January 25, 2013

Slowly Working Toward Golf Season

Maybe in another 2 months or so we will be considering the beginning of golf season?  The chances for any sort of a spring flood, even a minor one, look pretty slim at this point (fingers crossed, knock on wood) so I would like to hope we could consider playing some golf by the start of April.  Last year we were hitting balls on the driving range on March 17th in shorts while it was 70 degrees....albeit with the ground still frozen four feet deep.  I would like to imagine that a "normal" spring, if such a thing exists, would let us be out hitting golf balls by sometime in the beginning of April.

With still 8 or so weeks left to go until we will be working outside again, Andy and I are still staying plenty busy in the shop.  Although I will have to admit, we are getting a bit of cabin fever, starting to drive each other crazy, and possibly could be caught talking to ourselves if the other one is working on a different project.

We finished all the important work on our highly used pieces of equipment, such as all the reel grinding and sharpening, bearing replacement, and fluid servicing back a few weeks ago.  We have now moved on to giving some much needed attention to some of the older and less used, but still very important equipment that we have.  These pieces include the slit seeder we use for reseeding after a flood, transport trailers, light duty utility carts, topdressers, water pumps, etc.

We have also started to work on the course accessories:  tearing apart ball washers, sanding and restaining tee markers and yardage posts, and painting cups.  Next week we get the new metal frames for the new cedar trash can holders we are going to make back from the powder coater, so we will be tearing into that project very soon.

Disassembling ball washers.  A local outfit is going to strip all the old paint
and powder coat both the body and lid.  Brand new ball washers next year!

18 water pumps!  Some of them over 10 years old, rusted and seized, engine
blown, etc.  We went through each one, taking parts from the dead pumps to
get as many to run as possible.  We finished with 10 working pumps and junked
the rest.

We use our 14' tandem axle trailer often for hauling equipment and picking
up large loads of pipe, wood, retaining wall blocks, etc from town.  Last fall
while doing 50 mph a wheel bearing seized up on me.  Needless to say, we started
by replacing all the wheel bearings....

New wheel bearings, and most importantly our trailer now has fenders and
working brake lights and turn signals meaning that it is actually street legal!
No more worry of a ticket heading into town to get supplies.  New wood,
safety chains, and a fresh coat of paint make it look like a new trailer.

Yardage stakes with a fresh coat of paint and stain and loaded up ready to go
back out on the course first thing in the spring.   Allie had another day off from
preschool, so she got to help.

The blades on our tractor mounted slit seeder were so worn down that they
didn't even cut into the ground anymore.  The bolts are placed so that it is
impossible to get a power tool on them, so Andy had to remove all 170 blades
(340 bolts) with hand wrenches.  Next week he gets to put all the new blades
back on.....with hand wrenches.

Andy getting close to having all the blades removed, the
slit seeder on the tractor is in the background.

We had the parts breakdown book out while working
on the slit seeder.  Our "shop foreman" took some time
to go over some diagrams with Andy so he knew how
to reassemble it when he was finished.

We completely took apart and painted the small trailers that are used to transport
our walking greens mowers around the course.  I scored the trailers used
for an amazing deal last year from a guy in Florida, they were just a little
rusty and in bad need of some touching up.

Trailer put back together with a mower loaded onto it.

January 21, 2013

We're Having A Heat Wave!

Well, depends on who you ask.  It may feel warm if you live on the North Pole...
Well, the forecasted low was -22, so I guess we're doing pretty good.
While this isn't a completely out of the ordinary cold snap, the circumstances that are accompanying it aren't exactly the greatest.  We experienced our second blizzard in as many weekends, this one however brought very little new snow, just some insanely strong winds on Saturday.  The 3 inches of fresh snow that was so beautifully covering the golf course last week blew somewhere down into South Dakota with those 50 mph north winds.  Now again, our ice covered greens are left half uncovered, exposed directly to these temperatures.  

