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

Archive for July 2014

Arena Space

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DSCN2163eJust when we are beginning to see progress on improvement of our hay-field, we go and re-purpose a significant chunk of it for a riding arena. Cyndie has been planning all along to have an arena, and this section of the field wasn’t producing the greatest grass, so we think it is a good location. Per Cyndie’s request, I mowed the field short in that space, and yesterday I measured and placed step-in posts she purchased for a temporary fence.

It gives us a tangible view of what her desired dimensions look like in that spot. It is a little awkward for now, because the area isn’t completely flat. It took me a lot of tries to get it oriented the way I wanted, because so many of the visual references are not square. Combined with the hill, those features created quite a battle between my eye and the tape measure.

Next, I need to install fence polytape on the posts to create a visual barrier that will allow Cyndie to ride the horses in the space. Somewhere down the line, probably after we get a landscaper to install drain tile and improve the surface of the paddocks, we would like to get the arena graded level and then have a layer of sand put down.

I have contacted two different landscaper/excavators who we were referred to for improving our paddocks, and neither one of them has returned my call. It’s frustrating. Our window of opportunity could close for the season before I can get work scheduled, and then we will have another winter/spring of mud hassles to endure.

I might be forced to do some of the work myself, like digging out a better defined drainage swale. The issue I’m most concerned about is how to determine and maintain a proper slope. I haven’t the equipment or the know-how to execute establishing that critical feature. Is that going to become another thing I have to learn how to do myself?

I’m hoping not.

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Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2014 at 6:00 am

Pizza Delivered!

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We had pizza delivered to our home last night! We learned from our friendly neighbors, George and Rachel, about more local food options when they invited us to join them for dinner at the El Paso Bar & Grill after we finished baling hay over a week ago. They suggested a Chinese take-out restaurant in Ellsworth, which we’ve already tried, and a pizza place that will actually deliver to our location.

With Cyndie now working long days in Anoka, MN, and my food prep skills under-developed, we’ve been relying on restaurants more lately. Even if I was doing the cooking, I wouldn’t have time, as the outdoor work has been keeping me busy until 7 or 8 every night. That’ll change when the sun starts setting noticeably earlier. Gotta get as much done as possible while the days are long. So for now, our dinners haven’t been making much of a mess in the kitchen.

The pizza was good, although the crust was a little under done. It definitely stayed hot on the drive to our house, but probably came out of the oven a tad too soon. It would have made sense for us to put it in our oven for a short bit to crisp it up, but we couldn’t get it separated from the cardboard box well enough to allow that. At least it was covered with plenty of good cheese. We must be in Wisconsin.

We’ll try them again sometime, choosing a different selection of toppings before we make any rash decisions about the overall quality of their pizza.DSCN2157e

The food I have been serving has been to our animals. Here is a shot of Dezirea enjoying her morning feed with Delilah looming close in search of any morsels that she can reach. The way that dog fixates on horse and cat food, and even… our pizza, you’d think we never gave her anything of her own to eat.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2014 at 6:00 am

Vampires! Horror!

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DSCN2152eFor the second time in two weeks, I was out late on a Monday night. Last week it was for my first chance to see a Twins game in their outdoor ball park. This week, I was in Columbia Heights for the premier showing of the movie “Vampires! Horror!” for which my nephew, Beau Hays, wrote the screenplay & lyrics. He also performed an acting role, along with his wife, Katy.

It is a perfectly campy musical laugh riot. I truly hope they find a way to reach the audience for whom this flick will resonate. …It worked for Rocky Horror Picture Show!

The premier event, complete with a red carpet, was held at the Heights theater, so it meant another drive to the big city for me. Cyndie met me there, since it is close to her work at Anoka/Hennepin school district. I found my brother, Elliott, and his family right as I arrived to park my car. My daughter, Elysa, and her friend, Anne, joined us in the nick of time before the start.

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The theater has a wonderful pipe organ that provided a half hour of entertainment before show time. The seats were mostly filled, which made for a very festive atmosphere. Since it was the premier showing, many in attendance had something to do with the making of the film, a lot of them as extras. It produced a lot of laughter and applause throughout.

Like a musical should, the movie had people humming melodies afterward. It is exciting to imagine the possibilities for what might come of this effort. I’m told they hope to enter it into one or more film festivals, so just maybe local readers will find a chance to see it for yourselves someday. Keep an eye out for that title, “Vampires! Horror!”

It’s a ghastly extravaganza of singing and dancing with wonderful character actors in a hilariously kitschy production. What’s not to love?

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Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2014 at 6:00 am

Next

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2014 at 6:00 am

Creepy Crawlies

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I was mowing the labyrinth yesterday when I had a series of episodes that made my skin crawl. Well, crawl more than usual for a day when I was sticky with sweat from summer’s heat and humidity, working outside with chainsaws and trimmers. There is always some dirt or plant matter pasted to the exposed skin of my arms. In the area I was working, there was also an ongoing battle with a multitude of insects that were taking great interest in my flesh.

