Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘property management

Better Sense

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It looks as though my shadow has better sense than me about taking a much deserved break in the midst of toiling over non-stop things to do.

After work yesterday, it was another trip in the pickup to fetch 45 more bales of hay. Tossing them off the truck and then hefting them back up, stacked high in the shed, was a little more exercise than I was planning to do.

Of course, the stacks get higher as I grow more exhausted, so I out-smarted the task by placing the last half-dozen on the lowest level for now.

I do have better sense than to over-tax my weary body on one particular activity.

I’m better off spreading the exhausting efforts across several days-worth of projects. After that, my body can catch up to my shadow and take a well-deserved rest for a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

About that time, it will be the beginning of another week and I’ll get to start the process all over again.

Luckily, the rewards for our efforts are plenty, and we are richly blessed in this paradise we endlessly tend.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Dust Bathing

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While I was busy sprucing up the property, the chickens were sprucing up themselves with a rousing dust bath yesterday afternoon. Apparently, two of them had simultaneous interest in the exact same spot of sandy ground. If it hadn’t been for their two different colors, I wouldn’t have been able to tell where one left off and the other started.

The three of them were pretty cute in their companionship earlier in the day when I was turning the piles of compost. They would climb up on the pile I was working on, startling a little bit each time I tossed another scoop on the heap. Not intending to alarm them, I would switch to a different pile to work, after which they would migrate over to help me on that pile.

After a few hours of compost management, I pulled out the Grizzly with our towable grader/rake and did some laps in the round pen to disrupt the uninvited weedy grasses that love taking root in the sand. Maybe the chickens will take a liking to the newly raked sand over there.

Finally, I cranked up the lawn tractor to mow the yard and all the nooks and crannies from the house to the road.

I feel ready to return to the day-job. The next big task demanding attention is the labyrinth. With Cyndie reduced to one working arm, that garden has been mostly neglected. It is something I can probably do after work one of these nights, if I have any energy for the project. The grass and weeds have gotten tall and thick, so it won’t be a quick and easy job.

When that is completed, I need to get after the north pasture, where Cyndie has already removed the fence webbing. I want to pull the T-posts that remain standing and then knock down the shoulder-high growth with our brush cutter. That will be an adventure in mowing what you can’t see.

Sure hope the chickens stay out of that field.

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My Battle

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It’s Saturday. It’s the first day of July. It’s a holiday weekend in the U.S. and Cyndie and I are up at the lake. We brought Delilah with us, our trusty canine who has gotten car sick on the last two drives to Hayward. I negotiated a delayed departure from home to give me time to mow the hay-field a second time with the brush cutter before we high-tailed it for the lake.

The horses are being well cared for by Shelby, a local college student who has been helping Cyndie since the shoulder surgery. As we drove past the arena on our way out, Dezirea was gorgeously trotting laps around Shelby on the lunge line. I tend to perceive Dez as the least athletic of our herd, but she was showing no sign of any physical limitations yesterday.

After my vacation week of cycling and this long weekend away at the lake, I’m discovering an ongoing battle simmers in my mind over work to be done on our property and my precious few hours away from the day-job. As I pedaled through the countryside a couple of weeks ago, some of the prominent scenes that repeatedly caught my eye were the lawns and farm fields being mowed.

“I should be doing that,” was my first impression.

Yesterday, after extended hours of bouncing on the tractor seat over the rolling hill of our hay-field, the accomplishment was satisfying, but only served to reveal the remaining acres still needing attention. Yet, here I am at the lake while the grass at home continues to grow.

While I was on the hay-field, Cyndie worked –one-armed– to remove the webbing from fence posts around the north pasture. We are going to pull the posts, since we aren’t grazing the horses up there anymore, as this will simplify the maneuvering necessary when mowing the area. The grass there is so tall right now that it is hard to see where the posts are with the webbing removed.

My negotiations with Cyndie will resume after the 4th of July games and community dinner are over up here, to see if I can get home with hours to spare for mowing the lawn before the short work week lays claim on my time again.

I’m here, but my mind is mulling the chores needing attention at home. Nature doesn’t take a break when we decide to go on vacation.

