Relative Something

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

Simmering Plan

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We’ve got a trip coming up. This Christmas, Cyndie and I, along with our kids, will be joining all of Cyndie’s family for a week of vacation together in the Dominican Republic. It will be a number of firsts for me, most notably, being somewhere tropical for the winter-est of holidays.

It’s been mind-boggling contemplating the possibility. I expect it will be more so actually living it.

Similar to most of my travels over the last decade, I am inclined to take the week off from tending to on a daily basis. Of course, that doesn’t mean I plan to let the site go dormant for a week. Oh, no.

I have an idea to fill the days with stories written in advance and scheduled to post automatically while I am away. All I have to do is write them.

Like, when is that going to happen?

I need to pack! I need to make lists. Find summer clothes. Start gathering necessary things. Where is my passport?

What procrastinator doesn’t know how to get things done at the last-minute? I’ll write the first few and then end up finishing on the plane, if it’s anything like the last time I tried having a week’s worth of posts ready in advance.

The other day I started a possible outline to help facilitate my plan. I’m now thinking that sharing that outline with you all might provide helpful pressure on me to then actually follow through with the idea.

Why are we traveling with Cyndie’s family over Christmas? I will work my way toward answering that question by starting back at the earliest days of our relationship.

1. Our initial connection

  • discover shared experience chatting on beach
  • attended Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar

2. Asking her parents permission to marry

  • after 6 years off and on dating
  • she traveled and went to several schools
  • I stayed home and went to tech school

3. Friswold Family events at Wildwood through the years

4. Friswold Family trip to ’94 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway

5. Family trips with Friswolds to Mexico and Disney

6. Friswold Family trip to Hilton Head in celebration of Fred & Marie’s 50th Anniversary

7. What about the Hays family?

8. Friswold Family trip to Dominican Republic over Christmas, 2017

With some help, research has already been undertaken to procure some supporting photos. Worst case, I just post the pictures with a few captions and let your imagination fill in the rest of the details.

That’s the way our brains work, anyway. Listen to people talk. Very often, sentences hang, unfinished, but the listeners get the gist of the message, filling in the blank space with a sufficient perception in place of absent words.

I was listening to a snippet from the second side of the Beatles’ Abbey Road on my commute to work yesterday and noticed where my brain filled in an extra note of choral “aaaaahs” beyond what was actually recorded. They lead you to that conclusion, but don’t need to sing the added note. It is implied.

Our mind completes the progression unconsciously.

I will try to complete as much of my planned storyline as possible, but it will not happen unconsciously. Most likely, it will require a fair amount of sacrificed sleep.

If I’m not entirely thorough in my detail, it will become your opportunity to imagine what fills the gaps my tales imply.



Written by johnwhays

December 14, 2017 at 7:00 am

Just Reward

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I don’t know how many times I have good-naturedly poked fun at Cyndie when her glasses somehow make their way to the floor beneath the bedside table in the dark of night.

Since she can’t see anything without her glasses, she asks me for help.

I just can’t restrain myself. I always end up asking why she puts her glasses down there in the first place. If she can’t see them and she can’t reach them, that seems like a really illogical place for her to put her critical specs.

Cyndie never thinks that’s as funny as I do.

Well, until last night.

While she has had glasses for most of her life, I breezed along for almost fifty years before finally joining the club. I’m still struggling with the routine of keeping track of my growing variety of readers. 

As I stood up from the bed and turned to set my glasses on the bedside table, they slid. My cat-like reaction triggered the reach reflex, but I missed. Instead, I succeeded in pushing them further off the surface, where they were able to tumble down to a spot on the floor that requires an extra joint between the wrist and elbow to reach.

Cyndie was way too mature to ask me why I put them down there in the first place.

Unfortunately, something tells me this serving of humble pie won’t successfully dissuade me from blurting out the same dang question to my love, next time she needs me to rescue her glasses again.

I may be getting older, but it doesn’t guarantee I’m maturing.



Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2017 at 7:00 am

Divided Three

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I know there are a lot of divided opinions in our country lately, but what does that have to do with our three chickens? All summer long, that triumvirate operated as an impressively cohesive unit. 

Now, that seems to have changed. The Buff Orpington appears to have decided to break from the group, choosing to stay close to the coop while the Barred Plymouth Rock pair go gallivanting off in search of adventure.

Look at them just struttin’ their stuff on the freshly shoveled path Cyndie cleared of the paltry 1-inch NUISANCE amount of snow that fell yesterday.

I think the Buff is just being chicken.

Is it possible our yellow hen is being rebuffed by the other two?


What can I say?

It was a slow news day on the ranch.



Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2017 at 7:00 am

Different Behavior

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Yesterday was the second time in two weeks that I noticed something uncharacteristic about Legacy’s behavior. I’m not a guy with any history of horse experience, but after living with our herd for the last 4 years, I am able to perceive when their behavior changes.

Not knowing enough to make an educated guess, all I have to rely on is my intuition.

Last week, I came upon the three chestnuts grazing and lounging out in the hay-field, without their herd leader. Where was he?

Standing up under the barn overhang.

It was odd. I got the impression that he just didn’t want to walk all that way. Or, he’d rather stay out of the sun. I got the sense maybe he was feeling old.

It might be a reflection of my own issues, I’ll admit, but he is getting on in years. Not crazy old, but old enough that his arthritis might be sapping his interest in staying connected with the rest of the herd non-stop when they choose to venture so far away.

Yesterday, the oddity was more profound.









I came out with a wheelbarrow full of hay to fill the box where Legacy always stands. I usually have to shoosh him away while I work, and he always starts eating before I can finish latching the chain over the grate. This time, I was surprised to find him down by the waterer, just standing, as if lost in thought.

My presence, with a fresh load of hay, didn’t engage his attention whatsoever.

Desirea almost didn’t know what to do with first access. She usually has to wait until he lets her in.

Legacy’s aloof behavior was so uncharacteristic, it startled me into taking pictures of the occasion.

I’m hoping Cyndie will be able to spend some quality time with the herd this week to see what she senses. Maybe she will be able to learn what is on Legacy’s mind.

It would be great if he would just tell her.



Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2017 at 7:00 am

Clearing Snow

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It’s all my fault. That additional 1-inch of snow being forecast to fall overnight tonight is, I’m sure, a result of my completely finishing the job of plowing and shoveling our driveway, as well as the gravel drive around the barn, the path to the compost area, the roadway around the pasture fence, and finally, the deck of the house.

I even made a little path for the chickens to get to the barn overhang where Cyndie has placed a heated water supply for them.

Not that they are using it all that much. The Buff never made it as far as the barn, choosing to stay nestled in the woods just beyond their coop.

It’s time to rearrange things in the coop to create space for the heated waterer in there, so we can finally make use of the electric outlet we worked so hard to install over the summer.

I’ll have plenty of time to do that today, since I did two-days-worth of chores yesterday. After clearing snow, I loaded the barn with enough hay to feed the horses for a week. With doors on the hay shed now, and to reduce time for Cyndie working out in the cold, it’s just that much more convenient to have bales available in the barn.

We don’t store hay there permanently, because it’s too dusty an environment. Small amounts, for a short span of days, works well enough. While hauling bales yesterday, I was enjoying the fact that this year we aren’t dealing with any hay the horses don’t like. We are down to bales from two different suppliers, both of which the herd willingly consumes.

It’s a much more satisfying experience.

Today, I will savor the freshly cleared grounds before the next nuisance accumulation of snow arrives to mess things up. Maybe I should look into a broom attachment to use whenever there isn’t enough snow to justify plowing.









It’s not so much that I fear the light coatings are hazardous, though it can become so. The first significant snowfall this year occurred as a mixture of rain turning to snow, a situation that is not that uncommon. Unfortunately, it freezes a crusty layer to surfaces that is very resistant to removal, and sometimes slippery.

Basically, for me, leaving fallen snow on walking or driving surfaces is just bad Feng Shui. It radiates an aura of neglect that eats at my sense of order.

