Relative Something

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

Archive for May 2015

Scrambling

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Scrambling

Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2015 at 9:30 am

Uh Oh

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I’ve got a problem with my little drainage swale that we paid to have excavated last fall. It is already filled up with sediment.

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Part of me wanted the swale to be a bit deeper than it ended up, but we had to go with the existing geography of the surrounding land, and to achieve the gentle slope we want, over the full distance we need to cross, it can only be cut so deep.

One source of my problem is that the excavation happened so late in the year that I wasn’t able to get good coverage of grass growing over the full distance to hold the soil in place. The other source of my problem is one I overlooked. There is a lot of runoff coming from the paddocks. I’m not sure what I am going to do about that.

It frustrates me to think that I need to re-dig the swale already, and destroy the areas of grass planted last year that did take, but right now, that seems like the thing to do. Get it dug out now and allow myself plenty of time to get grass growing along the full length.

Solving the runoff from the paddocks is the bigger challenge. I could probably install the little plastic fence that is commonly seen at construction sites, but that is an ugly-looking solution. I want the water to drain, but I don’t want it to carry any topsoil away when it does.

I’m going to need to do some research on that one. Just like so many things in nature, it’s a complex situation with multiple influences and the full range of possible outcomes. Maybe a little pond at the low spot of the paddock to act as a catch basin that can then overflow excess water into the swale, without the sediment.

Then I would just need to dig out the pond occasionally, and I could move the soil back uphill where it came from. I’ll take some time to pond-er the possibilities of that potential solution.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2015 at 6:00 am

Trail Upgrade

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One of the best purchases I have made since we moved here is that wood chipper that runs off the PTO of the diesel tractor. Not only has it given us a way to get rid of the never-ending accumulations of tree branches, it is also providing a treasure trove of wood chips for landscape projects and trail maintenance.

I had a large pile of chips in the back pasture last fall that didn’t get distributed before it got buried in snow, and I have wanted to get it moved ever since it reappeared this spring. The recent rains have turned areas of our trail through the woods into swamp mud and we’re hoping a covering of wood chips will make it much less messy to cross, so that is providing additional motivation.

DSCN3512eYesterday, I landed a perfect combination of being home during the day, while it wasn’t raining, with time available, when the ATV was in working order. I made 3 trips from the pile to the wettest spot in the woods before switching to other more time-sensitive jobs.

Like mowing the grass. It has doubled in height in the 4 days since I last cut it. With rain predicted for today, I wanted to have that mowing completed in advance, to avoid it doubling another time before I could get to it.

There’s still half a pile of chips left, so I plan to return soon to covering the muddiest sections of trail with that, until it runs out. At that point, I will need to get out the trusty chipper again and make more piles of trail cover out of the multiple collections of branches that lie in wait.

It’s definitely a win-win situation!

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Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , ,

Sophomore Slump

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I don’t think sophomore slump is necessarily the best description for what I am feeling, but it is what came to mind for me. We have had our horses for a little over a year and a half now, and that just so happens to be the same amount of time for which I have experience with most everything to do with horses.

I came to this gig as a novice and have been relying primarily on intuition as my guide on how to care for them, beyond what I have gleaned from watching and listening to Cyndie, our farrier—George, and the two equine veterinarians who have been here.

DSCN3503eIf anything, I have leaned toward growing somewhat cocky over the success I have had thus far with our herd of 4, but I am very aware of how limited my experience really is. There is a lot more left to know than the limited understanding I have acquired thus far. What I’m trying to describe is that I feel like I have gained enough experience to no longer be a novice, but not enough to confidently guide my actions beyond the simple acts of feeding and brushing them out.

Yesterday, after brushing Legacy from head to toe because he stepped up and indicated a desire for it, I set down the brushes and took off my gloves to work on a tangle in his mane. With my attention on the twisted knot, I missed any hint he might be displeased with my activity. Suddenly he nipped my pant leg and pinched some flesh.

It brought out an involuntary yell of, “Ouch!” which startled all 4 of them. I angrily backed Legacy off and cut short my attention to all of them.