It’s a battle.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2017 at 8:15 am

Tragedy Visited

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I’m home again and Cyndie has everything under control, despite trying to do everything with one arm. The only difference I notice between now and a week ago when I left is the grass is long again. No surprise there. My thanks go out to all the people who helped out around here while I was off biking and camping.

The news that I shared with my fellow riders all week long was about a tragedy that happened on the Friday night that was supposed to be my first night of camping. An as-of-yet unidentified intruder decimated our chicken flock.

These three are all that we have left.

I hadn’t planned on being home at the time, but I was. With the bike tour starting less than a half-hour away from our home this year, I was able to use most of the day to finish chores, but I didn’t plan on running out of gas. The amount of time I spent getting to town and back was enough to throw my grand plan all out of whack.

Plan B involved driving to the school where the Tour started so I could get registered, then continuing on to the next exit off the interstate, where I picked up a prescription for Cyndie. With that in hand, I needed to drive back home to deliver it to her, so I decided to just sleep there and return to the school in the morning.

My sister, Mary, was over for the weekend to assist Cyndie. As I focused on packing for my trip, they headed out to close the door on the chicken coop for the night. Uncharacteristically, they found one chicken was up on our driveway by the house.

Eventually, they discovered two lifeless bodies, one inside the paddock and one just outside that same fence. Cyndie found one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks walking near the coop and got it to go inside. The one up near the driveway, the surviving Buff Orpington, was hiding in the woods and and wouldn’t come out until the next day.

I had gone out to bury the two fatalities in a compost pile and discovered the other Barred Plymouth Rock up in a tree. I was able to grab her and return her to the coop to keep the other one company for the night.

Final tally of the nine we had: two confirmed dead, three survived, and four missing in action.

Cyndie and Mary scoured the property for signs, but found no evidence to clue us in to what might have become of the others. We lost all of the Rhode Island Reds, two Buff Orpingtons, and one Barred Plymouth Rock to an unknown predator or predators.

Never saw or heard a thing, before or since. Could have been a neighboring dog or cat, or any number of wild threats. It’s possible that the some of the four missing chickens just ran away and never made it back home. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.

It’s a risk we take to have free ranging chickens.

This morning when I wheeled a load of manure out to dump on the pile, the three surviving chickens were doing their best to dig through the compost and eat as many bugs as they could.

We’re gonna need more chickens.

I need to go mow the lawn.

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

Domesticating Wild

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A number of our close advisors have provided insights on what we could do to tame the many wild raspberry patches that thrive on our land. Last weekend we finally made a first pass through the bramble that exists across the driveway from the house.

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In the four previous years since we moved here, we have simply harvested berries from wherever they appear. Some years the bounty was greater than we could keep up with and other years it has seemed a bit off. The hot spots tended to travel from one zone to another in any given season.

Navigating the tangle of thorns to reach fruit in the center of the patches was often difficult and hazardous. Since we never planted any of these wild raspberry bushes to start with, it doesn’t feel like we are risking too much to take a crack at cutting them back in hopes of encouraging some more orderly growth.

There’s no reason to think new patches wouldn’t just sprout up again if we accidentally destroy a current one. That’s the way they got here in the first place, thanks to the birds and nature’s way of doing things.

It seems realistic to me to expect that the trimming we have done may interfere a bit with the potential volume of this summer’s berry crop. Long term though, we think we will be cultivating better conditions for the plants. The ultimate result we are hoping for is improved berry production and a more enjoyable process of picking them.

Raspberry jam, anyone?

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Most Satisfying

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Every time I use our wood chipper, I grow more enamored with the machine and what it does for us. For me, it has become the most satisfying repeated task of property management that we undertake.

It is relatively easy to set up, makes good use of our otherwise under-utilized diesel tractor, and it makes quick work of the chipping. I love the way it transforms an unsightly nuisance of constantly accumulating dead (or recently pruned) branches into a precious resource of wood chips. We will never have enough.

We use the chips around plants in the gardens and landscaping, as well as a covering for our many trails. That is, we hope to cover the trails. Right now, we have a lot more trails in need than we have wood chips to cover.

If we could find a way to create a few more hours in a day, we certainly have no shortage of branches to chip…

And it would be a most satisfying additional few hours, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2017 at 6:00 am