Relative Something

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

Don’t Try

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We’ve been going about it all wrong. I’ve figured out a new way to grow grass. Simply don’t try.

It’s along the same lines as reverse psychology. It seems totally unlikely, but trust me. It works.

Here’s how you can do it:

Get a bunch of bales of grass hay. Four or five hundred worked well for us. Move them from one place to another, and then sweep all the leftover debris onto a hard gravel surface.

Next, drive back and forth across that surface over and over. Also, relentlessly bake that spot in the afternoon sun.

Never water it beyond what happens to fall from the sky as rain.

It doesn’t hurt to repeatedly process thoughts about not wanting grass to grow in the gravel area. You might even order a second load of rocky class-5 gravel to spread over the area. It’s what we did, and look at the results we got:

That grass is growing in the driveway where we don’t want it, many times better than it grows in areas where we actually want lawn grass. In addition, it is all grass. No weeds. In the lawn, many spots have more weeds and other odd ground cover growing than we have grass.

But not on the driveway. Noooooo. Just wonderful blades of grass there.

It’s not even simply a matter of not trying; we have actively sought to discourage grass from growing there, but to no avail.

I really don’t like mowing our gravel sections of driveway.

Unfortunately, I can’t avoid it. The grass grows too well there.

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Small Difference

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Life is not as bad as it seems, and rarely as good as we might perceive. Frankly, I have this peculiar notion that the difference between best and worst outcomes is a much narrower range than we are groomed to believe.

There are abundant examples of both good and bad situations simultaneously playing out all over the world through the course of history. Sometimes they are occurring on opposite sides of the globe, but in varying degrees of intensity, good and bad things can happen in the very same place, even at the same time.

I’ve noticed in myself an increasing susceptibility to waves of gloom over news about the state of our planet and about the state of democracy. Each new report is picking up and adding to my gloom from the day before.

I have yet to master the same art for the news of good things in the world. I can’t seem to get the happy stories to compound into greater joy with each successive telling.

In my reality, the gap between the two is small, so resolving the discrepancy doesn’t need to be some Herculean effort. In the grand scheme of things, nurturing the positive is a very “do-able” feat.

Last night, Cyndie and I watched Carrie Fisher‘s “Wishful Drinking (2010) documentary one-woman show based on her memoir. Obviously, it triggered something that got me thinking about good and bad, and mental health. 

Hearing the way Carrie told her stories gave me the impression that she was a writer, which, in fact, she was. Maybe that is one reason the show resonated for me as much as it did. Of course, I am also a sucker for stories of recovery and self discovery.

A lot of her life stories sounded bad, although she delivered them with a dose of humor, and glimpses of moments that were good. I thought, we could all probably make our stories into a show like this. The difference however, is that hers comes across as something of an inside joke which we are all in on, because her life as a daughter of two celebrities and her iconic acting role in the movie “Star Wars” are public knowledge.

We hear her stories of situations we already know about, only from the actual inside perspective.

That aspect wouldn’t exist with my one-man show based on my non-celebrity memoir.

After the movie, I came downstairs from our loft and spotted this:

Really? Cyndie bakes amazing chocolate chip cookies on Tuesday, and a night later, pulls out some Oreos to eat instead.

I look at that picture, and all I see is good right next to bad.

In my perspective as a person seeking to manage a sugar addiction, the difference between the two is actually small.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

New Family

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Since the day our friends George and Anneliese moved out to a new home they built in Princeton, MN, our basement “apartment” has been mostly unoccupied. Meanwhile, we have been searching for new sitters to care for our animals and house (needing to replace the services of both McKenna and Shelby, who have each moved away to their next life opportunities) to provide cover for times we escape to the lake place or embark on other exotic travels.

Cyndie advertised our search in two primary locations: our veterinary office in Stillwater, and the University of WI, River Falls Ag programs.

I did occasional scans of Craig’s List for pet sitters, and thought I struck gold when a perfect sounding post showed up just an hour prior to one of my visits. She didn’t want to travel very far, though, and told us we were out of her Hudson, WI range of service.

Then Jackie called. She was in school at River Falls and was hoping to find a room for the summer. Jackie has the horse skills we required and boards her own horse just six miles to the east, in El Paso, WI.

