Relative Something

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

Archive for December 2018

Year Ends

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Today is the last day of 2018. What do you make of that? I think it’s just another Monday, strikingly similar to all the others, no matter where they fall in a year.

Our animals don’t seem to notice any particular significance to the date. The passage of time is doing our balding Wyandotte hen a bit of good. New feathers are slowly growing in.

They have all handled the day of rain and following freeze well enough, mostly by spending the majority of the ensuing days beneath the overhang with the horses. For their part, the horses show signs of understanding the precariousness of the icy slope, but it hasn’t kept them from braving the danger to walk down to the waterer, even though we put a tub to drink from by the barn to save them the trip.

I noticed several marks of slipping hooves which was rather unsettling, but they are choosing to make the trek of their own free will. I trust their horse sense in this instance, partly because the last time we tried to outsmart them, it didn’t go so well.

Walking Delilah around the perimeter trails has become a treacherous exercise of trying to walk like a penguin over very unpredictable surfaces. She hasn’t been slowed much by the conditions, so there is an added challenge of being pulled along by her, faster than little steps accommodate.

When she stopped to give a prolonged inspection to something that caught the attention of her nose, I spotted this single stalk of some plant that was dropping seeds on the snow. It looks like such a delicate process playing out, despite the harsh elements nature has been delivering lately.

It’s just another Monday, and life goes on.

I don’t know if it is something of a placebo effect, but since we are now over a week beyond the shortest day of the winter solstice, I got the impression it was already lighter outside during our late afternoon walk.

Or, it could just be the dawning of a new year.

Farewell to 2018 and greetings to 2019! It’s all just a series of individual moments. May we benefit by paying attention to them all.

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My Being

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I stood alone
among the trees on the hill
just outside the house
in the cold
for a moment
to look and listen
the great outdoors never disappoints
there is no fight for recognition
things just are
smoky wafts of breath rise with every exhale
resounding quiet slowly begins to yield tiny sounds
a titmouse
finch or sparrow
pecking the skin
of a nearby tree
a squirrel
moves in fits and starts
along a route
obviously used many times before
a breeze
rolls a crispy brown leaf
across the top crust of old snow
my being here
motionless
on a winter Sunday
has little influence on these woods
yet the land
the trees
animals
and breeze
imbue a universe of energies
that inspire
my being

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Written by johnwhays

December 30, 2018 at 8:15 am

Dangerous Formula

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Take one part 3-inch snow burst, follow it with a day-long steady rain, and then finish it off with a quick drop in temperature to produce a solid freeze. What could go wrong?

We are currently enduring some of the worst footing since we moved to this property. It has us genuinely concerned about how to best protect our horses from critical injury.

Rain saturated the new snow on Thursday, creating an amazing amount of soupy slush. The snow on the ground absorbed as much water as possible while still being considered snow. It was basically thick water. After an overnight hard freeze, the conditions on Friday morning morphed into an uneven, rock-hard maze of slipperiness.

The splattered wake of tire tracks in Thursday’s slush are now locked solid in a bumpy, slippery, frozen echo of that rainy day.

The ground just beyond the barn overhang in the paddocks slopes down quickly enough that we sometimes worry about the horses staying safe on it on good days.

They were inside for the night when everything froze up, after getting miserably cold and wet the day before. We feared how they would handle the insane slipperiness if we put them outside without warning. The grassy footing of the back pasture seemed like a much better place to start.

They would still need access to the automatic waterer, so we opened a gate that would allow them to walk the flatter ground into the paddock as needed.

All good, in theory, but there would need to be a trick to the execution that we totally failed to consider.

Our plan was to take them out the back door and walk across the grass, past the chicken coop, to a double gate that they probably have never used. The catch was, with three horses, and only two of us, we wouldn’t be moving them all at once.

Without anticipating the consequences, we took Cayenne first. I walked her, while Cyndie managed the gate. Cayenne was expectedly cautious about the odd scene we were leading her through, so we took our time. Back in the barn, Hunter immediately voiced his dissatisfaction with our strange departure with one of the herd.

This also was to be expected, so we weren’t concerned. We would be back to get him and Dezirea soon enough.

Once inside the back pasture with Cayenne, I removed her halter.

Can you guess the next part?

She immediately headed back to familiar territory and Hunter’s call, and not as carefully as we wished. Since we had already opened the gate to allow them access to water, Cayenne trotted quickly back into the icy paddock, running right up that slippery slope to get under the overhang.

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To avoid further running, we decided to bring the other two out under the overhang to join Cayenne like normal. Unfortunately, just as we feared, Hunter lost footing on the icy slope right away. A back hoof slid out from under him, and in an athletic reaction to catch himself, he stomped on Cyndie’s foot with the opposite front hoof.

She yelped, he pulled off instantly, and calm was restored. Nothing broken, but definitely bruised.