I am well aware that I have neglected to effectively teach Legacy to respect my space. I find myself in a bit of limbo between mastering the art of communicating with the conscious awareness I have come to believe horses possess, and the more traditional ways of repetitive lessons to establish desired behaviors in horses.

I see it as my sophomore slump that I know a little bit, but not enough to be as effective as I would like. Something tells me that if I continue to allow the horses to be my guides, Legacy will continue to have the upper hand. It’s back to the books for me, to refresh what I already know and then expand beyond that toward a new level of skills and confidence.

In no time I will find myself into my third year with the horses, and by then I would hope a sophomore slump to be a thing of the past.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2015 at 6:00 am

Wonderful Wetness

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DSCN3474eWe have received several days of light-to-moderate precipitation which is soaking in more than running off, and the plants around here seem pretty thrilled with the conditions. The grass sure is growing fast.

Hopefully, the horses have properly adjusted to all the greenery available for grazing, as we are now leaving the gate to the back pasture open 24/7 again. They don’t seem to like the noise made by rain on the metal roof of the barn, so when precipitation is falling, they move away, either to the bottom of the paddock or way out in the pasture.

I was in the city working yesterday, and when I got home in the afternoon, Delilah was laying in the gate area of her kennel, which is beyond the tarp that covers the main area, so she was soaking wet. Silly dog.

DSCN3463eWe walked down to feed the horses, but they didn’t show any interest in coming in from the far side of the pasture. Since it was raining steadily, I didn’t wait around for them, taking Delilah on an abbreviated walk back toward the house.

After having just mowed last Saturday, there are places where it already looks like it needs cutting again, just 3 days later. On our way in, I stopped to empty the rain gauge, which had 2 inches of rain in it since Saturday.

Before going to the horses, we had stopped by the labyrinth to see that the maple tree looked okay (hard to tell exactly when the leaves are drooping from the wetness), and the trillium in the woods was looking very good.

I’m grateful for the rain not coming all at once in a gully-washing downpour, but instead has soaked in enough to help fuel growth in everything around here. It’s making things a sloppy mess in some places, but overall, it is a wonderful wetness.

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2015 at 6:00 am

Another Transplant

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The woods up around our lake place are replete with the white and purple blossoms of wild trillium, which is such a beautiful sight. Just before we left to drive home yesterday, Cyndie’s nephew, Beck, helped her dig up a few of the plants for us to bring home. We hope to seed our woods for a shot at a similar magical landscape down here in a few years.

We tried to minimize the hours they were out of the ground by getting them planted as quickly as possible after we got home.

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I noticed in the second picture there is a worm, which is unfortunate, since, as I recently wrote, they are not trillium’s friend, because they consume the duff layer of decaying leaves and rob the soil of nutrients. I’m hoping our situation is not that extreme yet, and the two can coexist for some time.

I was so excited about the new plantings that I forgot to go check how the recently transplanted maple tree is getting along. Now we have two areas that I will be anxiously observing for signs of success.

There is such a variety of growth that springs forth in our woods every year, we are hopeful that our attempt to add trillium to it all will be met with success and the wonderful beauties will begin propagating unassisted in years to come.

Wish us luck!

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Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2015 at 6:00 am

How To

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This is how you take advantage of the day after workday on the opening weekend of the summer vacation season up at the lake.

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Rain started slowly and gently mid-to-late afternoon and turned the rest of the day wet, but in the hours prior, there was some basketball played, a group of very motivated and brave young adventurers went tubing behind the speedboat (that lake is still very cold), and some people took a nap.

I went for a stroll, did some observing, and visited with a few people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like anymore. I had to try several different times to stop thinking about the projects I should be working on at home, in order to pay proper attention to the here and now.

It was good to be up at my favorite getaway with Cyndie’s family again. We received messages that all is well at home. Horses, dog, and cat are getting along well with our guest caretakers. That goes a long way toward helping me relax and enjoy our time here.

Today is Memorial Day holiday in the US, when we pause to remember and honor those who have died in active military service. It appears as though I may be spending a few hours of the day in a line of cars returning to their homes, since the soaking rain continues to fall and will likely inspire folks to hit the road earlier than they otherwise might on the last day of a 3-day weekend.