In a cosmic twist we never saw coming, when she stopped by to meet us the very first time, Cyndie recognized her date who got out of the car with her. Marcus is the new farrier who has been caring for our horses in the time since George moved.

When Jackie mentioned to Marcus that she was going to visit Beldenville to meet Cyndie, he responded that he knew a Cyndie in Beldenville. They quickly realized she was the same person, and Marcus came along for the introduction.

Some wonderful synchronicity there.

Cyndie and Jackie worked out terms and a rough schedule, and now we have a new housemate added to our cast of characters.

It has been rewarding to watch Delilah and Jackie’s relationship develop as they spend more time together.

In a very short number of days, Jackie has become the latest new member of our ever-expanding family. It’s a bonus that Marcus knows her, too.

We feel lucky to have met them both, and to have their help caring for our horses. And, in Jackie’s case, our home and other animals, too!

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2018 at 6:00 am

Same Result

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Last fall I bought a new yard tractor to mow grass. It’s a level up from the model we took on from the previous property owners, with a much sturdier mowing deck and improved steering. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to use it a couple of times, I’m able to judge its worth.

Performance is improved in all areas except one. Despite the inclusion of hose fittings to wash the underside of the deck with water, it collects grass and needs cleaning just the same as the previous one.

Since it was new, I decided to give the suggested water cleaning steps a chance, despite everything I’ve heard debunking the method. It just seems wrong to be getting the nooks and crannies of metal parts wet.

The results were as underwhelming as I’d expected.

Having mastered removing the deck for cleaning on the old mower, I figured it would be just as easy on this one, allowing me to turn it over to see the results directly.

In total neglect of checking any instructions, I boldly forged ahead to remove clips at the attachment points. Right away I realized, there was no handy lever to release tension on the belt. That didn’t stop me from getting it apart, but I knew it was going to complicate getting it all hooked up again after I was done.

Flipping the deck quickly revealed the gross limitations of the water method for cleaning. That might work if all you did was cut a short length of grass blades from a lush lawn. My reality involves a lot more weeds, small branches, dirt, and dust, combined with occasional areas of thick, too-long grass which packs on a complex brick of debris to the underside of the deck.

The sprayed water didn’t come close to being effective enough.

When it came time to reattach the deck, I made multiple futile attempts before finally wrestling all the clips in place at all the attachment points. All that remained was to get the belt over the pulley.

No matter what contortion of positions I tried, I didn’t have enough hands or leverage to muscle that belt in place. I knew there must be a logical procedure I wasn’t figuring out.

Yeah. This is the part where I went inside and consulted the manual again.

Surprise! There is a little square hole on the arm of the tensioning pulley intended for the post of a ratchet driver that would allow for enough leverage to get the belt over the engine pulley. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

I also learned that I had removed two clips too many, which complicated the task unnecessarily.

So, cleaning the deck ends up being the same result as the old yard tractor, but properly informed, it will ultimately involve an easier process of removal and re-attachment.

Overall, I’m happy to report being very satisfied with the upgrade!

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

They’re Out

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It wasn’t a great escape. It was a controlled release. Yesterday, the fencing was removed and free range of the grounds has been granted, along with the heightened risk of exposure to predators that goes with it.

Boy did the chicks have fun. They romped to and fro through the woods, eventually stumbling on the composting piles of manure. Their next move was back into the thick growth on the edge of the woods, but at least in the right direction, toward the coop.

Mildly anxious about their first day out, I decided to go sit beside the coop and hope for their return. In no time, they emerged from the underbrush with a flurry to reconnoiter around the comfort of their home.

I sat with them and enjoyed the bliss of the moment, as they happily explored the areas just beyond the border of the old fencing.

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At dusk, Cyndie found them all in the coop, although reporting the good news with frustration that they still are showing no interest in roosting. I’m hoping that natural chicken instinct will get them up there eventually. Last year’s young coop residents needed no encouragement to seek the highest possible perch.

We have no idea why these twelve are behaving differently.

Looks like the Golden Laced Wyandottes like having their picture taken.

I don’t blame them one bit.

