Relative Something

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

Archive for February 2019

Plowed Snow

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I took a picture to show how far snow flies off the township snowplow blade. That’s what I wish my little ATV plow blade could do. That’s not possible now that the banks on either side of our driveway are taller than the blade can throw. Guess I should have gotten that snowblower after all.

In the distance, you can see the darker snow rubble swath is wider than the road itself. In the foreground, you can see how the trees have been plastered by the spray of snow.

The energy of that flying snow is what pops our mailbox off its base every time the amount of snow is significant.

Looking again at that photo taken last Friday, it is surprising how different our landscape now looks. Today we have at least twice the depth of snow compared to when that picture was taken.

When I opened the garage to leave yesterday morning, we had only received a mere 3 or 4 more inches of light powder overnight. It made for a pretty tense early part of my commute though, because traffic was kicking up the unplowed powder into vision-blocking chaos before I reached the interstate.

At one point, I had to slow to a stop, desperately hoping I wouldn’t get rear-ended by another vehicle before the view cleared up.

By the time of my drive home from work, the late-February sun was shining through and making a significant contribution toward clearing snow off the roadways.

Our record-setting February snow totals conclude today. The weather service is predicting March will start out where February left off. We are supposed to get “plowable” amounts of snow tomorrow.

Color me not surprised.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Long Day

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When I finished fixing the winch cable on the ATV after work Monday, Cyndie helped me get the plow re-mounted so I could clean up the driveway from the morning drift adventure. It had been a long day, so I made short work of the task and headed inside to warm up.

Cyndie asked if I thought it was late enough that the chickens would be in the coop yet. That’s code for, “Will you be the one to go down and close the chickens in for the night?”

I spotted them after I’d taken just a few steps off the driveway. They weren’t inside, they were on the manure pile in the compost area.

I suppose it was warmer footing than standing in the snow. Cyndie had mucked out the stalls earlier in the afternoon and the chickens seemed to take a liking to the fresh addition on top of the snow.

After taking that picture of them, I tried to get the hens to follow me to the coop. They didn’t fall for it, I think because to get there on the shoveled pathway, required starting in the opposite direction of the coop. I got the impression their little chicken brains weren’t processing the logic.

Heck, I’ve even seen the horses, wise as we know them to be, appear to get stuck when an escape involved going away from the direction they ultimately want to achieve.

I walked to the coop without them. To waste some time while waiting for them to figure out the escape route, I started breaking trails in the deep snow around the area. Plodding down a trail that heads toward the shop garage, it occurred to me to open a path between the coop and the compost piles, for the chickens to use. One pass through the deep snow didn’t do much in the way of packing it down to make it easy for bird feet, so this didn’t offer an immediate shortcut. It did, however, bring me up behind the chickens in a way that naturally moved them off the pile in the opposite direction from the coop.

Once I had them moving, I just kept the pressure on, and created a little conga line going down the path toward their nighttime shelter, with me leading from the rear. It was pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

They marched right up the modified ramp (post-possum-crashing incident) and I was able to slide the door shut behind them. Chickens were ready to roost.

It was an entertaining end to my surprisingly long day.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Successive Challenges

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Never assume. Sunday night, I neglected to go outside to verify the degree of drifting in the driveway, after the day of strong wind. From the house, we could see the tops of trees swaying dramatically, but by afternoon, there was very little in the way of obvious snow still being swept up by the gusts.

We stayed in and watched the Oscars.

It turns out, drifts grow even when the blowing snow isn’t visibly obvious.

I got up at my usual work-day zero-dark-thirty and did my routine of planks and stretches, then dressed and headed out the door into the predawn darkness.

From the house to just beyond the hay shed, there was no change from when I plowed the day before. As I climbed the hill before the road, the cleared portion of driveway narrowed.

Drifts can be really deceiving. Driving toward them, it’s difficult to discern whether it will be soft, or packed solid. It can also be hard to tell whether they are going to be higher than the clearance of the car.

Since my Crosstrek has been performing so superbly thus far this winter, I forged ahead in hopes of breaking apart the drifts just enough so Cyndie would be able to drive her car out after me. She needed to leave early to lead some training for staff at a school in St. Paul.

It turned out that the drifts had grown significantly since I plowed, they were packed into a very firm density, and they were just tall enough to rub the bottom of my car. Cyndie would never be able to get out in her car, even if I broke through all the way to the road.