DSCN2145e2Down in the corner of the grazing pasture, on the edge of the woods, I was cutting up the tree I dropped to the ground on Friday, soaked with sweat and covered with debris. It gets hard to know when it is a bug on my skin, or something else. The gloves I wore had loose cuffs, and more than once I pulled them off because I wasn’t sure if what just landed inside was alive or not.

I gained a new appreciation for the horse’s ability to twitch their muscles hard enough to dispatch flies. With both of my hands occupied on the chainsaw or trimmer, I was easy prey for the biting flies and mosquitoes. After a while, it becomes impossible to tell whether I am feeling something on me in a moment, or if it is simply residual sensation after whatever landed has flown away.

It was also a bit unnerving picking up freshly cut logs when I had seen millions of ants had been living inside the tree. Add to that, I am pretty sure that feeding the wood chipper and trimming the trail the day before put me in contact with poison ivy again. My skin was in a state of constant irritation.

It culminated in creepiness late in the process of using the trimmer in the labyrinth. It had been a long day, I was tired, and I really wanted to be done. I had already been forced to stop earlier to reload the supply of plastic line in the trimmer head, so the only remaining delay would be a need for another refueling.

shieldproIn my push to finish, I didn’t stop to use my toe to convince the little frog to move out of the way, I just cut up behind him, assuming the noise and motion would naturally drive him off like usually happens. For some ghastly reason, he turned and jumped into the lethal spinning line.

That stopped me. I shut off the engine and decided I would fill the gas tank anyway, setting my over-ear hearing protection with face shield on the ground. I topped off the fuel tank while swatting at things bugging my ears and trying to shake the heebie-geebies that frog had just caused.

When I resumed trimming, I continued to have the feeling like there was a bug flying around my right ear, and wanted to let go of the trimmer to wave it away, but I realized I had on my ear protection, so I figured I was feeling residual phantom sensations. Or was it just left-over creepy feelings from watching that frog?

DSCN2143eI had to check, stopping to pull off the head-gear. A bug flew out. Really. What are the odds of that? It’s not as far-fetched as what happened next. I tried again to resume my task, and in moments, my left ear felt weird. I figured I was just being paranoid at this point, but was also feeling jumpier by the minute, so I paused the trimmer again and whipped off the ear muffs. GAH! I did the squiggle-jump-flinch as a spider crawled out.

I gotta say, it felt extra-specially-good to finally step out of the shower last night, scrubbed as squeaky clean as physically possible.

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Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

Finally Chipping

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My plan was to get both the tractor and the ATV down the hill to the spot where I’m clearing trees to make space for a new fence that will enclose the back grazing area. I put a bundle of tools in the ATV trailer and drove it down, parking between two existing brush piles. Then I walked back up to get the diesel tractor with the wood chipper mounted on the back.

To my surprise, I found the front right tire was completely flat. That certainly wasn’t in my plan.

I pumped it up and verified the leak was serious enough to need attention. The morning agenda suddenly had a new priority. First order of business would involve getting the wheel off the tractor, no small task when you don’t have the proper tools. Five of the six bolts came loose with a reasonable amount of effort, leaving the one that was obligated not to budge, to keep the project from being too straight forward.

Patience —albeit thin— and fortitude, produced eventual results, leading to the second order of business: I needed to find out where to take the wheel for repair. A call to my neighbor produced a recommended service station in town, but that place turned out to be too busy to help me right away. They offered up an alternative. I called the second option and learned they could take a look at it right away.

Now, I definitely know better than to blindly rely on the results produced by a Google maps search, and I even commented to Cyndie that I was surprised it was that direction out-of-town, but nonetheless, I fell for it without a second thought.

After a pleasant drive to discover the error of my ways, which took me down into a beautiful valley where there is absolutely no cell signal, I turned around and drove back up to high ground so I could call for directions. Sure enough, I should have headed the other direction out-of-town. Ironically, this place is where I recently stopped to inquire about finding someone to bid improving the footing of our paddocks. Two businesses operate out of this one location.

DSCN2136eThey fixed my tire, patching a hole in the tube, and after I got it remounted on the tractor, I was back to my original plan. The rest of the afternoon involved chainsawing and wood chipping. Everything worked pretty well for the rest of the day. I took down some more trees, and created a pile of wood chips by the labyrinth, to be used as mulch.

Working through the dinner hour, and into the mosquito feeding frenzy of early evening, I cleared some of the nearby trail with the trimmer so I could dump a trailer-load of chips there. While doing that, I came to one of the fallen trees that has been blocking the trail since May. Not anymore. I cut it into logs to be split for firewood.DSCN2139e

The flat tire was a hassle, but all’s well that ends well. I got a chance to test my ideas and it looks like things are going to work as well as we hoped. The chipper eats brush as fast as I can feed it and the wood chips look perfect for the trail and mulching around plants in the labyrinth.

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Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2014 at 6:00 am

Unnecessarily Helpful

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DSCN2130eOur dog, Delilah, learned too well to use the kiddie pool to wash up before coming in the house. Now she automatically steps in it whether she needs to or not. When it was muddy, this really was an “every time” necessity. Since it has gotten dryer, there are times when a dip in the pool could be skipped.

