Relative Something

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

Archive for October 2019

Spooky Costume

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One of our Golden Laced Wyandottes chose a spooky-looking zombie costume for Halloween this year. A walking dead zombie chicken?

I’m not sure where the hens are planning to go Trick-or-Treating, but I won’t be surprised if Cyndie tosses out some gross looking morsels from our food compost which the chickens will be thrilled to gobble up for treats.

Happy costumed toddler trodding and multiple doorbells responding to those of you in the U.S. participating in the All Hallows Eve traditions tonight!

I’ll just be happy to get this day behind us so we can finally start preparing for Valentine’s Day in February. So many special days, so little time. It’ll be here in a blink!

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Written by johnwhays

October 31, 2019 at 6:00 am

Accidental Intelligence

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It was an artificial deadline set arbitrarily by his own initiative. Who else would care? As time flittered away, reality began to press upon the drowsy writer that nothing was going to simply drop out of the sky onto the page. Someone was going to need to pull a worthy tale out of their proverbial top hat (or some other oft-referenced lower anatomical location).

Meanwhile, sleep was making a valiant run for the pole position.

Why did any of this matter? Frontline was on later and it was going to be all about the 2018 Camp Fire in California. That kind of real-life drama beats made-up stuff hands down. If he was going to immerse himself in the experience without distraction, his plan was going to need to kick into action ahead of time.

There was nothing noteworthy to report about the animals, the weather, the landscape, the trees, the shrinking hours of daylight, the amount of sugar in dinner, the spinning gears of the day-job, the greatness of family and friends, or the stature of the recently refurbished deck, so something would need to be invented.

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maybe a poem
rich with deep thoughtful meaning
evoking sky blues

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It could be short, like three lines of haiku. Words could be tossed out in a free-form flow of curious reasoning that defies logic but reaches souls. Why not? It’s worked in the past when down to his last gasp for a grasp.

How many times before has he written random nonsense that struggled to hint at coherence and later learned of recipients who thrilled over the poignancy to their very lives? You can’t make this stuff up if it already happened.

The thing is, such a denouement happens in absentia. Often times he never knows, just wings it and relies on grace for an outcome that holds a possibility of reward.

Occasionally, it works.

Such end results get labeled “accidental intelligence” but that doesn’t prevent him from occasionally pretending to believe the results were exactly as intended. <cough, cough>

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

Other Diversions

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While I have been consumed with our deck refurbishment it might seem like nothing else has been happening around here. That’s almost true. Even though I haven’t touched a vast number of the other projects deserving attention, there is one exciting thing happening that doesn’t require any effort from us at all.

Sunday afternoon the neighbors renting our fields sent someone over to do a last cut of hay after the first frost. I don’t know how it works, but we are happy that our fields will be cropped for the winter months.

There is some evidence that the tractor tires found a couple of muddy spots, but to my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. The ground is still as wet as a spring day in our region.

I will be very curious to watch how the rest of the raking and baling process plays out. The 7-day weather forecast looks promising for lack of precipitation, other than the light snow flurries we received after dark last night.

When they tried baling during the summer, it rained almost every day and the cut hay never got a chance to dry. That was when they gave up the cuttings to a beef farmer who rolled some ugly round bales out of the mess.

This hay will go to feed llamas. I’m going to guess they aren’t as picky as horses can be about the hay they are served in the dead of winter.

The air on Sunday was filled with tractor sounds as our neighbor to the north was harvesting his field of soybeans at the same time our fields were being cut.

The neighborhood “Next Door” app is popping with a rash of new members signing on in what I assume is a renewed push by someone to generate interest. We posted some of our “for sale” items there and enjoyed meeting several people who stopped by to shop. This weekend we are hosting a dinner with one couple to get to know them better.

In no time the earth will be frozen, snow will cover the land, and everyone will retreat to their winter cocoons for months of semi-hibernation.

It always amazes me we can live so close, but rarely cross paths with most of our neighbors, even when the weather is inviting. Winter just amplifies the rarity of interactions, beyond the sympathetic waves of acknowledgment when plowing out the ends of our driveways.

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Written by johnwhays

October 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

Project Complete

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We did it. It just didn’t make sense to wait for some future opportunity to replace the top boards of the railings. We were too close to the end to let the project hang unfinished for any length of time.

I pulled screws out of the old boards yesterday morning and installed the new boards in the afternoon. When I lifted the first board off the railing, we made a startling discovery.

