Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘weeds

Making Peace

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It is getting to a point where I think I just need to make peace with the fact that water runoff on our property will carve its own path no matter what feeble attempts I make to direct it.

We received another short-but-robust deluge from the rain gods yesterday afternoon, which generated eroding runoff flow digging ever deeper into all the existing rills and washouts that had already evolved from the last few downpours this summer.

While standing on one of the spots inside the small paddock where our insufficient attempts to establish a direct route to the drainage swale had long ago spectacularly failed, I tried to envision what a successful solution might look like.

I picture a much more assertive effort along the lines of what you would see done to create a drainage ditch along a roadway. If we dig an unmistakable ditch, we could dump the material we scoop out of it to fill the washouts we’d rather not have.

The big challenge with a serious excavation is getting planted grass to sprout and hopefully hold soil in place before rainfall gets a chance to wash it all away. If money were no object, maybe we could line the ditch with enough river rock to form a creek bed.

Aw, heck, why stop there? Let’s just line it with a rubber pond skin first, and then pour on the rock. Wouldn’t that make a sharp-looking dry creek that’s always ready for a flash flood. It’s called Rainscaping.

There are a lot of images out there depicting some incredibly artistic solutions along these lines. Fifty dry creek ideas right here! But there is one thing missing from all photos I saw: weeds.

If we tried any of those solutions, in a very short time, you wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful rocks through the 3-foot tall weeds that would happily take root.

Maybe there’s a happy medium in there somewhere. I’m thinking I need grass to grow to hold soil in place, or rocks. How about grass and rocks?

It would be a hassle to mow, though.

Back to reality. The rocks to cover the distances I need would be an awful strenuous effort to accomplish, in addition to the cost of having them delivered. Grass seed is something I can afford and plant easily myself.

It doesn’t cost anything to dream. I like picturing the possibilities. In the mean time, I am stuck looking at the ongoing and frustrating erosion that has had the better of me for the last five years.

I want to work on making my peace with that.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Feeling Summer

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I like the simple designation of meteorological seasons by month, over the astrological solstice and equinox markers. My brain senses the longest day should mark the middle of summer and the shortest day, the middle of winter. By meteorological reference, summer happens in June, July, and August.

It sure felt like summer on the second day of June this year. Last night, as we tried to cool the house by opening windows to the evening air, the enticing sounds of heavy, distant rumbling thunder rolled slowly closer and closer. Eventually, we enjoyed an almost gentle thunderstorm that this morning has left barely a trace of its visit.

Except for the amazing response of growing things. Our landscape is under siege.

Just beyond our deck, the previous prominent low spruce is getting swallowed by ferns from behind and volunteer cedar trees from the front. The clematis on our trellis is being crowded out by a volunteer maple that decided to make itself at home there.

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I don’t understand why the scotch pine to the left of the trellis is so anemic. Everything around it is growing fast and furious. It is possibly being hindered by the same affliction taking down so many of our long needle pines.

The ornamental reeds in our little garden pond are spreading themselves well beyond the edges, giving the impression they will soon fill the space if left unhampered.

Meanwhile, the climbing vines are voraciously trying to blanket all of our trees, the unwanted grasses taking over our pastures, and poison ivy is thriving like you wouldn’t believe.

What’s a gardener to do? I tend to prefer a hands-off approach to the nature-scape, but we are finding the land inundated with invasives and trouble-makers that require decisive action. Desirables like maple trees are sprouting in places where they don’t belong, and though prized, will become problems if neglected.

I must overcome my reluctance and sharpen my skills of seek and destroy, or at least aggressively prune, prune, prune.

In the same way we wish broccoli tasted like chocolate, Cyndie and I are wishing the desired plants would simply crowd out weeds to the point all we needed to do would be a little cutting of the grass and lounging in the garden.

All you folks wanting to suggest we get some goats… it is increasingly weighing on my mind. Maybe I will try renting some for a trial run.

