Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘manure management

Fiery Sky

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The horses were heavily harassed by biting flies yesterday, which made my session of scooping manure a lively affair. The biggest hazard, beyond unpredictable flailing hooves as they fling a leg out in response to a bite, is the nasty snap of their tails. They could take an eye out with that whipping action. At the very least, it stings when they get you.

I’ve noticed they will frequently align themselves to purposely have their heads in the wash of someone else’s tail for added fly management. There is no doubt they are thicker skinned than we are. I wouldn’t be able to endure the beating.

I worked well past the dinner hour last night, after a full shift at the day-job, to create added open space in the compost area for my approaching week-long absence from home. The effort now should pay off when I return, so I won’t come home to a disaster of overflowing piles.

Manure management is one of those jobs that is made easy by frequent attention. Let it go for a day or two between scooping and it can become an exponentially more significant project.

Last night, I opened up a gate to a section of pasture that still has long grass, to allow the herd a brief session of grazing. The first thing three of them did was pee. The second thing they took turns doing was laying down and rolling around.

When I looked their direction to see they finally got around to seriously grazing, the setting sun was illuminating the clouds to create the impression of a great conflagration. Photo Op!

One last day at the day-job today before vacation. I hope to try mowing the yard tonight and maybe doing a little laundry so I can pack clean clothes for the bike trip.

If I pack warm clothes and rain gear, maybe I won’t need them. We all know that if I don’t pack those things, it would guarantee that the week would turn out cold and wet.

If we see fiery clouds in the evenings during the bike trip, I hope it will mean, “sailor’s delight.”

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Working Through

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Some chores don’t wait for nice weather, so we ventured out into the constant drizzle on Sunday to open space in our compost area, despite the inconvenience. Cyndie had moved the horses indoors out of the wet on Saturday night, which resulted in soiled wood shavings in their stalls at a time when we didn’t have space in the compost area.

Luckily, there is a spot next to the barn where we’ve been using composted manure and old hay to fill in a drop in the landscape. The area had been a too convenient runway for water drainage that was problematic. Bringing it back to level with the surrounding area will spread and slow water flowing from above.

Out came the Grizzly, after putting air in the leaky front tire, and the metal grate trailer for an increasingly muddier series of loads from the compost area. Very similar to working on moving innumerable bales of hay, as time goes by, the loads seemed to get heavier and heavier and I started to move slower and slower. Cyndie pushed back against my increasing moments of pause, with a goal of getting the job done as quickly as possible so she could get in out of the cold and wet.

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When she proclaimed we were down to just two loads remaining, I corrected her with the estimation of four loads. After I tried to take out a small load to assure my estimation would win, she suggested we could toss some of the last bits into the woods around the compost area, leading to an outcome of three loads completing the task. It was declared a tie.

We were wet, it was muddy, but we had worked through the nasty weather to accomplish a necessary chore. We now have open space for composting again.

And not a moment too soon.

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2017 at 6:00 am

Teamwork Challenged

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Yesterday, I experienced a classic example of a frequent challenge Cyndie and I have been navigating to varying degrees over the 35+ years of our life together as husband and wife. Our minds sometimes tend to operate out of sync from one another, despite our best intentions.

dscn5761eIt was a beautiful winter day outside, with a lot of blue sky and sunshine, a comfortable temperature, and minimal breezes. We headed out to give Delilah some exercise by letting her run loose in the pastures while throwing discs for her to chase. We walked right past the horses, cutting through their paddock to get out into the hay-field.

On our way back in, Cyndie said she wanted to pay a little visit to the horses. While milling around with them, Cyndie decided to scoop some of the fresh manure under foot. That inspired me to grab a pitch fork and clean the edges of the large pile we have been creating during the snow season.

When she was done cleaning up, Cyndie said she would take Delilah out for one last session of running loose in the back pasture. In a very short time, I was commenting on their quick return.

“Delilah’s tired and I’m getting cold, so we are going to head up.” she reported.

I told her I would finish what I was doing and then follow them shortly. Earlier, Cyndie had asked me what shovel I had used in the past to make a winter path through the labyrinth. I told her the trick is to just walk the route wearing snowshoes, implying we could do that later in the day, after lunch.

As I walked up to the barn to put away my pitch fork, Cayenne turned and approached me for some loving. I soaked up her attention and lingered for what seemed like a long time to me, staying engaged as long as she maintained interest. It’s funny how much hot breath, wet nose, and sloppy tongue seems perfectly acceptable when a horse is choosing to nuzzle and mingle. I searched for a sweet-spot of scratching for her, moving between her ears, neck and chest.

Eventually, what ended our little love fest was Legacy, coming over from the other side of the overhang. I don’t know what reason he had to finally interrupt, but I tried spending a little time with him to see if he was just hoping for similar attention. Since he’s not as accommodating to hands-on affection, it comes across more as though he just doesn’t want her to be getting all the fun.

I finally made my way up to the house, ready for a break and some lunch. Stepping inside, I found no one there. Cyndie must have gone down to the labyrinth already, I thought to myself. Looking out back, sure enough, I spotted Delilah moving around down there. I rallied my energy and decided to join her.

