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

Posts Tagged ‘lime screenings

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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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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Looking Down

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I have an affinity for looking straight up or directly beneath me when I’ve got a camera in my hands. I’m also a fan of surface textures and single content features filling the frame.

Adding in the shadow of a perfect hoof print is a real bonus.

dscn5513eI had just been looking into the sun at Cayenne when I dropped my gaze and captured the ground in front of me. She had turned to observe my activity and then resumed the noble pose that had grabbed my attention in the first place.

I captured both.

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I think she was enjoying the last of the warm afternoon sun prior to our latest bout of cold rain. That is, cold in the relative sense, because yesterday it climbed to 50° (F) here, which is rather warm for late November.

Leaves us wondering when we will get to look down at our feet and see some useable snow. For the time being, it is mostly mud!

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Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2016 at 7:00 am

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

Sand Box

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IMG_iP1467eAfter work yesterday, I went outside to play in our sand box. It wasn’t pretty. There were a few expletives expressed in the execution of the task.

We had an extra load of lime screenings dumped beside the hay shed for use in filling low spots and rills in the paddock. The horses kick constantly in response to flies on their legs and their doing so digs out the area around their hay boxes. The rills on the slope are created by water runoff from heavy rains.

Both issues require trying to get the tractor up the incline to the barn, with a heavy bucket load of lime screenings. I have yet to acquire the skills and knowledge to efficiently navigate the 12 forward gears of the New Holland to get it to go where I want to go and do what I intend to achieve without spinning the wheels and creating almost as much damage as that which I am trying to mend.

It’s crazy-making.

It should be fun, playing in sand with my big tractor. Problem is, it is also a bit dangerous and can be costly.

Right off the bat, with the first scoop of screenings, I got stuck at the bump built up to divert water runoff at the gate into the paddock. I didn’t approach with enough momentum to get over it, and since it is downhill from the driveway, I suddenly couldn’t back up, either. The rear tires just spun when trying both directions, digging me deeper into being stuck with each attempt to coax out some progress of escape.

I ended up dumping the bucket right there and using the hydraulic loader to pry my way out of the predicament, as I have learned to do from my farmer neighbors. It would be nice if I took it as no big deal, but it pissed me off something fierce and set the negative tone for all my subsequent struggles of getting up the slopes to where I wanted to drop loads of screenings.

I couldn’t figure out the right combination of speed and power to make it up the hill with all the weight in the bucket. Halfway up the slope the rear wheels would start to lose grip and I would try to solve it with cursing.

Okay, cursing isn’t an attempt to solve the problem, it is a venting of frustration over having the problem and not succeeding in achieving a solution. But it feels like it helps.

Eventually, enough material was moved close enough to areas where it could be tossed by shovel to the spots most in need. The divots created by spinning tractor wheels were filled in and smoothed. The tractor didn’t tip over or smash into the fence, the barn posts, or the tree.

I got “back to grazing” pretty quickly and shed the negative vibe.

I suppose it’s not all that different from any kid playing in a sand box. Sometimes fun is mixed with frustration. The trick is learning how to deal with it constructively and come out ahead in the end.

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Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2016 at 6:00 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

Wish Granted

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IMG_iP2364eCHPretty much from the very first day that we assembled the fence panels of the round panel, Cyndie has been wanting sand on the ground in there. We are darn close now. She’s got sand, finally, just not quite enough.

Our source of lime screenings for our paddock, and sand for the round pen, is an excavating company that delivers by dump truck. Yes, that’s the very same company that did the initial damage to our paved driveway over 2 years ago with their heavy truck.

We’ve gotten over that, and the driveway, intentionally neglected ever since, has reached a point where further heavy traffic on it doesn’t seem to make any significant difference. The paddock, on the other hand, suffers quite an impression from the heavily loaded truck.

To save money, and because the excavators don’t have time, we opted to do the spreading ourselves. Their truck can fit through two of our gates to get close to the round pen, but not through the last one, so he dumps it just short of the target.

I was able to leave the day-job early yesterday and quickly jumped onto the tractor seat for my exercise in frustration. It isn’t quite as bad as I make it out to be, because I do move a lot of sand in a reasonable amount of time, but I just haven’t mastered the art of getting that big machine to do exactly what I want, when I want.

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There’s a lot of physics involved when you add a full load in the bucket on the front, which causes the tractor to handle in mysterious ways sometimes. I have a penchant for spinning my wheels more than I like. That ends up creating divots of my own, which I then repeatedly roll into in the process of scooping up subsequent loads. That complicates my attempts to adjust the height of the bucket when approaching to pick up a load, as the up and down of the front wheels alters the level of the bucket.

Repeatedly, in my attempts to scrape the bottom of the pile off the top of the ground, I ended up digging down into the paddock dirt, when all I wanted was sand from the pile. It wreaks havoc on a person’s perfectionism, I tell ya.

With Cyndie’s help on some ground work, I got the bulk of the pile moved inside the pen. It still needs to be spread out better in there, but the pile has been cleared out enough that there is room for them to drop another load that is needed to finish the job.

After that, I moved on to distribute a pile of lime screenings that had been dumped right inside the gate of the paddock. We needed additional lime screenings to fill in the rills that the rain has created on the slope beyond the barn roof. I had to get that pile moved to make room for the dump truck to back in again toward the round pen with a second load of sand.

If we can get that to happen, Cyndie will have the rest of her wish finally granted, and the horses will finally have a layer of sand to do laps on in the round pen. It’s turning out just like we planned!

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2015 at 6:00 am