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Written by johnwhays

May 21, 2018 at 6:00 am

Riding Lessons

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It’s supposed to be like riding a bike. Once you know how, simply climbing aboard and spinning the pedals is all it takes to get going again, right? Not always.

First off, there is a wide disparity between physical reality and imagined accomplishment. I envision myself gliding along almost effortlessly along the road for hours on end. Having not been on my bike for almost a year, my experience now is far short of where my abilities have been in the past.

I’m not built with the sleek body type of competitive cyclists. I ride a heavy old bike that is decades old. The unconscious reactions of shifting aren’t there, causing inadvertent pushing on a lever that should have been pulled. Being uncomfortable on the saddle influences the deviation from my ideal pedal cadence. I’m forgetting to hydrate enough while riding.

My brain is visualizing ideal performance, my body is struggling to cope against gravity.

After five consecutive days of riding, I have progressed to a level where glimpses of my old self are showing up, which is encouraging. I’m already sitting more comfortably and this helps to bring my cadence up to improve performance.

It’s just like riding a bike.

In my desire to dodge the exhausting climb of the many hills around here in my quest for time on the bike, I selected a flat route a couple of days ago that offered a life lesson. It was easier, but it was a lot more boring.

Empty farm fields and dreary ditches. Instead of wild flowers, there were empty beer cans, likely jettisoned by kids seeking to get rid of evidence.

On one side of the road there were rows of sprouting shoots of corn plants.

On the other side, a whole lot of nothing.

Seeking a return of adventure, the next day I girded myself for some climbing and got back into the more interesting terrain that offered views of trillium and livestock.

As I ever so slowly climbed one hill, I looked up to find three horses, side by side, staring directly at me. It felt like they were enjoying the spectacle of my slog up. It was a fabulous picture, but before I could pull the camera out of my jersey pocket, two of the horses lost interest and went back to grazing.

This brought me to the field where I had seen bison a few days earlier. Ian had challenged me to present a photo.

This is what I found:

Nobody home! Where’d they go? I’m not sure. Maybe there is more grazing pasture beyond the horizon that I can’t see from the road. It’s off the beaten path enough, with the road turning to gravel, that it’s not a farm I regularly pass, so I am unfamiliar with their routine.

Bolstered with a renewed sense of adventure, I overcame my aversion for rolling my skinny tires over the hazardous surface and forged ahead on the rough road.

In a lesson that translates easily to life, I was richly rewarded with an amazing exposure to a rich variety of landscape, life, and activity that exists, mostly unknown to us, in surprising proximity to our home.

The road less traveled, you know?

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2018 at 10:33 am

Love Rules

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Love rules the day. I was going to write a blog post this morning, and then a royal wedding showed up. The wedding of Harry and Meghan is so far away from my world, that I had no intention of bothering to watch it, despite the almost universal broadcast coverage being made available.

Cyndie wanted to watch it. Not long ago, we did a binge watching of early seasons of the show, “Suits,” where we came to feel Meghan Markle was someone we knew. She set an alarm so she could get up early to see the wedding.

I had no idea that I would end up having dreams of getting ready to view it in my parent’s bedroom in the house on Cedar Ridge Road in Eden Prairie, and that my dad would be there among others who had gathered. As dreams do, it later morphed to my being on a roadside curb looking to reserve some space with Cyndie’s brother, Steve, to watch the procession move past.

I woke almost every fifteen minutes after 5:00 a.m. and wondered when Cyndie was going to turn on the tv in our bedroom. Eventually, I heard her getting up and assumed she was going to sneak out to allow me to sleep. I let her know that she could turn it on here.

As the pageantry played out, we exchanged fun banter over the spectacle of the event. Then love burst forth in the form of one Michael Curry. The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church gave the perfect wedding sermon.

You can read the text online, as Kensington Palace released the transcript immediately following his delivery. However, it is his delivery, including small enhancements to the script, that is necessary viewing to grasp the full impact of emotion and truths of which he spoke.

Love is my “religion.” Remove all the technicalities of each and every religion with their variety of origin stories and various traditions, and beneath it all there is love.

Bishop Curry boiled it down nicely. Watch it. Then go out into the world and love.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2018 at 8:19 am