Relative Something

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

Archive for January 2018

Thankful

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2018 at 7:00 am

Playful Moments

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Despite the undercurrent of grief and uncertainty for us around the ranch lately, there are still moments of blissful play that arise organically without warning. Over the weekend, Cyndie and I headed out with Delilah to give her another chance to explore of her own free will through the middle of our woods.

That canine radiates like a kid in a candy store when we let her rush around through the trees chasing wherever her nose leads. I’m embarrassed to admit that we tolerate her pauses to root out deer droppings because it allows us to catch our breath after the jungle-gym challenge of navigating branches to keep up with her.

When the trail exits the trees and follows the pasture fence around the property, Delilah falls in line without objection and resumes her usual routine of walking the path.

What she didn’t realize on Saturday was, I had a plan to crawl through the fence to romp with her in the hay-field.

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It is so much fun to watch her reaction when she suddenly catches on to my idea.

“Oh boy! We are going to play in the big snow!”

Although, it wasn’t very big snow any more, after a few days of warmth and sunshine. It’s beautiful to look at, but a hassle to walk, with the crust not being strong enough to support our weight. Delilah had a little easier time of it, but even she broke through on occasion.

When I collapsed from exhaustion, Cyndie pulled out her phone to take pictures of Delilah showing off that she wasn’t tired yet.

Mother nature is a major part of our life out in the rural acres. It can be harsh and wonderful all at the same time. I expect we will get more snow storms as winter plays out, but right now we are dealing with hazards that are more common in March, like dangerously slippery ice from melting snow that has re-frozen.

At the same time, we can play outside without a jacket on. Or, make that “could,” as that warm spell is already over and we are now back to a big chill again.

As I’ve written before, the weather brings adventure to us.

Tomorrow, we get the added bonus of a triple-treat full moon. It will be another “super moon,” with the orbit closest to the Earth. It’s a “blue moon,” because it’s the second full moon this month. Lastly, it will be a “blood moon,” for about an hour with reddish coloring from an eclipse.

What’s not to love about that?

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Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2018 at 7:00 am

What Led?

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The weeks that have followed the unexpected death of Legacy, our Arabian gray who was the herd leader of three chestnuts, have been made even more difficult by some extreme winter weather, the death of a colleague and friend whom Cyndie worked with during her years as Principal of Eden Prairie High School, and now signs of some laminitis lameness in Hunter.

Among the many contributing factors listed for laminitis, we found that hormonal imbalance caused by stress of moving a horse or the loss of a field companion spoke directly to the situation effecting our remaining three. Sadly, this recent heavy snow accumulation, followed by the dramatic thaw, has added another risk by making the uneven frozen footing in the paddocks hazardous for bruising or mechanical damage to the cellular bond between sensitive laminae and the hoof wall.

On top of these issues, this weekend Cyndie and I were smacked with the reality that her car is in need of cost prohibitive repairs. Logic indicates it is time to shop for a different vehicle for her.

Roll all these issues together and our grieving minds both came to a similar thought: has our dream of making Wintervale Ranch into a functioning business met with defeat?

Life was a heck of a lot less complicated for me when I lived in the suburbs and only had to deal with maintaining the house and our tiny lot. I hate to admit there are aspects of that which look desirable in comparison to our current situation.

Our unpredictable and decidedly inadequate combined incomes do not make shopping for a replacement vehicle as simple as it once was for us. Right now, shopping for a different car seems to be a tipping point for our analysis of this whole crazy move to the country to build a self-sustaining retreat and learning center.

What led us here in the first place?

We found ourselves revisiting the series of inspirational events that sequentially fueled our passion and groomed our decisions. From the magical trip to spend two weeks with Ian Rowcliffe in Portugal, to Cyndie’s apprenticeship in Linda Kohanov’s Eponaquest workshops, to our discovery of this gorgeous property and log home in west-central Wisconsin, the mid-life transition we embarked on seemed supernaturally ordained.

Where is that inspiration now?

Instead of the surprisingly achievable answers and solutions that have blessed us in response to all the incredible challenges that arose throughout the early years of this adventure, we are increasingly noticing a lack of income-generating response to our offerings and an increase in stressful difficulties with our animal partners.

Obviously, the most dramatic stressor being Legacy’s sudden death.

Just like all that has come before, we know there is a lesson for us in this. Even though he is gone, Legacy still has something to teach us.

At the center of it all is, love.

We grieve because we love and experienced a loss, but loving is how we got where we are today.

We believe it is possible to rediscover the love and inspiration that guided us here and we are seeking to re-attune ourselves to more of the surprisingly achievable answers and solutions that have graced our journey thus far.

What led us here is exactly the same as what will lead us to what happens next.

Please keep your seat belts fastened and your arms and hands inside at all times for the remainder of this wild ride.

