Saturday, May 09, 2015

Compost Awareness Week?

I never knew that there was such a thing, but there is.

Earlier in the week, I called about buying 2 cubic yards of compost and I was informed that because was "compost awareness week", their product was half price, $8.50 a yard. The problem was that the place selling it is 170 miles from home.

Why would I even consider going that far for composted yard waste? Well, there are several places around me and in neighboring communities that accept yard waste, but NONE of them do anything with the waste. They typically do not charge a drop off fee and the grass clippings, leaves, and tree trimmings are usually just left to rot in a hole in the ground. Nancy and I called several of the contact people listed for these sites, and none of the people we spoke to recommended using their "compost", and I use that term loosely, in a garden. Some of the people we spoke to said that the incoming waste often contained household garbage.... What a waste of a great resource!

In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, it's a whole different world... Yard waste can't be tossed in the trash for curb side pick up. It has to be recycled, either curb side in a special bin or special large paper bags, or you have to haul it to a yard waste facility yourself. They charge you to drop off material, and they charge for the finished product. It's been that way for many years.

Years ago, when I lived in the suburbs, I made countless trips to the drop off site. When I had a small backyard garden, I made use of a lot of the finished compost. It's a fantastic soil amendment. I had some very productive tomato plants...

1990??

On Thursday, I had business to tend to down in the cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul MN) so I brought along my trailer. I stopped at the Empire Township Compost Facility. I wish I had brought my camera because the piles of product, in various stages of completion, were huge!

I had them dump a FULL skid loader bucket in the trailer and just as much in the truck bed. I would have loved to drive over the scale before and after because it was a big load. I ended up with 2 very generous cubic yards worth of black gold!. The load in the back of the truck was more than 16 inches deep.


The trailer was loaded about as heavy as I'd ever want it loaded. The springs are almost flat and there's not a whole lot of clearance between the tires and the underside of the fenders. I looked after I got home, but I could not see any evidence of the tires rubbing on the fenders. The ride home was smooth, it rode like my old Eldorado.

I did a little figuring as to how much that heavy load really cost me. If I accept that I had to make the trip anyways, and I can normally get a solid 20 MPG with my truck on the trip. The difference in added fuel use wasn't too bad. I gassed up on the way down and again just before I got home. I figured that I averaged 17.6 MPG pulling the trailer. I drove a total of 380 miles on that trip... so.... on a "normal" empty trip, I would have used 19 gallons of gas (380/20=19). The same trip with a loaded truck/trailer, at 17.6 MPG... 380/17.6=21.6 gallons... A 2.6 gallon difference @ 2.499, Thursday's fuel price, it cost me an extra $6.50 in fuel. Not bad for all the miles and extra weight. Even better is the half price product. $34 worth of compost for $17.

On Tuesday, I drove an hour or so away and picked up a truck and trailer load of what was supposed to be "well composted" cow manure. It was advertised on Craigslist as "odorless" and "finished", but in reality it still has an ammonia smell and a lot of the pine bedding is still visible. The contents of the compost should be unidentifiable. I spread only a small amount on the garden and made a large pile of manure near the garden. I'm going to cover it with a dark brown tarp and let it finish decomposing. It should be fine by fall. Also, there was a difference between what each person calls a "yard". This guy's yards seemed a bit light compared to the Empire Facility's...

Manure...

The garden with half the compost spread on top and the manure pile behind it. I'll till this in and add what's still in the trailer...




Monday, May 04, 2015

Harvesting Rocks...

We've been busy with household chores the last couple of weeks. Nancy's been tending to her flower beds and I've been working on our garden. I've had vegetable gardens in the past and they've been very productive. But since retiring and moving north in 2010, this will be my first year with a garden in 16 or 17 years. Funny, but I don't remember it being so much work!

In the 1990's, when I put in my last garden, the soil in my backyard was heavy, with more clay, but there were a lot fewer rocks. I guess the soil of northern Wisconsin is a lot different than it is 150 miles away in the Minneapolis suburbs. I would have liked to buy a new 48" tiller for the back of my tractor, but it made more since to just find an older, walk behind tiller like I had before. I watched Craigslist for a while and found a Simplicity 1005 tiller that was not too far away and at a reasonable price. It's 40 years old but the 5 HP Briggs and Stratton still runs great!.


Tilling the garden has been a lot of hard work. Getting the big rocks out has been the hard part! I till a few feet and dig up a rock, till a few feet, another rock...
I filled the tractor bucket quite a few times and broke a shovel handle trying to get out a really big one. I think I'm just about done harvesting rocks.


Just about ready... 24' x 24' with room to expand. I'll get 3 or 4 yards of compost and get it tilled in by the weekend.


I thought that I was done with my trailer the last time I posted, but I found a few more things to fix. I remember seeing pictures of trailer suspensions that people had forgotten to service. Well, my trailer is 40+ years old, so I thought I should take a closer look at the spring shackles. I'm glad I did. I found a lot of wear in the shackle holes and the bolts that attach them. The holes should be 1/2", they've grown over the years. My riding buddy, John, made me a new set, one inch longer for a bit higher ride. Thanks John!!

Old shackles and bolts...


New...


I added a retaining pin to keep the tail gate from popping out.


I hasn't been all work though. On Sunday, we went for our first kayak ride of the season. We checked the conditions of the Namekagon River on the National Parks Service web site, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) web site. Both showed low water levels, so we decided to put in further down stream than normal, with hopes of finding deeper water. We started at the Spring brook Landing...