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I’m glad we waited this late in the season because, unknown to us, there were a lot of wasp nests hanging underneath the boards. Our recent freeze rendered the nests vacant.

Here is just a portion of the screws pulled to remove the railing boards:

 

Even though it’s just a small step in the overall deck refurbishment project, the large number of screws take a significant amount of time to extract.

The grand finale that put an exclamation point on the whole job for us was getting the leftover lumber off the driveway and into storage in the hay shed.

Done and done.

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Written by johnwhays

October 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

Beyond Sunset

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Once again, we put in a very full day hoping to reach the end of the deck renovation project. Having saved the worst for last, we were up against the most-used steps that had drooped out of level due to rotting and erosion below. That meant spending an uncomfortable amount of time under the deck.

I did have some regret that we didn’t choose to address this problem before finishing the floor above. I didn’t realize how extensive the problem was until we had pulled up the boards of the steps and observed the impact water runoff was having there.

With no real experience in this level of carpentry, I did my best to add some boards for support underneath and reuse as much as possible of the existing frame to create a sound platform for the new step boards above. That also required some added fill to build up the ground that had washed away over the years.

We needed to create new footings for the bottom of the steps so they weren’t exclusively hanging by the screws holding the frame against the main deck at the top.

After lunch, we took the ATV down to an old drainage spot that previous owners had filled with broken concrete. Ironically, evidence points to that debris having been dumped there after removing it from the very spot we were returning it to. It looks like there was once a concrete patio that got removed for the landscape pond and deck expansion at some point in the history of this property.

When those steps were completed, we were officially done with the portion we originally planned to redo. All that remained was the mission creep portion of replacing the top boards of the railing. We’d gone this far already, why stop now?

Since Mike had allowed us to hang on to his saws, we decided to cut the angles on boards for the railing, to have them ready for installation whenever we decide to get around to pulling off the old boards. That task of removal involves digging out the Phillips head screw slots so we can pull off the boards without damaging the wood below. One of the time-consuming aspects of this project that seems never-ending.

Marking and cutting railing boards pushed us past sunset last night. Cyndie took a photo in the waning light to mark the completion of the main steps.

I’m thinking about the money we saved.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2019 at 9:46 am

Next Steps

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Blessed with another glorious day of blue sky and sunshine on a Friday, Cyndie and I returned to the deck refurbishing project yesterday. The temperature was a little harsh at the start but soon warmed to perfection. Even after I had removed all the screws from the set of steps we started on, I couldn’t get the boards loose until I figured out they were frozen in place. A little persuasion from a hammer was all it took to break the ice.

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I was grateful to have Mike’s power tools to create cut-outs on boards and lucky to have an old length of 4 x 4 in the shop to replace a rotted post on the railing of the second set of steps.

My perfectionistic desires are being seriously taxed by the difficulties of coping with inconsistencies in both the new wood and the old. I repeatedly measured twice before cutting and usually double-checked positioning before drilling in screws, but the results far too often failed to match my intentions.

Fortunately, my standards are loosening as the duration of this project drags on. I’m starting to view the imperfections as features. The misalignments are becoming quaint reminders of how much money we saved by doing this ourselves.

One example: I cut a new face board to go along with the replaced railing post and centered it on the middle frame board. After starting at the top and screwing in boards on each step, I discovered at the bottom that the middle frame board wasn’t actually centered between the ends.

I centered on something that wasn’t centered. Wonderful.

When one of my last boards with cut-outs was found to be off by a quarter-inch, I decided to simply cut an equal amount off the other end and have a symmetrical difference. Somehow, it still ended up lopsided once it was screwed down.

I swear, things move even after there are screws in place.

In the end, none of the small details I fret over will be noticeable to the casual observer. I’m practicing the art of being okay with the imperfections.

Maybe, just maybe, the end is within reach today. We are going to aim for that goal, especially since the weather is once again, perfectly accommodating.

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Say Hi

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Good morning. Say hello to our chickens and Pequenita.

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One of the Golden Laced Wyandottes appears to be molting. Poor thing looks a mess.

Pequenita was doing her best queen bee daytime recline on Cyndie’s pillows. Of course, Cyndie is the one who is more allergic to cats between the two of us. Figures.

Delilah hasn’t been feeling her best and missed out on the photo sessions. She seems to be suffering a skin disturbance that has left her belly raw. The vet reports a large number of dogs have been experiencing similar afflictions. We are hoping the hard freeze will eliminate some possible allergens that could be causing the trouble.

