Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘driveway

This Why

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This is why we can’t have a nice paved driveway like the other folks around here whose asphalt looks incredibly well-maintained.

We have an ongoing need for dump-truck loads of lime screenings for our paddocks.

That loaded dump-truck really makes an impression on the land. As he prepared to depart, I asked the driver to NOT center his truck on the driveway on the way out, and instead to run one set of wheels right down the middle. I’ve been trying to do the same with our vehicles ever since his visit last year, but haven’t had much effect on the eruption of cracked pavement the truck left for us that time.

Household discussion last night:

John: “Should I try to spread some lime screenings tomorrow?”

Cyndie: “Maybe.”

J: “Should I pull the T-posts instead?”

C: “Maybe.”

J: “Should I move the composted manure out?”

C: “Maybe.”

J: “Should I work on dividing the chicken coop?”

C: “Maybe.”

I think she got my point, and seeing as how I wasn’t getting any help with prioritizing, I chose not to continue with the thirteen other things also deserving attention.

It’s a good thing we are so smitten with each other, or these kinds of exchanges would take on additional unstated intentions. In our case, it just added to the love already present. Her refusal to take my bait brought a smile to my face. Our current healthy communication is a return on an investment we made long ago toward a few years of couples therapy.

This is why we can have nice conversations unburdened by alternate unstated agendas.

Well, that and the fact Cyndie gracefully puts up with my endless ribbing. If she wasn’t so saintly, I’d have needed to make myself a bed out in Delilah’s kennel years ago.

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Mobile Labyrinth

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First off, let’s just get this out of the way. You are all welcome to be my valentine, but I need to ask you to hold off on the chocolate candy hearts. My will-power is hardly robust enough to withstand that amount of sweet gesturing of love. Happy Valentine’s Day! I offer plenty of my low-sugar love to all who happen to read here today.

dscn5792eOn Sunday, before huddling in front of a rare MN Wild hockey game broadcast over the airwaves followed by a Grammy Awards broadcast that was entertaining to a degree, but failed —for me— to live up to the hyped level of “Music’s Greatest Night,” Cyndie and I braved a colder than expected morning to work on outlining a labyrinth on canvas.

Since our driveway was now clear of snow and ice up by the house, it became potential space where we could spread out this project that Cyndie has been planning.

Before we laid out the canvas, I used a push-broom to clear the loose grit away. If our neighbor still bothers to watch our every move, I can’t imagine what he must think about my obsession with cleaning the top of our driveway the last few days.dscn5793e

I had already done advance calculations to figure out how wide each lane could be, given the total area of canvas and the number of circuit loops in the design Cyndie chose. Our task of the day was simply to identify and mark the center point from which the rest of the circles will be referenced, and then place a few “tic” marks to place the lanes.

It is all pretty straight forward with a minor exception of the two lanes that become the routes to enter from the outside and the path that reaches the center.

We spent a fair amount of time laying out enough skeleton lines to define the potentially confusing part, leaving the finishing touch of just laying duct tape along the consistent circle of each lane for another time.

dscn5796eWhile Cyndie measured and ripped pieces of tape off the roll, I sat on the canvas absorbing the thorough cold of the pavement beneath while holding the tape measure dead center and calling out location metrics. I could see her hands slowing down from the cold as the minutes turned into hours.

There are a lot of tedious steps involved, but it was a labor of love. After each step we became inspired to go a little further to lock in the design for her to finish later with friends.

When we finally quit and hustled inside to warm up, we discovered the day hadn’t warmed up at all. The temperature was still in the 30s (F), and with the brisk wind, it became obvious why it felt so much colder than we were expecting.

In our haste to pack the project up and get inside, I failed to capture a photo of our final progress. I’ve informed Cyndie that she’s responsible now for getting a picture of her mobile labyrinth when it’s finally completed.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2017 at 7:00 am

Fly Away

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There are days that I would if I could. Fly away, that is.

I recently moved our trail cam out into the open for a change, aiming it at the upward slope of the driveway in the direction toward the road which is out of sight over the hill. I wasn’t expecting to see too much in the way of wild life at this location, but instead was curious how it would do to record vehicles coming and going.

When we are in the house, cars and even delivery trucks will come and go without us noticing.

After a few days of photos, I declare it does okay for capturing auto traffic, but it is not very consistent about when it picks up the motion. Varying speed of the vehicles would make some sense as one explanation, except the speed is probably pretty similar at that point. I know I was driving very slow when it almost missed my car arriving home from work yesterday.

