Relative Something

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

Archive for August 2017

First Aroma

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It was one week ago that I wrote about the waning days of summer and my noticing colored leaves in our grass beneath the tree that always turns early. Now, on the last day of August, it’s probably right on schedule that I noticed my first scent of dry leaves in our woods.

It doesn’t even look like there are enough leaves on the ground to be noticeable, but the smell is there.

I was doing some forest bathing with Delilah and breathing in the aroma as we walked the trail. It made me think of September, and then I realized that the month begins tomorrow.

The smell may not be early, but it seems like it is.

Last night was a gorgeous summer evening with a perfect temperature and fabulous sky when Delilah and I headed out later in the evening to tuck the chickens in their coop for the night. The horses had wandered through the open gate out onto the grass of the middle pasture again, and the scene was a perfect picture-postcard moment.

In sharp contrast to the travails of so many other people and places in the world, the sanctuary of our property is quite the healing balm for whatever assails my being.

The aroma of fallen leaves comes as a particularly precious added bonus.

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2017 at 6:00 am

Horse Love

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It’s time our horses get a little love from the Relative Something blog, don’t you think? They’ve been a little short-changed here because energy for them has been directed toward the Facebook page of late. The lines get a little blurry sometimes, and I forget which hat I am wearing, blogger or Wintervale post-er.

I’ve got a fix for that today. To see this fun snippet of the herd nom-nom munching on the high grass of the middle pasture, I’m linking back to the Wintervale FB page.

If you don’t have time for the video, I’m including two snapshots of our crew in graze-mode for your enrichment. Enjoy!

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They are getting along well as the summer slowly winds down for them. We’ve noticed they have grown comfortable enough with being under the barn overhang now that even when rain roars on the metal roof, they stay beneath it and keep dry.

I like that better than when they preferred to stand as far as possible from the cover it offered, choosing instead to droop their heads down and get soaking wet, looking like sorry sad sacks.

Their health has been stable and good, although Cayenne still is working on growing out her hooves after a bout of laminitis. George has been kind enough to provide her an extra session of trimming between the normal span of time for the rest of the herd, which is helping to hasten a return to a desired hoof shape and less painful weight-bearing.

Shelby has been exercising the horses once a day, continuing a process that she started after Cyndie’s shoulder surgery in June. It has been a great help toward getting the horses ready for the workshops underway while Dunia is here.

One other thing the horses have adjusted nicely to this summer is the presence of three very friendly chickens who demonstrate a frequent preference to share the cozy space under the overhang, even though it sometimes means their meager ration of twice-daily nutrition pellets gets poached by the greedy birds.

Doesn’t seem to matter. The horses know they are still the stars of our show.

Makes me love them all the more.

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Written by johnwhays

August 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

Emotional Health

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It should come as no surprise that I am a person who sees love as the magic ingredient of our lives. Love is the simplest solution to every problem. Then why isn’t everything rainbows and unicorns? Well, just because we know something works, doesn’t automatically guarantee we will put it into healthy practice.

Why do people smoke when they know the physical consequences? Why do we make poor food choices or over-indulge in mind altering substances? Why do we stay up too late? Why do we sabotage our own intentions to become our best selves?

Nobody said it was easy. I do say it is simple, but that’s not the same thing.

There is one critical ingredient to the art of loving ourselves to the fullest, which enables us to then successfully wield love as the key method of reaching a healthy solution… with other people, with situations, business transactions, relationships, governments, and ultimately between nations of our world.

It is emotional health.

I have recently come upon a couple of articles I’d like to share that nicely frame key aspects of emotional well-being. They express opinions in common with my perspectives about emotional health and love.

The first, by John White, describes emotional intelligence as a skill that can be learned and developed.

“Some of the most admired people in the world have gotten to where they are due to their emotional intelligence.”

The second, is a three-question interview in September’s National Geographic magazine with U.S. former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, where he advocates for emotional well-being.

“I think of emotional well-being as a resource within each of us that allows us to do more and to perform better. That doesn’t mean just the absence of mental illness. It’s the presence of positive emotions that allows us to be resilient in the face of adversity.”

White describes emotional intelligence as having five components: Self Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills, and then suggests skills a person can practice to enhance them.

Murthy says we can cultivate emotional well-being with simple tools like, sleep, physical activity, contemplative practices, and social interaction. In his third answer, his words fully resonated for me with his belief that there are two emotions that drive our decisions: love and fear.

I agree.

I hope you will follow the links of the images to read the full (brief) contents of their messages for yourself.

At Wintervale Ranch, we are all about the love, and Cyndie and Dunia offer several workshops that provide wonderful information and guidance about emotional intelligence.

Bolster emotional intelligence and unleash the power of love. The world will be a better place, and the people a happier human race.

That’s my sermon for today. Get out there and share the love!

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Making Peace

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It is getting to a point where I think I just need to make peace with the fact that water runoff on our property will carve its own path no matter what feeble attempts I make to direct it.

We received another short-but-robust deluge from the rain gods yesterday afternoon, which generated eroding runoff flow digging ever deeper into all the existing rills and washouts that had already evolved from the last few downpours this summer.

