Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘gazebo

Sand Play

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We had fun in our giant sand box yesterday. The round pen has not had consistent attention this summer which has given the grass a chance to become a little too prominent a feature. The horses get confused over whether they are supposed to be exercising or eating.

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The Grizzly and our snazzy ABI grader do a good job of converting the appearance from a look of neglect to one of groomed and ready to go.

Separating the uprooted grass bundles from the sand takes a little more manual effort. It’s the kind of activity that draws the attention of the chickens, who assume we must be scratching for insects they can eat. Cyndie tried to explain to them that the roots were not worms, but they just stared at her like a bunch of chickens, don’t you know.

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The gazebo is ready. The round pen is ready. We might as well hold some workshops, eh?

Might as well.

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Written by johnwhays

August 7, 2017 at 6:00 am

Watched, Learned

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Last month there was construction on the parking lot at the day-job and I found myself transfixed by the quick and efficient bucket work of a loader. Over and over I watched how the driver scooped up loads from a pile of asphalt debris in a smooth motion.

Last weekend I was able to practice copying what I had seen. I used our diesel tractor to move lime screenings from the pile dumped beside the hay shed, into the paddock to fill rills and washouts on the slopes beneath the overhang.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I succeeded in improving my technique.

The last time I tried this exercise, I had a hard time keeping the bucket from digging into the turf and dirt beneath the pile, and I had trouble with spinning my rear tires and scarring the ground beneath the wheels with deep divots.

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Striving to emulate what I had seen weeks earlier, I focused on lifting the bucket through the pile in a single fluid motion, not worrying about trying to get the absolute most material in every scoop. I also practiced sliding the bucket into the pile from a few inches above the base, instead of right at the ground level.

It was easy to come back later and use a hand shovel to reshape the pile and scrape screenings away, down to the grass level.

My improved technique resulted in a lot less fuss for me and a lot less muss to the grounds.

Spring-boarding from that success, I took the tractor out again on Wednesday after work to mow the waterway and fence line along our property border to the south. With a dash of lucky good fortune, I executed maneuvers with minimal hassle to complete the mowing in extremely tight space limitations.

That worked so well, I was done with plenty of time to spare and continued positive momentum that led me to steer my attention to the leaning frame of the gazebo.

It is time to put the shade tarp over the frame, so I figured it best to first look into addressing the two bent top frame members. Ad-libbing a plan, I started taking out bolts to remove one section of bent frame. After multiple trips walking back to the shop for needed tools, I got the piece separated.

That led to another trip to the shop to see if I could figure out a way to bend the square tube back to straight and press out the kinks. My luck held and the first try brought success, just as time was running out for the day.

With my concerns about fixing the top tubes assuaged, I decided it would be most prudent to address the settling that has occurred at the base of the four vertical supports, in order to take away that additional play which allowed the structure to lean in the first place.

It just so happens I have a surplus of pavers that should work very nice in creating a new level footing under each of the four legs of the structure.

That’s one of the main projects on my plan for today. That, and wielding my new loader skills to move a large amount of old compost to make room for new.

There’s nothing like putting new skills to good use.

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Getting Trim

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We made visible progress on the grounds yesterday by finally cutting the middle section of pasture that hadn’t been mowed all summer.

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We haven’t even installed the tarp cover of the gazebo next to the round pen yet, which reveals the lack of workshop activity in the early season of 2017.

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That is changing now. We are cranking up preparations for a shot at accomplishing a summer’s worth of workshops in the final month. The horses have been patiently waiting. I think they are getting excited seeing the increase in maintenance of the grounds.

They can tell it’s soon time to do what they do best.

Now all we need is people interested in discovering what the horses have to offer.

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Heavy Handed

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dscn5488eI haven’t quite mastered the art of using the loader on our tractor yet, but I’m gaining confidence. What that means is, I am able to make more mistakes quicker.

More than once yesterday I was heavy-handed on the lever and scooped too deep beneath the pile of lime screenings. We worked to spread most of the pile before the weather makes a season-long shift to frozen ground.

