Relative Something

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

Lifetime

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2017 at 7:00 am

Modern Convenience

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It was sunny and 60-some degrees at our place yesterday. If it weren’t for the modern convenience of accurate weather forecasting giving us several days warning of an impending snowstorm, I would be completely clueless about what is headed our way. By Friday morning, the view of our property won’t look like this again for a while.

img_1941eI will not be surprised if the alignment of the storm moving in this evening brings us around a foot of snow, based on the models published by the weather services.

Such a significant contrast of weather in just over a day is something I would not be able to comprehend happening without the present day wisdom, and data gleaned from satellites and radar images. My intuitive senses for interpreting the weather are far too dull to perceive that the warm sunshine yesterday afternoon was so quickly going to become a distant memory.img_1925e

At the same time, it is still February, after all. It’s supposed to be wintery weather. So I am well prepared for whatever cold and blowing snow may arrive. I have my special leg warmer to keep me comfortable while chronicling the brutal challenges I face when plowing and shoveling the oodles of snowflakes inbound on our position.

Pequenita seems to like napping on my legs when I stretch out. It’s cute, but can’t be all that comfortable for her, and it tends to lock down my posture long enough that numbness sets in.

Maybe she is sensing the oncoming storm and wants to keep me safe and warm in preparation for doing battle when it comes time to dig out.

In the mean time, I hope to spend most of the day Friday in front of a warm fire, watching the flakes fly outside the windows.

See ya later, warm sunshine.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2017 at 7:00 am

Tender Footed

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Last week, Cyndie mentioned to me that Cayenne looked a little uncomfortable on her feet. The next morning I confirmed back to Cyndie that Cayenne definitely was hurting. I brought out the morning pans of feed for the 4 horses and she didn’t move from her position down in the paddock.

Aware that she was having some problem, I chose to accommodate her and carry a pan down to where she was standing. I stopped one step short to see if she would move at all to get to the pan I had placed on the ground in front of her. She did, one hesitant step.

That morning, the tree trimmers were just pulling in and that startled the herd, sending the other 3 rushing down from the overhang, leaving their rations unfinished. Now they all wanted to eat from Cayenne’s pan. She didn’t move.

I lingered with the horses and watched as Legacy bit her in the butt a couple of times. I couldn’t tell if he wanted her to move, but one theory of Cyndie’s is that he is checking to see if he would be able to make her move in an emergency. It is very important to him as herd leader to know how serious her condition is, which then directs his decision-making, accounting for whatever her limitations may be.

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She was not at all happy with his probing, and let him know in several ways, without ever moving a step. While I was standing with them, I noticed she was yawning frequently and then trying to get bites of snow from the mostly icy ground cover. I considered her usual behavior, which is to get a drink immediately after eating and decided I would offer her a bucket of water in case she was so uncomfortable she didn’t want to walk to the waterer.

That made her happy. She guzzled away at my offering.

Not knowing what else I could do for her, I decided to spend some time cleaning out the waterer while watching to see if her behavior would change. Somehow, while I was focused for a minute on scrubbing green scum away, she stealthily made her way over to the raised circle and was munching emphatically on hay.

It was shocking, because it seemed like I had looked away for a second, and somehow she just “beamed” from one spot to another.

A short time later, I watched her walk up the hill to the hay boxes under the overhang. My analysis was, she was definitely uncomfortable for some reason, but she wasn’t incapacitated by whatever the problem was.

Her behavior wavered better and worse over the weekend, so Cyndie asked the vet to stop by yesterday afternoon. After talking things through with him, our general consensus was likely bruising of the sensitive pads of her feet on the rough, icy terrain of late. This led to inflammation and resulted in her evident pain.

Cyndie had some anti-inflammatory pain-killer to give Cayenne and we are going to monitor for a change in her symptoms. The vet offered some alternative possibilities and decided to take a blood sample to check the function of her thyroid.

Here’s hoping she feels better soon and bruising is the only problem she has to face in this case. It’s tough seeing our most tender-hearted horse be so tender-footed.

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Written by johnwhays

February 22, 2017 at 7:00 am

Patch Worked

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On Sunday, I just happened to stumble upon the fact that the snow-melt flowing down our drainage swale from beneath the driveway wasn’t coming out of the culvert.

“What the…!?”

I hustled to the other side of the driveway, and sure enough, the rushing water was disappearing beneath the mouth of the culvert. Nice.

I tell ya, property ownership is a trip.

I tried an on-the-fly patch in attempt to plug the opening enough to coerce the water to flow through the culvert, not beneath it. I dumped in sand and hay, plus tried stomping some of the residual snow to fill the void, but the water was moving with such momentum that my plug didn’t stop the flow.

I needed something impermeable. Old empty bags of feed came to mind, especially as they were also closest at hand. I cut open a bag and tried laying it as a sheet over the opening in hope the water pressure would push it in place to fill the opening beneath the mouth of the culvert.

The bag was more inclined to float.

dscn5848eI struggled to hurriedly push it below the freezing-cold water where I could cover it with hay and sand to redirect flow into the culvert. It started to work a little bit, so I worked harder to get the edges down to where water wouldn’t flow beneath it. Soon, it became obvious I needed to do something just upstream from there, so I added a second bag and placed a shovel on it to hold that one in place.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing, so I left it at that, fully expecting to find one or both of the bags out of place and wreaking havoc on desired flow sometime later.

Then yesterday’s rain storms arrived. Driving home, I noticed the ditches were filled with standing water and the creeks were running at full capacity with runoff. This time of year, rain water can’t soak into the soil because the ground is mostly frozen. I held little hope for the hastily placed feed bags at the mouth of our culvert.

