Relative Something

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

Archive for May 2019

Animal Interference

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Cyndie planted marigolds around the property last week, including in a clay pot by the barn. It provided a nice splash of color in the otherwise gray-green environment on the backside of the barn. I spotted it right away as I passed by on the lawn tractor. One of the flowers had already been nipped off and was laying on the ground beside the pot.

Animal vandalism. What do they get out of biting off the blossom?

The next day, I passed the pot again on my way to the chicken coop. All the blossoms were on the ground. The only thing left in the sad pot was several stubs poking out of the dirt. Poor Cyndie, I thought. Her efforts dashed so swiftly after she had done the planting.

When she got home, I made sure she had seen the carnage. The next day, while I was at work, I received a text from her with a photo:

The culprits had returned to dig up the root bundles, too.

They really don’t want her to grow flowers in that pot.

Yesterday, I was able to claim an hour to sit on my bike seat and pedal down some country roads in preparation for my upcoming bike tour in the middle of June. I’m proud to say that my 1994 Trek 520 is performing admirably, and most important, quietly.

I love a quiet bike. Squeaky brakes, clicks, chain noise, or any repetitive sounds from rotating pedals or spinning wheels are a bane to my riding experience. Since my bike rolls quietly, any sound that does appear is evidence of a problem that needs to be checked out.

On my return leg last night, a sudden clicking arose. I stopped pedaling immediately and tried to identify the source. It was regular enough that I worried one of my tires had picked up something and a flat could be imminent. It got louder and louder, but also more defined.

It was refining into a rapidly repeating click-clack, click-clack.

I recognized that sound and it was not from my bike. I turned my head to glance over my shoulder and saw behind me, a young lady approaching on a galloping horse.

Just as she was about to come up beside me, a barking dog ran out of a driveway and interfered with our chance to exchange a pleasant greeting. She slowed her horse and I picked up my pace to put distance between me and the dog.

The rest of my ride home toward the smoky orange sunset was blissfully quiet.

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2019 at 6:00 am

Pushing Through

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It has been a long stretch of time since I played either of my guitars. Lack of playing tends to become its own feedback loop. Arthritis in my hand discouraged me from pulling out my instruments as often as I used to, and not playing regularly led to the loss of calluses on the fingertips of my left hand. Lack of calluses fed into an inclination to not bother playing and the situation dragged on and on.

Alas, recent activity to ready myself for the Tour of Minnesota bicycling and camping week triggered thoughts about bringing my travel guitar this year. Before fulfilling that idea, which I said back in February that I planned to do, I figured I should check out whether I could still form chords with my left hand.

I was a little rusty, but mostly functional. My session was rewarding enough that I felt inspired to try a second time a couple of days later. That went even better, despite the tenderness of starting the process of developing new calluses. Then I moved to reach a particular position and experienced the classic jolt of a painful joint.

(No, Mary, I have not had the surgery performed yet, despite your wise advice to not wait. The doctor preferred waiting, and I chose to not try convincing him otherwise.)

After that stab of pain, the rest of the session tended to become increasingly more comfortable. It seemed a little counterintuitive at first, but then I remembered a similar experience during a lumbar disc pain episode.

The body has a keen ability to constrict movement in the presence of pain, but remaining oblivious to what is happening in these situations can allow that avoidance of pain to become its own malady. I made a surprising discovery during an early assessment of my condition when physical therapy was prescribed.

The therapist asked me to show them how far I could bend over to reach toward my toes.

“Bend over!?”

My thinking was that I couldn’t bend at all without suffering that stabbing pain. That is why I was moving around like a stiff zombie!

So, I set about showing her how I could barely lean forward at all. To my surprise, those initial hints of possible pain that normally freeze any further motion did not get any worse as I pushed through them. I was able to bend a lot farther than I believed possible.

The same thing happened with my hand yesterday. The avoidance of pain had kept me from trying to play the guitar, bringing a mindset that it would no longer be possible. Pushing past that warning message of pain proved there is still some function left in the old joint.

I don’t have the strength I used to, but I can still manage a few chords for a reasonably short duration of pickin’ and grinnin’.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

Coop Life

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The eight hens that have successfully braved all challenges in the last year are keeping us entertained and well stocked with eggs.

We are currently considering an enhancement in the form of an automated chicken access door so we don’t need to be home to open and close the door at dawn and dusk every day. It will probably become the most expensive feature on the coop since I built the bulk of it out of found materials, but it will increase our freedom to be away from home without a lot of preplanning.

That will give the hens even more autonomy in their shelter.

We’ve noticed lately that they have started to decorate the inside of the coop with some greenery.