One thing we have noticed about putting the camera out in the open is that we get a LOT of empty, or almost empty shots as a result of bird activity. At the same time, capturing a bird at just the right moment of flight can be a real treat.

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Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2016 at 6:00 am

Nuisance Flurries

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The weather of late has been a repeating series of nuisance snow flurries that irk me. We get just enough in the way of accumulating flakes that it makes the place look neglected, but hardly enough to warrant plowing or doing any serious shoveling. A few days ago, it became necessary to clear about 6 feet around the door to the barn, because it was blowing into an accumulation that was twice as deep as what actually fell from the sky.

Last weekend I scraped the driveway clean to freshen things up, and then Monday night we collected another inch, just to mess it up again. When I got home from work yesterday, it became evident that we received a little more during the day, making it just deep enough that I felt it needed to be plowed.

IMG_iP1118eWhile waiting for a ride to my favorite auto repair shop, I shoveled the sidewalk and cleared snow away from the house to simplify the details for plowing later.

I was getting my car back from the shop, where they had changed another sensor in the catalytic converter to get everything working properly again.

After walking Delilah and taking care of chores for the horses, then pausing briefly for my dinner, I was ready to do some plowing.

I brought Delilah outside with me and tethered her near the shop while I cleared snow around the building as the ATV warmed up. It was dark, so I couldn’t easily see whether Delilah was happy with her situation, or not, but I decided to plow more than just up and down the driveway a few times.

Getting around the barn and hay-shed require a lot more monkeying around than just the straight shot running up and down the driveway. It becomes a series of short distances forward, followed by lifting the plow blade, shifting into reverse, re-establishing a position, and then dropping the blade, shifting back into a forward gear, and repeat.

I can do the driveway in about 10-minutes. The rest takes about an hour.

I made Delilah wait. It was easy to justify in my mind, because I fully intended to treat her to an extensive walk before we went back into the house. I don’t know whether she sensed it, or not.

After parking the ATV, I donned snowshoes and hit the trails with the dog. She immediately set off after what I would guess was the trail of a cat. She was in such a hurry that she almost pulled me over several times when my snowshoe would catch partway through my stride.

I’m glad we were doing this in the dark, so nobody could see my awkward stumbling gyrations as I struggled to keep up with our dog in her race after some prowler that was probably already long gone.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2016 at 7:00 am

Taking Action

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After getting home from the day-job yesterday, I went right to work on the ranch-job. This time of year, I don’t get much time at home that isn’t dark, and I wanted to clear snow while I could see well and get it done before temperatures head for the deep freeze.

Light snow fell on and off for most of the day and the thermometer revealed a 39° (F) reading as the high. It made for some sticky-snow plowing. On the drive home, anywhere that had been plowed had pretty much melted clear of snow and the roads were just wet. Our driveway had a thick accumulation covering it.

First things first. I needed to repair the broken cable from the Grizzly winch that lifts the plow blade. I had held off on the fix because I was intending to buy new cable. Searching online I discovered the existence of a short cable made to take the abuse of the constant up and down that occurs to lift the blade, and that they are available not just as metal, but fiberglass, too.

I like the thought of flexible fiber, but then my mind pictured the rollers on my well-used winch setup. The frequent broken strands on the abused cable have scuffed up the rollers a bit and they are getting rusty. I want new rollers if I’m going to get new cable and I haven’t had time to look into what that will take. I don’t know if I can even get the existing ones off without a fight.

Remember how much I struggled to remove the broken bolt on the hitch in back?

So, the first order of business was to head down to the barn and remove the hook with the dangling fragment of cable still hanging on the plow blade. On my way past the shop, I grabbed the battery charger to hook up to the truck that was sitting in the middle of space needing to be plowed.

DSCN4331eI lucked out. My plan worked pretty much as I intended. I got the truck battery charging and then wrestled the blade out the narrow front door of the barn. It fought me a little bit when it came time to lay in the snow and put pins through precisely sized holes of the plow frame and the under carriage of the ATV, but I had a few extra curse words that hadn’t been used yet, so things balanced out.

It was definitely snowman snow, but I just rolled with it as it rolled off the blade in giant chunks. It was well after dark when I finished, but I got enough done that I am comfortable that we are ready for everything to freeze solid as it sits.

I was intent on making sure I was clearing the snow far enough beyond the edges to leave me space for the rest of the winter of plowing. Setting the edges at the beginning is the most important because it will freeze and form the solid boundary for the rest of the season.

I’m satisfied I took appropriate action and achieved that goal. The driveway is clean, the truck started for me and is now parked where I want it by the shop garage and everything looks like a perfect winter wonderland.