...and got out 4.9 miles down steam at the Big Bend Landing...


It was a fun trip, even with a strong head wind. We saw lots of wildlife and heard Chickadees and Pileated Woodpeckers. There were many spots where Turtles were sunning themselves. Often singly, or groups of 2 or 3. We saw one group of about 9 to 12 very large Turtles at one point. But they ducked into the water before either of us could get their picture.


There were several trees that had been chewed on Beavers...


More pictures...

Some of Nancy's...

Spring is here. The grass is green, the trees have buds but only a few have any leaves yet and there are dandelions in the yard.

It's hard to believe but two years ago, on this same weekend, the Fishing Opener, all the lakes in northern Wisconsin were still frozen over...







Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Real Ride of the Season.

Yesterday, the sun was shining but it was still kind of cool. I decided to take the Zx14 out for the first real ride of the season. I rode a little over 80 miles. While on my ride the odometer turned over 49,000 miles.


I headed north from Cable and west on Co Hwy N from Drummond. At Hwy 27 I turned to go north. I wanted to get some pictures of a local "shoe tree".


There were also a couple of old cars (model "T"s maybe?) parked in a near by woods. I find weird things like that interesting...





The rest of the trip was just down Hwy 27 to Hayward and back up 63 to home. It felt good to get on a bike and ride!


This Spring, I've kept busy mostly by working on projects in the garage while Nancy worked in the yard. I finally finished my trailer rebuild. I stained and sealed the last of the side boards. A few weeks ago I had new trailer tires mounted on the wheels...


The tailgate is not in the picture but it's finished too.

I've also made a few modifications to the new tractor. I bypassed the RIO (Reverse Implement Option), it's a switch that kills the tractor dead if you are using the PTO (Power Take Off) and try to reverse the tractor without first lifting up on the PTO switch while cutting grass, using the snow blower, tilling.... Taking one hand off the rest of the controls.... I don't see why Deere couldn't just have the RIO system disengage the PTO and not kill the whole tractor. Lawyers I suspect.... It's right up there with labels on hand held hair driers warning you not to use them in the shower!


I disabled a very sensitive seat switch. I couldn't tilt my butt when looking backwards without killing the tractor...


...added a couple of grab hooks to the top of the bucket...


...almost finished my ballast box. I just need to cut up a rubber mat to cover the sand. I don't want the cats to think I gave them a new "bathroom"...


This winter, I found a large 3'x4' map of the U.S. and colored in as many of the roads from my motorcycle trips as I could remember. Unfortunately the level detail on the map is pretty low or there would be a whole lot more ink around the Black Hills in SD, Eureka Springs, AR and Estes Park, CO.


Happy Birthday Ninja!!


The next ride will be to get pictures of yet another local, but much less decorated, "shoe tree"... Maybe some Cranberry bog shots too.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Don't want to Jinx Myself....

....but it was exactly a year ago that I posted these pictures of the snow in the yard....


Today, one year later, the view is much different...


I know that by posting these pictures, I risk Mother Nature's revenge and face the potential for a huge dumping of snow. I'll take that risk.

In the past few weeks we've had some unseasonably warm temperatures. It's has cooled off the last few days, so much so that we're back to fires in the fireplace. This may not have been the snowiest winter, but it certainly has been a cold one.

The motorcycles are still sleeping in the garage but I've been hearing some grumbling from them. So it wont be long until they wake up and get out for their first spring ride.

I've started to work on a few garage projects. I added an elbow to the exhaust on my John Deere tractor. The factory exhaust aims forward, and blows onto the back of the snow blower. The warm exhaust warms the steel on the left side of the blower and a lot of the snow sticks to the inside. A short piece of 1.5" diameter chrome plated brass drain pipe will cure that problem.


I cut a few short slits in the new pipe and forced it over a 1 1/16" impact socket to expand it just enough to slip over the tip of the exhaust. I secured it with a hose clamp. I'll try it this way, but it might have to be modified slightly in case it catches in the weeds or comes to close to the loader frame.


This winter I added a SpeeCo Quick Hitch to the three point hitch of the tractor. This makes the job of attaching implements much easier.


I've been working on a ballast box for the tractor. I got a good deal on some 70 pound bags of sand (dirt cheap) and picked up some PVC pipe to put in the box so I can carry a chain saw, a few yard tools and some logging chains with me. I need some warmer weather so I can finish some painting and then add 500 pounds of sand. The ballast box is primarily used with the front end loader, but it will also add some extra traction in the rear when used with the snow blower.


I moved the tail light/flashers to the inside of the roll bar. The fixtures are plastic and I figured the first time I cut the grass I'd get too close to a tree branch and knock one of them off.


Over the winter, my buddy, John, has provided me with 3 large pallets and lots of extra lumber. The pallets are 110 inches long and will be perfect for stacking more firewood!


One project I managed to get done before winter came was making covers for the 2 huge basement window wells. A few treated 2x4s and some clear corrugated polycarbonate, and no more snow in the wells and plenty of light. The temps in the window well were often warm enough to open the windows and give the cats a treat of semi-outdoor warm sunshine.




No matter what the weather does in the next few weeks, spring is not far away. The sap is flowing in the maple trees. There was a "sap-sicle" hanging off this maple yesterday, but only a "sap-cube" remains today... Look close..