Okay, so they aren’t doing it intentionally. It just feels good to imagine them bringing life to their home with the addition of live plants.

The color is a nice compliment to the maroon curtains hanging in front of their nest boxes.

The coop is becoming a real home sweet home.

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Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

Weather Fatigue

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I succeeded in getting all our grass and innumerable dandelions mowed Sunday. I have one peeve about mowing this time of year, when the lovely yellow flowering weed is at its peak and starting to go to seed.

Do you see it? All that grass so freshly cut and one 10-inch dandelion stem sticking out like a sore thumb. There were others, but that one just stood out so defiantly, I couldn’t help but stop and take a picture. Then I snapped it off by hand.

Mowing dandelions can be a frustrating endeavor for a perfectionist.

Like the meteorologists predicted, Memorial Day was a total washout. It reminds me of two years ago this month when I had tried to host a day of cycling with friends in preparation for the Tour of Minnesota.

I captured this memory from that day:

I have gotten smarter about trying to make outdoor plans that prefer sunny, warm weather. I simply don’t make them. Yesterday, we responded precisely as a cold, rainy day deserves, snuggling back in bed for some extra reading and napping.

Pequenita was all in with that plan.

She doesn’t have a problem with this weather. Personally, I am getting worn down by this chilly rain pattern we have endured so far this spring. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if I could curl up and nap all day, but the landscape doesn’t stop growing just because it’s not sunny and warm outside.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and this trend will peter out by the time the bike trip kicks off in the middle of June.

It would help my frame of mind greatly if that were to happen because we are headed far enough north for this year’s route that cold and rainy could translate into a little sleety/snowy, if you know what I mean.

That would definitely exacerbate my current case of weather fatigue.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

Look Again

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Reposting a poem from March 2014 that I titled, “Look.”

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is it true
or do we assume
truth happens
only when
we need to hear it
the rest
is illusory
allegory
a vague story
told as a tale
tall
beneath urges
longings
daylight dreams
happening in real time
filled with love
laughter
and a feeling
that lingers just out of frame
begging to be viewed
but invisible
if you look
directly
into its eyes

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2019 at 6:00 am

Weekend Alone

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Cyndie is out of town with her parents this holiday weekend, so I am the sole pet guardian. Was this supposed to be easier after we no longer had horses? A certain high-energy dog has shown no problem filling in the space. The invisible protective border we need to maintain between her jaws and our flock of free-ranging chickens complicates my including Delilah as a companion for many of my projects around the property.

I let her tag along when venturing to the far side of our land with a wheelbarrow (we haven’t replaced the ATV trailer yet) to fetch some black dirt from a pile left over from the first year we moved here and had fence work done. I have been mixing dirt with composted manure to fill some holes in the yard. One was started by burrowing rodents and the other by spinning wheels of the New Holland tractor, both voids then expanded by rainstorm flowing runoff.

I need to leave Delilah behind when collecting compost because that task is a chicken magnet. They love helping when worms and other crawly critters might be involved.

Heading deep into the western woods is far enough from chicken territory that I’m comfortable hitching Delilah’s leash to the wheelbarrow, half hoping she might consider helping to pull in the desired direction. We hauled more pavers to the ever-expanding length of our trail that is messy mud.

Originally, I laid it out with a wider spread, but after walking on it and navigating the ATV on the trail, I’ve changed to more of a single file pattern. Simple stepping stones is all that’s needed in keeping up out of the sloppy muck.

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Do you see how nicely the moss adorns blocks that have been there a while?

All these small projects were diversions from mowing grass, hoping that waiting a day might allow a small fraction of drying to occur. That is despite my knowing from experience that it takes more than two days for the slow flow of excess groundwater to trickle down and out of here.

The sun can be shining bright for two days after a spell of rain and that’s when the low areas will be at their wettest. If we are lucky enough to have two more dry days, the footing starts to firm up again. Too bad that won’t be the case this week.

Delilah will be stuck in the kennel again. I gotta mow today.

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Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2019 at 8:28 am

Human Race

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This image is a sad statement of an unfortunate trait of the human condition, that this would be allowed to happen.

This year, the weather window for climbing Everest was tight and the number of climbers high. So, people lined up like a train of pack animals to make the slow trudge in the death zone to the peak, and this photo showed the result to the world. It’s not the first time overcrowding has happened, but this image is the most dramatic depiction I have seen, and it reveals that the government has yet to take effective steps to stop it from happening again.

It is crazy that so many people choose (and can afford) to do this, and it is sad that Nepal has deemed it worth the overcrowding to maximize income from climbing fees.