Draining rain water was running at full tilt through the culvert under the road at the south border of our property when I arrived home. I stopped the car when I reached the problem culvert under our driveway and stepped out into the rain. First, I walked to the outlet side and was pleased to see heavy flow coming out of the culvert.

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Crossing to the other side, I was amazed to find both bags still positioned where I had placed them. The one funneling water into the culvert had flopped over sideways a bit, but it seemed to be holding in place down below. I pulled it back again to catch as much water as possible and deemed it a success.

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A more permanent fix will wait until there’s no water flowing, but for now, that crazy patch is certainly performing beyond my expectations. With the weather we are experiencing this winter, there is no telling when that opportunity for a permanent fix will arrive.

It will be no surprise to me if I find one or both of those bags down stream before their services are no longer needed. Stay tuned for further developments.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

Sheared Again

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dscn5846eHindsight being 20/20, I decided to not chip any more of the large dead oak branches that had been cut out of the oldest trees on our property. Too bad it took busting the replacement shear pin I’d installed 15 minutes earlier to adequately enlighten me.

I switched to exclusively chipping the branches that came out of our maple trees for the rest of the day yesterday and the 3rd shear bolt in two days survived just fine.

The branches of oak would get the chainsaw. That tool didn’t have any problems cutting through the almost petrified oak.

I guess I’ve learned the limitations of my beloved Wallenstein chipper.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Next Phase

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dscn5840ePicking up where the tree trimmers left off, I pulled the tractor out of the garage yesterday and we started the process of turning the piles of branches into wood chips. With the temperatures pushing into warmth much more typical for May or June, the timing was perfect for having fresh ground cover over the now muddy path leading down toward the barn from the driveway.

I quickly relearned how much physical effort is involved in the process of repeatedly feeding the chipping monster. The variety of branches that came out of our trees made for a constant struggle to detangle, reorient, and guide into the chute.

The smallest ends of branches will catch and get hung up on the corners, which interrupts flow, and the big limbs tend to bounce and torque when first struck by the powerful spinning blades. My body and hands frequently get smacked by the kick-back of the bigger branches.

After a prolonged session of working to make a pile of branches disappear into a wonderful mound of precious wood chips, I feel like I’ve been a few rounds in a boxing match.

dscn5836eCyndie helped to bring branches from farther and farther, and worked to cut junctions that “Y” off too wide to fit the bottom of the narrowing chute. We parked the tractor on the solid pavement of the driveway to be out of the mud that is quickly becoming the prevailing footing during this unbelievable February melt down.

We took a little break for lunch and then when I came out for a few more rounds of battle, it was T-shirt weather. It is just plain sad to be living through the end of cold and snowy winters like the ones I enjoyed as a kid. I fear for the precious trees I have been focused on caring for these last few days, as they react to the warmth and prepare to sprout new buds.

If they sprout leaves too early, they risk an ugly death from freezing when a hint of real winter returns for a last gasp reminder of cold that usually happens this time of year.

When I turned the key to restart the tractor, nothing happened. Well, not nothing. The indicator lights lit up, but there was no hint of sound from the starter. I have experienced this before. It was how I was first introduced to this tractor. No matter what I did, I could not get it to start.

That first time, I ended up needing to have a service person come out. He accidentally figured out the safety interlock of the PTO lever wasn’t getting met. After chasing a different possibility for a time, I came around to the same conclusion. It was the PTO lever again.

I got the engine started, repositioned the tractor to a new spot and was ready to go. I picked a big old dead oak branch to start and quickly busted the shear pin of the chipper.

I took the hint and called it a day for chipping.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

Additional Artistry

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dscn5831eDay two of tree trimming picked up right where they left off the day before. They breezed through the tasks I had planned so efficiently that I was able to add a few bonus trees to what I originally expected possible. Even with that, they finished before the end of the day and credited the invoice for the shortened time.

I heartily endorse the work of JCE Tree Service out of River Falls, WI. Tree Cutters, Matt and Dan, represented both their company and their profession impressively well. These guys are visionaries. I like to refer to tree trimmers as artists for the beauty they enhance from living trees, or the improvements they create in a stand by removing dead ones.

The task of thinning a busy tree is a daunting one. There are so many cuts that will need to happen, but it is a process that has to occur in individual steps. Once they are up in the middle branches, they must keep in mind the perspective of the whole tree as it appears from the ground, while they survey and select from the relative limited views up close.

dscn5833eSome decisions are obvious, but more often they are not, so these guys are performing a constant analysis while they work. It is a fantastic performance of physical labor, mental processing, and creative artistry.

It would be very easy to get carried away and make an ill-advised cut. Think: bad haircut.

I’m happy to report that our trees all look fantastic. It amazes me to see a tree that looks perfectly normal with as many pruned branches laying beneath it as there are still attached overhead.

As I’ve already written, I asked them to focus on cutting and not bother with cleaning up what is on the ground. It definitely helped to speed up their accomplishments, as they got everything done that I wanted, and more. Walking the trails with Cyndie to review the work at the end of the day, I got a sense of the amount of work I have created for us by that plan.

That’s okay. The work will be a labor of love. We will have a nice supply of wood chips for our trails and firewood to split and burn in the fireplace.

Best of all, the trees on our property which have been nagging me for attention for years will instead, now bring me great joy every time I see them and walk beneath them.

Thank you, Dan, Matt, & JCE Tree Service. Job well done!

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2017 at 10:07 am