The Useful Duck!

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

A long hot summer where things go wrong

This summer has been one long heat-wave.
90 degrees at 9 p.m. Smoke from California and endless bales.

I have been stacking straw bales after work and on the weekends. I need to take time off work but I'm behind at work as well. I seriously lack motivation.
Working at for the sort of bureaucracy I work for is mind-numbing.
For example...
The local soil conservation district is doing a restoration project on the creek on campus. I think was spearheaded by the environmental studies instructor but I don't have all the details correct.
Step one was bat houses and bird houses. The bat houses were important as the attic of the oldest building on campus was sealed and the bats kicked out. The bat houses were to provide a new home for the mosquito eating little furry creatures.
For two years the bat houses and bird houses have been sitting in storage because "there is no time" for grounds to put them up, AND... According to upper management, insurance doesn't allow volunteers to climb ladders on school property.
Really... I can think of multiple solutions but I suppose that is why I hope to NEVER be in management here.
I have problems with crab grass on my sports turf. I've been digging it out with my pocket knife. This makes mowing pretty slow, but if I let anyone else mow then the crab grass multiplies. There may be chemical solutions to this problem. But they must be researched... There are chemical company field representatives who could help. Many emails have been exchanged...
Perhaps next year...
The good news is that a new guy has been hired who has professional sports turf experience. I have been assured I will not be replaced. However, it would make sense to put the person who know what they are doing in charge of athletic turf.
Which is what makes me fairly sure I will not be sent back to cleaning parking lots...
Straw is never ending.
There have been some spectacular failures.
An example:
One evening I was a little stressed. I got in my service pickup to find all the tools and spare parts that usually sit on the dash were now on the floor. The roar of no exhaust reminded me that only two weeks ago the exhaust pipe had fallen off whilst driving down the road. Then there was the time I came home to discover the large air compressor had tipped over in the back of the pickup. Not one to hold a grudge I just smiled and drove on. It was perhaps a bitter ironic smile. After all I had in fact disrupted the tools in the back of my father's pickup and cause him great consternation on several occasions.
A strange clunking sound kept invading my consciousness. It was hard to discern over the dull roar of the 450cc Ford engine which was running on at least six out of 8 cylinders, not all at the same time.
During one of the moments of silence when all 8 failed at once I could definitely hear a clunk coming for the front end.
Being of an inquiring mind, I pulled over and wiggled the right front wheel. It moved in and out at least an inch. I figured since I had only made it two thirds of the way to the field I better just go back home.
Upon arriving home I realized I had the diesel for the stacker in the back of my pickup and the stacker was almost out of fuel.
My brother graciously offered his pickup but it is a totally thrashed (actual automotive term) mid 1970 Chevy which I'm sort of embarrassed to drive. But, mostly I'm afraid to drive, because it runs on fewer cylinders than my Ford but appears to be powered by bunker crude.
Fortunately my cousin who lives near where I was to stack offered to bring me fuel. So I drove my vintage GMC (slightly better than a Chevy, akin to Coors lite vs Coor Banquet). It was only 97 degrees but I don't think that was why the radiator exploded. The radiator exploded because it is a cheap Chinese aluminum POS radiator.
And then I committed the unpardonable sin. I jumped in the stacker without greasing or checking the frequent failure items. I got my diesel and I cranked up the AC and I went to work.
At approximately 10:30 PM I heard a funny grinding noise when the second table went up and I just knew what it was.

The second table cylinder mount had busted and hit the brand-spanking-new $2000 hydraulic pump.
Hydraulic oil was spraying everywhere. I quickly dumped by part load and stopped.
The cylinder had pushed the power steering port fitting out of the pump, stripping the aluminum threads....
That was a while back. We fixed it...
Yesterday was worse. I just wanted to go home. The A/C quit.
Now I am a certified Automotive A/C tech. I took an hour class and was tested and I have a certificate. The class had NOTHING to do with the sort of A/C repair I am called on to do. As in backyard retrofitted R-12 to R-134 forty year old farm equipment. It was actually funny. If the A/C doesn't work. You hook up your fancy A/C machine and evacuate the system. If it won't hold a vacuum you start replacing parts. They don't even recommend flushing the system anymore. You NEVER top off a system.
They also didn't cover fixing melted switches with a piece of wire which you happen to find under the seat. But, I did a last have glorious cool air...

