Relative Something

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

Archive for July 2019

Round Bales

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We have a new look to our property lately. After weeks of our mowed hay fields getting wet, the neighbors who rented our fields arranged to have a beef farmer make some round bales out of it. That’s a first for us. It gives the place a different appearance.

Square bales like the ones we used must be picked up right away and moved under cover to keep them dry, but the round bales can be left out in the field. Beef cows are much less picky about what they eat compared to horses, so these bales of old grass that laid in the field for an extended time will still find use as feed.

I snapped that photo from the seat of our lawn tractor while mowing. I installed new blades after work yesterday and tackled two-thirds of the grass before the day started to fade. It’s amazing how hyper-sensitive I can suddenly (temporarily) be about mowing over any potential hazards like sticks, stones, and pine cones in the yard with new blades.

I know from experience that such intense concern does not last. After several accidental incidents of mowing over something I regret, I start to lose my inhibitions and trend increasingly toward reckless abandon. I’m pretty hard on mower blades.

I used to be pretty concerned about hay bales, too.

Not so much anymore.

I kind of like the way the round bales look in our fields. Gives an appearance of at least some level of functional progress. I’m not sure it entirely offsets the derelict impression the paddocks evoke, with the tall grass going to seed like never before, but the bales are a welcome sign of activity in our fields.

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Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2019 at 6:00 am

Unglamorous Reality

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I think it’s only natural that our minds tend toward the fantastical when attempting to interpret an unexpected scene in our otherwise staid environment. Why would the first impression be the simplest option, when a more unlikely one is possible?

When I got home from work yesterday, I discovered a mysterious disruption around the front of my closet. There had obviously been some sort of disturbance. Several odd shoes had been pulled out, shoes I haven’t worn for some time.

I suspected someone had been looking through my shoes, but it was possible my footwear had been incidentally dislodged by a person looking for something else. What could someone have been after?

Well, I can narrow it down a little bit. The only “someone” around here all day would have been Cyndie. The most likely scenario would be that she was pulling out items to be laundered.

Not all that exciting, after all.

The truth was even less glamorous than that.

When Cyndie came in from trimming fence lines, she offered up a set of facts I had failed to consider. Pequenita had barfed in the vicinity and Delilah stormed in to take care of cleaning it up before Cyndie could react.

Lovely. Sometimes things aren’t quite what they initially seem.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

Zooming In

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You know me, I like to make full-framed photo art on occasion by zooming in on certain features. Here are three I captured on Saturday up at the lake.

We enjoyed some fabulously accommodating weather over the weekend, which came to a dramatic end just as we arrived back home to a powerful downburst of wind and rain. A tornado warning was issued for that very storm cell in the moments after it moved past us to the northeast. Thank goodness it didn’t form any sooner. As of this writing, I haven’t heard any damage reports from neighboring properties further along the path.

If I were to zoom in a little bit on our immediate family, it might reveal some exciting news that was shared at dinnertime on Saturday night. Julian and Allison announced they are now husband and wife. It wasn’t entirely spur of the moment since the couple, who have been together for seven years, applied for a license in advance and prescheduled an appointment with a judicial officiant, but the result is equally surprising for those of us who love them.

The deed was done Tuesday and they went to work like usual the following day.

Ain’t love grand!?

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Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

Consummately Summerish

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Here is a postcard from the lake. We are having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.

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I probably should have gone to Vegas instead. My luck has been remarkably good with card games the last two days.

Maybe it is a result of being so relaxed from floating in the water and reading a book on the beach. Throw in the smell of wood smoke wafting in the air, grilled meals, corn-on-the-cob, Cyndie’s homemade peach pie, and we are enjoying a quintessential summer weekend at the lake.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Race Drama

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I need to be careful what I wish for. Yesterday, I tossed out the hope that it might be rainy here at the lake so I wouldn’t feel bad sitting inside to watch the second-to-last mountain stage of the Tour de France. Well, it was storming so bad for a while, there was no signal to the satellite dish for us to receive the telecast of the beginning kilometers.