This week, Cyndie paid a visit to a horse rescue place near Hastings to donate some left-over tack and supplies that didn’t sell in her boutique last spring. We are investigating the possibility of making our pastures available to them for summer grazing.

Could be a way for us to have horses around again, but without much of the expense.

It would be nice to be able to say “Hi” to horses again. Would only be a summertime visit, so we won’t know until next year if the possibility will work out or not.

I don’t mind waiting. Winter horse care can be stressful.

I would like to say “Hi” to days with reduced stress. Maybe I’ll be able to do that from our deck soon. Today we are going to take a crack at replacing the steps and railing tops.

I’m looking forward to saying “Goodbye” to the power tools Mike loaned us. That will be the exclamation mark on our completion of the DIY project. Then I will say “Hello” to all the money we saved.

Say goodbye, John.

Goodbye.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

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Freeze Prep

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I put these chores off for longer than usual this year, but the time finally came last night to blow out the underground water line down to the labyrinth garden and remove the pond pump and filter. We also brought garden hoses into the shop in preparation for this morning’s freezing temperatures.

When it warms up tomorrow or Saturday, we’ll lay those hoses out on the driveway incline to assure they drain and then we can coil them up for winter storage.

I almost forgot about the waterer in the paddock, but Cyndie thought to mention it. We hadn’t been checking since the horses left and rainwater had collected because we didn’t think to pull the stopper out of the drain. The water had gotten a little green.

Thankfully, Cyndie remembered to dump the rain gauge down by the labyrinth so water won’t freeze in there and crack it. We learned about that the hard way. This happens to be plastic rain gauge number two down there.

It feels good to finally have these little chores addressed.

I’ve been a little neglectful of other things around here during the long days of focus on the deck. With the late first freeze, I’ve been able to get away with it until now. The average first freeze for the Twin Cities is October 11.

While working on the waterer in the paddock, my hands got incredibly cold, giving me a vivid dose of the discomfort which awaits in the coming days. That classic biting sting of freezing fingers.

Time to dig out our gloves and mittens.

Brrrr.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

New Love

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My love for ready-to-eat foods, especially cereals, is no secret. That passion fell under severe constraint a few years ago when I became better informed about the impact of excessive sugar in my diet. I quickly came to recognize that I was very much addicted to sugar and took steps to address that fact by significantly adjusting my eating behavior.

One of the most dramatic changes for me, since I already had chosen to avoid one of the highest sources of sweetness: the liquid sugar of soft drinks, was to control the amount and kind of cereals I ate. I learned to pay close attention to serving size.

My rough guideline was based on the World Health Organization’s suggestion to constrain intake of free sugars to 10% (or better yet, 5%) of total calories consumed. I converted that from the very approximate measure of a 2000 calorie diet to allow myself less than 50 grams of added sugars per day.

To allow some occasional treats, I aimed to stay at or below 10 grams of sugar per meal. That required BIG changes in the cereal I eat at breakfast. To stay below 10 grams, I was rarely able to allow myself to have a full serving size.

When it came to my much-loved granola cereals, it was hard to stay below 10 grams without constraining myself to a mere 1/4th cup.

Since Cyndie does our grocery shopping, I relied on her creativity to explore the options available on store shelves. One day, she came home with a package of granola that I had never seen before, Gustola Granola.

Oh. My. Gosh. I now have a new love.

The first flavor was pistachio, pumpkin seed, coconut, & cherry. It had a tantalizing hint of saltiness mixed in with the natural sweetness of the ingredients that I think is one of the great appeals. It enhances the mix of flavors wonderfully. Best of all, in a serving size of 1/3rd cup, there are only 4 grams of sugar.

That is amazing compared to the granola cereals I have previously been eating.

After finishing off that first bag of pistachio, etc., I pleaded with Cyndie to find more. She decided to order online, direct from the source and served up an additional flavor: almond, pecan, cashew.

Just as good to my taste buds and equally low in sugar. I’m in love!

I can’t wait to try the other flavors.

Now when I measure out the normal quarter-cup sized serving I have become accustomed to for breakfast, I can let it overflow just a little and not worry. Only 4-grams in a third-cup!

Every bite is pure joy. Mixed with a fraction of a serving of Fage plain Greek yogurt, I get textures I adore and flavors that are above and beyond satisfying. It’s like a celebration going on in my mouth.

Sorry, Grape-Nuts (5-grams per 1/2-cup) cereal, I’ve got a new love in Gustola Granola.

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Crescendo

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

October 22, 2019 at 6:00 am