Relative Something

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

Archive for February 2017

Forgotten Albums

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I went on a download binge of old music from my youth over the weekend. When I finished high school, I spent a year working full-time in a record store. Spending long hours exposed to a repetition of newly released music tends to in grain the songs in a person’s mind.

Every once in a while I get an urge to hear the old tunes again, but the majority of my old album collection was sold long ago. If I want the music back, I need to buy it again. I’m okay settling for digital versions that can be conveniently downloaded, but those offerings aren’t as complete as I need them to be.

My tastes, and the depth of music I was exposed to back then, move beyond the mainstream of what has been converted to digital.

I don’t know what the parameters are that record companies use to dictate what gets digitized and what doesn’t, but it always surprises me when I stumble upon something that has been passed over for upgrade to the latest technology.

Luckily, I still have my old turntable, so if I get truly desperate, I can always shop for the vinyl versions of old favorites that I once thought I would never miss again.

Before I do that, I first need to find the single milk-crate-sized wooden box of the most precious saved albums I couldn’t part with, stored downstairs somewhere, to verify my latest craving isn’t actually one I kept.

My digital music collection has taken on a renewed importance again, as the public radio stations are running one of their thrice yearly fund drives this week. We are already sustaining members, so I avoid the whole pitch and replace radio in the car with my iPod on shuffle.

I keep coming up with songs I had no idea were in my collection. It’s a wonderful distraction during my long commute to the day-job.

ipodAfter purchasing some old favorites, like the Blues Brothers album that came out while I was working the record store, I needed to update my iPod. I didn’t want to completely sync it with my home iTunes library because the iPod has some music on it from CDs I ripped on my work computer (because it is an old iMac that still has a disk drive in it).

Not thinking clearly, I stumbled on the feature where I could select just the new songs I wanted to add. Thinking I had found my answer, I clicked the 5 new —using that term relatively— albums to copy over and hit sync.

Do you see what I did there?

When it was finished, I had all 5 freshly downloaded albums moved to the iPod… but that was all I had. Be careful what you sync.

I gave in and let my entire home iTunes library re-sync with the iPod. Now I need to go back later and figure out what method I originally used to move only the 4 albums ripped into the work iTunes library, onto my iPod.

I’ve done it before, I should be able to do it again.

I suppose this would be a lot simpler if I’d just store all of my music in the cloud.

Maybe I’m just waiting until they digitize all the music I really want before I will finally take that step. The ball’s in their court.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

Quick Return

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It feels like spring! Seriously. A day after the snowstorm, our uncharacteristic weather has made a quick return. The clouds are gone, the sky deep blue, the sun shining bright, the air warm, and the snow, totally sticky and melting. It is something that can’t be controlled, so we just take what is delivered.

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The back yard is filled with evidence of visitors sledding and building snow sculptures. The snow is sliding off the metal roof of the shop.

I may look into a metal roof for the house when our shingles reach the end of their life. I would prefer to have the snow slide off the roof without my needing to pull it down using a rake on a very long pole handle.

I got a little tired toward the end of my efforts of pulling down snow from the roof on Saturday. On the last section, I hung the rake on the lip of the eave, just like I had done all the way around the rest of the house. But I let go of the handle with a careless lack of attention to detail.

It swung away from me with a little too much momentum. As I watched a fraction of a second last much longer than that in my mind, but quicker than my body could react to, the rake lost contact with the roof.

Why couldn’t it just fall harmlessly to the ground beside the house?

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

Harvesting Popsicles

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It’s still February on the calendar, but our warm days have started the sap flowing in the trees already. As a result, the leaking wounds on our recently pruned maple trees are forming sap-sicles with a sublime sweetness and hint of maple flavor.

dscn5856eThe daytime temperature yesterday reached the melting point and the mostly sunny sky created the magical act of disappearing snow. I pulled the drifted snow off the roof over the front door and along the valleys beneath the main peak and the shingles started steaming instantly as they absorbed the solar energy and warmed up.

I had started the day with a walk down the driveway to assess the condition and found it to be a frozen mess. The snow that fell during the second half of the storm, after I had plowed once, was melting into a slush that had re-frozen overnight into an un-plowable mass.