This morning, when Cyndie went down to open the barn and let them out, she reported the horses showed no interest. They appeared quite satisfied with the safe footing in their stalls, despite the cramped quarters.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2018 at 9:51 am

Snow Wrecker

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The worst thing to happen during snow season is a rainstorm. Dry snow is so much better than wet snow. Wet snow becomes slush after a time, and after the day-long rainfall we experienced yesterday, we ended up with nothing but a soupy slush.

The ground is frozen enough below the snow that water won’t soak in. Instead, it pools until the water reaches an outlet to the next lowest spot.

The drainage from the paddocks that flows across the back pasture was running like a river when Delilah and I braved the rain for her mid-day walk.

She made it across without much effort, but my big feet were going to make a definite splash. I stopped to gather my courage and plan my maneuver. Delilah busied herself with a face wash while waiting for me to take some pictures.

Everything I tried to do was made significantly more complicated by the umbrella I was fumbling to keep over my head.

As we neared the road on this typical trek around the property, I spotted the stump where our mailbox is usually mounted. That meant a snowplow must have roared past and tossed up a blade-full of the slush; a mass that packs more punch than my plastic mailbox can survive.

We found the box portion unceremoniously discarded upside down in the ditch, soaking up rain. Luckily, the plow had blown by before the mail delivery arrived, so there were no drenched bills inside.

Delilah growled at the odd scene as we approached.

I guess I kind of growled, too. Expletives.

The paddocks are a disaster of packed down slush, transformed into a dangerously hard and slippery wet surface against which the horses struggle to maneuver their hefty weight. We didn’t bring them inside overnight Wednesday, despite it ending up being the smarter thing to have done.

I brought them inside last night, with hope they might appreciate it even more, after their previous misery.

Even Pequenita was able to express her opinion about the nasty conditions outside yesterday, even though she is supposed to be an exclusively indoor cat.

Before the rain had totally destroyed the several inches of new snow that had fallen on the deck at the beginning of this weather event, I was preparing to light a fire in the fireplace. I opened the door to grab some kindling from the box out there, without noticing the cat had positioned herself right in front of me.

‘Nita walked outside before I had a chance to corral her.

Two steps into the sloppy snow, she just stopped. It was not a good day for an escape.

Maybe not good for her. Escape is pretty much all I want to do from this weather fiasco.

Rain has no place in our northern snow belt during winter. Bah, humbug!

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2018 at 7:00 am

Festivities Continue

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This time, the party moved to our house. All of Cyndie’s brothers came over, bringing some of their kids, along with the Fisknes family from Norway. When our kids learned of everyone’s plans, they decided to make the trip, too. We all had a great time hanging around the fireplace, eating an impressive lunch buffet Cyndie set out, walking the labyrinth, feeding the horses and chickens, and playing card games.

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Eventually, the American contingents all headed back to the Twin Cities, but the Norwegians stayed for a sleep-over at the ranch. That was always in the plan, but we rearranged the days a little to avoid the rain we are expecting today.

We decided weather like that was more fitting for shopping at the Mall of America.

The main highlight of their visit (among many), was seeing the girls succeed wonderfully for their first attempt at making pasta from scratch.

The fresh pasta turned out great and made for a scrumptious dinner. I even got in on the kitchen activity, (an uncharacteristic place for me) sautéing vegetables while the actual family cook was busy with the more important task of teaching the art of home-made pasta.

It was a perfect way to fend off the onset of the wet weather we are expecting to face today and tomorrow.

It all felt downright festive, if I do say so myself.

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

So Christmassy!

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Christmas morning with Cyndie’s family is all breakfast and presents, on a grand scale, both. After getting lavishly fed, we headed downstairs to find 23 people’s-worth of presents around the tree.

It doesn’t take too long for Santa’s little helpers to distribute the packages around the room.

Then begins a cacophony of ripping paper, saving bows, exclamations of surprise/love/and delight, and many voices talking all at once.

As quickly as possible after everything was opened, I needed to slip out for a return trip to the ranch, where Delilah was patiently awaiting some attention. She was very grateful to have a chance to get outside to do her business. I granted her as much time and freedom as possible, trying to make up for the many hours she has been left alone in the last few days.

She seemed to think it made for good opportunity to hunt critters that live in the grass beneath the snow.

“Wha-aat?” she says after we get back inside. “I’m a good girl!”

After I got her fed, and darkness moved the chickens into the coop, it was time for my second drive of the day to Edina.

The Christmas feast which included salmon and beef tenderloin, easily justified the added driving.

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Cyndie stayed at her parent’s house overnight Monday and all day yesterday to help with preparations.

Christmas 2018 was definitely a day that felt wonderfully Christmassy in our family! The added blessings of having Norwegian relatives joining in the festivities was icing on our cake.

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Written by johnwhays

December 26, 2018 at 7:00 am

Very Merry

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Written by johnwhays

December 25, 2018 at 7:00 am