Relative Something

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

Rural Pleasures

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We had the wonderful opportunity to drive through the cities to the rich countryside of Wayzata yesterday for the unfortunate occasion of a memorial service. Some of that time in the car spawned discussion about what might be next for us now that we no longer have horses. It is a complicated dilemma, although dilemma is too extreme a word.

It’s really just a question, one that could be simplified to the alternatives of continuing to live here, or selling the property and moving somewhere else. One of the first complications is that there is nowhere else I would prefer to be. We have become very accustomed to the space our little sanctuary provides.

Back home in the afternoon, Cyndie hung up the authentic Guatemalan hammock that our friends the Morales family gifted to us. In the shade beneath giant oak trees, I joined Cyndie to luxuriate in the open privacy of our little nature preserve. Then Delilah decided to join us, too.

We are truly blessed to live here. It is a real struggle to even conceive of leaving for something else.

Discussions have continued on the neighborhood group about our recent close encounter with a mysterious wild visitor. The fisher is too rare an occurrence for some to accept, so the opinion has shifted to a woodchuck.

That’s good news for us, as that would be much less threatening for our chickens.

Those hens seem to be luxuriating in the rural pleasures themselves. It’s pure luck that no predator has disrupted their ranks all summer and it seems to have inspired a dangerous, comfortable confidence in them.

One of them has decided she doesn’t need to use the nest boxes in the coop to lay her eggs.

This morning, Cyndie noticed a newborn cow in the neighbor’s pasture. Last week, she reported a group of five eagles soaring together, high in our sky. Delilah picked up a feather left on one of our trails by a wild turkey and carried it like a precious treasure for several minutes, ultimately dropping it with a vividly contrasting lack of interest.

Today, it is beyond my comprehension that there is any other place where I will be as happy living as our rolling hills in the rural countryside of west-central Wisconsin.



Written by johnwhays

August 18, 2019 at 9:39 am

Bad Decision

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It has been a while since I used the Grizzly ATV. Last time I had it out, I decided to park it in the hay shed since we no longer need to store hay in there. That turned out to be a bad decision.

Maybe birds don’t like the Grizzly and they were sending a message.

If I had parked it one foot over in either direction, they would have at least missed the seat. It was positioned directly beneath a joist where they perch. Just lovely.

I posted a message to the neighborhood group for input on our fisher sighting. Nobody else has reported similar. We still have all eight chickens, despite visible signs where the critter had dug to get in and out of the barn. Luckily, the chickens aren’t ever in the barn. We keep the doors shut.

There were no visitors to the chicken coop in the last twenty hours other than Cyndie and the chickens, based on the surveillance of the trail camera.

Maybe the fisher is more interested in moles and voles than chickens. After mowing yesterday, it became obvious there are plenty of burrowing rodents active across our land.

That’s probably why the big weasel showed up. It’s here to rid our yard of pesky moles.

See how I visualize the outcome I desire?

I’ll let you know how well it works. (I’m guessing not so well in this case when delivered with a heavy amount of sarcasm.).l


Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2019 at 7:59 am

Who’s This?

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We have a new intruder on the property, one we didn’t even recognize. When Delilah triggered on something in one of the stalls in the barn, Cyndie reeled in the leash to keep them separated and stepped up to snap a photo of the mysterious critter.

Do you know what this is?

We searched a range of wild animal images and whittled our way down to this: fisher.

This led to more questions than answers. Is it just passing through? Was it seeking a chicken dinner? Why was it out in the daylight?

Cyndie brought Delilah up to the house, grabbed my pocket camera and headed back to the barn in hopes of capturing a better image. By the time she got there, the animal had vanished.

Where did it go?

Cyndie subsequently made multiple trips out to check on the chickens, just in case. By sundown, all eight hens were secure on the roost in the coop.

In a curious side note, we have not been finding very many eggs in the nest boxes lately. Oddly, Cyndie found an egg on the ground outside the coop this afternoon. We don’t know what’s going on there.

Maybe the fisher is smart enough to take eggs instead of hens. Wouldn’t want to harm the golden goose chicken.