It’s the kind of thing that drives this perfectionist to major frustration.

dscn5490eOne way I get over it is to move on to the next time-sensitive task that needs to happen. Cyndie and I removed the canvas from the gazebo before the first accumulating snow falls.

From up close, I discovered the gory details related to the subtle lean the structure has taken on that has been visible for a few months.

My first inclination was that the soft wet ground had given in on one side, but now I don’t think that was the case.

It’s possible the horses pushed against one side. It’s also possible that an extreme wind gust applied enough torque to bend the frame. Thinking about it, the second scenario would seem to make more sense, because if it was the horses, I believe they would have pushed it even further. Or they would have pushed it again after the fact and compounded the damage.

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With daylight fading, I left the bent frame to be dealt with next spring and switched my attention to moving the deck furniture to our winter storage location on the back side of the house. It was the last thing I wanted to accomplish for the day.

Just as soon as I shed my outdoor gear to settle inside for the evening, Cyndie realized she needed her winter tires for a car appointment today. We store them on a shelf in the shop garage that gets accessed two times a year, so plenty of stuff ends up getting piled in the way.

Back outside I went. On the bright side, I was going to need to get the tires down anyway. I need to swap to winter wheels on the Grizzly and they are stored on that same shelf. Best of all, no additional problems turned up with my last two tasks so, no new added frustrations.

It feels good to have enough done that the impending snowfall brings with it no extra dread. The essentials have now all been handled.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2016 at 7:00 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

Got Shade?

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We’ve got shade by the round pen now!

DSCN3693eDSCN3691eYesterday, Cyndie stepped outside with Delilah and the dog made a beeline for a spot where there was another rabbit’s nest. It is pretty obvious that they breed like rabbits, because Delilah keeps finding new nests filled with babies.

In this case, Cyndie tried to rescue a couple of them from becoming Delilah’s next meal, but I don’t think she had much success. She walked back into the house and said, “I guess that’s why they call them ‘dumb bunnies’.”

Apparently none of them were smart enough to evade the resident predator.

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Written by johnwhays

July 19, 2015 at 6:00 am

First Test

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Despite my desire to get the already too long grass mowed yesterday, due to an all-afternoon soaking precipitation on Thursday that delayed getting started early, I ended the day without ever having turned the key on the lawn tractor. As so often happens, activities unfolded with total disregard for my feeble plans.

DSCN3686eKnowing we had an appointment scheduled for George to trim the horse’s hooves at noon, I chose to dip into a project down at the barn, finally assembling the shade gazebo that we purchased over a year ago. I threaded nuts on bolts for hours on end throughout the intense afternoon heat.

Cyndie provided valuable support, including going to the trouble of making a temporary fence to enclose the horses on some of the too-long grass outside the paddock, so they could do some “mowing” for me.

At the end of the day, we decided to save the work of stretching the canvas over the top for this morning when we would have fresh energy. That turned out to be a really smart decision, especially since I have yet to drive the anchors into the ground.

In the middle of the night, we were startled awake by an incredibly intense storm. We both fully expected to find the spindly frame tossed into a tangled mess, pressed up against the round pen rails nearby. Lightning flashed at a shocking rate, wind stressed our house, and the power went off for a couple of hours.

The generator kicked in perfectly, but the sound of it tended to fuel the dramatic feeling of alarm over the significance of the storm raging outside. Alarms chirped occasionally within the house, at the sudden absence or intermittent return of AC power during the outage. There are only a few essential circuits that the generator maintains, so much of the rest of our electronic devices remain at the mercy of the power grid.DSCN3687e

Getting back to sleep was a challenge. I always think about how the horses are faring when the level of intensity of thunderstorms is so extreme. By the time we find them in the aftermath, they always seem so unperturbed.

This morning they were happy as could be. I wondered aloud if Legacy knew that today was his birthday. The elder statesman of our herd turned 19 today.

To our joint surprise, as we came around the woods and the new gazebo frame came into view, it looked exactly like the way we left it last night. It survived its first test with an excellent result.

Now we need to walk the trails and see if all our trees held up nearly as well.

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Written by johnwhays

July 18, 2015 at 9:38 am