The best solution is to have it fall in greater amounts. If it is going to snow, then let’s get a good few inches at a time, in the very least.

I tell ya, if I ran the world…



Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

Venturing Out

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Maybe it was the calmness of the morning, or the fact the temperature didn’t drop significantly overnight, but the chickens wasted little time in venturing out from the confines of the coop for me yesterday morning.

Midway through the day, I stopped back to check for eggs and found two of the hens, almost on top of each other, squished into one nesting box. I decided not to bother them, closing the side door and heading off to another project.

With Delilah leashed to the double swing nearby to supervise, I spent some quality time at the wood shed. First, I needed to re-stack the majority of the last row that had blown over in the recent high-wind event. With that under control, I started into splitting some of the newest wood from the tree cut down last weekend.

I think the fact the wood was now frozen helped the logs to snap in two with relative ease. When Delilah’s interest in watching me work came to its unsurprising end, I dropped her off in the house and headed back to the coop to pick eggs.

The Buff Orpington was still sitting in the nest box, but I invaded her space to grab three eggs she was resting on.

After lunch, I headed out to turn two different piles of compost that are still cooking nicely, despite the arrival of the frozen season.

It seems as though the animals have quickly adjusted to the return of “my” routine of care. Intensified time with Delilah and the horses brings me back to my year sabbatical from the day-job when I managed the ranch full-time while Cyndie was working the Anoka-Hennepin contract.

It’s a very fond memory. It’s satisfying to see how quickly the animals seem to recognize the methodical way I do things, easing into the orderly dance of meal time and clean up with me.

Today, the chores have increased in number, as an overnight snow dusting has added to the previous paltry amount, making it hardly worth a plowing, but a messy nuisance if I don’t.

At least I know Cyndie will be sympathetic. She went to D.C., where they’re getting their own dose of snowfall today.

Happy winter!



Written by johnwhays

December 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

Not Chickens

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It appears our great survivors, the three chickens, are not interested in what winter has to offer. Since Monday night when the weather made that snap decision to swing from balmy to frigid, covering the land with an ice-crust topped with a layer of wind-whipped snow, our chickens have not left the confines of their coop.

Cyndie opens the small door for them, but they don’t venture out.

These little footsteps Cyndie photographed in a framing that looks very “John-like,” are not from our once-brave venturers.

These cute prints are those of a turkey. The wild turkeys haven’t let a little snow and frozen ground stop them from strolling around the property.

Have you ever wondered where wild turkeys are laying their eggs? Maybe we should invite the wild birds to stop by our coop to convince the chickens that winter isn’t so bad, and while they are there, they can lay an egg for us.

Cyndie also captured the shot below of a loner on its way off our property, into the underbrush of the neighbor’s woods.

They certainly don’t have that same friendly demeanor as our domesticated chickens. The excited wobbling sprint toward us that our chickens do when they find us outside is really something to behold.

I’m hoping we don’t have to wait for spring before they come out of the coop and run around again.

The weekend forecast is hinting of a possible above-freezing high temperature on Sunday, so maybe that will inspire a chicken outing.

I’m home today and on my own for the weekend, because Cyndie is traveling out-of-town for a conference. The chickens won’t have momma home to look after them. I expect it will be no shock to them that I do things differently than Cyndie.

I’ve witnessed the horses adjusting their behavior to our different styles of processing the steps to feed and clean up after them. I think the chickens probably respond similarly.

I suppose the same thing is happening with Delilah, but my perception of the change in her is a little different. It seems less like she is reacting differently to me and more like she is moping at the door for hours on end in desperate anticipation that momma might be returning soon.

Hopefully, I won’t be bothering the dog with all my ‘bachelor-weekend’ wild behavior. I’m gonna drink milk out of the bottle and leave my stuff on whichever surface it lands. I may walk in the house with my boots on and leave drawers open in the bathroom.

By Sunday night, it’ll be back to the disciplined life of being a well-fed married man and the chickens can get back to their pleasure of in-coop full-service hospitality.




Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2017 at 7:00 am