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Tragic Breakup

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The beautiful snowstorm of last Monday is mostly a memory. The 14-inches of accumulation that poured down on us in a matter of hours during the day has been drastically reduced by a few subsequent days of an above-freezing thaw.

Grass became exposed where I plowed or shoveled, pavement showed through on the driveway, and the deck got as clear as a summer day.

I was gazing out at that deck yesterday when I spotted a tragic result of all that snow.

One of the prominent pine trees near the house had lost its top, as the two main leaders split apart and toppled away from each other.

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Meanwhile, despite the areas of pavement that were dry, the slope beyond the shop garage remained an icy challenge that a FedEx delivery truck was unable to successfully cross.

Moments after delivering his package, Delilah’s barking alerted me to the driver trotting back up toward our house. He’d slid off the driveway into the snow bank and wondered if I could pull him out.

We tried several options, seeking the least complicated solutions first, but everything led his truck deeper into trouble until I got out the diesel tractor. Using the trick of wedging the loader bucket against the driveway and using the hydraulic force to “walk” the tractor backwards, we successfully got the truck out of the snow and back up on the icy driveway surface, which we had smartly covered with grit from our pile of lyme screenings.

That allowed the driver to roll forward off the riskiest segment of ice and out of the most hazardous section of the driveway.

We shared a laugh over how nice yesterday’s warm weather was and how far removed it was from the drama of Monday’s storm, yet the results of that storm were still having all this impact on our lives.

The ditched truck was a quick resolution, but the tragic breakup of our tree will linger as a long-term reminder of the harsh realities that come along with the beauty of these big snowfalls.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2018 at 10:57 am

Saturday Morning

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It’s just another Saturday morning. Yesterday is over and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. I’m tired, like so many millions of mornings before, but more aware of it than usual. Is it a physical tiredness, or mental fatigue? I think the answer to both is, yes.

I’m tired like I must be another day older. I guess I can’t argue with that. Older, I am.

I’ve got Trey Anastasio’s self-titled 2002 album playing straight through, in the order it was presented. It’s become an anomaly for me to let recordings play the way I listened to them when I was a kid, one side of a vinyl LP and then the other.

Now days, for me, it’s almost always a computer-generated “mix-tape” of songs from the complete catalog in my iTunes file. That has its own rewards, but it produces a different result, for sure.

Music is like food for my soul. Sometimes I eat just because there is food in front of me. “See food,” I call it. I listen to a lot of music in the same way, consuming it just because it is there. I like to assume it nourishes me adequately enough, but sometimes my mind must develop a craving for tunes that will give me something particular I need.

I want to hear a song I love, an instrumental performance that thrills me, or a composition played so inspiringly that I get a shiver up my spine.

It is a phenomenon that is difficult to manufacture. There are a lot of intangible aspects fueling the outcome, most of them in my head.

It’s odd that I picked one album this morning because I usually get what I seek by way of spontaneously building a custom mix for the moment and letting one song feed the next in a climb to satisfaction.

I’m thinking I might try that next, but the single album mode served to get my tired old self started this Saturday morning.

As I write that, Trey is singing, “Push on ’til the day, push on ’til the day, push on ’til the day…”

With no firm plan of action for the weekend, I look forward to discovering what unfolds.

Pushing on!

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2018 at 9:56 am

More Science

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This is so cool. In a wonderful compliment to the fascinating sublimation of ice off our deck that I wrote about last week, yesterday we were treated to the other side of that coin, so to speak: deposition.

The air is loaded with moisture this week, and we are experiencing some gorgeous hoar-frost.

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“When these water vapor molecules contact a subfreezing surface, such as a blade of grass, they jump directly from the gas state to solid state, a process known as “deposition”, leading to a coating of tiny ice crystals.”

Hoarfrost: The Science Behind Frost on Steroids
By Jon Erdman  –  October 20 2015 07:00 AM EDT – weather.com

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The scenery on my drive home from work yesterday just kept getting more and more spectacular as I approached our ranch. Views of the hillsides covered with flocked trees across the landscape are absolutely intoxicating.

The first time I saw a Christmas tree flocked completely white when I was a kid, I thought it looked ridiculous. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want such a bizarre looking tree. In time, I came to recognize the artificial trees were mimicking the inspiring look of hoar-frost.

Now I understand, sort of.

While out walking to a high spot in the hay-field with Delilah to take pictures of the barn with the flocked trees as a backdrop, I received a vivid demonstration of how much our darling Belgian Tervuren enjoys snow. In a blink, she appeared to regress back to a puppy and romped in the deep powder with reckless abandon.

It is rewarding to see her so happy, as she has suffered a bit of neglect in the last few weeks, between Cyndie’s illness and the sudden death of Legacy. She has been very patient and a wonderful companion during this time, which leads us to want to reward her with opportunities to play and be the center of our attention again.