It’s a sad thing to get frustrated about, but she creates extra work by getting wet, instead of just walking right inside with me. I’ve gotta drop what I’m carrying, go inside while keeping her out, find a towel, and come back out to get licked all over while I try to dry her off.

It’s frustrating, but how can I be mad at her when she is being so darn cute? Plus, there are days when she’s choosing to use it to cool off, not to get clean. I don’t want to deny her that comfort.

She may not need to be washed, but she looks so proud of herself when she does it, I can’t help but thank her for being so darn helpful.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

Morning Light

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After the horses finished their morning feed, they moved out into the hay-field. We are giving them access to the big field for a few days, post baling. That gives the grazing pasture a chance to recover a bit. I liked how they looked in the early morning sunlight, and in the absence of having my camera with me, I pulled out my cell phone to capture the image.

iP_MorningHorses.

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Written by johnwhays

July 24, 2014 at 6:00 am

Multiple Priorities

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DSCN2125eIt is such a pleasure to have our hay-field cut and baled, and to have our hay shed filled with what should be enough hay to get us all the way through next winter. The field looks great freshly cut. We opened it up to the horses after the baling was complete, thinking they might run out and revel in the wide expanse of space with available grass to eat. It was rather anticlimactic, because they instead chose to stay close to the paddock fence and graze on the grass growing in the unmowed drainage swale.

Finally yesterday, I witnessed them slowly making their way up the hill along the driveway fence line, tightly grouped in their little herd of four. I guess they are just being cautious.

I opened up the cover of the wood chipper and reclaimed the locking pin I inadvertently tossed in there on Monday. It was a simple procedure, giving me the opportunity to see the cutting blades and how the whole thing works. I sure hope I can put it to use before the end of this week.

With hay under control, it is time to move on to other business. I do hope to mow down the weeds on the small area to the north of the driveway, but cutting down trees and chipping up branches is a high priority that needs to happen before the fencing company shows up to finally start work on enclosing the entirety of the grazing pasture between the hay-field and the woods/labyrinth.

Another high priority for us is finding a landscape company that can take on the task of installing drain tile around the paddocks, and providing gravel and/or sand to improve the ground inside the paddocks during wet times. The one referral we were given is not responding. I’m guessing it is his way of indicating he’s not interested in the job, but a second source said it is likely that he’s just too busy. My neighbor said his prices are good, which is probably why he is too busy.

We really want to get this done while things are dry enough to support trucks loaded with gravel navigating our property. The way things have been around here the last two years, that time period ends up being rather short.

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Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2014 at 6:00 am

Late Night

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DSCN2126eI’m running a little slow this morning, after getting home around midnight last night from a trek to Minneapolis to see a Minnesota Twins baseball game with three great friends. It was my first time in the outdoor ball park which made it extra special and helped distract my attention from the tropical dew point that had the area under an excessive heat warning.

Today I will have an opportunity to take the cover off my new wood chipper to see the inner workings. Yesterday, in my rush to get things put away before I headed to the city, I needed to hook the chipper up to the back of the tractor. I pulled the locking pins from the two side mounts and with one in each hand, I reached up to push on the exhaust chute while looking down at the mount post.

In a hilarious way that seemed as if I must have intended to do this, I placed my hand on the chute right at the top near the opening and that locking clip dropped out of my grasp and rattled down inside. Oops.

I got everything parked in the garage, put Delilah in her outdoor kennel, fed the horses and was on my way, connecting with Julie to ride the light rail down to the stadium. It felt rather cosmopolitan to have transitioned so seamlessly from the tractor in my field to taking public transportation to dinner and a ball game in the big city.

BobJohnRichJulieWe met Rich and Bob at Pizza Lucé for dinner and then walked to Target Field in the thick heat. After a brief tour to see several vantage points, we settled into our assigned seats to enjoy the early innings, from which we could see the left field flags waving, but only rarely felt a hint of the breeze. Midway through the game we set out to explore more of the stadium and to see if we could find more of that moving air, stopping to fill water bottles at the jugs of ice water provided for fan’s convenience. That was a particularly welcome gesture by the Twins organization to aid in keeping spectators hydrated.

We ended up in the very top row out in the left field upper deck, where it was downright comfortable, and from which I was able to spot the apartment building where my son, Julian lives.

I let Julian know and he headed up on the roof of his building where we were able to spot each other from over two blocks away. He said he couldn’t really make out where we were, so I directed him to look right next to the scoreboard and he replied that he could see someone waving.

“That’s Bob and Julie!” I exclaimed.

Simple things can be so rewarding. It goes along with the repeated scenes I witnessed the entire game long, of fans discovering their image was being broadcast on the big screen. Yahoo! Oh, and a baseball game happened, too. A Twins win!

Cyndie was sweet enough to let Delilah out this morning and she fed the horses as she left for work, so I was able to get a few more minutes of rest before facing today. Now I’m going to go find that locking pin that is resting inside the business end of the wood chipper.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2014 at 8:13 am