And now, I am going to water the garden and feed the chickens and do the dishes as my family returns home from the grand and glorious adventure to Ireland.
Have a happy day!

My blog looks fine on my phone and MacBook. However, on the PC at work the formatting is weird. Does my blog look like crap on your computer? Just curious, I most likely won't bother to fix it...

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Summer, my daughter goes into the big wide world, I feel old

I have been remiss in my blogging.
I was warned about getting a real job.
It is difficult to go from being one's own boss to working for someone else. It is difficult to go from being task oriented to being procedure oriented.
Or rather,
I propose a question...
Do you know the difference between a brown nose and shit head?
The brown nose knows when to stop...
Learning to do my new job was a lot of fun. Fairly stressful, but still interesting. Every new experience is interesting.
I have run into a wall.
When you are farming, you may be broke, but you continually think how to better yourself. I have started a planting business, non GMO feed business, custom hay stacking, bought a baler for feed store straw, and built my own GPS guidance system.
As a groundskeeper my goal is to mow straighter lines...
I am learning about plants and trying to remember their names. I need to learn about turf irrigation. I need to improve my spraying and fertilizer timing.

But... I will NEVER make more money, be able to built the tool I need for grooming the baseball warning track, build a better sprayer, or get a group of alumni together to actually fix the soccer practice field.
Nope, the next five years will be driving around in my little golf cart trying to do the best job I can and still appease the utterly irrelevant and random request of my supervisor.
And trying to stay awake after working a second job, whether it be farming or something else.

It is summer.
I think it is the latest we have made hay since the horrible year in the previous century when I cut like 200 acres and we baled it with two Freeman 200 balers and no one bought it.
I should be finished Tuesday. Then I have to get it hauled and stored. The fellow who was going to buy it lost his sale and so there will be 250 ton of slightly over ripe hay to sell. Highly digestibility, and low feed value. Perfect horse hay. I sure wish I would have offered $1,000 less for the rent...
I have left no bales or tractors in MuddyValley's field to disturb the Elk. This is an achievement for me.

My daughter is in Virginia. She is taking part in the Young Writers Workshop which is put on by the University of Virginia.
It is being held at Sweet Briar College near Lynchburg. She could attend Sweet Briar and get free tuition. It is part of the small college exchange program with the college I work at. She would have to pay for her own horse though.
She says everyone thinks Portland is like the show, "Portlandia," which it is.
I miss her.
It has only been a day.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

I completely agree

My father saved my life by killing three lions hungry for flesh via

I suspect that the reason modern successful men are such utter shots is because the old ideas of honor and moral codes were ditched along with the modern fathers testicles. So, if you don't want to spend your life as a pathetic victim then you become an assholes because the code has been lost.
I make my work study kids listen to Kipling from time to time.
Read the comments after the article. They completely back up the authors point.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

I mow things, my pastor forgets lunch with me, I mow more stuff

I'm sure you all are waiting for the next epic update in my groundskeeping saga.
First of all, the outside of the baseball field did not actually die. It just remains a slightly different color.
Wednesday I mowed the practice field. This is around ten acres and I use a 14ft batwing Bush Hog mower. I didn't take the photo of the mower. I took it of the field.

It generally takes four to five hours to mow the field. This is my second year of mowing it. Last year we had so much rain in the spring it was very difficult to mow. I just kept getting more piles of grass and it was too soft to pick the grass up.
This year the fellow who walks across the field to come to work started driving and so he didn't scare the geese off the field every day. They have kept much of it mowed short. This is good for me. I mowed in a record four hours.
The field is rough and soft. Every time you mow you leave ruts. My dear leader plans on renting a large roller and rolling it flat. I tend to think rolling fields leads to compaction but I do not have a background in groundskeeping. We shall see.

I applied for a job at another small college. It is the college I graduated from. It is twenty minutes from home. On a good day. However, trip home could take an hour due to commuters from Portland. They offered me more money but less retirement. I asked for a lot more money, the supervisor said he thought they could do it and would call me tomorrow morning after he talked to his supervisor, they countered that evening with a little more but I didn't take it.
If he would have offered $1000 more I would have taken the job even though I had decided ahead of time my bottom line. That school is growing, has a marketing focus, the grounds supervisor is a working supervisor and everyone in the department was all excited about their plans. Plus, they do not have a wage freeze.

