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

Archive for November 2017

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If you are thinking about visiting Wintervale this weekend to get a taste of forest management and tree removal, don’t for a minute wonder whether you will get to spend some time with our horses or chickens. They are essential ambassadors of the healthy loving energy available here every day.

When I was sitting with the horses in the paddock last weekend, eye-level with the chickens, I captured some images from the atypical vantage point.

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If the horses decide not to wander across the hay-field to see what we are up to by the road, I’ll make sure breaks from the lumberjack work will include a stop at the barn.

The chickens won’t wait. I’ll be surprised if they haven’t offered a greeting before visitors have time to walk away from their vehicles upon arrival. Our three survivors have mastered the ability to show up in a blink, or silently disappear like ghosts when our heads are turned.

I expect that has contributed to their free-ranging longevity.

On Tuesday, as I made the final turn onto our road coming home from work, I spotted a stray dog that looked very guilty and appeared to be chewing on something at the edge of a recently harvested corn field. I was very glad to hear from Cyndie that our three were home, and safe.

Speaking of potential threats to chickens, Cyndie says she and Delilah came upon a bobcat recently while on their morning walk. It gave them a moment of a stare, and then bounded off into the woods. This was before Cyndie had opened the coop for the day, so the chickens weren’t immediately at risk.

Honestly, I don’t know how they’ve lasted as long as they have since that fateful evening of June 16th when something took six hens before they had settled into the coop for the night.

These three really are survivors.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2017 at 7:00 am

An Idea

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I have been trying to picture what I might be able to do with the remaining trunk after cutting off all the dead branches on the large tree at the corner of our property by the road.

Here is a mockup of what one idea I have been pondering might look like…

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It would be a subtle, perpetual message to passing neighbors and travelers, and can serve as a compliment to our banner flag with the word LOVE across it when we put that out at the end of the driveway for events.

My main question for myself is whether, or not, I could even achieve this sculpting despite my lack of experience. I would certainly need to deal with an aversion to working in such a conspicuous space.

No hiding this project from curious passersby.

How bad do I want it?

The answer to that will determine whether this project is ultimately attempted, or just remains a computer image of an idea I once had.

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Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2017 at 7:00 am

Prudent Preparations

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I did salvage my pride on Sunday by getting out in the warmth to knock off a few more winter preparation steps. After getting the Grizzly back from the shop with fresh fluids and cleaned up brakes, it occurred to me that I had yet to install the new beefier cable on the winch. That’s a chore that would be much nicer to do when it’s not freezing cold outside.

The primary use for that winch is to raise and lower the snowplow blade. That involves a heavy repetition of back and forth on a very short length of the cable. The original was old and brittle which made it susceptible to breaking, which it did, frequently –almost always at an essential time while clearing snow.

Fixing that usually involves working in the cold and after dark. A broken cable is always an unwelcome incident, but at a critical point in plowing, the impact is intensified.

When all else fails, get a bigger cable.

I hadn’t been working long when the chickens showed up to see if my project involved anything they could eat. I’m guessing they were disappointed by not finding anything. I stepped into the shop for a second and when I returned, there was a fresh pile of chicken sh*t on my pliers.

That’s a skill, dropping it so squarely on the tiny surface of the tool. I was duly impressed and totally disgusted.

With the new cable installed and ready to lift the plow, I moved on to the swapping out the summer tires for the winter set. That beast is now ready for the snow season.

Before we even get to that, the ATV and its trailer will be put to use this weekend transporting chainsaws, ropes and gear down by the road. It will also be hauling loads of cut wood back up to the wood shed, and picking up the inevitable forgotten tools that were missed the first and second trips of the day.

If a winch and heavy-duty cable turns out to be needed, it’ll be ready for that, too.

I just hope the more aggressive winter tires don’t completely chew up the not-so-frozen ground. I didn’t think to prepare for top soil that has been re-melting in the late November 60° afternoons.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

Open Call

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Dear Twin Cities friends and family, if you have been longing to get out in the fresh air of the countryside to put in a good day’s work helping take down a couple of dead trees, I have an opportunity for you!

On either Friday or Saturday this week, depending on the availability of a majority of hoped-for volunteers, I am plotting to finally bring down a crown of dead branches located at a particularly prominent front corner of our property.

It doesn’t appear be a complicated project, but it has potential to be a chore that many hands will greatly ease and likely expedite.

