 am

Animal Antics

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I’ve been working a few days a week again at the old day-job, at a time when there is much that needs attention at home. The grass seems to double in height every 2 or 3 days in some places. I swear I could mow somewhere every single day and never run out of things to cut.

I finished clearing the lines of electric fence yesterday, but it took jumping into grubby clothes the instant I got home and leaving Delilah in her kennel a little longer than I like. I worked until I used up the gas in the tank and then headed up to rescue the dog and we went to the barn to feed the horses.

DSCN3475eNormally, we pick up their feed pans as soon as they finish, but I just left them and walked Delilah out into the pasture. After unclipping her leash to let her explore freely, I stepped out of a gate and restarted the brush cutter. My progress was slowed a bit by trying to frequently locate Delilah and assure myself she was behaving well.

I was trying to accomplish two things simultaneously, having her get some time running freely to burn off her energy, while also working to finish the trimming. She did a great job of entertaining herself. I noticed that she had made her way back into the paddock area, where the horses were calmly idling.

Delilah grabbed one of her favorite horse toys, an inflated heavy rubber ball with a big handle, and began running around shaking it like she does when I am there attempting to pull it away. The next time I glanced up, I couldn’t immediately spot her. Just as I began to fear she may have crawled under a fence and run off, I realized she was close to one of the horses. From my distance, I couldn’t tell which of the chestnuts it was, but probably either Hunter or Cayenne.

I kept my eyes on them, with Delilah mostly obscured by the wood rails of the fence, concerned that either of them might act out unfavorably. Suddenly Delilah was trotting away, shaking the ball. It looked to me like she was trying to get the horse to play with her in the way that I do. It was pretty cute, but the horse chose not to engage.

As the sun slid behind some low hanging clouds and evening settled in, I successfully finished trimming the last of the electric fence. During one of the several refueling stops that were needed, I had run Delilah up to the house and put out dinner for her and Pequenita. I was able to finish with Delilah in the house, which sped things back up a bit.

As I was dragging myself back to the shop with my arms aching under the load of the trimmer and gas tank, I spotted Dezirea oddly walking through a small batch of young trees near the far fence line. My first thought was to question the strange route, but instantly I got the impression she was using them to scratch her itches.

Then a branch cracked and Cayenne leaped into a panic gallop to get away. Our horses really seem to startle over the sound of a stick breaking. Her reaction spooked Dezirea, who then bolted out from the trees. That got Legacy’s attention, and he galloped after them.

Just as quickly, they all stopped, satisfied they had successfully averted a potential predator, and went back to grazing. I felt like I had pulled a double shift, but having the animals as entertainment while I worked went a long way toward offsetting my day’s-worth of fatigue.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2015 at 6:00 am

Risky Behavior

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I engaged in some risky behavior yesterday, and it was thoroughly pleasing. Regardless the likelihood of exposing myself to the dreaded oil of the poison ivy plant, I did some heavy trimming with our Stihl brush cutter. There is something incredibly satisfying about accomplishing the clean and trimmed look that this tool enables. All those edges that I can’t reach when mowing with our lawn tractor are so quickly dispatched.

Ian will know just what I’m talking about. It was when Cyndie and I were visiting him in Portugal that I discovered what can be accomplished with a brush cutter. There is immediate visual reward for the work and it creates a wonderfully clean landscape.

I needed to get after several areas, but I was primarily needing to clear our fence lines. When things grow tall enough to make contact with our electric fence, they start to put a load on it and that brings the voltage down. I didn’t have enough time to finish the whole chore, but at least I took care of the most visible portions first, so our place looks freshly maintained.

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Still plenty left to do

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Looks great when it’s done!

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There were only a few times when I thought I spotted what could possibly have been poison ivy, but I was shredding away and chose not to stop and try to confirm. Forging ahead, I just made a point to be very careful about what I touched while I worked. When I stopped and came in for lunch, I brushed off as best possible with my gloves, and then washed my arms and hands thoroughly with cold water.

I’ll know in a day or two if I was exposed.

After lunch, at the high point of sunshine for the day, I got up close and personal with one of our very visible known patches of poison ivy, and sprayed it with a new organic weed killer that I had ordered online. Just like the description I received from someone who recommended this brand, the leaves began to wilt within hours. So far, it appears to be working dramatically well.

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I felt a bit embarrassed over how much pleasure I was getting out of seeing that the weed killer was working so well and the plants were suffering, but the risk of being embarrassed is something I am more than willing to accept.

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Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2015 at 6:00 am

Small Steps

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There was a surprise rain shower yesterday morning that saved me from watering the newly seeded drainage swale across the south pasture. It was a little victory for me. I checked the weather radar and spotted the small band of precipitation sliding across the region, but it was not clear that it would pass over us, and didn’t reveal how much rain would fall. In the end, it was more than I expected, after I reconciled the fact it was going to rain on us at all.

I turned over a couple piles of composting manure under the cover of trees until the rain started to fall in earnest. Then I puttered in the shop, putting a new blade on the trimmer in preparation for work clearing growth along the hay-field south fence. That is one of the projects that is currently a priority. I spent a little time in the barn, methodically dumping bags of feed into the bin as the ebb and flow of the varying rainfall rattled the metal roof.