Didn’t really matter. I couldn’t break through. Near the top of the hill, forward progress stopped. I tried rocking forward and back, but the car-length I achieved backward only moved me deeper into the drift. I got the car stuck.

I would need to plow. Of all times to be forced to plow, this was really inconvenient. It was dark, I wanted to get on the road to beat traffic, and the air temperature was -5°F with a windchill around -35°F. I was dressed for work, not for being outside.

I intended to make this quick, but circumstances did not allow. The ATV wouldn’t start. The battery was sapped by the cold temperature. I popped the seat off and found the battery was covered by a mouse nest made out of pilfered bits of fiberglass insulation. Nice.

The battery charger was inside the frozen truck, so I had to wrestle with getting the doors open and trying to unwind the inflexible cables. With the jump, I got the ATV started and headed out to clean up just the bare minimum to get our cars through.

The drifts were too dense for the relative light weight of the ATV to push through. I ended up lifting the blade and “paddling” forward on the deep treads of the winter tires, just to break up the drifts. When I got down to the road, I could see that someone had driven by and smashed through a huge drift by our mailbox.

The road was almost as bad as our driveway.

I successfully made several difficult trips back and forth over the hill, each time trying to move a fraction more snow with the blade, but I was a long way from plowing it clean enough for Cyndie’s car to make it out.

Then the cable that lifts the plow blade broke. At that point, there was nothing else left to go wrong.

I blame the frigid temperature. It adds difficulty to everything you try to do. At least the sunrise provided an entertaining backdrop.

I was close enough to being done when the cable broke that Cyndie and I were able to shovel a path out of what remained of the busted up drift. The clearing we achieved was so narrow, I could hear the side of her car rubbing the snow as she drove through the skinniest section, but we both made it out in the end!

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Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2019 at 7:00 am

Snow Everywhere

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This story holds no surprises. There was so much snow to be cleared from our driveway and paths and roof top, that it consumed our attention from the moment we woke up yesterday. We are now dealing with the most snow since we moved here in 2012.

We are devising new ways to pile snow, finding new places to push it, and sacrificing non-essential spaces that were previously cleared. When you can no longer lift it over the pile, you start pushing it up against the pile.

Preparations actually started last week, when we received around 9 inches on Wednesday. I had to plow in such a way as to make room for what we already knew was coming this weekend.

Saturday, we tried building a snow screen out of the netting of an old hay feeder bag and three t-posts, to soften the blow our mailbox suffers when the township plow zooms past.

It didn’t work.

Well, maybe it worked a little bit. The mailbox still popped off the base, but now that I think about it, instead of flying far into the ditch, it just flopped over behind the post.

It didn’t start snowing until after dark Saturday night, but Cyndie said it was coming down pretty heavily when she took Delilah out for her last walk of the night. When I got up in the wee hours of the morning, the wind was whipping the snow to the point it completely covered the screen door to the deck so I couldn’t guess how much new snow had fallen to that point.

By the time daylight arrived, new snow had stopped falling. The remaining flakes still airborne were being blown by the gale force winds, occasionally forming mini-tornado spirals, and carving sweeping waves of curving drifts.

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I’m pretty sure we are going to remember the record-setting amount of snow that fell in February, 2019 for many years.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2019 at 7:00 am

A Discovery

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Portrait of the author after hand-shoveling around the barn doors this morning.

We received a walloping amount of snow overnight (between 10-11 inches) and strong winds are creating epic drifts. It will be a monumental day of digging out. Luckily, I wrote most of today’s post yesterday afternoon. I’ll give a more complete report on the details of our winter storm recovery tomorrow…

Meanwhile:

After waking up too early yesterday, resorted to random searching Google while awaiting the return of sleepiness. I simply typed the word, “love,” and happened upon an article from 2014 about living happily ever after in a long-term relationship.

In lieu of the Wikipedia definition of love, I clicked on the headline, “The Secret to Love is Just Kindness.”

That title included two things that I value the most: love and kindness, together with the enticing word, ‘secret.’ How could I resist?

Eventually, I drifted back into a dream-filled sleep, but not until after I had gained great insight, and felt totally convicted, about moments of my behavior. After breakfast, I read the article to Cyndie. She had the same reaction as me.

We have been married for 37-years, and somewhere in the middle of that span of time, dedicated a few years to marriage-saving couples therapy. Basically, our sessions went like this: we entered the hour looking to have our therapist “fix” the other partner, and left each time having learned more about ourselves than we sometimes wanted to know.

The years since have been better than I ever dreamed possible between us. How could this ever be improved upon?