If I could, I’d prefer to be spending that time curled up under a comforter in a hammock on a hill above the lake.

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2015 at 7:26 am

Courage

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Courage.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2015 at 7:21 am

Frustrating Exercise

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Despite my ambitious goals to accomplish many things yesterday (so I could take Cyndie up on an offer to turn my back on projects at home for a day to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with a visit to the lake) I finished far short of the plan. Now I am forced to try to get the grass mowed this morning, long before the dew has evaporated, so we can leave in the afternoon.

Complicating my efforts yesterday, and seriously hindering my progress, was a surprising and very dramatic reaction to something in the air. I started sneezing big time, and my nose began to run like a faucet. That both hindered progress and contributed to my not addressing any of the other things I had wanted to do.

DSCN3490eOn top of that, I ended up needing to make that almost obligatory return trip to Menards for supplies. I was working on patching our deck where boards have gotten soft with rot. The carpenter I called to replace them all is too busy to get to it until later, so he suggested I patch it for now. Following his simplified instructions, I quickly ran into details that required I problem solve.

It took two tries, but I figured out solutions and forged ahead, way behind schedule. Then my nose began to pour and the pry bar I used to pull nails became too worn and wouldn’t grip the nail heads. It was an exercise in managing frustration and rearranging goals. I’ll give myself a C grade for the lesson. (Mike, I needed your nail-puller and expertise!)

It was getting late, and I had all the tools spread out across the deck, so I forged ahead until after sunset to complete the task. I wanted to have one less thing left to do today, and I successfully accomplished that!

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

Evening Quiet

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As Cyndie stepped out the door last night for Delilah’s last walk of the evening, I heard her telling me it was really nice outside. How could I resist? I hurried into my boots to join them for a stroll.

The warmth of the sunny afternoon was just beginning to slip away and darkness was making progress toward cloaking visibility. Looking back over our house to the west, the waxing crescent moon looked picture-post-card-perfect, complimented by the striking brightness of celestial bodies Venus and Jupiter, evoking a magical feeling in the moment.

It was mostly quiet, except for the odd sound that may have been a raccoon letting its presence be known. It didn’t seem to distract Delilah one bit from the rabbit scent she was ravenously exploring. The thick smoke from the neighbor’s wood burning furnace was creating a thin line in both directions, hanging low in a thermal inversion of the valley air a mile away.

I had in mind to get the gate to the arena space closed, to keep the horses out of the confined alleyways overnight. As I made my way into the paddock, Cyndie gently called Legacy to bring the herd back inside. All 4 horses obliged, with the closest two, Cayenne and Hunter, coming in to meet me before I even reached the gate I was about to close.

Legacy and Dezirea turned to come in the paddock, but Legs stopped right in the opening. Both Cyndie and I were sweet talking them with encouragement to keep them coming in our desired direction. I was trying to convey my intention to close the gate, and began moving it in that direction. Legacy took the hint and stepped far enough in to clear, and Dezirea took advantage of that opening to walk right up to me and leaned into the gate.

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Dezirea in a recent daytime shot

She wanted me to scratch her itches. I wanted to grant her wish, but after I got the gate hitched. Her forwardness set me to giggling as she insistingly stood up against me in the way of my closing the gate.

I pretty much had to push her hindquarters out of the way, and there she stood, awaiting my return. With the chain clipped, I turned around and dragged my fingernails through her dusty, waxy, shedding coat.

After my week of healing from poison ivy, I know all too well of that orgasmic feeling of having itches scratched. The horses stiffen their necks and bob their heads while making funny expressions with their lips. She was loving it.

I tired quickly and glanced around at the other horses, wondering if I had started something that I wasn’t entirely prepared to fulfill. Luckily, the late hour and encroaching darkness seemed to put them all in a sleepy calm that allowed me to saunter off toward Cyndie and Delilah outside the paddock without needing to give each one a fair turn.

It was the kind of beautiful evening that had us overflowing with gratefulness for our animals and this beautiful place where we live.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2015 at 6:00 am