Relative Something

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

Never Mind

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You may disregard the rant I posted yesterday. The trimmer must have been flooded on Saturday when I couldn’t get it to fire. Yesterday morning, before driving to buy a sparkplug, I tried to start it one last time, just in case.

Sure enough, it sputtered on the third pull. There was a fair amount of hesitancy, but eventually, I got it up and running enough to go through a full tank of gas while trimming our trails. So, I didn’t need any professional help to get the engine started after all.

However, in an ironic twist, after refilling the tank with fuel and resuming my trimming task for about 5-minutes, the engine made an odd sound and instantly shut off. Something broke and now the pull cord won’t move at all.

All I can think is that the trimmer must really want to pay a visit to the service department of our hardware store. At least the blow to my confidence about dealing with small gas engines carries much less sting with this situation. It’s not that I just can’t start it, there is something noticeably wrong with the machine.

I can live with that, not counting the suspected higher expense likely indicated by needed repair. We are considering the possibility the cost of repair may exceed the value of the well-used (well-worn) trimmer as a whole.

A quick check of the replacement options reveals that the unit we bought roughly eight years ago is already obsolete. I would be glad to replace the gas-powered machine with an electric one, except for the fact we have so many uses that involve extended hours of operation, present battery capacity is insufficient.

One thing I remember being told by the salesman who helped match our needs with the most appropriate trimmer when I bought this one was that I could run this engine non-stop, all day long and it wouldn’t be a problem. At the time, I assumed that would be more use than we would likely ever approach.

We’ve yet to use it all day, but there are enough areas to be cut that we could. When I’ve been cutting for hours on end, I’ve found comfort in the salesman’s words assuring me that the machine is up to the task.

There are over a mile of fence lines where we use the trimmer to cut the growth beneath the wires and around the posts, also the many trails around the property, the circuitous path of the labyrinth, and the edges around obstacles in our mowed lawn.

We don’t cut these every day, but every day there are areas where the growth has gotten long enough, they deserve to be trimmed.

See why I feel a little apprehensive about not having a stronger grasp of the mastery of working with small gas engines?

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Engine Failure

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When we first made our move from the tiny suburban lot to our acres of rural property, one of the concerns I had was the reality that I would need to deal with small gas engines. I’ve never had a knack for mastery over the secrets of gas-oil mixed fuel, filtered intake air, carburetors, and electric sparks. If an engine doesn’t start on command, I am basically stumped.

There’s always the old “It’s flooded” explanation. When and why that phenomenon occurs evades me, as does the trick of not simply flooding it again on subsequent tries. I can pull the spark plug and pretend I know what it tells me, but that didn’t produce any desired results yesterday.

For the first time since we started buying gas-powered equipment after moving here, one of the machines foiled my plan to trim the growth on our trails by not starting. My original concern was finally realized.

I’ll try a new spark plug, but if that doesn’t bring it to life, I will be paying real money to have a professional service the trimmer.

It is a special blessing every time one of our engines starts without hesitation in the moments we seek to use them.

This makes me long for the ability to use a manual push reel mower to cut our grass. That was a machine that I understood.

After I was well frustrated by being foiled in my attempts to get that dang engine to fire, I decided to go stand among the horses. That is a priceless antidote for what ailed me. Cleaning up manure and turning the compost pile aligns much better with my abilities.

The horses continue to seem increasingly comfortable with their accommodations. Even the skies appeared to reflect how idyllic it is around here lately.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2021 at 9:08 am

Survey Results

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We walked around in search of trillium yesterday and found mixed results. I think in my next transplant effort I will keep them closer to each other upon replant. Here is a view of three I planted:

No flowers, but the two at the top each have new sets of three leaves appearing beneath them. Is this the expansion underway that I seek? Better than finding none at all. In other locations, we struggled to find all three points of a triangle where I would have planted them. Sometimes two, sometimes only one.

At the same time, we did find several isolated trilliums with flowers located in places where neither of us remembers having transplanted any.

New growth on the ground in the forest is rather sparse this spring, maybe in a reflection of the uncharacteristic dry conditions we are experiencing.

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The photo on the left above is an example of new shoots appearing beneath the one with the flower, which excites us with hope that more could result in the future. The image on the right is an example of a lone trillium with little else of any variety seeming to flourish much.

It just might be a slim year of growth. Yesterday’s passing clouds never spit enough sprinkles out to simply wet the ground surface. We are forced to try to do some watering outselves.

I turned on the water to the labyrinth and we transplanted one more vine from where it was trying to strangle a tree to one of the legs of the gazebo. This will be the first year of an attempt to grow a canopy of leaves as the cover of the gazebo instead of the old canvas that was getting threadbare.

Nothing like trying to inspire new growth during a time of drought.

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2021 at 8:51 am

New Trillium

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This time of year the ground in our forests comes alive in response to the sunlight available before the leaves open fully to block much of it out. We have tried transplanting Trillium from the lake place in Hayward with hopes of establishing a thicket of self-expanding sprouts in the groves of trees closer to the house.