It’s another kind of science. Animal love.

Letting a dog thrive at doing what dogs love to do with the people who take care of them.

Getting to do it in a natural wonderland of spectacular frosted trees is a bonus!

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Written by johnwhays

January 26, 2018 at 7:00 am

Looking Around

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Without a doubt, one of the best rewards for receiving over a foot of snow in one day is the beautiful landscape views we get to enjoy for days after.

Cyndie has been capturing and sharing a series of sunrise photos for me in the last couple of weeks. This fleeting glimpse of sunshine from yesterday was the only view of the ball of fire that she got all day. Clouds filled in shortly after the picture was taken and gray ruled the rest of the day.

Luckily, it just so happens that a gray winter sky provides really nice light for taking pictures.

I think Cyndie has acquired a keen sense of what appeals to me in photographs.

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If she had put these images on my computer without telling me, I would have thought I’d taken the pictures myself.

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Written by johnwhays

January 25, 2018 at 7:00 am

So Much

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What a difference a day makes. On Monday, the storm was inundating us with so much snow that we struggled to deal with it. The intensity created an impression that it might never end. Yesterday, if it weren’t for the huge amount of snow now covering everything, it was as if the storm had never happened. It’s like the drama of Monday was just a dream.

Yesterday, the interstate was almost dry, the sun was out, and visibility was crystal clear.

When I got home from work, I had to immediately pick up where I had left of with the plowing on Monday. After a few quick passes up and down the driveway to clear the couple of inches that had fallen overnight, I focused my attention on clearing the area around the hay shed and barn.

It was a laborious and tedious process of wrestling the Grizzly through deep snow, on the icy slope dropping from the driveway to the barn. I got stuck several times, but scrambled my way out each time by some crazy maneuvering back and forth, to and fro.

Other than some cleanup needed around the edges with a shovel, I’m declaring the driveways now complete.

You know that clean deck I was showing off a week or so ago?

That will be the next project. The wind didn’t blow it clean this time.

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Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2018 at 7:00 am

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Big Dump

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Winter decided to dump a big snowfall on us over a very short amount of time yesterday. I knew it was going to be enough that I should get out in the middle of it to plow at least once before it was all over, but I wasn’t sure when that would be.

It took longer than we expected for the snowfall to start, and then the accumulation built rather slowly to about 2 inches. The next time I glanced outside from my perch by the fire, that amount had more than doubled. It was time to get out and plow or else it would be too late for my plan of working with reasonable amounts of snow.

As it was, the Grizzly ATV, as a snow plow, was just barely capable of the task. The first thing I did was get it buried and stuck sideways off the edge of the pavement where all four wheels just spun on the icy layer below. I needed to dig out all the snow packed underneath it, and then spin those tires until I gradually slid sideways enough to become mobile again.

After that, I decided to stay focused on just opening up the main driveway as wide as I could get it. The Grizzly does not command full control when trying to push large amounts of snow. The snow pushes back and tends to dictate what progress can be made.

I tried making more passes, while taking smaller bites with the blade each time, but the outer edges just grew unwieldy and the snow rolled back down behind me, such that I wasn’t really gaining much added width.

In the areas of tight confines, we resorted to hand shoveling, which allowed me to toss the snow up over the massive banks that quickly developed.

The snow was coming down at peak rates of multiple inches per hour while we worked, covering our tracks as fast as we made them, but every shovel width made was that much less snow I would need to move by the end of the storm. Cyndie was working up around the house and I was by the shop garage.

I watched the county plow truck make two passes in front of our property which meant there was going to be a new pile at the end of the driveway to clean up. Cyndie headed to the barn to put the horses in for the night and I finished cleaning edges where she had shoveled.

Cold, wet, and tired, I was ready for a break, but I noticed the falling snow had slowed considerably. It would be dark soon and there were already three fresh inches on the driveway in the hour-and-a-half since I first plowed.

I started up the ATV again and cleaned the driveway a second time. Of course, doing so throws snow in a couple spots that need to then be cleaned up by hand shoveling. My gloves were soaked through and I so wanted to be done, but there was a dog waiting anxiously to be let out for her afternoon walk.

Make that “run.” Delilah dragged me along as fast as I could trot as we headed down the plowed driveway while she searched for any opening to explore. There were none. It was down the driveway and back, except for a couple surprising leaps into the deep snow that she quickly aborted.

I measured 9 inches while shoveling, and I could see we got at least 3 more by the time I plowed the second time. It fell hard and fast all afternoon. I definitely made the right decision to stay home yesterday. That was a really big dump.

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Written by johnwhays

January 23, 2018 at 7:00 am

Transitory

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

January 22, 2018 at 7:00 am