While standing on one of the spots inside the small paddock where our insufficient attempts to establish a direct route to the drainage swale had long ago spectacularly failed, I tried to envision what a successful solution might look like.

I picture a much more assertive effort along the lines of what you would see done to create a drainage ditch along a roadway. If we dig an unmistakable ditch, we could dump the material we scoop out of it to fill the washouts we’d rather not have.

The big challenge with a serious excavation is getting planted grass to sprout and hopefully hold soil in place before rainfall gets a chance to wash it all away. If money were no object, maybe we could line the ditch with enough river rock to form a creek bed.

Aw, heck, why stop there? Let’s just line it with a rubber pond skin first, and then pour on the rock. Wouldn’t that make a sharp-looking dry creek that’s always ready for a flash flood. It’s called Rainscaping.

There are a lot of images out there depicting some incredibly artistic solutions along these lines. Fifty dry creek ideas right here! But there is one thing missing from all photos I saw: weeds.

If we tried any of those solutions, in a very short time, you wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful rocks through the 3-foot tall weeds that would happily take root.

Maybe there’s a happy medium in there somewhere. I’m thinking I need grass to grow to hold soil in place, or rocks. How about grass and rocks?

It would be a hassle to mow, though.

Back to reality. The rocks to cover the distances I need would be an awful strenuous effort to accomplish, in addition to the cost of having them delivered. Grass seed is something I can afford and plant easily myself.

It doesn’t cost anything to dream. I like picturing the possibilities. In the mean time, I am stuck looking at the ongoing and frustrating erosion that has had the better of me for the last five years.

I want to work on making my peace with that.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Today, Pausing

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Today, we have all the ingredients for taking a pause from the multitude of news and projects facing us with relentless regularity: A Sunday; gray skies; soggy grounds; workshop aftermath; no plans.

I caught a moment of television news coverage reporting the latest synopsis of Hurricane Harvey this morning and was struck by the different perspective it presented from the minute-by-minute reality of what it must be like “on the ground,” so to speak.

They wrapped it up in such a neat little package of a few minutes, and then moved on with their regular scheduled broadcast.

It felt like, “Yeah, it is bad, but… whatever.”

Meanwhile, I’m wondering, if the municipalities are inundated with emergency response requests, the power is out, the water continues to rise, tornadoes repeatedly threaten, boil water orders are in place, toilets are becoming useless, and catastrophic amounts of rainfall will continue for days… how are people going to cope?

It doesn’t wrap up nicely in a breaking news update.

Reading a portion of 911 calls with one after another requests for rescue from families with infants and elders trapped by rising water gives just a tiny sense of the immediate emotions involved as the drama continues to play out.

This can’t be conveyed in the short news briefing that so quickly ends to be followed by the next inconsequential distraction.

I don’t mean to imply that I fault the updates. On the contrary, the updates are valuable for what they can provide. I am just boggling over the canyon of differing perspective I notice from them.

Just as I am boggling over the Sunday calm settling over us today, with no pressing demands forcing our decisions, in juxtaposition to what is simultaneously going on in the Houston area.

If I end up puttering with the silt fence by our swamped soil runoff spot today, I will be certainly be thinking about how our predicament here compares with what is going on in Texas.

It definitely gives pause.

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Written by johnwhays

August 27, 2017 at 9:45 am

Feeling Sympathy

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This morning we are feeling sympathy for the people who are experiencing the full impact of hurricane Harvey along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana.

At home, the welcome signs are out for another Wintervale workshop, but the weather is anything but welcoming. It is wet, wet, wet, with gray skies and soggy soil.

It is not conducive to our outdoor activities with the horses, but it is so far from the devastating situation unfolding to our south, that we feel no justification in moping about it.

May the people under the catastrophic flooding of Harvey experience peace amid the turmoil and relief, somehow, sooner than they expect.

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Written by johnwhays

August 26, 2017 at 9:37 am

Depression Awareness

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My experience with depression involved a long, slow advance that could well be compared to the boiling frog parable. I was oblivious to the illness in my head while it was busy crafting all manner of dysfunctional thinking habits.

When my angst would occasionally lead to curious contemplations, the version of depression I would use as a reference involved the stories about people who hit rock bottom and lost jobs, destroyed marriages, became sick from substance abuse, and eventually suffered run ins with the law.

That did not describe my life, so I figured depression wasn’t my problem.

Ultimately, I was lucky enough to discover that depression was precisely the boiling water in which I was engulfed.

Maybe if I had an easily accessible clinically validated screening questionnaire available to me, I could have become aware of my condition a lot earlier than I eventually did.

I’m hoping the progress with de-stigmatizing depression and all it’s related mental health afflictions, along with efforts like the recent partnering between Google and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to offer an online tool to help diagnose depression, will shorten the suffering for all those who aren’t sure about what’s going on with their health.

Check this out: Learning More About Clinical Depression…

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Waning Days

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In the slow but steady march of days away from one season and toward the next, we have now arrived to chilly mornings, complete darkness when I wake up for the day-job, and leaves changing from green to red.