There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to manage the explosion of growth summer brings.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2017 at 9:02 am

Weeds Begone

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It took twice as long as I expected to finish cutting down the 4 acres we call our hay-field yesterday, but I was trying to do a very thorough job of removing the primary invader, Queen Anne’s Lace from sight. The biennial crop is the most visible evidence that we aren’t growing high quality grass hay out there yet.IMG_iP1562e

There is some grass there, and it has become obvious to us from the regular mowing we have done around the labyrinth and along the fence lines, that doing so will help the grasses and hurt the weeds.

Right now, we are thinking about just keeping this mowed short for a full year. We may have some additives applied to the soil, and add desireable grass seed over the top, before getting back to baling it again the year after.

The project was almost over before I had even completed the first pass along the fence line. For no apparent reason the shear bolt suddenly gave out and the blades stopped cutting.

We had waited the entire summer to have this field cut, and when it didn’t happen any other way, we decided to finally just chop it down ourselves. This interruption had me wondering if maybe we were making the wrong decision, but I had a replacement bolt and it was an easy fix, so I didn’t let that problem stop me for long.

When it became clear that it was going to take all afternoon to complete the task, Cyndie was kind enough to bring me lunch in the field. It felt just like farming!

When I got to the last little strip to be mowed, I wanted to include Cyndie in the moment of achievement. She was serving the horses their evening feed at the barn, so I whistled to get her attention as I was lining the tractor up for the final cut.

IMG_iP1565eCHShe heard the second of my shrill chirrups, and was looking to ascertain whether I was in need of her assistance while I was backing into position. I was intending to point out that it would be the last pass and I just wanted her to share in the joy of accomplishment, when the blades of the mower started clattering on a rock I hadn’t noticed.

The sound of mower blades hitting obstacles always tends to create a panic response. I stomped on the clutch and lifted the mower. My big moment of victory was dashed by a dose of humble pie. In a comical turn, now she did think something was wrong.

She hollered something to me, but I couldn’t hear her words over the rat-tat-tat of the diesel engine idling. After several fruitless tries, we walked toward each other until I heard she was asking if I had my camera with me so she could capture the moment.

We laughed over the fact I hadn’t hit a single thing all day, but just as I was hoping to get her attention, …clank. I had already mowed over that rock without incident in the other direction. Backing across it on the slope was a different story.

She took the pictures of my final successful pass.

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Did you see that bird she captured in the last shot? It looks as happy as me over having our field freshly cut.

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Written by johnwhays

August 6, 2016 at 9:13 am

No Nap

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A nap did not materialize yesterday because our rain storms came in waves of two and we decided to try getting a little work done between each. Somewhat randomly, I decided to get out the chainsaw (with its dull blade) and knock down a small dead pine in the back yard before heading down to clear stumps along the wooded portion of fence line on the south side of the back pasture.

When rain drove us back inside, I headed to the garage and pulled the mower deck from beneath the lawn tractor. I had figured out why I was having such a difficult time leveling things. Bent blades.

We decided to make a run to buy blades, and while we were in town on a rainy day, catch the “Jason Bourne” movie in Hudson. That series is always a guarantee for dizzying violent action, and didn’t disappoint.

Chatting up the knowledgeable source at the hardware store in River Falls, I learned what I need to do to get our old Craftsman mower to work as designed. I need to treat it better. He strongly recommended that any engine smaller than a car should exclusively be fed premium gasoline. He said I should avoid the risk of striking sticks, roots, stumps, rock, gravel, and protruding dirt mounds, by not driving over them.

Obvious, really. It’s funny though, because I had just the opposite perspective and was trying to find out if there was a different type of mower I should get that would allow me to mow the grass here and not worry about the sticks, roots, stumps… You know, everything around this property.

For one thing, I need to stop trying to use the lawn tractor on the trail through the woods. That will need to be the trimmer, or, if we have neglected it too long, the brush cutter behind the diesel tractor.

When we got home in the afternoon, I put a new chain on the chainsaw while Cyndie gave Delilah some attention and then together they went down and did the same for the horses. I cut down the other most obvious dead pine tree that was along the trail around the pasture on the north side of the driveway.

When I returned from that project, I found Cyndie pulling weeds near the round pen, lamenting the myriad growth sprouting from the sand within. The tenacious unwanted growth of weeds and grasses seems to be the theme of our summer this year.

