Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘wood chips

Twice Happy

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is no project around here that is as satisfying as chipping a pile of branches. The ability to accomplish two things at once is very rewarding. The unending accumulation of downed branches get piled up for removal and we have an unending need for wood chips on our trails and gardens.

In comes the most useful purchase I have made in our time on this land.

I pulled out the diesel tractor for the first time in months and attached the big blue chipper for a session of munching branches. By the time I finished, I had reduced two tangled piles into a filled wood chip station down by the labyrinth.

The only thing that would have made it easier would be an ATV trailer to move the second pile of branches over to the chipper. I had to make several trips to haul them by hand because I’ve yet to replace the trailer Cyndie mistakenly sold at her barn sale.

I don’t remember paying over $200 for shipping when I bought the first one, and I balked when shopping for the replacement. There is an imitation trailer that I can buy locally to save a lot of cash, but I am wary of the quality. It very much looks like a version of “you get what you pay for” in this case.

I’m waiting around for some magic solution to appear.

Maybe I should start visiting yard sales in the area for someone willing to part with a used trailer.

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2019 at 7:21 am

Gettin’ Green

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With a little rearranging in the garage, I moved the ATV and snowplow to the back and brought the lawn tractor to the front. It’s a definitive sign of the change of season. I also got the back yard mowed, which brought out a whole lot of green in our landscape.

Probably in large part, because it chewed up the leaves from last fall that were still covering the bulk of the back hill, because we never got around to raking them before the snow arrived.

From there, we headed down to the labyrinth, where Cyndie pulled weeds and I reassembled the fallen blocks around our compost and wood chip locations.

Now, we need to replenish the wood chips, and there are plenty of branches waiting to be chipped. A short distance to the right from the view in that photo, there was a collection of branches from two years ago, when we hired professionals to trim dead wood from our trees.

It was a big reward to finally start pulling the debris out, because every time I have passed those trees since the day it was cut, I’ve wanted to have the job done.

I probably got through about half of what needs to be pulled out and stacked for processing, but it’s a good start.

I look forward to transforming that pile of branches into a filled wood chip station, which Cyndie can then use to dress up the landscape around her labyrinth plants.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2019 at 6:00 am

Productive Weekend

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It is a good time of year to get a lot done over a weekend when it happens to be the second to last weekend before Christmas. I had a number of goals in mind that I wanted to accomplish in the blink of days between commuting to the day-job.

It helped to have the weather warm up at just the right time. Our thermometer reached the 40s(F) both Saturday and Sunday. I was able to move one of my projects outside into the glorious sunshine.

I went from the concrete of the shop to the asphalt outside. Just look at everything I accomplished!

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I’m afraid that all projects underway during the first three weeks of December are under a media blackout. Progress will be represented only by material removed, as shown above.

Cyndie was even more productive than I was, but I can’t show any pictures of her projects, either. Not until after Christmas.

It’s the best time of the year!

“Oh by golly, have a holly jolly Christmas…”

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Written by johnwhays

December 17, 2018 at 7:00 am

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

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

Most Satisfying

with 4 comments

Every time I use our wood chipper, I grow more enamored with the machine and what it does for us. For me, it has become the most satisfying repeated task of property management that we undertake.

It is relatively easy to set up, makes good use of our otherwise under-utilized diesel tractor, and it makes quick work of the chipping. I love the way it transforms an unsightly nuisance of constantly accumulating dead (or recently pruned) branches into a precious resource of wood chips. We will never have enough.

We use the chips around plants in the gardens and landscaping, as well as a covering for our many trails. That is, we hope to cover the trails. Right now, we have a lot more trails in need than we have wood chips to cover.

If we could find a way to create a few more hours in a day, we certainly have no shortage of branches to chip…

And it would be a most satisfying additional few hours, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2017 at 6:00 am

Soft Ground

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Nature didn’t live up to what the forecasters had predicted for us on Sunday. The temperature struggled to approach 50° (F) and the sky never really cleared enough to allow the sun to make much difference. Despite the less-than-inspiring conditions, Cyndie and I rallied our energies to pull out the wood chipper for another round of chewing up brush piles.

Since we are in the wonderful season when the top layer of soil is freezing and thawing daily, I had hoped to park the tractor on the driveway again, near the next largest pile of branches. Unfortunately, that meant the chute would be pointed directly into the wind and everything coming out would blow right back at the tractor.

Plan B had me moving a short distance off the pavement so we could point in a direction where the wind wouldn’t be a problem. Things progressed swimmingly until I apparently tossed in a limb that too closely resembled the petrified oak branches that foiled our efforts last time out.

I instantly realized I had completely forgotten to shop for more robust shear bolts after the previous go-round when the hardware replacement broke as fast as I installed it. Details, details.

I think I’ll remember to buy new bolts this time, especially if I do it on the way home from work today. No time like the present.

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Written by johnwhays

March 20, 2017 at 6:00 am

Makin’ Chips

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One chore I did make good progress on over the weekend was grinding piles of branches into wood chips for our trails and garden.

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I had hoped to have Cyndie around to help, but she was tied up with a project in the house while I was at this, so I was on my own. Turned out, she had already done such a great job of preparing the pile of branches, it was easy-peasy feeding the chipper.

IMG_iP1365eIt was as if she was helping, just from a different time. We have gotten good at selecting the maximum sized branches, and she did a masterful job of snapping limbs to eliminate wide “Y”s that won’t fit through the feeder.

This chipper was the best decision for us. It is an efficient way to dispose of the endless supply of branches that litter the woods and it produces a product that we have unending use for as a covering for the trails.

I love the results!

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Written by johnwhays

May 10, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , ,

Trail Upgrade

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One of the best purchases I have made since we moved here is that wood chipper that runs off the PTO of the diesel tractor. Not only has it given us a way to get rid of the never-ending accumulations of tree branches, it is also providing a treasure trove of wood chips for landscape projects and trail maintenance.

I had a large pile of chips in the back pasture last fall that didn’t get distributed before it got buried in snow, and I have wanted to get it moved ever since it reappeared this spring. The recent rains have turned areas of our trail through the woods into swamp mud and we’re hoping a covering of wood chips will make it much less messy to cross, so that is providing additional motivation.

DSCN3512eYesterday, I landed a perfect combination of being home during the day, while it wasn’t raining, with time available, when the ATV was in working order. I made 3 trips from the pile to the wettest spot in the woods before switching to other more time-sensitive jobs.

Like mowing the grass. It has doubled in height in the 4 days since I last cut it. With rain predicted for today, I wanted to have that mowing completed in advance, to avoid it doubling another time before I could get to it.

There’s still half a pile of chips left, so I plan to return soon to covering the muddiest sections of trail with that, until it runs out. At that point, I will need to get out the trusty chipper again and make more piles of trail cover out of the multiple collections of branches that lie in wait.

It’s definitely a win-win situation!

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Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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