In the eight years we have dabbled with the project, the results have been a little anemic. Some seasons there have been encouraging numbers of flowers blossoming on the plants we relocated, but other years there haven’t been very many. During the first few years after transplanting, I was satisfied just to see the leaves show up in proof the plants were still alive.

Now I am more interested in finding some natural expansion of plants to offer some promise of achieving our goals. Just yesterday, Cyndie made an exciting find. Can you see it?

The interesting fact about that single flowering plant is that it showed up somewhere that we didn’t plant a batch.

Today we plan to audit the areas where we planted sets of three individual plants in little triangles to see how those are coming along. If they are flowering, it is easy to spot them. If not, the leaves can be easily overlooked among the variety of other ground cover thriving under all the sunshine temporarily available.

In a surprisingly short span of time, the forest floor will be predominantly shaded under the canopy of tree leaves that will be fluttering overhead.

Speaking of shade from trees, Cyndie also recently captured this image of a great shadow pattern of leafless branches from this young maple tree by the barn.

That view will be morphing very soon to a much less defined depiction of the branches.

The springing of spring is well underway. It makes the brief appearance of trillium blossoms all the more precious. Once the heat of summer arrives, the trillium tends to disappear from sight. At that point, hopefully, the colonies of rhizomes will be busy at work expanding under the leaf cover of the forest floor.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Jim Klobuchar

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Among the most influential people in my life, Jim Klobuchar holds one of the top spots. When I learned last night of the news of his passing, my memories instantly jumped to the two treasured connections I enjoyed with Jim: annually participating in his June “Jaunt with Jim” biking and camping adventures around Minnesota for years, and participating in one of his guided treks in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

However, the more profound impact Jim had on me was probably his influence as a writer. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I read his columns and sports reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for most of my life. My style of wordsmithing is a reflection of how his writing made me feel as a reader. I wanted to write about people and places in the way Jim did. At the same time, it is very intimidating to compare my compositional aspirations with his professional accomplishments.

Reading Jim’s columns describing the bike and camping adventures he led inspired me to sign up the next year to try my first-ever long-distance cycling expedition. It was in 1994, the 20th year of his leading the June event, and I’ve been doing it ever since, minus a few scattered years when I was unable.

After one spectacular week, I wrote out some lyrics to memorialize the annual adventure. I expected it to be a song, but I couldn’t get all the words to fit a consistent rhythm, so I decided it was a poem, instead. I brought it along the next year to share with the group. On the first night, I told Jim about the poem and my desire to read it for everyone. He asked to see it and when I handed the paper over to him, he tucked it in a pocket, then moved on with first-night greetings and leadership duties.

I don’t remember if it was the next day, but some amount of time passed before he finally acknowledged the poem again. He said he liked it and wanted to read it to the group himself.

Here come those mixed feelings again. “Why you controlling SOB...” I thought. “Wait, Jim Klobuchar wants to read my words to a large group of people?” I was more honored than miffed. Of course, I wanted it read as soon as possible, but Jim had his own agenda. One day passed, then two, three, four… I eventually gave up thinking about it. Whatever.

Jim picked post-lunch on the second-to-last day and his timing was impeccable. He called me up to stand next to him while he more than admirably recited the lyrical lines. A couple years on and I was able to forge the poem into a song that tends to get new air-time each successive month of June. Ultimately, I recorded a version and combined it with images from a couple of year’s rides.

At the time, Jim was living close to where I worked, in Plymouth, MN. I burned a copy of the video onto an optical disk (remember those?) and dropped it off in a surprise morning visit. He met me at the door wearing a robe and somewhat dumbfoundedly accepted the mysterious media.

I received the best response in an email a short time later that morning. He implied he wouldn’t have let me leave without joining him in the viewing if he had known what was on that disc.

The year I flew to Nepal for the trek, Jim and I were lone travel companions with a day-long layover in LA. It was a rare treat to have so much uninterrupted attention from this man whom I considered a mentor. I remember thinking how much he and my dad would have enjoyed each other, especially when Jim regaled me with detailed memories of his days covering the Minnesota Vikings football team.

He was a consummate listener and allowed me to tell him more about myself than anyone needed to hear.

Jim turned 81 while we were in Nepal and he was one of only two trekkers who reached the highest elevation planned. Already showing signs of his fading mental acuity, but not a speck of giving in to it, there were some poignant moments on that trip. Our relationship was cemented forever after.

Here’s hoping Jim has already regained his full mental capacities for the remainder of eternity. Those of us he has left behind will cherish our memories of him at his very best.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Late Frosts

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I am not a fan of below-freezing temperatures in May. If all we had to fret over were a handful of landscape flowers near the house that we could cover with a blanket, maybe I would feel more accepting of this little quirk of nature. My problem is that we have acres of trees with fragile new leaf buds that far exceed our ability to cover.

The other morning I steered Delilah to the labyrinth so I could pay a visit to the transplanted maple tree that is in its third or fourth spring since being relocated. The leaves didn’t look overjoyed with the briskness of the morning air, but they appeared to have dodged the freeze point.