Which reminds me of a funny story about the college I work for. Last year there was some sort of protest. It was a Gay LBGTQRTY social justice protest and they had signs and determined looks and they were blocking the highway by the Art department. Well, they looked determined until they saw me, a groundskeeper in a Kawasaki Mule, zipping down the sidewalk. They started waving and apologized and quickly got out of the way. I had to tell them that was not how you do a highway blocking protest. Apparently, they were just posing for photos and certainly did not want to impede the progress of the grounds department...

But, I digress...
Actually, I kind of forgot what I was talking about...

The last time I posted I think I talked about planting 90 acres of radish for my neighbor. It didn't come up. He called me yesterday and said I planted it too deep. I offered to replant it. However, he came in after I no-till the ground (which actually tills it up quite a bit) and planted red clover and so he doesn't want it worked up again. I think what happened was that it rained hard after I planted and all the loose soil in the seed trench turned to mud and buried the seed. I was actually worried about planting too deep as there were radish seeds on top of the soil in places. Then when he planted clover over the top it buried it more. This is a bad deal as it is close to a $3,000 job. Probably $180 in diesel plus I took off work and also worked all day Sunday to do it.

My daughter has been accepted into a summer workshop for young writers in Virginia. This is going to be expensive and she is going to miss prime baling season. I encouraged her to do it even though she had decided not to go as she now wants to be a nurse. I don't know if I did the right thing. Not sure how to pay for it.

I hope everyone had a good Easter.
Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to lunch with the pastor of the church we have been attending. I was supposed to meet him last Wednesday and I got to the crappy Chinese restaurant and he forgot.
Here is a photo of my fortune... (out of the cookie)

Pretty sad when your potential pastor stands you up. Perhaps he thinks he's already got me. I didn't tithe today. Plus, I spiked his survey with requests for sermons discussing irresistible grace and predestination of the elect, or whether our belief in God is evidentiary or experiential, and if the existence of Alien life should cause us to question our spirituality. I wish I would have thought to request more hymns cause I find worship team music really boring. Often my daughter and I amuse ourselves by getting my cousin's really nice wife to laugh while singing.

My nephew from the big city has been working for my brother in the shop though spring break. He went to Church with us this morning. Possibly because there was food. It was nice. He is a decent kid. Took my daughter shooting Saturday. She doesn't see the point in shooting. The exploding paint cans were cool but she was not much into blazing away at already dead cans and wasting money on ammunition. It could be her age... However, I found myself not as thrilled as I once was.
I've got offers on my semi scary gun and its a matter of just doing the paperwork at my neighbor's backyard gunship and I will have a little extra pocket money. Think I'll give part of it to the Oregon Firearms Federation.
We are going to get severe gun control in Oregon.
Bolshevik bastards...

Monday, March 19, 2018

In the baseball field with your ear protection on, no one can hear you scream

I may have really killed the baseball field this time...
I started to spray Trimec for broadleaf weeds on the baseball field. It was like four weeks ago. I discovered that I read the schedule wrong and there was no an away game that weekend.
I made one pass along the warning track and then sprayed areas of the soccer field.
The soccer field looks great, although the clover is not really dying. Just looking wilted.
However, the baseball field started looking stressed the first week.
Here is the deal...
People blame the chemical or just random events for sprayer screw ups but it is always your fault. I have NO idea what I did.
Trimec may burn the POA a little so I was not so worried at first. It does look bad because the POA or annual Bluegrass ratio to perennial ryegrass turf is not favorable for the ryegrass...
However it is looking worse. At first the perennial had a little white burn like I mixed at too high a rate or applied at too low a speed. But it keeps looking worse.
Week 2: The yellow spots are the dying POA. Note the perennial is still green..
This was not the first area I sprayed so even if I had sprayed glyphosate earlier (which I hadn't) and even if I didn't flush the boom (which I do) then it should not have reacted this way. There is a possibility that the baseball people have been doing their own spraying but I'm a little afraid to ask. So far everyone thinks it is from the hydraulic oil blow out on the mower last month.
Week 3.5: I'm trying to convince myself it is just the POA dying...

I'm afraid to look this week.

I took the day off...