Luckily, things settled down in time to see much of the excitement. In a dramatic surprise, yellow jersey contender, Thibaut Pinot had to abandon due to a knee injury, but that was greatly overshadowed when the stage was stopped prematurely, mid-descent, due to an epic hail-storm. Times were taken at the top of the previous big climb and resulted in a change in leadership.

Columbian Egan Bernal is now in yellow!

Now the weather here at the lake is gorgeous and I am going to sit inside regardless, to see what drama might top that of yesterday.

It doesn’t solve any problems in the world, but the distraction of a great athletic endeavor for entertainment certainly serves to energize.

Race on!

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Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2019 at 7:34 am

High Points

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After work yesterday, Cyndie and I hopped in her car and drove up to the lake for the weekend. Leaving on a Thursday night makes for easy driving, in the absence of the typical weekend traffic headed north. Our route took us through some of the damage from last week’s storms that produced near-hurricane force winds and some baseball-sized hail.

It was fruitless to try to capture a representative photo of the large scope of broken trees for miles, but I snapped a few shots on my cell phone through the car window at highway speed.

It was a little easier to capture a sample of some building damage that hadn’t been covered up yet.

The extensive damage to trees was a really sad sight. It gave me a whole new perspective on the comparatively minor issues we are facing at home with a few dead or dying trees leaning across our trails. We’ve got it easy.

High point of the day for me yesterday was finding a neighboring farmer working our fields to finally bale some of the cut hay that has been left on the ground for weeks, repeatedly being rained on instead of properly drying out. The past week offered the longest stretch of dry days that I can recall so far this summer.

The second high point was getting a chance to watch portions of Stage 18 of the Tour de France on the subscription TV channels when we got here. At home, we only pick up what is publicly available through the airwaves, and bike racing coverage is minimal.

Two big mountain stages remain, today and tomorrow, and I am thrilled to be able to view all the drama as it happens.

Maybe it will be rainy here as the morning progresses so I don’t waste sunny lake time sitting indoors in front of the glowing screen getting my bike racing fix.

Honorable mention high point yesterday goes to the Coop’s pizza dinner we devoured when we got to Hayward. Oh, so delicious.

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Memory Lane

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I traveled down the depths of some great memories last night for a 50th-anniversary event of the company where I launched my industrial high-tech manufacturing career, as an inexperienced fresh-out-of-tech-school entry-level Electronic Technician. I had the good fortune of working for that company in many different roles over eighteen years, putting me in contact with almost every department at one time or another.

That made this celebration event with current and former employees an extra special treat for me. I talked myself hoarse sharing stories over the clamor of hundreds of other simultaneous conversations all around me. From Assemblers to Scientists, Marketing, Purchasing, Fabricators, Software Developers, Facilities Manager, Calibration Technicians, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers in both Manufacturing and Research & Development, Human Resources, Customer Service and even the First Responders team, I came to know a lot of amazing people, almost all of whom I could describe as friends as much as coworkers.

It was difficult to finish a thought without getting interrupted by another fond greeting of long-separated colleagues. Many people asked if Cyndie was still a Principal and wondered what I was up to. I labored to explain how we moved to the country onto a property to have horses, but that we don’t have horses any longer, and I commute many miles to an unrelated day-job that is not all that different from the old high-tech industrial electronics job I did 20-some years ago.

So much has changed, but not that much has changed.

It was a blast seeing the faces of so many people from my years with that company and recalling some of the adventures and laughs we shared. One person reminded me of the times we used our lunch hour to play wally-ball in the company gym. Those were the days.

For some perspective, during the years I worked for that company, we transitioned from pencil drawings on vellum paper to digital CAD drawings. I interacted with my first desktop computers while employed there. I was part of a team that designed a custom system for 3M that they used to manufacture some of the first compact disc optical storage media.

We were dumbstruck that they would be able to store an entire set of encyclopedia volumes on one little disc. What would they think of next?

One night of being immersed in flashbacks to that previous life is a little disorienting. I sure had no idea at the time that I might someday be dealing with broody chickens. Makes me wonder a little bit about what I might think of doing next.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Hand

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Circumstances had me home alone again last night, so I talked Delilah into helping me clear some of the smaller trees that had fallen across our trails, doing the sawing the old fashioned way: by hand. I will try not to hurt myself, patting my own back in pride over once more resisting the urge to use the chainsaw when no one else is around.