Friday afternoon brought a great calm before the storm.
So nice in fact that Andy and I took a little cross country tour of the course
to dig some holes on the greens and check the ice.
I managed to pull this ice layer off of an area where the snow was thick
enough last week that the rain didn't percolate all the way down to
the ground.  This is basically an exact example of what is on the greens.

After our weekend wind storm, we're back to this.....not good.

As you can see, the ice is very sporadic.  Some of it is
close to half an inch thick.
Our current cold spell isn't suppose to break anytime soon either.  The temperature dropped below 0 by about 5pm on Saturday.  At this point, we are not forecasted to break back into positive numbers until this coming Saturday sometime.  If that holds true, we will end up going close to a full week without seeing a temperature above 0!

Here in the next week or so I will be going out on the course with a hole saw on a drill to pull some samples off of a few of the greens with the worst ice.  Like last year, I will plant these samples in some cups of soil, water them, and put them in the south facing windowsill in my office to see if they are dead or alive.  At this point though, I am already pretty sure that almost everything that is either ice covered or has had the snow blow off of it and exposed to direct cold temperatures is headed for destruction.

Time to start looking at seed catalogs and working on "Plan B" for this spring....

January 15, 2013

It's Too Cold In California

Hope you Northerners get a kick out of this!  Apparently highs of 55 degrees are "beyond cold".  I think I saw a wind chill index of -40 in our forecast next week...

January 12, 2013

Worst Case Scenario

Everyone has a different idea of what their own "worst case scenario" would be.  For me, at least during the winter, it is very simple:  rain.  Doesn't sound too bad right?  Well, for my local readers that have seen how glazed over the roads are here right now, areas on our golf course are buried under that same layer of ice.

Starting the week we had a decent, albeit thin, layer of snow on the golf course, generally about 4 or 5 inches.  The snow was nice and soft all the way down onto a frozen turf surface.  Just the way I like it.  That all changed dramatically on Thursday when the high temperature skyrocketed into the 40s, melting some of that snow down into about an inch or two of slush.  And then, January in North Dakota threw a curve ball when it rained that evening.  All of the water from the half melted snow, plus the rain, instantly ran down onto the frozen turf surface with nowhere to drain, and when the temps dropped through the night back into the teens, ice formed instantly.

The greens are of course my biggest concern, although there will definitely be some low lying areas in some fairways that puddled some water and froze.  The greens however, with their high percentage of Poa Annua, struggle as it is to make it through a brutal winter here.  Add a layer of ice on top of the plants, and death is almost certain.  Ice essentially suffocates the turf.  Toxic gases, including ethylene and cyanide, are trapped under the ice, and worse yet, oxygen is not allowed to get down to the grass.

A general industry standard is that Poa can survive 30-50 days under ice, anything beyond that and plants are starting to die.  Bentgrass and kentucky bluegrass, much stronger plants, are usually safe for close to 100 days or more entrapped in ice.  Like with most stressful conditions, the Poa will die first.

Add on top of this our recent blizzard, which brought very little in the way of insulating snow (maybe only 2 or 3 inches stripped and drifted by 50 mph winds) and instead is providing our now naked or ice buried turf with some lovely -30 windchills.  We started off this winter pretty well with some good snowcover, but our likelihood of having a quick spring green up just took a jump off a cliff in the last few days.

Our only hope at this point is that we will catch a decent warm spell (a few days in the 40s) sometime by the middle of February so that Andy and I can have a chance to go out and physically remove some of the ice from the greens as it melts and softens just a little bit.  Brutal work to say the least, but that is the only chance those ice buried areas will have for survival.  If it stays cold and frozen all the way through mid March however, which is probably the norm, things are going to be pretty ugly....

We started the week with the course looking like this.  Perfect.

Ice on 18 green.  The water literally froze in sheets as it tried to slowly drain
off the green as the temperature dropped rapidly that night.
A 25 year old settled irrigation trench on 9 tee is now a death trap for this poor grass....