In other news...
I bought Ladybugs to eat my greenhouse aphid collection. They are chowing!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A day in the life... Groundskeeper Chronicles

Today I went to the Sports Turf Managers Association seminar at the Nike World Headquarters located near me.
We were warned in advance not to wear any non-swooshy brands.
I was much gratified to see the featured speaker was sponsored by UnderArmor.
It is also a nonsmoking campus. This really made me want to smoke but I am a nonsmoker so I had no cigars.
I was absolutely amazed at the size and scale of the place. It is completely shocking to see such a gratuitous display of conspicuous consumption in a day when the buzzword is sustainability.
Bread and circuses I suppose...
Nike uses fake wolves to scare Canada Geese off their pristine playing surfaces. They also use lasers which unfortunately do not disintegrate the geese or even teleport them back to the land of Ralph Goff. The lasers just annoy them.

I needed to come up with my favorite athlete. This was especially important since I am a Sports Turf Professional. I said Pele' is the greatest athlete of all time! I said this with much conviction. This got me into a heathy discussion about the state of Argentine and Brazilian soccer of which I had no clue. I was going to say something about Manchester United but thought I should keep quiet. My knowledge of soccer comes from listening to British Ska from the 1980's, Benny Hill, and "Are you being Served?"
(Sort of like the time I got into a heated discussion about the Mexican Revolution and my knowledge of the revolution came from The Ballad of Poncho and Lefty and an old Will James novel.)
Speaking of getting into bad situations there was also the time I went to a bar and my knowledge of drinking came from old Country-Western songs and Raymond Chandler novels and for some odd and misdirected reasoning I ordered a Gimlet. That nearly got me a boyfriend.
But, I digress.
Today I learned that I was correct in my assessment of the under fertilizing and overwatering tendencies of my department. I was also correct in using an electronic moisture tester, I read it correctly, and yes there are amazing new varieties of grass seed which are drought tolerant and grow really fast and types of fescue that are fine stemmed like perennial ryegrass but are hardy and.. and.. oh well... Also, while I was criticized in my recent employee evaluation for this very thing, I struck up conversations which provided important resources for the grounds department of my college.
For a few hours I thought about how much I loved my job.
But then I remembered I work for a bureaucracy and as soon as I start to love my job I will be cut down to size for some stupid minutiae for the sake of putting me back in my place.
So tomorrow it is back to work and I can only image how the important and useful information will be reimagined into a useless and misguided project that will bring annoyance and frustration to myself until I realize that it all pays the same and I'll go back to finding satisfaction in making the perfectly straight lawnmower trail, when I achieve that I shall retire.
Speaking of straight lawnmower trails I was able to make a trail of hydraulic oil nearly all the way around the baseball field when the main drive for the reels ruptured under the center of the mower. I can't see directly behind me so I didn't find it till the second round.
Surprisingly, the baseball coach sent an email defending me and praising my efforts at cleanup and thanking me for my sincere apology, to my supervisor. Not the email I expected I can tell you that.
I did get right on the mess with peat moss to soak up the oil, and a good dose of dawn dishwasher detergent. If it works on oily ducks why wouldn't it work on a baseball field?
Then I came home and set the no-till drill up to plant two rows of oats and one row of fescue for us only to get a call from someone wanting me to plant radish on every other row spacing. I hate planting radish...
And there you have it... The life of the lazy groundskeeper. Not so much different than the life of the lazy farmer.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A long winter

I've neglected my loyal readers.
I apologize.
Shortly after Christmas we took our bathroom apart. It has been a long process.
The MacBook Pro I use to blog with keeps dying.
Blogging with a LG-6 is not as easy as blogging with an iPhone.
I can't write what I want to write about my job.
Here is a glimpse of my life.
I have things to blog about. Like blowing out a hydraulic hose in the middle of the baseball field. Or frying the main drive belt on the Mule climbing a hill. Or planting oats at night and getting lost in the field because I can't follow little glowing GPS arrows or the fascinating details of my ongoing attempt be an audiophile and my obsession with the Rek-o-kut 120 tonearm. Or how I got my MacBook Pro to work again. Or my compelling and insightful views on politics. Or my worry that girls at my college will get a terrible draft in cold weather due to their poor choices in clothing... I'm sure these are all great blog posts and I owe it to the world of blogger to report on aforementioned events.
But, I'm lazy...

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