I stood beneath to radiate my body temperature and warm the air around the branches. I talked to the leaves and blew warm breath all around them.

Cyndie’s new plantings weren’t all so lucky. She had just planted in the inverted stump the day before. Didn’t last long.

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The hanging plants seem okay, though.

I don’t know how much stress our unusually dry conditions for this time of year might be adding, but I wouldn’t think it helps any.

We seem to swing all too quickly from too wet to too dry conditions. Much as I complain when it gets overly muddy, I would be greatly pleased to get a serious soaking right now.

As long as it doesn’t happen during the hours when the temperature is dipping below freezing in the mornings.

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Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Echoing

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2021 at 6:00 am

Most Rewarding

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Planting trees is one of my favorite accomplishments. Yesterday, we transplanted a young pine tree that had unexpectedly sprouted near our front walkway where it had no room to grow into a full-size tree. There was a spot down by the driveway near the road where I had just removed a dead tree, so we chose that spot for the relocation.

This is another of the two-for-one tasks I am most fond of because we have removed a tree from a spot where it didn’t belong and we gained a new tree in a location that had just lost one.

Instead of both areas nagging at me every time I pass by them, each one now brings me new satisfaction.

Doubly rewarding!

Especially since the raccoon that I tried to chase from the tree out our front door reappeared Saturday evening. Two steps forward, one step back.

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Written by johnwhays

May 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

Backup Plan

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What have we done? Cyndie says she called me to ask if she should. I interpreted her call as informing me that she would. While in the vicinity of a known supply of new chicks, Cyndie stopped in to look and came away with twelve. Three each of four breeds, two we have experience with and two that are new to us.

Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Americana, & Black Brahma.

I was given about an hour to get the brooder set up and ready. No waiting for the Post Office to deliver, we were going to have twelve new chicks within a day!

The thing is, we still have twenty-two incubating eggs in our basement bathroom at the same time.

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A few days ago, we candled those eggs and saw little to inspire hope of success for our first ever attempt to hatch our own chicks. We heard about a new batch of chicks arriving at the Buffalo Country Store and began to think about the advantage of such simple access to already sexed pullets.

We figured it was just a passing thought though because Buffalo is such a long way away from where we live. Then, one of those messages from the universe popped up that seem hard to ignore. Cyndie discovered the location of a training session she would be co-leading placed her mere minutes away from Buffalo.

I didn’t immediately say she shouldn’t go through with the purchase, but it did feel like we were making a hasty decision. To allay my concerns, we agreed to move up our next check of the incubating eggs to update that situation. If there were few signs of progress, our backup plan of buying the chicks would seem less impetuous.

My concerns were not allayed. While the first two eggs we happened to check showed little visible difference from a few days earlier, about twenty others revealed successfully developing veins and other detectable features. Multiple times the dark spot of an eye could be seen. It appears we have a lot more viable eggs than we realized.

It’s quite possible we could end up needing a new backup plan to solve how we will house two different batches of chicks hatched several weeks apart.

I guess this is one way to deal with large losses to predator pressures. Increase supply until it outpaces demand?

If ever there was a time to heed the adage of not counting chickens before they hatch, we’ll deal with the next reality when it arrives. But the possibilities have us marveling over how much things can change in surprisingly short spans of time.

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Written by johnwhays

May 9, 2021 at 9:34 am

Mostly Calm

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Life for our new horses has settled noticeably into a mostly calm satisfaction with their situation. I think enough days have passed that they are getting the sense these fields are theirs to graze and we are looking after their best interests.

Yesterday morning the temperature tip-toed around the freezing point but the clear sunshine warmed things quickly. The herd was serene and polite as I set out pans of their feed rations, which is an improvement over previous occasions. Mix is the mare who has shown the most aggressive outbursts when food service is pending, but we have taken to adding a temporarily closed gate to discourage unnecessary rambunctiousness.

It appears to be helping.

After dinner last night, Cyndie and I walked out to spend time with the herd. They were mostly over the hill out on the hayfield but Mix always shows a keen awareness of our presence and suddenly bolted into a sprint toward us. Cyndie stood tall but at the last minute repositioned just enough to assure Mix wouldn’t just run her over. The mare slowed a bit, avoiding Cyndie, and continued on toward me a few yards beyond. She stopped a few feet away from me as I gestured my desired boundary.

Then Mix closed the distance to bring her nose up to mine. It feels like such a special sign when a horse-human relationship begins to happen. In general, these four rescues have been slow to show much love for us. They haven’t even shown a lot of love for each other.

Earlier, around mid-day, I found Swings and Mix relaxing together in such close proximity to each other that it is hard to imagine it as revealing anything but a mutually nurturing relationship displayed.

Every time I see the horses allowing others to get in their space without feeling a need to put their ears back to signal dissatisfaction is an encouraging sign. We are seeing enough progress toward this calm coexistence among the herd and between them and us that our hopes are high for achieving our desires of helping them live out their time with us as healthily and happily as possible.

In the meantime, mostly calm is a welcome start.

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Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2021 at 8:59 am