Now I know. Despite all the work I have done toward seeking optimal health, specifically, not taking on any of the several deplorable traits of my father, I am very clearly a product of my parents. (Luckily, I did inherit plenty of Dad’s finer qualities!) In the midst of any project I undertake, I will find myself doing the “air-whistle” my mother often “phoo-whewed.” I am also all too adept at seamlessly replicating Ralph’s ability to be a sourpuss.

Cyndie is sweet enough to tolerate the random –and I’m hoping, mostly subtle– air-whistling (song-breathing?) habit, but she never deserved the boorish behaviors she has endured in our marriage.

In my depressive years (multiple dubious skills of which I no doubt picked up from my father), I could totally relate to the line in John Prine’s song, “Angel from Montgomery:”

How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say.

I knew exactly how that is done. Ralph did that to my mother so many times it became normal and accepted. It was no wonder that I could recognize when he’d imbibed to inebriation. He was suddenly chatty as could be with Mom.

From the article in The Atlantic, I now understand how divisive it is when Cyndie’s bids for connection are met with my lack of engagement. The kind thing to do when someone seeks connection, is to turn toward them, not away. For some reason, I have an uncanny skill of treating the one person closest to me at home, with a cold shoulder, something I would hard-pressed do to a person in public.

“There’s a bright red cardinal out the window!” Cyndie might report.

If not silence, I might offer an uninterested, “Okay.”

She hadn’t asked a question, so did it require an answer?

The healthy thing to do for a relationship –one that I want to thrive for a lifetime, not just survive– is to meet all of her bids for connection with kind attention, even when I don’t necessarily feel like it.

Even if it is limited to telling her that I just don’t feel like being kind right now, that would be a connection.

Actively being kind to our partner’s bids for connection, especially the trivial (ultimately, not-so-trivial) ones, seems the healthy way to nurture a thriving life-long relationship.

That isn’t a mind-blowing insight, but it was an eye-opening self-discovery for me that resulted in a quest for greater love.

Onward, on my quest toward optimal health…

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Thinking Seriously

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We are currently doing some serious thinking about making significant changes, not just around here, but in our lives. It is an exercise in re-examining everything, because one thing leads to another, due to the connectedness of all things.

We may not change everything all at once, but just like the series of changes we enacted to bring ourselves to where we are today, a shift in focus, and the first step we take, will likely kick off a metamorphosis toward a new chapter of which we have yet to comprehend.

In the middle of it all, horses. Our precious horses.

It is unconscionable that we would even think of turning our attention away from them. But, in our situation, they just might be the first to go.

This is a really hard thing to contemplate.

Those who doubted our sanity when we set off on this adventure of moving from our home in the suburbs, where family, life-long friends, and gainful employment were close at hand, to a rural location with uncertain dreams of using horses to help others, will now be able to have their opinions validated.

That’s not supposed to matter to the dreamers of the world, but the thought still occurs.

I am able to use the priceless experiences I have had over the last seven years as contented justification for our adventures thus far. Would there have ever been a “completion” for what we set out to accomplish? I’m not entirely sure, although I had visions of possibilities that it appears will go unrealized.

Is there ever really a completion of our endeavors, or is it all an ongoing process?

If we no longer have horses here, it will certainly feel like a completion, but it could just as well be perceived as a new beginning.

It’s complicated.

As such, we are giving it all some serious thinking. Indoors. By the fire. While it snows and snows and snows outside.

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This Weekend

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I’ve run out of things to say about this record-setting string of February snow storms. I refer you to my favorite weather blog, MPR’s Updraft, for a description of the next wave expected to dictate my weekend activities.

This efficient snow producer comes with wind this time. Blowing and drifting snow will be an issue Saturday night and Sunday. Warnings run all the way to the Mexico border in southeast Arizona.

https://blogs.mprnews.org/updraft/2019/02/two-act-snow-system-for-minnesota-this-weekend

NOAA

Last night, I re-plowed the drifted edges of the driveway to open it back to full width, and cleaned up the snow rubble left by the township plow, in preparation for doing it all again on Saturday.

While I was down by the road, I re-attached our mailbox that had been blown off its base for the umpteenth time by the powerful snow wash that rolls off that big plow blade.

I wish my little replica blade on the ATV could throw snow like that beast can. Would it hurt him to slow down some as he reaches my driveway, to take some of the oomph out of that blast of snow?

Apparently, it would. He shows me no mercy.

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Written by johnwhays

February 22, 2019 at 7:00 am