That shifted my morning focus to shoveling. By the time I got to plowing in the afternoon, much of the driveway was exposed pavement. I cleaned up the edges, battling to keep the blade from slicing into the soft turf, and then worked on the gravel section around the barn.

That was a trick. The snow was sticky and the gravel soft. The task gets a bit less forgiving, requiring more attention to detail than I really wanted to give it. It becomes a mental wrestle to convince myself the chore even needs to be done, and if so, how thorough to follow through.

dscn5857eDo I need to leave space for more snow to follow? Will this be melted and gone by the time we next receive another plowable amount of accumulation?

I parked the Grizzly in the sunshine to melt the snow off the blade while I pulled out a shovel to clean up the edges. That’s when some maple-sicles caught my eye.

The first bites at the bottom are the sweetest and the texture is softer than frozen water. There is no question that these are not typical icicles. The hint of maple flavor is a wonderful natural reward.

I wonder how many grams of sugar I added to my diet yesterday.

That’s not counting the icing I ate on the couple of pieces of Cyndie’s spice cake I snuck in…

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Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2017 at 9:58 am

Different Landscape

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As predicted, by Friday morning our landscape didn’t look at all like it had on Thursday. While the bulk of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area squeaked by with nary a flying flake, our county rode the sharp northwest edge of precipitation and Wintervale Ranch received a respectable 9-10 inches by the end of the day yesterday.

Taken late Wednesday afternoon.

Taken late Wednesday afternoon.

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Taken Friday before noon.

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I took the snowy picture shortly after plowing the driveway in the morning, about mid-way through the duration of snowfall. Tracking the total accumulation involves some guess-work because the ground was so warm that snow was melting from the bottom up. The flakes also settle under their own weight and then the gusts of wind were whipping up some fair drifting.

dscn5854eThe National Weather Service report from just south of us was 11 inches and the next reading to our northwest was 9.5 inches. Since we are located between those, and our anecdotal evidence coincides, I feel justified with the assessment I presented in the opening paragraph.

Plowing was a hassle because the bottom layer of the snow was heavy and wet, and the ground was soft from the recent thaw. It led to the blade tearing up bad spots of pavement, as well as the turf on each side of the driveway.

I like snow removal to look neat and tidy, but I was making a mess of things. Also, since I was plowing in the middle of the storm —to turn it into two small efforts instead of one big one— the new falling flakes were piling up as fast as I cleared what was already on the ground.
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It didn’t look like a job well-done, but it was perfectly fine for a mid-event effort.

Cyndie had put the horses inside the barn Thursday night in anticipation of the snow’s arrival, which had been predicted to start out as rain. We checked the radar several times that evening, for an indication of the timing of the precipitation’s start, but even though it appeared to already be snowing overhead, it was actually still dry outside on our grounds by the time we went to sleep.

When morning dawned, it was all white outside.

As the blowing and snowing became the obvious order of the day, it got easier to make a decision to stay indoors by the fire all afternoon. I played my guitar until I started to get sleepy. We watched a movie.

It feels a little like winter around here again.

It will be strange come Monday when I drive a few miles toward the cities for work and return to the places nearby that didn’t get the snow. We are now under a completely different landscape for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2017 at 7:00 am

Lifetime

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2017 at 7:00 am

Modern Convenience

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It was sunny and 60-some degrees at our place yesterday. If it weren’t for the modern convenience of accurate weather forecasting giving us several days warning of an impending snowstorm, I would be completely clueless about what is headed our way. By Friday morning, the view of our property won’t look like this again for a while.

img_1941eI will not be surprised if the alignment of the storm moving in this evening brings us around a foot of snow, based on the models published by the weather services.

Such a significant contrast of weather in just over a day is something I would not be able to comprehend happening without the present day wisdom, and data gleaned from satellites and radar images. My intuitive senses for interpreting the weather are far too dull to perceive that the warm sunshine yesterday afternoon was so quickly going to become a distant memory.img_1925e

At the same time, it is still February, after all. It’s supposed to be wintery weather. So I am well prepared for whatever cold and blowing snow may arrive. I have my special leg warmer to keep me comfortable while chronicling the brutal challenges I face when plowing and shoveling the oodles of snowflakes inbound on our position.