First, I looked in the garage for the snowshoes, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Did we leave the second pair at the lake? Oh well, I’ll grab the plastic shovel, just in case I can find a way to use that to help. The shovel wasn’t where I keep it, either. Frustrated that I couldn’t execute my plan, I walked down empty-handed.

I arrived just in time. Cyndie said she needed my help with figuring out where the turns should be.

Imagine this, it turned out she had brought down the second pair of snowshoes and the plastic shovel, in case I wandered past on my way up to the house.

Now, why didn’t I think of that?

Welcome to my world.

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Written by johnwhays

February 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Hot Compost

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I continue to enjoy with fascination how much heat is created by the microorganisms in our compost pile, especially when the outside air temperature drops to double digits below zero (F). I took a picture of the thermometer reading on Saturday morning when the polar vortex had us in a deep freeze.

DSCN4439eOur sh*t is cookin’!

That pile consists primarily of what has been cleaned from the barn stalls.

We are also collecting manure in the paddocks and piling it in several spots out there. Although I attempted to swiftly establish healthy sized piles, hoping I could get them to also start cooking, they are all frozen solid.

I’ll be experimenting to see how long it takes for me to bring ’em to life as winter wanes.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2016 at 7:00 am

Nothing But

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DSCN4393eWe had nothing but weather around here yesterday. Moments of sunshine, plenty of degrees, and a brief passing rain shower in the afternoon. It was shirt-sleeve time in the morning for cleaning the barn. The warm temps also provided an opportunity to give the waterer a thorough cleaning, which was badly needed.

It was so cold the last time I tried to clean the waterer, the cover was frozen on solid. That time, I did a cursory scrubbing to break loose the green growth that develops on underwater surfaces, but I couldn’t drain it because I couldn’t get that cover off. I tried splashing debris out, but that offered limited results.

Yesterday, while I was cleaning stalls in the barn, Delilah was reacting to the sound of gunshots in the distance and a neighbor’s barking dog, with a cacophony of her own barking in reply. I decided to take a shot at capturing video of her disturbing the peace.

It took a few tries, but eventually, I caught her. She tends to stop when she notices I am up to something that involves a camera. Honestly, I think it makes her feel guilty, and she worries what others will think if her reckless barking was revealed to the world.

If you are brave enough to endure the video below, I will warn you to prepare for some dizzying panning, and a varied level of audio. I haven’t quite mastered the art of using a cell phone to record moving pictures, and I must have been covering the microphone off and on while struggling for a grip that would support the device.

Judy, this is for you. Your request for more video of Wintervale contributed to my decision to give it a go. Thanks for the nudge.

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2016 at 7:00 am

Smokin’ Hot

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Our fertilized dirt factory is cooking big time lately. In fact, my piles have been getting too hot. I have learned that too high a temperature will begin to kill the beneficial bacteria at work, primarily because it coincides with the point when oxygen is getting used up.

DSCN3960eAll I need to do at that point is stir the pile to aerate it.

That means I should be paying closer attention to the daily temperatures, and not just turning it weekly, as I had been doing.

The picture I took of that pile looks a bit like a volcano, but I don’t think there is any chance of it erupting.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

Good Enough

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It has taken me until yesterday to finally get the hitch plate remounted on the ATV, because of the difficulty I experienced removing those two sheared off bolts. Well, and also due to the fact I spend most of my days away at the day-job instead of working on things that need fixing at home!

When gentle methods proved insufficient, I drilled through the bolts in order to use an “easy-out” bit to turn them out. I was able to pound against one of them to break the rust bond, and then it spun out effortlessly. For a minute, I forgot the reality of all such projects and I felt hopeful about quickly finishing the second bolt using the same process. Silly me. It wasn’t to be.

DSCN3905eTry as I might, I could not get the second bolt to jar loose from the threads in the frame. And I did try, over and over again. I tried adding heat, I tried cooling with ice. I pounded it in every direction. I soaked it with rust-breaking fluids. I worked repeatedly to get the easy-out bit to rotate, all the while being cautious about not breaking that off in the hole. It never budged.

After days of effort, I was forced to make progress in order to get on with the next task at hand. I drilled out the bolt fragment as large as possible without completely trashing the threads, and put in a smaller diameter bolt that was long enough to secure with a nut on the bottom.

It wasn’t the perfect resolution to the problem, but it was a completely effective work around. The hitch plate is mounted again, and I can pull the trailer for chores. First order of business: relocate the composted piles of manure.

I needed to make new space for manure because I was running out of a place to put it. Out of the 6 piles I had in our composting area, 4 were no longer “cooking.” I spent most of the afternoon distributing composted manure to a variety of spots. Some is being used as fertilizer, but a lot if it is currently being used as fill in areas that need it. That happens to be the most convenient solution to two different issues.

I quickly get new space in the compost area, and at the same time, get to fill low spots that need it most. That’s good enough for me.

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Written by johnwhays

September 8, 2015 at 6:00 am