The morning just seemed to disappear. I contacted the fence installer and the landscaper in hopes of initiating their work for us. Both hope to start on Wednesday, but only one said, “Rain or shine.” Another little victory, because the forecast is for rain.

DSCN2440eAfter lunch, some sunshine started to break through, and I headed down with the trimmer to clear along that fence. It wasn’t a big victory, because I only got a short distance, but the progress was worth claiming as a little victory. The going was slow. There are a fair number of downed branches that lie out of sight beneath the tall grass and weeds.

It is surprising how much strength it takes to pull a branch from the grip of blades of grass. It’s like velcro times a thousand. For that matter, pulling an entangled branch from among others is like separating super-strength velcro. When I look back to see what is stopping progress, and it turns out to be the simplest of angled growth hooked on another branch, it seems so unlikely. In this case, it is the branches that seemed to be enjoying little victories at my expense.

The work becomes exhausting. Progress is slowed because it must be made in smaller doses. By taking extra time to cut branches where they “Y” out, I will end up pulling shorter pieces with less entanglements. By cutting smaller strokes with the trimmer, I can reduce the number of times I hit wood or dirt and extend the life of the blade.

When we had the brown-post/4-wire fence installed initially, we stopped short of replacing that existing fence along the southern run. Now we intend to extend that portion. For a variety of reasons, it makes sense to make the improvement complete, not the least of which is, Legacy messes with that section when we let the horses out there because it is not electrified.

If I am able to get the full length of that southern run cleared today, and ready for removal by the fence contractor, I will be happy to claim a BIG victory. It just takes a compilation of many small steps.

Small steps, I can do.

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Written by johnwhays

September 30, 2014 at 7:05 am

Canine Assistant

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It’s cute, really, the way she tries to help me. Some days our dog, Delilah, will appear to make a very conscious effort to participate in the task in which I am engaged. Her participation is usually counter productive, but there was a moment yesterday when she was right on the money with her support to me.

It wasn’t happening when I started the day, tending to our composting manure piles. As I dug down to the base layer in a couple of areas, I kept pulling up sticks that were in that location from before we started dumping there. I pull them out and toss them into the woods. Unfortunately, Delilah’s version of helping was to retrieve those sticks and bring them out into the grassy area so I could hit them with the lawn mower next time I mow.

DSCN2310eAfter the manure pile, we headed down into the woods to put in more time clearing trails. Delilah ran all over the place in excitement over being in the woods. For a while, I figured I had lost her to the neighbor’s property, but she wasn’t gone long and came racing back to me when she did return. Apparently she had been off trying to remove all the burrs from the plants in the woods. What a wonderful helper.

She laid down right beneath where I was working. Normally, I would be extremely pleased to have her lying nearby while I work, but in this case, I was sawing a tangled mess of a tree that was about to crash down in some unpredictable manner. I tried tossing a stick into the woods. That trick worked wonders, earlier.

This time, instead of carrying the stick off to someplace nearby, she returned to lay directly beneath the hazardous branch.

I took a break from sawing and moved up the trail to trim branches with a pruner. I came upon a spot with a fair amount of common buckthorn, which is an invasive that I passionately strive to remove. When possible, I pull them up by the roots. As I tugged on one and the dirt began to give way, Delilah jumped in to help, clamping the little tree in her jaws and pulling along with me.

Finally, her effort to assist me was right on. It seems that she wants that buckthorn out just as bad as I do.

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Written by johnwhays

August 29, 2014 at 6:00 am

Finally, Progress

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The hardest thing I have faced since becoming a full-time ranch manager has been getting contractors to bid jobs we need done. In the last few days I have successfully communicated with three of them. Two actually showed up in person. The other has already been here. Even though no work has actually begun, just getting them to see and discuss the situation, and estimate a time when they hope to actually do some work, is rewarding enough to fuel my dwindling supply of hope to get improvements in place before winter arrives in full force.

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It’s a bit like seeing signs of the sun preparing to make its appearance over the eastern horizon.

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With that bit of inspiration, I found myself drawn toward a chore I have been neglecting all summer long. One of our main trails through the woods had been left untended since the snow melted and it had become overgrown to the point of being difficult to discern.

DSCN2311eI was pleased to see how much growth had occurred in volunteer trees, most of them butternuts. Too bad they were growing in a path where they wouldn’t be able to remain. I used the power trimmer to do the bulk of the clearing, then made a few passes with a pole saw and my ratcheted pruner. There is much left to be done —I only went as far as one tank of gas on the trimmer allowed— but the part I did complete looks wonderful and inviting.

After dinner, where I devoured fresh-picked ears of gourmet sweet corn that Cyndie picked up on her way home, we took Delilah for a walk down that trail. It was a treat to experience all the “oohs” and “aahs” from Cyndie as she marveled over how great it looked. Then we arrived at the stretch where I had cut down trees on Monday to widen the southern leg of the trail. They still lay where they fell, all over the trail, in stark contrast to the section I had just trimmed.

It’s a work in progress. But, alas, there is finally some progress!

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2014 at 6:00 am