Work safe!

The first tree we came upon seemed to be in an advanced state of decay, so I hoped it would be a quick cut. Yeah, …that didn’t come true. The outer circumference was very spongy, but the inside was totally solid wood. Delilah was very patient while I took several breaks to rest my arms.

The second tree was higher off the ground, so that offered a chance to stand up while sawing, but it also had a lot of branches that ultimately led to more cutting.

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Delilah was a great help, standing guard up the trail to make sure no one entered the work area while I was cutting. Using the hand saw, I was able to clear three trees and turn a 10-minute job into an hour-long project. My helper didn’t even complain that our lumberjacking expedition cut into her regularly scheduled evening meal time.

She probably appreciated the greatly improved look of the trail so much that a little food delay was easily accepted.

Before

After

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The big tree that remains across the trail is high enough up, it gives an appealing impression of an intentional arbor. Maybe I’ll leave it there for a while. I could let the vines that are growing hog-wild everywhere cover it up for increased aesthetic value.

Cyndie and I are short enough that neither of us needs to duck to pass under it, but people taller than us might feel it is a little too low to have left where it fell.

If anyone complains, I’ll just say it was too big for my little folding hand saw.

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Written by johnwhays

July 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Three Views

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Sunday morning rounds walking Delilah and tending to the chickens in the fabulous early sunlight led to these three views…

I took off my gloves to use the camera and they became the subject in this frame.

The fence shadow making a statement is what initially caught my eye.

I think it’s interesting that from where I was standing, it looks like the barn’s not level. There is pretty much no flat ground anywhere on our property, but as far as I know, the buildings are actually level.

Waves of grain. Well, grass seed, anyway.

The paddocks have received little in the way of attention since the horses departed in April.

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Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2019 at 6:00 am

Another One

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We have been very lucky recently that the most violent of the stormy weather passing through our region has been missing us. Instead of 4 or 5 inches of rain, we have had 1.75 inches. Despite the wild panic Delilah has demonstrated over rumbles of thunder that occurred, no lightning strikes have hit nearby. Most worrisome for me over the weekend were reports of 70 and 80 mph wind gusts combined with golfball to baseball-sized hailstones crashing down.

That never materialized here. Still, for some strange reason, we continue to experience falling trees. On Saturday, I posted about the tree that fell on Friday, even though I wasn’t aware we had experienced any storm. By the end of that same day, there was another even bigger busted tree hanging across that same trail.

We didn’t hear that one, either.

It’s becoming an obstacle course to navigate that trail through the woods. Cyndie was away all weekend, so I respected our agreement to avoid using the chain saw when I’m alone and left the three downed trees across the path for the time being.

It’s probably only marginally safer to use the wood chipper, but I elected to work with that yesterday morning while I waited for the overnight dew to evaporate from the really long lawn grass. Mowing the lawn became the afternoon project.

The professional crew we hired to bring down that big oak that toppled, cut it up and left everything lay right where it was, which saved us a lot of money. Now I’m having second thoughts about those savings. Wrestling the branches to get them into and down the chute of the chipper is a real chore if the “Y” junctions aren’t trimmed.

It is a “pay me now or pay me later” process. I don’t want to spend time cutting every last branch, so I spend the time instead, trying to force the branches far enough down the chute to where the chipper will grab and break them.

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Most of the cut logs are so big I can’t lift them. They will get rolled downhill to where I can get them in the ATV trailer to be moved up by the woodshed for splitting.

The chickens seem to like scratching through the pile of wood chips. I have no idea what they were finding in there.

I will be very surprised if I don’t end up with a poison ivy reaction after that exercise. Right where I stood to feed the chipper, there was a known patch of poison ivy. I expect it was getting on the branches I was grabbing, it was probably getting atomized by the chipper, I was likely breathing it, and wiping sweat off my face with gloves that handled it.

I washed down thoroughly afterward, but time will tell whether I was being stupidly careless, or that my previous recent exposures with sequentially reduced reactions were an indication that my sensitivity is fading. I should know in a day or two.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2019 at 6:00 am