Time to set up the trail cam again, I guess.



Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

Documents Signed

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In the middle of a week that has been blurred by activity, much of it at the day-job that has been intensified by a voluminous flood of orders, Cyndie and I inserted a moment of great import. Yesterday, our children joined us downtown in Minneapolis to sign wills, health care directives, and a variety of miscellaneous legal documents to assure all our affairs are in order, in case we become incapable of making decisions for ourselves or our lives come to an end.

It’s weird to have the thought that we are now ready to die. I suppose this is why so many people tend to neglect this task.

I, for one, am very happy to have taken care of this aspect of adulting. Maybe these documents will never be needed, but if someday they are, the legal definitions of our wishes have been signed and dated.

It only cost me $20 to park in a ramp for the meeting. Luckily, at the end of the day, when meeting Cyndie and our friends, Barb and Mike in St. Paul for dinner, the parking lot pay station was broken and we didn’t have to pay anything.

Twenty dollars seems like an outrageous amount of money for parking a car for an hour-and-a-half, but there was a convenience factor involved and I only pay for parking a few times a year, so I mentally amortize the rare expense across the large expanse of many months and it doesn’t seem as burdensome as it should to me.

We had dinner at the Keg and Case Market, visiting a variety of the merchants for treats after sandwiches at Revival Smoked Meats. I had my first taste of halva, the Middle Eastern sweet confection made from sesame paste. Cyndie chose cotton candy.

Those opposite dessert choices emphatically represent one of our many personal differences!

Just as we were heading for the cars at the end of the night, we received a message from our kids that they were out together at a brewery for a fundraising event for MacPhail Center for Music where Elysa works, and they ran into Barb and Mike’s son, Ryan.

What fun synchronicity!



Plenty Tall

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When we were on the road to the lake for the Independence Day weekend earlier this summer, we found the farm fields to be shockingly underdeveloped. Many didn’t show any sign that a crop had even been planted. Where corn was visible, it was barely six inches tall.

The classic rhyme of “knee-high by the 4th of July” was far from being met this year.

On the way home from work on Monday, as we approach the middle of August, I suddenly became aware of the dramatic growth finally achieved by local farmers of field corn.

It’s well over a head taller than me.

That picture shows the field immediately to the south of our property.

Having 8-foot walls of corn stalks arise along our rural roads really changes the ambiance of those portions of my commute.

I once read that genetic engineering of corn plants has changed them to be more tolerant of crowding. An acre of land can produce higher yields of corn if you can plant seeds closer together.

The stalks are now planted so tight with one another that I can’t even fit between them.

They’re also so tall that I can’t see over them.

A cornfield would make for a really fine maze, wouldn’t it?



Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2019 at 6:00 am


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Words on Images




Written by johnwhays

August 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Fresh Start

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Here goes nothin’. It’s a new week and we get a fresh start to face the challenges that lie ahead. Even though the weekend ended kinda rough, there were a few high points that I am dwelling on to provide some positive momentum for the next few days of work, particularly the unfinished business from last week that I failed to address.

The best part of the weekend was the serendipity of meeting Catherine, a new out-of-town friend from the Pacific Northwest who was visiting Wildwood while we were there. We share the understanding of being on a journey to discover our best selves.

Another treat was catching a glance of one fledgling eagle making a brief circle of flight out of the nest.

We learned from one Wildwood community member that one of the young eagles was down on the ground shortly after the nest had fallen apart. It is unknown whether they came down together, nor how the fledgling had made its way back up again.

Seeing at least one of them take flight gives us hope they will both succeed in the next phases of development.

We received feedback around dinnertime last night, on the status of the lake neighbor’s bitten dog. The injuries were deemed “non-critical” and she was eating, drinking, and walking. Pending one last assessment by their main veterinarian today, we are hoping for the best possible diagnosis for a speedy return to full health.

I would like to embrace that thought on this quest to head into the work-week with a “fresh start” perspective.

Let’s imagine that the best could happen!



Written by johnwhays

August 12, 2019 at 6:00 am