Bring on the Arctic cold blast.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2016 at 9:30 am

Fortuitous Failure

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The plan was to get one load of gravel, one load of sand for the round pen, and two loads of lime screenings —one to spread around in the paddock, and one to keep as backup to fill washouts as they occur. In order to receive all these deliveries in the time while weather is good for doing so, we plotted out the order and location for dumping the piles.

The primary concern was to avoid having the heavy truck drive into the paddock, because the previous time we allowed that, it led to problems from the extreme compression straining buried electric fence wires between gate posts. I was also concerned about collapsing the buried drain tube we had installed from the barn gutter downspout.

The truck driver always seems more than willing to drive anywhere, leaving the responsibility on us to restrain the choices in protection of property. He long ago demonstrated complete disdain for the well-being of our asphalt driveway.

By my figuring, if we got gravel first and spread it out before the next delivery, the truck could drive on the new gravel and dump the lime screenings at the entrance of the paddock. I would spread them inside the paddock. The sand could then get dumped beside the barn, where I could move it by loader scoops, driving over the new lime screenings through the paddock to the round pen.

That would be a lot of tractor hours, but it was worth it to me to protect the paddock from the heavy truck.

Then Cyndie received word that they currently had no stock of lime screenings. The driver delivered gravel on Thursday with a plan to bring the sand on Friday morning. I had a short window of time after work on Thursday to spread the gravel, so he could drop the pile of sand the following morning in the spot where we wanted it.

DSCN4043eIn the middle of that task, as I tried to back up in order to spread the scoop of gravel I just dropped, the tractor lurched forward. I shifted again. This time it wouldn’t go backward, or forward. Tractor fail!

That wasn’t in my plan.

I struggled to remove a cover plate to see the mechanism of the gear shift lever. That didn’t help much, because even though I could then see it, I didn’t actually understand what I was looking at.

The options rattled through my mind. Call my very knowledgeable neighbor? It was getting late. Call the implement dealer? That would have to wait until morning. What about the sand delivery? Where would I put that?

Well, this failure caused me to rethink the possibilities and opened up a new willingness to have the truck drive through the hay-field. He would only need to pass through gates in which there was enough turf to limit the compression that happens from the weight of the load.

DSCN4042eIn the end, I have a new appreciation for the inconvenience of that shifting failure, because it has saved me a lot of work. The dump truck placed the sand in the center of the round pen. The hay-field held up well under the load, but the driveway has some new wrinkles where he made the turn on and off it.

The service man from the implement dealer made short work of the tractor repair by afternoon, replacing a pin and snap ring at the base of the shift lever, and I finished spreading the gravel.

That shifting failure is one I will remember fondly for the better outcome that came as a result.

There may be a life lesson available in all this.

Ya think?!

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Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2015 at 9:37 am

Not Whining

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Darkness is here. I leave for work in the mornings now with the surroundings in total darkness. It makes for a drastically different drive from the mornings when painted skies of dawn filled my view over the summer. Before long this darkness will begin to feel completely normal, but for now I am very aware of the difference.

The chilly temperatures have me switching back to long sleeve shirts. That means the onset of the perpetual battle to avoid soaking the cuffs when I wash my hands after coming in from working outside. I’m considering making a couple of little “cones-of-shame” like the ones dogs sometimes have to wear, which I can slip over my hands to protect my long sleeves from getting wet when I wash.

Our home is under siege of the dreaded Asian lady beetle. I have gained a heightened sense of paranoia over my ever-present cup of ice water, ever since the time one of the nasty buggers made its way into my drink and I crunched it with my teeth. Even though I have a cover to protect the contents, I feel no sense of confidence that there won’t be a chance one of the invaders has made its way into the drink when I didn’t notice.

Cyndie and I have decided to order some additional loads of sand and gravel to have on hand before the snow flies. The ground is dry enough now that damage from the heavy dump truck will be much less than if we wait until spring, but I still fret over the impact that truck makes. We decided not to have him drive into the paddocks, but that leaves us with the challenge of choosing a spot where the loads can be dumped, and figuring out a way to spread the load out to the areas where we ultimately want it.

We also face the inevitable further abuse to the crumbling surface of our ailing asphalt driveway that the truck will dish out. We’ve given up on trying to repair the existing damage, but that doesn’t mean we welcome the increased distortion by the weight of a fully loaded dump truck. We want the sand and gravel, we just don’t want the abuse caused when it is delivered.

But I’m not whining. Really. Just venting a little bit. And it feels much better having done so.

Now I can get back to enjoying the splendor of a fall that is glowing all around our house this year. It is putting on quite a show!

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2015 at 6:00 am