Humans.

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Muddy Trail

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Despite all the sprouting greenery, there is more moisture in the soil lately than the growing trees and plants can absorb. That is making our trails rather treacherous. It is very advantageous to have our custom boardwalk for a short span in the middle of the woods.

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Obviously, it’s a little short on both ends. We have a greater length of mud than wooden blocks to pave over the path.

Out in the grassy field, the dandelions are thriving, despite our general shortage of warm sunshine compared to most springtimes I’ve experienced. Now I read that the National Weather Service is predicting a cooler than average summer along with more than a usual amount of rain.

It is uninspiring to envision months of weather like this dragging on throughout the summer.

I don’t blame a dandelion for giving up early.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Foulest Odor

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Ever. It was absolutely the worst possible smell. I looked it up on a “rank bad smells” survey and there it was at the very top of the list: decaying animal. How did that smell get inside my house?

Who else? Delilah.

The sequence of horrible events went like this: Delilah and I had just completed a perfectly normal and wonderfully pleasant afternoon walk. She peed, she pooed, I picked eggs (six!), and we were on our way toward the front door.

Suddenly, Delilah darts to the far side of the driveway and snaps up something from amidst the thick ground cover over there. Then she gets that look on her face. I could tell she had something in her mouth, but I had no interest in challenging her over it.

We start our way around the garage, but then she turns to chomp on her prize. I see a brief flash of what looks like small feathers of a bird’s wing out the side of Delilah’s mouth. She swallows demonstratively and heads for the door, happy as can be.

At least I didn’t have to try negotiating a way to go inside without bringing that little snack along. That game never goes well. When I got to the steps, I caught a whiff of a dead animal and wondered if there was a deceased critter nearby that needed to get picked up.

Then I followed Delilah into the house and the smell was even stronger inside. She burped. Honestly, she did. That made the stench even worse! I thought I was going to be sick.

I had to struggle to get her harness unclipped without letting her snout get anywhere near me. It was awful. Horrendous. She had eaten the foulest dead bird and now it was in her stomach, and in our house.

Pequenita came running up to Delilah –not something she normally does– and appeared to take great pleasure in inhaling that noxious odor coming from the dog’s mouth. For that moment, suddenly they were true pals with a genuine shared passion.

I could barely wait to feed Delilah her dinner to replace the disgusting smell with the usual unpleasant smell of dog food.

Before that all that happened, we had accomplished a survey of the perimeter of our property for wind damage. We made out okay.

There were several small trees that had fallen across the trail, but nothing substantial tipped over.

Up by the house, I spotted some freshly sprouted oak leaves that had been blown off a branch.

That little batch was about the size of my hand, with each leaf barely as long as my fingers. Their lives ended way too soon.

It’s a shame because we need all the leaves we can get in order to purify the air around here and counterbalance Delilah’s foul contributions.

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2019 at 6:00 am

Windy Rain

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It was a dark and stormy night last night. Really. It was! Once again, we were pressed by winds that made the house flex and bent our trees over dramatically. It boggles my mind that anything remained standing, with our soil as saturated as it is.

There are small footprints in the mossy ground from young deer making the rounds in search of our many hostas, but the perennials have been slow to sprout in the absence of a warm and sunny growing day.

Cyndie says some of her labyrinth plants are showing signs of life, so maybe the deer will munch those until the rest of our “salad bar” landscape matures a little more.

I wonder what our property would look like if we stopped tending it and simply let the elements have their way. From one perspective, we are doing a lot to achieve desired results, but at the same time, our attempts appear rather feeble compared to the power of wind, precipitation, and temperature extremes that seem to know no bounds.

Grass grows faster than I can mow it. Trees sprout where we don’t want them, and fall over in greater numbers than I can clean up after. I think that if we stopped doing anything, it would look like a jungle within a year.

Who knows what will happen in the face of a climate crisis? I expect areas other than ours will experience more significant impacts, such as coastlines from sea level rise and ever-increasing hurricanes, or areas prone to wildfires. It’s hard to say whether we will see a change in temperatures that unequivocally shifts our growing season, changing what plants thrive or suffer.

The world is already experiencing more intensity out of everyday weather events. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to expect that trend to stop, given the slow reaction of society as a whole to alter the activities that brought this all on.

We want our electricity and our transportation to always be available for the ever-increasing world population.

It just means we need to keep adjusting to the weather extremes that show up as a result of our choices.

Today, it is cold rain and gale force winds. This summer, it will probably be something different. I just hope the week I am biking and camping in June will be a calm period between any other extremes.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2019 at 6:00 am