My plan involves using a chainsaw to cut down each of the 5 “trunks” sprouting from the common base of the first tree, and then grinding the multitude of small branches in our chipper. We will point the chute of the chipper into the bed of our pickup truck and haul the bounty to the storage nook by the labyrinth garden.

Any limbs larger than 5-inches diameter will be cut for firewood and hauled up to be stacked beside the wood shed.

When the first tree is out of the way, we will toss a rope into the second tree and repeat the routine with that skeleton.

The weather forecast six days out is looking promising to accommodate outdoor work.

Volunteers will be rewarded with food from Cyndie’s kitchen, your choice of take-home bags of wood chips or Wintervale soul-soil, and an invigorating workout in the great outdoors with bountiful good fellowship.

If you are ready, willing, and able for this one-day lumberjacking adventure, let me know as soon as you can.

Be all that you can be.

Just do it.

Advance and be recognized.

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

The Thing

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The thing about depression is that it can be so amorphous. There are no clearly defined borders where it begins and ends. If one develops a runny nose, is it a cold or just a runny nose?

When I start feeling less than my best self, is it a bout of depression, or just the equivalent of a “runny nose?”

There is also a chicken and egg type question of which comes first. Do I feel low because depression is coming on, or is depression coming on because I feel low?

On top of those basic questions, there is the added complication of framing the situation as productive, or not. Is doing very little more than passing time a waste, or a valuable break from the rat race?

So many questions with no simple answer. What I know right now is, I have been noticeably under achieving this weekend. I have chosen to frame it in the positive. I have allowed myself a respite from doing significant chores and I won’t be moping that it was a negative.

In fact, this morning I am feeling significantly accomplished for the brilliant use of the available unscripted hours this weekend.

Now that’s my thing.

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2017 at 9:59 am

Lazy Day

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I don’t drink alcohol, so I’m guessing my hangover yesterday was from the excessive consumption of calories. The day was uncharacteristically warm, so I nudged myself out the door in hopes of accomplishing some grand feat of property management.

The project requiring the least amount of mental or physical preparation awaits just a short distance beyond our bedroom window. I look at it almost every day, but it has been behind schedule for quite some time. I would like to have the wood shed filled by now, but it is barely over halfway.

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I was out there only a minute or two when the chickens popped in to join me. The climbing sun had me quickly down to a short-sleeved T-shirt while I split and stacked firewood. It was wonderfully satisfying… for about 30 minutes.

Maybe my precarious lumbar discs were a convenient excuse to take a break, but the truth is, it was the whole of me that felt out of gas.

As I pondered the situation while gliding back and forth on the double swing, the view of our horses in the sunshine of the pasture captured my attention.

When all else fails, standing among the horses is one of my favorite options. Joining the horses when I have no agenda other than being with them is so very different from visits to care for them or invite their cooperation for some task. They have total control on what happens, whether they choose to include me, or not.

I wasn’t there very long when my phone rang. Cyndie was wondering where I was and gladly chose to join me in a session of weather worship in the paddock with the herd.

In short order, with the chickens joining the party, we were all quietly communing in the spectacularly lazy November sunshine.

When I first arrived, the horses were actually spread far and wide. Cayenne was out in the front hay-field, Hunter and Dezirea were spread far apart in the middle field, and Legacy was in the middle of the paddock, eyeing the waterer.

As it became increasingly evident I was just hanging around with no agenda, the horses began to migrate back to the paddock, taking turns to greet me as they arrived.

The top of the slope, with the barn for a backdrop, is a prime spot to soak up midday sun. I noticed the two mares had positioned themselves precisely to sneak in a little nap with full broadside exposure to soak up the solar energy without blocking each other.

That was the kind of day my body was up for yesterday.

Filling the wood shed is going to happen in stages this season, it seems.

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Written by johnwhays

November 25, 2017 at 10:31 am

Sun Salutation

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Our horses’ morning routine isn’t anything like the classic yoga postures, but on a clear day when the sun appears over the eastern horizon, they give it respectful attention.

Yesterday morning was cold and calm. The smoke trail of the neighbor’s wood burning furnace formed a lazy trail across the landscape.

The horses watched the sun climb above the trees. When you can start to feel the energy of the rays, they all turn sideways to it, forming a line behind Legacy. I was still scooping poop when they did this yesterday, and I ended up needing to snake around through them to get back to the wheelbarrow each time the scoop got full.

In a very short time, their hides warm up dramatically.

That’s gotta feel pretty special to them after the cold darkness of the night.

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Written by johnwhays

November 24, 2017 at 7:00 am

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