Pequenita seems to like napping on my legs when I stretch out. It’s cute, but can’t be all that comfortable for her, and it tends to lock down my posture long enough that numbness sets in.

Maybe she is sensing the oncoming storm and wants to keep me safe and warm in preparation for doing battle when it comes time to dig out.

In the mean time, I hope to spend most of the day Friday in front of a warm fire, watching the flakes fly outside the windows.

See ya later, warm sunshine.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2017 at 7:00 am

Tender Footed

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Last week, Cyndie mentioned to me that Cayenne looked a little uncomfortable on her feet. The next morning I confirmed back to Cyndie that Cayenne definitely was hurting. I brought out the morning pans of feed for the 4 horses and she didn’t move from her position down in the paddock.

Aware that she was having some problem, I chose to accommodate her and carry a pan down to where she was standing. I stopped one step short to see if she would move at all to get to the pan I had placed on the ground in front of her. She did, one hesitant step.

That morning, the tree trimmers were just pulling in and that startled the herd, sending the other 3 rushing down from the overhang, leaving their rations unfinished. Now they all wanted to eat from Cayenne’s pan. She didn’t move.

I lingered with the horses and watched as Legacy bit her in the butt a couple of times. I couldn’t tell if he wanted her to move, but one theory of Cyndie’s is that he is checking to see if he would be able to make her move in an emergency. It is very important to him as herd leader to know how serious her condition is, which then directs his decision-making, accounting for whatever her limitations may be.

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She was not at all happy with his probing, and let him know in several ways, without ever moving a step. While I was standing with them, I noticed she was yawning frequently and then trying to get bites of snow from the mostly icy ground cover. I considered her usual behavior, which is to get a drink immediately after eating and decided I would offer her a bucket of water in case she was so uncomfortable she didn’t want to walk to the waterer.

That made her happy. She guzzled away at my offering.

Not knowing what else I could do for her, I decided to spend some time cleaning out the waterer while watching to see if her behavior would change. Somehow, while I was focused for a minute on scrubbing green scum away, she stealthily made her way over to the raised circle and was munching emphatically on hay.

It was shocking, because it seemed like I had looked away for a second, and somehow she just “beamed” from one spot to another.

A short time later, I watched her walk up the hill to the hay boxes under the overhang. My analysis was, she was definitely uncomfortable for some reason, but she wasn’t incapacitated by whatever the problem was.

Her behavior wavered better and worse over the weekend, so Cyndie asked the vet to stop by yesterday afternoon. After talking things through with him, our general consensus was likely bruising of the sensitive pads of her feet on the rough, icy terrain of late. This led to inflammation and resulted in her evident pain.

Cyndie had some anti-inflammatory pain-killer to give Cayenne and we are going to monitor for a change in her symptoms. The vet offered some alternative possibilities and decided to take a blood sample to check the function of her thyroid.

Here’s hoping she feels better soon and bruising is the only problem she has to face in this case. It’s tough seeing our most tender-hearted horse be so tender-footed.

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Written by johnwhays

February 22, 2017 at 7:00 am

Patch Worked

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On Sunday, I just happened to stumble upon the fact that the snow-melt flowing down our drainage swale from beneath the driveway wasn’t coming out of the culvert.

“What the…!?”

I hustled to the other side of the driveway, and sure enough, the rushing water was disappearing beneath the mouth of the culvert. Nice.

I tell ya, property ownership is a trip.

I tried an on-the-fly patch in attempt to plug the opening enough to coerce the water to flow through the culvert, not beneath it. I dumped in sand and hay, plus tried stomping some of the residual snow to fill the void, but the water was moving with such momentum that my plug didn’t stop the flow.

I needed something impermeable. Old empty bags of feed came to mind, especially as they were also closest at hand. I cut open a bag and tried laying it as a sheet over the opening in hope the water pressure would push it in place to fill the opening beneath the mouth of the culvert.