Last week when I mowed, I noticed this sprinkling of color in the grass beneath the maple tree that always turns the earliest. It’s become a reliable harbinger of the beginning of the end of summer for us.

I should be thrilled. Autumn has always been my favorite season. But I think that is changing. Maybe, with age, I am developing a more balanced perspective. I think it feels more accurate now to frame my view as appreciating all the seasons equally.

Today is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair. That means a lot more to me in theory than it does in practice. I rarely attend the fair anymore, however, the memories I hold from past visits, and the one year I worked a booth there, are a thread that keeps me feeling connected, whether I go or not. It is a blast of activity that serves as an exclamation mark at the end of summer.

It all has me feeling a little melancholy, which is rather uncharacteristic for me this time of year. Luckily, it can’t last, as the season of wood fires brings me great joy, and we have already lit a couple in the fireplace to ward off a bit of chill in the last few days.

Bring on the fall sports, the spectacular colors, the crisp air, the end of bugs, the time between mowing and shoveling, the harvest festivals, and Cyndie’s apple crisps.

The waning days of summer become the waxing days of autumn. Bring it on, I say.

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Written by johnwhays

August 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Workshops Happening

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It was a gorgeous day for hosting a workshop yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened while I was away at the day-job. The illustrious staff posed in their new shirts, wearing smiles of success after a full day of activity.

Shelby, Cyndie, and Dunia put on a Team Building workshop for a corporate client. From the banter of follow-up analysis that I overheard, it sounded like folks engaged well with the curriculum.

I was a little nervous early in the morning when I received a call from Cyndie asking what I use for a pin to attach the grader/rake to the ATV. The round pen sand did deserve attention, after the dowsing of rain in two significant batches on Monday, which left some spots a little soupy.

Piloting the Grizzly while pulling the grader inside the confines of the round pen, using only one good arm seemed like more stress than necessary in the waning minutes before people arrive.

She decided to make do with a hand rake.

I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, but it sounds like it worked well enough.

When I got home, I was happy to find the beautiful new flag we bought as an attention-getting marker was flowing perfectly at the driveway entrance.

It should be no question now that clients have found the right place when they reach our street and that flag is out.

Now if we could just arrange for the weather to be as nice for all the rest of the workshops in August and September as it was yesterday, we’d have it made. It’s sounding like we won’t be so lucky come this Saturday.

I told Cyndie we need to buy some Wintervale umbrellas.

The way things go, if we have umbrellas, we’ll never need to use them. Or so it often seems.

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Clutter Kept

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Honestly, there were things within the first drawer and over the top of my dresser that have been there for years. When we made the move almost five years ago, I poured everything that had accumulated in the top drawer for the twenty-five years prior into large ziplock bags. Upon arrival to this home in October of 2012, I pushed those bags right back into the drawer to be dealt with later.

Or not.

I have actually found myself digging through the contents a couple of times in the ensuing years, in search of some phantom item from a vague recollection –which I never, ever find– and had the thought that I should probably sort through the bags and bust some clutter.

Over the weekend, Cyndie made a sweeping pass through the house to prepare for a showing to a potential client. Her magical ability to make things disappear from surfaces always excludes my dresser, but this time my mess really stood out to me.

On a whim, (was it connected to the celestial show to come?), I took my shot at Cyndie’s sweeping magic and waded through the clutter on top.

Inevitably, there were a few items to which I couldn’t part.

I slipped them into one of the bags in the drawer. Soon, I realized the bags had to go. I needed space in that drawer for currently active items that had been laying on top. The bags were so full they completely filled the drawer.

Full disclosure: The clutter isn’t busted yet. To save time, I moved the bags into a box, instead of processing the treasure of collectibles contained within. However, in the interest of not totally giving up on the ultimate goal, I set the box –too full to even close– on the floor beside my bed where it would be out of sight to the casual viewer, but where I would trip over it every day until I deal with it.

Any bets on whether I can do five years, stepping around the obstruction?

While I have a hard time parting with treasures, I am getting better at spending a little coin to replace things that wear out. When it comes to my cherished threadbare Carhartt Double Front Work Dungarees, it took an email spam ad touting half-price irregulars to wrench open my wallet.

The three primary pairs in heavy rotation for dirty-work around the property have gotten so ratty as to be entirely fashionable, although not completely safe for public display by anyone with a little modesty. The crotch where Cyndie had sewn patches is now vented around her handiwork.

The kicker last week was when Cyndie came up from the laundry with a six-inch stick about half the diameter of my little finger and asked if I was keeping it for any reason. It was now a clean stick, as it made it through the wash inside the rip of the first layer at one of the knees.

Pequenita put my new replacement pairs through some serious testing as soon as they arrived yesterday afternoon.

Now I will look a little more presentable for the multitude of workshops Cyndie and Dunia are holding in the days ahead to kick off Cyndie’s return to active duty following this summer’s shoulder surgery.

Hopefully, no one will wander into the bedroom and stumble over my treasures that are no longer on the dresser.

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Written by johnwhays

August 22, 2017 at 6:00 am