IMG_iP1503e2I loitered along the fence, talking with her for a long enough time that the horses finally joined us. For some unknown reason, they have been choosing to stay up in the dusty lime screenings by the barn for the majority of their days lately, even though we have been offering them more open access to green pastures.

That’s not all bad, because they are still overweight, but to me, it looks like a lot less pleasant existence.

Cyndie stopped pulling weeds and offered to groom some of the grime off Legacy. The horses had obviously rolled in the mud after the rain earlier in the day.

IMG_iP1530eIt was a moment that went a long way to counter-balance the angst of tending to all the challenges we face in taking care of this place.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2016 at 8:30 am

Inspiration Fades

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It happens. Inspiration will wax and wane. My enthusiasm for this adventure we embarked on at Wintervale is ebbing away.

It has been a tough week for me. Where we once seemed to be enjoying a charmed life here, with progress advancing in surprisingly magical ways and solutions flowing with unexplainable ease, our situation of late has become a lot less mystical.

Have we gone off track somewhere? I don’t know. It’s life. Sometimes there are more problems than solutions for a while.

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for businesses to fail. Ours is simply failing to get started.

Full disclosure, I am writing from a state of overworked exhaustion. Why? Hay. Again. And the thought of facing today’s task of manure management, again.

DSCN4976eI threw 100 bales, 200 times yesterday, loading the borrowed trailer and unloading it. Carrying bales up and up to stack them in our shed. It is an endurance exercise where the climb gets higher as the fatigue grows ever more debilitating. At first, the bales seem light, but at the end, they feel a lot heavier.

Today, I need to move the compost piles to make room for more. Since I returned to the day-job, I haven’t been tending the piles in the daily manner I did when I was home all day. Once, every other weekend, is not cutting it.

It’s a buzz-kill.

Meanwhile, there are dangerous trees that broke off and are hung up in surrounding branches over our trail that I need to get after. And siding that needs to be scraped and stained before winter. On Monday, it will be August. Projects that should happen before winter arrives are beginning to loom large.

And we have yet to get our hay-field cut even one time this summer. It has become a field of weeds that are gleefully sowing their seeds for further domination. That is probably the biggest discouragement. It is why we have needed to trailer in more hay than before and it is the exact opposite direction from growing desirable hay ourselves.

It will go a long way to improving my outlook when that field finally gets cut and the weedy debris removed. We have decided to take a full year from hay production and plan to cut it continuously to stop the cycle of weeds growing to their seeding phase. We may also add some recommended soil enhancers and then plant a custom mix of grass seeds in hopes of achieving our goal of getting good quality hay to grow right at home.

That gives me a year of something to look forward to. More mowing. You know how much I love mowing.

Oh, by the way, our lawn tractor is not holding up to the abuse I put it through. I need to shop for something else. Maybe if I do it right, I’ll end up with a machine that I like so much it will change how I feel about cutting grass.

That’s what it is all about here: grass hay and lawn grass. Who knew I would find myself so fixated on a task to which I held such disdain in my previous years?

No wonder my inspiration has a tendency to fade every so often.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2016 at 8:18 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

Altered Plan

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Okay, I admit it. I spent much of yesterday focused on a plan of what I could accomplish today, instead of living in the moment of the tasks at hand. Admittedly, the majority of yesterday’s activity involved “tractor time,” which naturally provides ample opportunity for a mind to wander.

IMG_iP1446eI was going to distribute composted manure and overturn the piles still cooking. I wanted to power up the trimmer and clean fence lines and drainage ditches.

Today’s weather has given me a chance to rethink those plans. It is raining.

Yesterday, I contemplated the absurdity of how much anguish I was feeling over the difficulty I was having maintaining my cut lines, while people in other parts of the world are living in the middle of wars, unable to get enough to eat.

On the diesel, while chopping weeds in the back pasture, my mind looked ahead to how I could clean the edges of the field with the trimmer.

IMG_iP1451eNow I don’t know what I am going to do. The ground is wet enough that I am hesitant about bringing out the big tractor because it can really make a muddy mess of the ground.

Maybe I’ll split some wood.

Looking at the radar, I’ve got a little more time to think about it before the precipitation clears.

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Written by johnwhays

July 10, 2016 at 9:35 am