The bag was more inclined to float.

dscn5848eI struggled to hurriedly push it below the freezing-cold water where I could cover it with hay and sand to redirect flow into the culvert. It started to work a little bit, so I worked harder to get the edges down to where water wouldn’t flow beneath it. Soon, it became obvious I needed to do something just upstream from there, so I added a second bag and placed a shovel on it to hold that one in place.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing, so I left it at that, fully expecting to find one or both of the bags out of place and wreaking havoc on desired flow sometime later.

Then yesterday’s rain storms arrived. Driving home, I noticed the ditches were filled with standing water and the creeks were running at full capacity with runoff. This time of year, rain water can’t soak into the soil because the ground is mostly frozen. I held little hope for the hastily placed feed bags at the mouth of our culvert.

Draining rain water was running at full tilt through the culvert under the road at the south border of our property when I arrived home. I stopped the car when I reached the problem culvert under our driveway and stepped out into the rain. First, I walked to the outlet side and was pleased to see heavy flow coming out of the culvert.

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Crossing to the other side, I was amazed to find both bags still positioned where I had placed them. The one funneling water into the culvert had flopped over sideways a bit, but it seemed to be holding in place down below. I pulled it back again to catch as much water as possible and deemed it a success.

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A more permanent fix will wait until there’s no water flowing, but for now, that crazy patch is certainly performing beyond my expectations. With the weather we are experiencing this winter, there is no telling when that opportunity for a permanent fix will arrive.

It will be no surprise to me if I find one or both of those bags down stream before their services are no longer needed. Stay tuned for further developments.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

Sheared Again

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dscn5846eHindsight being 20/20, I decided to not chip any more of the large dead oak branches that had been cut out of the oldest trees on our property. Too bad it took busting the replacement shear pin I’d installed 15 minutes earlier to adequately enlighten me.

I switched to exclusively chipping the branches that came out of our maple trees for the rest of the day yesterday and the 3rd shear bolt in two days survived just fine.

The branches of oak would get the chainsaw. That tool didn’t have any problems cutting through the almost petrified oak.

I guess I’ve learned the limitations of my beloved Wallenstein chipper.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , , , ,

Next Phase

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dscn5840ePicking up where the tree trimmers left off, I pulled the tractor out of the garage yesterday and we started the process of turning the piles of branches into wood chips. With the temperatures pushing into warmth much more typical for May or June, the timing was perfect for having fresh ground cover over the now muddy path leading down toward the barn from the driveway.

I quickly relearned how much physical effort is involved in the process of repeatedly feeding the chipping monster. The variety of branches that came out of our trees made for a constant struggle to detangle, reorient, and guide into the chute.

The smallest ends of branches will catch and get hung up on the corners, which interrupts flow, and the big limbs tend to bounce and torque when first struck by the powerful spinning blades. My body and hands frequently get smacked by the kick-back of the bigger branches.

After a prolonged session of working to make a pile of branches disappear into a wonderful mound of precious wood chips, I feel like I’ve been a few rounds in a boxing match.

dscn5836eCyndie helped to bring branches from farther and farther, and worked to cut junctions that “Y” off too wide to fit the bottom of the narrowing chute. We parked the tractor on the solid pavement of the driveway to be out of the mud that is quickly becoming the prevailing footing during this unbelievable February melt down.

We took a little break for lunch and then when I came out for a few more rounds of battle, it was T-shirt weather. It is just plain sad to be living through the end of cold and snowy winters like the ones I enjoyed as a kid. I fear for the precious trees I have been focused on caring for these last few days, as they react to the warmth and prepare to sprout new buds.

If they sprout leaves too early, they risk an ugly death from freezing when a hint of real winter returns for a last gasp reminder of cold that usually happens this time of year.

When I turned the key to restart the tractor, nothing happened. Well, not nothing. The indicator lights lit up, but there was no hint of sound from the starter. I have experienced this before. It was how I was first introduced to this tractor. No matter what I did, I could not get it to start.

That first time, I ended up needing to have a service person come out. He accidentally figured out the safety interlock of the PTO lever wasn’t getting met. After chasing a different possibility for a time, I came around to the same conclusion. It was the PTO lever again.

I got the engine started, repositioned the tractor to a new spot and was ready to go. I picked a big old dead oak branch to start and quickly busted the shear pin of the chipper.

I took the hint and called it a day for chipping.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2017 at 9:35 am